More Thanh Words

"My name is Thanh and I'm a Blogger". Now that I have admitted to that, I can say that I'm a stereotypical "geeky" Engineer who enjoys sci-fi books and movies and into all things technological. I also love music and have a passion for FOOD. I'm a social person and like to talk to people. I hate people who are fake or overly aggressive. If you're also into some serious discussion, with a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of real emotion, then please read on.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Customer Service 3 - Doing Your Job

In my series of customer service observation/complaints, this is the third post. The other two can be found here and here. This post revolves around customer service staff not doing their job, not even the required parts, let alone anything outside of their job.

Recently I had been to many travel agents looking for tickets for my end of year trip. Most places were very good and helpful and gave me a lot of options. However, at Extra Green in Box Hill, one staff member was extremely arrogant and thought he knew best about everything. When my friend and I asked him to look up particular tickets, he would say "I know there will be no tickets so there's no point me looking it up." When we insisted that he look them up anyway, he would still dismiss us and say "I'll just give you the price for the standard ticket and if you really want to buy, then I'll look up the actual prices". What kind of attitude is that. How I can make up my mind if I don't even know whether that ticket will be available should I choose it. Anyway, after a while of us asking him to look things up and him not really bothering, we got quite frustrated and left.

Days later, I went to World Vision Travel in Springvale and asked for the same tickets. Lo and behold, the lady did a lot of searching for me and came up with tickets for flights that the other guy had said were all sold out, and at $200 cheaper as well. That bloody guy, if he had bothered to get off his fat ass and do something, he could have easily found those tickets as well. I guess my business wasn't too important to him as Extra Green is extremely popular. However, at World Vision which is a small company, every deal counts so they were very helpful. The travel agent even helped me look up other cheaper options without being asked.

So my point of this post is that the customer sometimes does know best, or at least know what they want. As a customer service staff, you should try to do to the best of your ability what the customer has requested. You may dislike your job, but it is your job after all and you should do it to a satisfactory level at least. Arrogance as a customer service staff is definitely a bad trait that won't give you many happy customers.

The Sillier Side of Me

This morning, I was looking at this website called Prank Mike. The website has photos of different pranks that some workers had played on Mike. My favourite is this one where they changed all of Mike's furniture and equipment into cardboard ones. The first thing that popped into my head was that I must try this on my work mates, but maybe just a few items.

Previously I had played a few pranks on a few different work mates. The first one, I had shuffled around items on a work mates desk so that they weren't too noticeable, but yet she found that something just wasn't right. Then when somebody else was bored staying back late one night, he did a copy cat prank on the same work mate. She thought that I had done it hahaha. Luckily I happened to have a perfect alibi. I helped drive her husband home and we left before her so it couldn't have been me.

Another prank that a work mate and myself did was to move an LCD monitor of another work mate and exchange it for an old CRT monitor. When she got into work, she thought that someone had stolen her monitor hahaha. We also moved her table drawers around and put her phone on the other side of the table.

For another prank, a work mate and myself person exchanged the tissue boxes of different people. Usually you might not notice this but this work mate bought really expensive tissues and she said she knew instantly since they didn't have the eucalyptus smell in the tissue.

I also put a fake parking ticket on another work mates car. He had a good laugh about it. I also pull up his windscreen wipers occasionally and one time he said he had driven all the way home before realising his back wind screen wiper was up the whole time. He said he must have looked so silly on the free way with the wiper up.

It might all sound a bit childish, but I would only do these pranks on people that I actually consider friends and who would laugh about it. I wouldn't do it to anyone who wasn't into a joke. I think sometimes you have to be a little silly and act like a kid. It helps to keep you young and sane. Work can be so monotonous and if you let it take control of you, you will definitely find yourself hating it. You need to have a bit of fun at work and a small prank is the perfect way.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

I wonder if anyone will ever find the end of the rainbow and there lied a pot of gold? Being an engineer who works a lot with light scattering and diffraction, I know that rainbows are just various forms of light manipulation, but it doesn't stop rainbows having a magical quality for me. Yesterday I saw not only one, but two rainbows. The second one is slightly to the right of the first and it's quite faint. I thought I would share this beautiful sight with everyone.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Acceptable Risk

