I am a Billionaire!

March 10th, 2009
$50 billion note

This is what $50 billion looks like.

My little sister has returned from her travels in darkest Africa and has brought back great treasures indeed. Behold, the $50,000,000,000 note! And I didn't even need to help a Nigerian widow transfer the money out of the country.

I know what you are thinking – it's great to be wealthy, but what about all the begging letters? Well, I guess I can stop sending them now.


Live your life by the Tao of Python

March 7th, 2009

As a Godless heathen, I have no scripture from which to guide me in my day-to-day life, and I must look for meaning elsewhere. I believe I have found that meaning in the most unlikely of places; the Python shell. If you enter import this in to the Python interpreter, it will reveal to you an ancient wisdom in the guise of a collection guidelines for the Python language.


What we have here, is a failure to communicate!

February 15th, 2009

It's not easy being a Scotsman in England. Some of the locals have difficulty understanding my accent. I'm living in Oxford now, but it was the same in London. Recently, I had trouble ordering a coffee...

Me: Hi. I would like a tall white Americano to take away please.

Coffee guy: (shouts) Tall black Americano to go.

Me: Sorry, white.

Coffee guy: (shouts) Two Americanos to go.

Me: No, no. A white Americano.

Coffee guy: Both white, or just one?



You heard it here first!

October 20th, 2007

They say that in every day, you will use at least one sentence that has never been uttered before. I think this may be true of the Internet as well. According to google, the phrase 'telepods of doom' was used on the Internet for the very first time by me! Now if only I could somehow get it in to common usage and be immortalized... Telepods of doom you later!


Analysis paralysis

July 18th, 2007

I pride myself in my ability to make decisions. If I have all the variables and criteria then I can typically select the best course of action, or at least a good choice of action. As an engineer, this is invaluable because most problems in software development are of this type; you have all the facts and a desired outcome. If you meet the desired outcome, then you can safely say that you made the right decision. If not you can go back and try again.

If only all decisions where as clear as the kind you have to make in programming! In the real world - which I'm forced to occasionally visit - most decisions I have to make definitely aren't like this. Generally I don't have all the facts, the criteria aren't clear and the outcome is a scalar, rather than a simple Boolean. And when faced with a problem that is too fuzzy, I tend to not make any decision at all, rather than risk making a bad one.

Purchasing a mobile phone is a case in point. I've been using a pay-as-you-go phone, which was a good deal originally but had become expensive because I use it a lot more now. I've known this for months but every time I considered which combination of phone and plan to go for I ended up deferring the decision for while because there were so many variables (vendor, phone price, monthly fee, contract length, add-ons, phone features etc). Annoyingly, of all the choices I could have made, deferring the decision to later was the worst, because it cost me money.

You may consider this to be a personality flaw that I should work on, but I say it is the universe that is at fault. What I need is a formal way of patching this flaw, or at least working around it. A piece of software could be written that allows the user to enter a number of possible choices and criteria. For the phone example the choices would be the various plans on offer and the criteria would in the form of graphs with a variable on the x-axis and a desirability rating on the y-axis. Each criteria could also be weighted for importance in the final decision, and given a confidence scale that reflects how sure you are of that criteria. The output of this program would be the list of choices, sorted by rank, with corresponding confidence ratings. The best choice would be the first in the list, but by setting the cut-off point for confidence it would include the possibility of inaction as the best choice.

I figure this software could be used to handle pretty much any major life decision, such as "which girlfriend should I marry?", "can my spouse have my kidney?" or "who should we eat first"? It could also replace many of today's world-leaders, who seem to make fairly arbitrary decisions anyway. I'm tempted to implement it in the form of a Python script, and perhaps put a nice graphical interface on it. I kind of like the idea of governments being replaced by Python code. I for one welcome... you know the rest.

Excuse me, its lunch time. Now do I want pickles, olives or sauerkraut on my sandwich?


Happy New Year!

July 5th, 2007

What do you mean its not the new year? Yesterday was 32 AW, today is 33 AW. That's After Will. Which also makes it my birthday.

