Friday, December 26, 2008

Javalujah!

Quite possibly the best YouTube video ever:

What if Starbucks marketed like a church? A parable.


It's funny looking at the comments on the original page though; some people get various messages being made about some church cultures, whereas others think this is damning of Starbucks... brilliant.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Tire fail

My tire blew a while back and - because it happened as I was coming down my street - I hobbled home pretty much on the rim and so my car sat growing cobwebs.

I finally need to get my A into G because some friends think my car might be nice to do a New Year's trip in but, lo, I have run into a bit of a pickle.

My car is stuck at my place because the tire is blown.

I need to repair the tire.

To repair the tire I thought I could either lug it in a friends car to the tire repair shop or change to the emergency tire and get it there myself.

So I jack up my car, whip out the tire-changing-apparatus, and discover that I can't undo the nuts on my mags!

I have the parts that were sold with the car sitting in my boot space but the nut-undoer-thingy is probably the ORIGINAL part and not the part designed to undo my mags!

So I need to take the car to Mag & Turbo so that they can undo it with their universal keys but I can't take the car there because I need to change the tire but I can't change the tire because I don't have a universal key.

*sigh*

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Coffee is my home-boy & other miracle cures

Some fascinating tips on how to avoid neurological problems:

1) If you want to avoid Parkinson's Disease...

...have another latte.

Caffeine is protective to some extent and nobody knows why. But who cares whyyy? Make mine a triple shot, thanks.

2) If you want to avoid Alzheimer's Disease...

...make it a Fillet O'Fish.

Maybe not, but Omega-3 Fatty Acids found in fish (particularly oily ones like herring, mackerel, sardines, and anchovies, I believe -- basically all the awesome ones :P) will help there.

As a plus it may also have some positive effect on cardiac disease and cancer. You go girl.

I also recall some BBC documentary that talked about the positive benefit of Omega-3 on learning. You don't have to ask me twice to rip open some kippers. Fishilicious.

And, lastly, in general don't forget to...

3) Use it or lose it.

Work it, work it, lobesercize people! I wanna see those sulci sweat!

Having a fit brain isn't that much of a stupid idea.

Disciplined exercise of your brain by performing challenging tasks can lead to a whole host of benefits including reversing the declines caused by dementia and Alzheimers, as well as improving general cognitive processes and speed even in areas where you didn't specifically train towards.

Now if only I could transfer my brain into a suspension fluid hooked up to the internet I wouldn't have to worry about that ever-pesky physical fitness!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Zombie Scientist Seeks Fun-Loving Brain

This post doesn't have much to do with Zombies, but it IS about brains.

Reading brains!

Just when you thought the brain was an enigma...

...you were right.

But we are making progress in understanding it better. Like take this experiment for example:

Reconstructing visual images by using MRI scans of the visual cortex. Awesome.

[Reconstructed visual images. The reconstruction results of all trials for two subjects are shown with the presented images from the figure image session. The reconstructed images are sorted in ascending order of the mean square error. For the purpose of illustration, each patch is depicted by a homogeneous square, whose intensity represents the contrast of the checkerboard pattern. Each reconstructed image was produced from the data of a single trial, and no postprocessing was applied. The mean images of the reconstructed images are presented at the bottom row. The same images of the alphabet letter ''n'' are displayed in the rightmost and leftmost columns.]

We are a long way from being about to do half of the fun (and fearsome) things that belong to the realm of science-fiction, but this is a brilliant step. As PZ says, visual reconstruction is only possible so easily (relatively speaking) because of the neat mapping onto the visual cortex of what we see. Reading somebody's memory, for example, would require a greater mastery of larger and more distributed areas of the brain.

Still, Johnny Mnemonic and Neo's "Whoa! I know kung fu" here we come.

Monday, December 08, 2008

ATGATT

ATGATT, so the bikers say: 'all the gear, all the time'

It means that only a fool goes riding without a full kit of gear: helmet, jacket, pants, gloves.
Where possible, the standard rule is that the less skin you are showing the better you will be if you every fall off. Of course, road rash makes short work of non-safety equipment (such as regular pants or basic gloves), but its probably better than nothing.

I discovered a new variant on the Don't Show Skin rule of thumb which I call:

ATGATT-OABWSYITN

It stands for, "All the gear all the time - or a bee will sting you in the neck"

Acronym well learned.

I was riding out to Motukerara on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Nice weather (save being a tad windy) and an excellent route to whip along when *blam* a stone must have flipped up and caught me straight in the neck!

Ouch! It hit me one inch above my left collar bone in the little patch of skin showing despite my whole outfit of riding gear. A few seconds pass and, whoa, this sucker hurts, I think to myself. It must have been a sharp stone because it feels like it has cut me.

I touch my neck gingerly as I ride along and, looking at my glove, I can't see any signs of blood on my fingers.

Then an idea occurs to me. No way, I think, it can't possibly be that...

Pulling in at a petrol station I take off my gloves and pinch at my neck... and what do I pull out? I bee stinger.

I must have splattered the poor sod right across my neck going at the speed that I was while at the same time managed to ram his stinger into my own neck!

I could already see a nice red stingery lump forming on my neck and it hurt like heck. A regular bee-sting welt came and left.

So remember: All The Gear All The Time (plus a neck brace) or a bee will sting you in the neck

Monday, December 01, 2008

The most beautiful sound

For years I have loved this one particular instrument.

I never knew what it was, what it looked like (though I suppose my guess was close enough), or anything about it at all. The most accurate thing I knew is that it could only be 'middle eastern'.

Back in my university days, while waiting for lectures, I would sometimes hum tunes to myself as I imagined the haunting refrain of this magical instrument.

I can play the ocarina, the penny-whistle/tin whistle, and the recorder. Not very well, mind you, but then while I find them to be pleasing instruments I have never had a passion to gain any skill in them.

Well, I have finally discovered what my dream instrument is called.

It is the Duduk (or doudouk); a family of persian and armenian wind instruments.

Have you ever heard their lilting sound -- with almost human pitch-shifting like a singer calling devotees to Salat -- played on a track of world music or behind the commentary of a recent evening news 'expose'?

There is at least one person who sells them online, and he even provides several fantastic sound samples.

In my humble opinion, it really is the most beautiful instrument on the face of the planet.