It's strange how we determine how risky some activities are and whether we are prepared to take that risk. I was talking to a friend and he was saying there were two things he never wanted to do, fly in a Cessna airplane and swim in the sea since there are sharks there. I pointed out that I didn't think either of these activities were that risky. I said I would take those chances. I told him that driving his car was a much more dangerous activity yet he was willing to take that risk everyday. He said that driving his car was forced upon him, which I didn't fully agree with. He could always take a bus or a train.

Driving is definitely one of the most dangerous activities and risk that we partake in each day, yet the majority of people are only too happy to take that risk. Some people then see activities such as flying in an airplane as dangerous. The percentage of deaths from planes each year are far less than cars, but yet due to the perception of it, people deem it as risky. Deaths from poisonous and deadly animals are even less again. Yet people are afraid to go out into the bush in case they get biten by a poisonous snake or something.

Everyday activities that we take for granted probably pose huge risks that we just never think about. Using electrical applicances where there are 240 volts flowing through them can kill you instantly. Yet people use them without thinking twice. I guess it all comes down to how you rate an acitivity and how risky it is. And activities that tend to be more foreign are generally seen as more risky.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Random Photos From My Mobile

I just moved all the photos off my mobile onto my computer so I thought I would just post some random photos.

The latest in laptop technology...5 years ago and some mysterious engineer, wonder who that could be.

Which escalator is going up in the picture and my finger of fire muahahahaha.

How many seagulls does it take steal all your chips and I'll double my bet please dealer.

Dory: Nemo don't leave me, I'll be lost. Nemo: I'm just heading off to the toilet Dory, I'll be back soon.

Gold spray paint versus purple spray paint? I'll give it to the purple.

Are Chinese buns more your style or English cakes. I'll take both thanks.

The secret world of fake flowers and candles and vases to put those fake flowers into.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Petrol Price Fluctuations

Now as petrol gets more and more expensive, its really key to pour petrol on the right day of the week to maximise savings. In the past, petrol was cheapest on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. By the time Friday rolled around, prices had gone up in anticipation of people pouring petrol for trips on the weekend. Petrol prices on the weekends were even higher, cashing in on petrol about to travel.

Despite claims by petrol stations that they charge whatever the suppliers charge, there is a clear trend that they increase prices during certain days of the week to earn as much as they can. In fact, some days the prices vary from morning to afternoon. Usually its cheaper in the morning, so as you drive past a station you see the price is low. You then decide that since you are late for work, you will pour after work. Then as you drive in after work, you discover that the price has already gone up and curse yourself for not pouring in the morning. However, since you are low on petrol, you pour a few dollars worth anyway.

Lately, I've noticed that petrol prices are cheapest on a Tuesday. Its also cheaper on a weekend too, I guess to encourage business since everyone is taking less trips on weekends now. This means that on a Tuesday, such as today, there are massive queues to pour petrol. Today when I was driving home from work, there was a long queue so I thought I would pour petrol later in the night. I just came back from the petrol station and even at 9:30pm, it was still very packed. Even with my shop-a-docket 4 cent discount per litre, the price was still over a $1. Its getting so expensive to fill up a whole tank now, even with a small car. I remember when I first started driving that a whole tank would cost me less than $20, now its more like just under $50. And I haven't been driving for that long, so petrol prices have soared pretty quickly.

Just a few weeks ago, I was at the petrol station and a small incident just reminded me how expensive petrol is. I thought I had put $20 of petrol into the tank, right down to the last cent. When I went to pay, the cashier said $23. I said that I had only poured $20. He said that I had poured 20 litres and must have misread the meter. It turned out that I did pour 20 litres. Someone else in the queue joked that in the past, if I had misread the meter, the amount of litres poured was always more than the cost, so you always had enough money to cover the fee. However, that has changed nowadays with petrol over a dollar per litre.

