Writings on technology and society from Wellington, New Zealand

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Homage to a piece of Kiwiana

A whimsical story referencing a piece of Kiwiana that we all know. Figure out which one before you get to the end!

posted by colin at 10:00 am  

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Guest post: Cows are the ideal form of currency

cowface.jpgCows. They’re good for a lot of things. You might not think that money is one of them. But that’s where you’re wrong. Cows are the ideal form of currency and I believe they should replace the New Zealand dollar in the near future.

posted by colin at 4:34 pm  

Thursday, April 9, 2009

St David’s Hills?

There’s a wild and beautiful range of mountains in Wales called the Brecon Beacons. Here’s Pen-y-Fan, its highest peak.


It’s an amazing place to go tramping, but you have to be careful because the weather is very changeable. Don’t be put off by Welsh mountains’ apparent small size – the weather on top can approach arctic conditions.

The Beacons are home to a tough breed of farmers. As in most of the Welsh hills, sheep are run all across the bleak hillsides. You can’t blame the farmers for having a little fun, and when some marketing genius came up with this YouTube video, we all chortled.

It was three weeks or so ago that we were discussing this on Twitter, and mainly making bad puns. But now, television has caught up with it. Last night TV3 News carried the video, not even in the ‘Arnold the Singing Turkey’ slot after the weather, but in the second segment before some rather more serious and significant stories.

TV3 edited the video to suit their format – I guess that’s to be expected. They added a voice over explaining what was going on, and a banner to tell you the location. Here’s a screen shot:

Beckham Beacons.jpg

This place is called the Brecon Beacons, remember. Check the name at the bottom of the screen. Now, that’s hilarious.

posted by colin at 3:11 pm  

Friday, February 6, 2009

Wacky web headline of the week

Immortal Dr Who jellyfish poised to rule Earth

Go on, you know you want to.

posted by colin at 8:02 am  

Monday, November 3, 2008

On the necessity of windows

I recently passed through Singapore and rested for a few hours in the airport transit hotel. It’s a useful facility which can give you something useful to do with a layover, i.e. sleep.

The rooms are in a little warren of corridors, all completely contained within the airport terminal. And the rooms look like a standard business hotel room, with a desk, a bathroom and (of course) a bed.

That’s not all. These internal rooms also have windows. They aren’t real – how could they be? Each room has a set of drawn curtains right where you would expect a window. If you look behind the curtain you find a blank wall.

Why do we feel the need for a window? One definitely makes the room more welcoming. And, because you would only to to those rooms for a sleep (if you’ve been for some other purpose please don’t tell me) the curtains add to a feeling of night time, regardless of local time or your body clock.

posted by colin at 9:41 pm  

Monday, October 27, 2008

Electromagnetic inducer

Today I went for a walk – the Puke Ariki track in Belmont Regional Park, fantastic but I won’t be able to move in the morning – and I came across three guys doing something strange on Boulder Hill.

They had a machine that superficially resembled a tripod-style barbecue. At the top were heavy unshielded wires connected to things that looked like insulators which were standing up around the circumference of the machine. I say they looked like insulators, but they were aluminium coloured instead of the more normal ceramics that insulators are made from. And there were some serious wire coils underneath the “insulators”, made of the traditional copper wires. Beneath the body of the machine, suspended between the tripod legs, another part of the machine swung freely in the wind. A stray length of wire (number 8?) ran from the machine through some lazy spirals to an end on the tussock. I’d have taken a picture, but the guys really didn’t encourage it.

The guys themselves weren’t particularly communicative. They had probably been asked by dozens of people what this was all about, and all they told me was that it was an electromagnetic inducer. The edge in the spokesman’s tone of voice didn’t invite further questions.

So, my question is: are these guys –

a) performing some vital public service

b) doing some useful research through a recognised tertiary institution that they aren’t prepared to explain to random passers-by

c) total flakes?

Answers in the comments, please!

posted by colin at 9:12 pm  

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What exactly is a kilobyte? (or a Megabyte, or a Gigabyte)

There is a lot of confusion about this out there – some of it deliberate – as I said on the radio last week, but the usual definition is 2^10 bytes, which is 1,024 bytes.  Here’s a cartoonist’s take on the whole thing – it’s funny.

Incidentally, by the definition above, a megabyte is 1,024*1,024 which is about 1.04 million, and a Gigabyte is 1,024 times bigger again at 1.07 billion.

posted by colin at 7:20 am  

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Something light-hearted for a Summer weekend

The late, great Billy T James shows us how to buy a used car…

posted by colin at 12:05 pm  

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