Soon it may not be economical to drive a car anymore. Until then, I just have to drive around less and pour my petrol on a Tuesday and crowd with others just to get the best price.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Robot Sumo and Catching A Ball

It's been a year since the robot sumo competition at our company last year. Last year was the inagural year of the competition and was a lot funnier. The contestants didn't know what to expect, and neither did the audience. This led to many innovative and varying robots. This year, most saw the success of last year's winner and tried to model their robots similarly. The robots were decorated a lot nicer this year though. Here are some below.

The defending champion from last year and also this year's winner, the Zipponator 6000 SU-X. This robot was so impressive that in "demo" mode, it clung onto a wall and climbed right up it, such was its suction power.

This entry from the IT guys definitely wins for authenticity. They even have an Intel sticker on it.

Another entry from the IT guys, this one wins for best use of fluffy feathers I think.

And another video to finish this post, it's a very short video of my friend catching a toy wooden ball on a stick.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Fight Over Water

I love my science fiction shows and movies, and a common theme in those shows is how planets fight over resources, water in particular. I remember hearing a while ago someone saying that in the future, wars won't be over oil anymore, but instead water. I believe that is a very sound conclusion with the ways things are currently going.

Currently, Melbourne is about to enter Stage 2 water restrictions. This means that you cannot water your garden during the daytime, you cannot wash you car with a hose, hose down your pavements and other smaller changes. Water in the dams are at very low levels, hovering about 45 - 50%.

Water is such a precious resource that people in rich countries just take for granted. You flush a toilet and you may have possibly wasted the same amount of water someone in Africa might have access to for a day. A long shower uses over a 100 litres of water I think. Don't quote me on the numbers, but its definitely a lot. If the trend in rising global temperature keeps going, we will need more and more water in the future, which will end in fights.

Even now, people are already fighting over water. The Governments plans to take water from the country area for metropolitan users has already angered drought stricken farmers. There is also talk of using recycled effluent water to cool down coal power stations. The coal station owners are not happy about this since the small impurities in the recycled water can cause a lot of damage to their equipment.

The first step to making this valuable resource last longer is to educate people. Even if you save a bit of water by taking a shorter shower, it all adds up if everyone does it. Otherwise, this resource is not unlimited and it will get to a stage when even immediate change will be too late.

Unless we find very efficient ways to recycle water in the future, countries will start trading in water just like other commodities. Maybe I've watched too many science fiction shows and have been affected by all the stories about water, but I think there will be many fights over water in the future. People tend to think that water is everywhere. The Earth is covered in water, but that is all sea water that is rarely used by humans. We need pure water without the salts (not just table salt but chemical salts I mean) that we can drink and use. Only a very small percentage of all the water on Earth is pure water that we can store and use. I'll be very interested to see how it all pans out in the future. Hopefully by then I'll be living on Mars in a artificially generated environment with lots of synthetic water hahahaha.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Do You Stereotype Yourself?

Normally, I act in a particular way, which is usually very happy, easy going and generally nice I would say. As I have been sick the last week (I know I should rest but I had to utilise the weekend to its fullest), my behaviour has also been affected. The first day that I was sick, I was just plain tired and couldn't be bothered to do anything. Then, since I was unable to sleep for the next couple of nights, my mood was very bad.

I was an extreme grump at work for most of the week. There were moments when I would spark up when something interesting happened, but once I started sneezing and felt tired again, I was in no mood to talk or laugh like I usually do. My customary smile was totally non evident. Simple requests by others to do something would make me so irritable and I would be a grump and say no to most things.

I was asked many times to help go and find costumes for our annual dinner dance. Last year, I had taken control and organised the costumes. This year, I said that since my idea was not deemed suitable, I suggested someone else did it as I didn't really care. But during the week that I was sick, the group was so indecisive that everyone still kept coming back to ask me to basically make a decision. I wasn't in the mood to think about anything besides the work I HAD to do. So I got very angry and snapped at everyone. This week I'm much better so have decided to take control and organise everything again. I actually like organising things as I'M A POWER MANIAC muahahaha, no, seriously, I like the knowledge of doing things right.

However, the point I wanted to make was that sometimes by our own usual actions, we actually stereotype ourselves. Everyone expected me to take control of the situation and make the decisions because normally I do that. I'm usually happy to do that, but not when I was clearly sick and didn't want that responsibility. Also, normally I'm a generally good natured person, so everyone at work asked if I was under immense stress or something since I was biting everyone's heads off. I wasn't being a monster or anything by anyone's standards, but it was a change from my usual persona.

Since people expect me to act a certain way, anything out of the ordinary is generally a shock. I was a victim of my own niceness. I guess I should either display the other characteristics more often so its less of a shock when it does happen, or I need to control myself during times when I just don't feel like being nice. I prefer to choose the first option. I think at times I take things too easily rather than putting my foot down. It's something I am conscious of and have written about in the past, but it takes time to slowly change these things. I feel I am more confident nowadays and do put my foot down on many more occasions.

There are many aspects to everyone's personalities, but due to certain environments, usually you might only see one side of them, so you tend to stereotype that person. However, we all go through ups and downs and hence different personalities will come out. I think you just have to spot when someone is down and steer clear. I think I was extremely clear when I kept saying that "I'm sick and grumpy so stay away and stop bugging me". However, I guess my usual niceness just meant everyone thought I was joking or didn't mean it. I think now they will all thing otherwise. Mean Thanh will occasionally come out now. >-)

Saturday, October 14, 2006

YouTube Bought By Google

So I think everyone probably already knows that YouTube was recently bought by Google for an absurd 1.6 billion or something like that. Well this made me think of two things.

The first is, why didn't I think of doing something like YouTube. Hasn't that thought crossed your mind before. It doesn't have to be YouTube in particular but just some simple idea that pops into your head one day and makes you a multi millionaire. The internet seems to be the fastest way to becoming an instant millionaire nowdays. Look at the guys from Google, a simple search engine and BAM, you're worth 30 billion. Ideas such as ebay, an online auction, how obvious is that, Flickr, somewhere to share you photos, again, so obvious have found so much success. Why haven't I thought of some simple thing that everyone wants or needs and become an instant millionaire. When is my moment of inspiration going to hit me. Or has it already hit me but I have failed to realise it.

The second thing about the sale of YouTube to Google was that Google plan to make money from this venture. Currently YouTube don't earn any money I think, but the plan is to have advertising on YouTube. So they may make you watch a 30 second ad before you can watch the actual video. One market analyst has said that buying YouTube is a decision of a moron. He doesn't see any way to make money from it. I wouldn't entirely agree. I would keep watching YouTube videos even if I had to watch some ads beforehand. It all depends on how many ads. If I had to watch an ad before EVERY new video I watched, I would be watching less videos and only clicking on a few popular videos. I remember the soccer world cup where every match replay video that you clicked on the world cup webpage meant you had to watch another ad was very annoying. Luckily, if you just let the videos play in sequence, you only had to watch the ad once, which I could live with so I just played all the days videos in sequence. I'll wait and see what happens with YouTube, but in the mean time, I will enjoy watching clever entertaing videos such as the Battle of the Bands one below.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Car Parking Rage

It seems so strange that when people get into a car and drive, the devil comes out of some of them. People can get so worked up about other drivers and their actions. A common topic of conversation at work is about bad drivers.

One place where drivers get even angrier is when trying to find a parking. I remember back at uni where there was never enough spaces, there was a lot of crazy zooming around the car park to race to an empty spot first. One friend I knew had once lost a car park to someone else. He had been waiting for it first, but since the car backed out in his direction, someone else came from the other direction and stole the spot. When he honked at the other person, they just pretended that they didn't know he was waiting, shrugged their shoulders and continued to walk to class. My friend went to class, but at lunch time when he was recounting the story, he got really upset and stormed off to take action. The action that he took was to let out the air in all four tyres out of the other person's car and a big scratch down the side. I didn't really believe him when he came back and told me. But when I was going home, I happened to pass a car matching the description he had given. I also saw that the tyres all had no air in them, and there was indeed a huge scratch down the whole side of the car. To me, this action was an extreme case of car parking rage. It's only a parking spot for heaven's sake, not exactly life and death.

Car park rage is even more apparent in the city and during public holidays at shopping centres. During public holidays such as Christmas and Mother's Day, it's absolute chaos at shopping centres. People drive like madmen and do all sort of things to get a car park. Lots of people park illegal in all weird places. Then there is the constant honking trying to grab a parking space. I sometimes also leave my shopping to the last minute and get caught up in all this chaos. The chaos literally gives me a headache, which isn't helped by going round and round the car park as I get dizzy very easily. I now use the "stalk and catch" technique for parking. I wait in one of the aisles and when I see someone walk out of the shopping centre, I start to tail them immediately. If they are carrying bags, I ask them if they are leaving and where their car is. They will generally point to where their car is, and I can start driving in that direction. Even if someone else waits for their spot, they will generally point to me and say I was waiting first. This is a much calmer way then circling like mad and making myself all dizzy. The strike rate is also quite good.

In the city, the fight for a spot is at its most fierce. Free city parking is at a premium, and since no one wants to pay for parking, you have to perserveer and be patient. In Melbourne, there are sometimes parking in the middle of the road so that traffic from both sides can enter the parking. This causes lots of trouble, because even if you are waiting first on one side, cars on the other side might not see you, or just don't care and wait for the same spot. The person who gets the spot is always the one where the parked car doesn't leave in your direction. A classic example of cars fighting for the centre spot is shown in the photo below. I wasn't sure who was waiting first, but neither was going to budge. I stood there for a good 5 minutes watching them and they both did nothing, just sat in their cars with the radio on and waited. I guess whoever had the most patience and outwaited the other would get the spot. It was so funny so I took a photo of it. I thought that the first photo didn't turn out so well so I used the flash on my camera on a second photo (not shown). The dark street lit up like a light and I was worried that the guys in the car would get out and bash me up, so I ran away quick smart. The photo with the flash turned out even worse, so if you are going to take photos like this, being discreet and not using flash actually works best. Let that be a lesson that you all remember and you should end up safe and not getting bashed up.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Some Days Are Just No Fun

Some days are just no fun, today was one of those days. It all technically started yesterday night. I had a really sore throat and was unable to sleep all night. Being the trooper that I am, I trudged off to work today anyway. When I got to work, it wasn't ok for about the first 15 minutes. After that, I started to sneeze non stop and was getting really light headed. I couldn't concentrate so decided to go home at 11am.

I got home and went to be immediately. I slept lightly until about 3pm. I woke up feeling a bit better and after eating some food, was feeling a lot better. I decided to ring the Honda Service to book my car in for a check up. It was doing this weird vibrating thing when I accelerate from a stand still. The operator said that I should bring my car in now if I could, since on weekends there are no technicians to diagnose the problem. I was hesitant to bring the car in because I was still a little bit dizzy and very weak. But I didn't want to take another day off from work to take the car in so decided to take the car to the Service Centre. Bad decision number 1.

I got dressed and went out. Instead of taking the usual road out of my house, I took the other road. Bad decision number 2. Just that short 500 metre strech took about 10 minutes due to the heavy traffic. Then instead of taking a turn onto another road, I decided to stay on the road I was on and keep going. Bad decision number 3. The traffic was so bad that I crawled all the way to the Honda Centre. A trip that would normally take 30 minutes had taken an hour.

When I got inside, I told the service guy my problem, only for him to tell me that all their technicians went home 15 minutes ago. So he said that I would need to come back another day. So I went back to my car and started to drive home. Remembering the heavy traffic on the way here, I decided to take a short cut. Bad decision number 4. The short cut turned out to be a very long cut. I was stuck in more traffic and took forever to get home. All this time, I was a little dizzy and weak.

Normally I may be extremely angry at this time. But maybe it's because I'm just too tired and sick but I'm not too upset. Despite wasting 2 hours being stuck in traffic, wasting petrol and all the while giving myself more of a headache, I had achieved nothing today.

Well that's not entirely true. I had achieved nothing physically, but I did learn something. Never make decisions when you are sick. Your confused mind generally cannot think clearly and you always end up making the wrong decisions. In future when I'm sick, I will just stay at home and watch TV and not try to accomplish anything.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

All Hacks Indoor Soccer Team Vol 905-908

All Hacks,

So yet another month has passed since the last unofficial newsletter. Since this season is going to be bloody long, the newsletters will be more a monthly thing. There's only so much good (or bad) material I can think up.

Firstly, a wrap up of the footy finals. In the AFL, the all interstate battle this year saw the Eagles beat the Swans in a thriller. I didn't really care who won but must say that the final was a great game worthy of a final between two teams who have had some great battles of the past two years. In the NRL, the Storm were unlucky. A possible bad call from the third umpire in regards to Kingy's try decided the match. The Broncos held tough and did enough to win.

In the first match, a once again depleted team saw Justin call on any reserves possible. Hence Irah and David (all the way from Hoppers Crossing) made it to the match. David showed his goal scoring ability when he slotted all four goals again M.C Players. The match ended in a 4-4 draw, but after last time's shafting regarding a goal that was given which really wasn't, a short word to the stadium management saw a goal deducted from M.C since they fielded a player with an incorrect uniform.

In the second match, a return from our overseas import Jeff added a lot to our team in the match against Notting Hill United. Straight from the bar, Jeff showed what some good beer can do for your kicking abilities, scoring two goals in the first half. A fashionably late Maal also showed what some good curry chicken can do, helping him exploded around the field and also scoring two goals. The highlight of this match though, would have to be seeing the Notting Hill guys yell at each other and self destructing. After one guy was being criticised by another for holding on to the ball too long, when the other guy got the ball, he said "so why don't you f**king do something with it now, pass the f***king ball and stop messing around with it". Hahaha with team mates like that, you don't need opponents to beat you.

Our third match against last seasons opponents F.C Bobby saw again the bare minimum five players turn up. The game was close the whole way, with the All Hacks as usual having a goal conversion rate comparable to the Telstra shares earnings dividends, low. Two penalities from Kheang did keep up in the match. As valiantly as we tried, we couldn't come up with a win or a draw to keep our non-losing streak going.

The fourth match against Dick Van Dykes saw a rareity in All Hacks play. Our mid week training session with Cam Mooney from Geelong didn't have the desired effect. Instead of playing with lots of courage, we instead played with lots of fouls. We conceded about 4-5 penalties from indescriminate tackles. I think nearly everyone in the team committed a penalty, myself included. So despite a great effort from Jeff in scoring three goals, we still lost 3-4. The setup of the first goal to Jeff from Justin A was one of the best passing plays all season. A fast outlet pass from defence to Justin A saw him do a quick turn around the pass the ball to the opposite side of the field to a running Jeff who didn't have to break stride and kicked a strong shot to beat the keeper.

To finish off, here is yet another YouTube video. This must be one of the best YouTube videos in terms of professional quality. It too the makers two years to make but the movie will probably never make it to release due to all the copyright issues, but luckily with the advent of YouTube, we can enjoy it.

You can also visit the official website to find out more about the movie and the making of it.
Fast Film


Saturday, October 07, 2006

Ig Nobel Award

Here's some light funny reading for a Saturday. I was reading the online newspaper when I came across this article about the Ig Nobel Award. This award was started in 1991 to honour obscure adn humourous scientific achievements.

The awards winners have definitely come up with some pretty useless devices or information. Why the scientists wanted to research these things would be very interesting to know. I guess they just took their curiosity a step further. I've often wondered, "Why does this thing do this...." and have gone onto Google to look for an answer and satisfy my curiosity, but they obviously couldn't find an answer to their question so took it upon themselves to find the answers.

Here is the list of winners for the 2006 Ig Nobel winners, awarded by Annals of Improbable Research magazine, Harvard University:

  • ORNITHOLOGY The late Philip May and Ivan Schwab for exploring and explaining why woodpeckers do not get headaches.

  • NUTRITION Wasmia al-Houty and Faten al-Mussalam, for showing that dung beetles are finicky about the dung.

  • PEACE Howard Stapleton, for inventing a teenager repellent, an electronic device that makes annoying noise designed to be audible to teenagers but not adults. The same technology is used to make ringtones audible to teens, but not teachers.

  • ACOUSTICS Lynn Halpern, Randolph Blake and James Hillenbrand for experiments to learn why people dislike the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard.

  • MATHEMATICS Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes, for calculating the number of photographs you must take to ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed.

  • LITERATURE Daniel Oppenheimer, for his report "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilised Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly".

  • MEDICINE Joint winners: Francis Fesmire, for his medical case report, "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage"; and Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan, and Arie Oliven for their subsequent medical case report.

  • PHYSICS Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch, for their insights into why dry spaghetti often breaks into more than two pieces when bent.

  • CHEMISTRY Antonio Mulet, Jose Javier Benedito, Jose Bon and Carmen Rossello, for their study "Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature".

  • BIOLOGY Bart Knols and Ruurd de Jong, for showing that female malaria mosquitoes are attracted equally to the smell of Limburger cheese and to the smell of human feet.

There are very funny awards here. Sticking your finger up someone's butt to stop hiccups seems a bit extreme to me, but I guess now that you know this fact, it may come in useful if someone is suffering extreme hiccups hahaha. And I think we all must have wondered why woodpeckers can peck so hard and not get a total headache. Finally, my favourite is that dung ain't dung. Even dung beetles have standard and won't touch some types of dung. So next time you can tell someone that you hate that "even dung beetles wouldn't touch your dung, that's how crap you are" *tah tah* get the pun, crap, dung hahaha. Ah it's great to have a good laugh on Saturday morning, makes a nice start to the day.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

It's All A Matter Of Perspective

Look at the fire extinguisher below, looks like any other extinguisher right? Wrong, if you look carefully on the text, you can see that it's actually a fire lighter. This extinguisher is only about 10 cm high. Just as an aside, this lighter was given to me, although I don't smoke, when I mentioned to a friend that it was really cool. I collect key rings and small items such as this. Hence, I was pleasantly surprised when I was given it since I liked it more than they did.

Back to the topic, I wanted to use this photo as an example of how things look different depending on what perspective you have. Things taken out of context can have a totally different meaning to what was intended by the other party.

I'm writing about this because of something I heard today. It was a story told to me about some trivial issues, but the spin that was put on the story made the other party sound like it was all their fault. Some people tend to put more spin on their stories, but we all do it. When we tell a story, we tend to twist the facts a little so that we sound in the right and the other party in the wrong. You leave out small details or take words out of context and if you only hear one side of the story, you get a very biased view.

The media is very good at taking things out of context and trying to convince us to think how they want us to think. They have an agenda to push and are also trying to sell something. We do it for the same reasons. We have an agenda to push as well. We want people to support us in an argument, or to see us in a particular way. We're trying to sell an image of ourselves to other. Because, as we all know, perception by others is a big deal for most people. There's a running joke at work that "It doesn't matter if you do any work, it's whether people think you're doing work that matters".

I tend not to believe everything people tell me and try to look at it from many perspective before making a decision. I question the supposed facts and for the people who like to add a bit to their stories, the stories keep changing and you quickly learn who's words you can trust more than others. It doesn't necessarily mean they are purposely lying to you or trying to deceive you, it just means that you need to question the facts more before accepting them as truths.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Unspoken Understanding

Sometimes, a lack of words speak more than actual words. Have you ever noticed that people generally try to fill quite moments in conversations. It's actually much harder to just let that bit of silence stay silent. It's sometimes awkward and you all stare around and then someone says something just to break the awkwardness. This generally occurs more with people you don't know too well, or know well in the sense that you see them a lot, but don't really know them intellectually or emotionally. My words are all a bit jumbled up, I think you probably understand what I'm trying to say as everyone has probably experienced this situation.

I find that when I am talking to someone and am able to let that silence be as is, that is when I am truly comfortable around that person. With some people it's easier, I can do that without even thinking about it. With some other people, it's actually quite a struggle and I just find myself thinking of something to say. It doesn't matter how long I seem to know some people, I still find that I can't stay silent during those pauses in conversation and need some sound to fill the air. I guess you can't connect with everyone and there isn't that unspoken understanding where words aren't needed.

An unspoken understanding can also occur when you both know that you are uncomfortable around each other and hence try to avoid that by saying lots of things. Isn't that so strange. Silence really is a tough thing to master.

I can think of a recent example where a friend and I seem to have just slowly slipped further apart. There were no words spoken but we seem to sense a certain amount of discomfort around each other. Is there such a thing as a vibe that you get. It's probably due to many factors such as body language, tone of voice and interest shown. Previously we would joke and laugh with such ease, but nowadays, it seems like we talk politely to each other like strangers. Somehow there is this unspoken understanding that something has changed. I know I probably convey it through my body language since I just see that person different after some events that occurred. I just don't have much interest in talking to that person anymore and I think it must show through the lack of eye contact and general tone of voice that I use.

So what was the whole point of this post, I'm not really sure. I think sometimes I know when I start to feel comfortable with certain people when I can let silent moments stay silent. Conversely, I know that I am no longer close to people who I have to find words to fill a gap where once I didn't have to.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Biggest Loser

I just watched the first episode of the latest series of the American Biggest Loser. It's yet another one of those reality tv shows where people try to lose weight. The show is supposed to be inspirational, but I'm not sure if it that or is exploitative, but that's another argument.

I must admit that it is fairly addictive television. The first series that I watched last year, I initially thought that it was a bad show about hopeless people. However, I somehow kept watching and wanted to see the emotional roller coaster that the contestants went on. The main theme I got from the contestants last year and this year is that they are motivated to lose weight. This makes me wonder how they ever got so fat in the first place if they are such motivated people.

The answer, I think, lies in that everyone looks for an easy way out. They see the Biggest Loser as their last chance to lose weight easily. It's not up to themselves to be motivated and do the work, they constantly have someone there pushing them. I guess that is the problem with most people, myself included. We always look for the easy way out where we aren't responsible for our own actions and can rely on someone else. I always say that, if I had money, I too could hire personal trainers and chefs to cook for me and lose weight quickly like the celebrities. But really, would I do it even if I did have money, I'm not sure. I think you need a motivational driving force to keep you going. Celebrities rely on their image to make their money, and hence have incentive to lose weight. But even the richest people just can't control their weight sometimes, just look at Oprah.

Earlier this year, I had my own small turning point as such. My weight was slowly increasing and I knew it too. However, all I did was talk about losing weight and never actually did it. The turning point came when I went to buy a new pair of pants for work. I got my usual size, but when I went to try them on, they were way too small. I had to get the next size up. It was at that moment that I decided I needed to do something. The next day, I went and bought the CSIRO diet book and started on my CSIRO diet. It was hard at the start since I had to eat vegetables (and ask anyone that knows me and they will tell you I HATE vegetables) and other not so pleasant food. However, I slowly started to adapt and found I even liked some food. To this day, I still eat wholemeal brown bread and like eating some vegetables. I also got into an exercise routine and slowly the weight did come off. I felt much better internally and also started to look better too.

However, once I reached my target weight, my good habits started to disappear again. I've found lately that some bad habits are definitely returning. I've had some late night snacks, eating really unhealthy food (I currently have a cream addiction where I eat fruit, cakes and biscuits with thick cream) and have stopped exercising. I guess maybe the Biggest Loser is inspirational in a way. After seeing the show, I have decided that I need to get into my good habits again so that I don't end up like the contestants and in such a desperate position where I think my only hope is for a reality show to save me. There is nothing stopping them, and me, from going outside each day and running, eating healthy food and just motivating myself to keep fit.