Last year was pretty good, career-wise and on a personal level. I use the term 'career' rather loosely because it implies some kind of direction. I don't learn skills because they are commercial - it's just blind luck that I manage to make a living out of them. And it seems like the skills I do learn can be a little niche, but that can often work to my advantage. For instance, my first 2 jobs involved writing software polygon rasterizers for games, at a time when 3D graphics cards were becoming popular. Even Python is a little niche, it certainly was when I started using it. But I'm now working full time with Python, and writing a book about it. I'm confident that it is a skill-set that is on the rise, and wont go the way of software polygon rasterizers!

On a personal level, last year was pretty good. I met my girlfriend last year, and I'm planning to move to London with her. Which may be quite a culture shock for someone raised in a small town in North East Scotland! I suspect it will be kind of like Crocodile Dundee, only without the boomerang.

Sorry for the self-indulgent post. I don't do it very often. All the best for 33 AW.



June 19th, 2007

Normally I detest Internet phenomenas - I still don't know what that 'all your bases' nonsense was about. So I apologise in advanced for having stooped so low as to contribute to the current internet fad. For your viewing pleasure, here are the first two 'loltriops'.

Update: I guess that should be loltriopz. loltriop2 loltriop1

Numbers don't lie

May 17th, 2007

My triops hatched today. I am now the proud father of four tiny crustaceans, and there are more on the way. They are barely visible - just little white specs, but I can make out a pair of swimmerets.

Apparently they double in size every day. They are about a millimeter in length at the moment, so by this time tomorrow they will be 2 millimeters long. They live about 60 days, so eventualy they will be 2 to the power of 60 millitmeters in length. Let's see... thats 1,152,921,504,606,846,976 millimeters, 1,152,921,504,606,846 meters or 1,152,921,504,606 kilometers (*). Oh. My. God. We're gonna need a bigger boat.

* For Americans, that's 716,392,209,599 miles


I am the next stage in human evolution

May 4th, 2007

I've been thinking about genetics recently. I have red hair and fair skin (if I were any more pale I would be transparent). As well as giving me a fiery temper, the red hair gene reduces production of the skin pigment melanin, which provides protection from the sun. Consequently I burn easily, and the closest I ever come to a tan is when freckles join up. This may make you wonder why such a trait would ever exist in the population.

It turns out that the red hair gene is advantageous because red heads can produce more vitamin D from sunlight. Which is why red hair is common in north western Europe. If the gene had occurred in Africa, then it is unlikely to be passed on since carriers of the gene would have succumbed to skin cancer before adulthood. I find this interesting because it is a recent addition to the human genome. For the creationists in the audience, it is a gene in human beings that has come about through natural selection (go Darwin, it's your birthday)! I suspect that if human beings didn't move about so much my descendants would evolve in to the lesser-spotted red human, common in northern areas.

My girlfriend has a very different complexion to me. She is Brazilian, with ancestors from Italy and Portugal. Her skin is darker than mine and tans very easily. She also has other adaptions to a sunny climate; her skin always seems hotter than mine, as if her body favours getting rid of heat rather than conserving it. And she will shiver and get goose-bumps at temperatures that I find comfortable. I can see us fighting over the thermostat!

The red-hair gene is recessive, so a child must get it from both parents to have red-hair. Which means that if Maria and I have children (patience sweetheart), they are unlikely to have red hair since she probably doesn't have the gene (our kids will probably look like this). I'm actually quite relieved that my kids will look more like her. Hopefully they also won't also inherit my unmanageable hair and allergy to house dust mites.

This makes me wonder if evolution in human beings has effectively been halted? We are no longer constrained by geography in the way the rest of the animal world is, and most people will get the opportunity to pass on their genes. Will human beings evolve in any significant way in the distant future? I suspect not. There are plenty of species that seem to have stopped evolving, because they occupy an evolutionary niche. Disappointing really, I wouldn't mind a philips screw-driver for a pinky finger.


Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?

May 2nd, 2007
DSC02507I recently bought a book on Python. Which is not something unusual since I have a steadly growing collection of Python books. But before I could pay for it, Amazon kindly suggested some other items I might like. One of which was a 'Giant Soft Touch Python'. At this point my inner-child realised the outer-man had a credit card, and instructed me to click on the Python toy - then suppress all knowledge of it. That is until it arrived this morning. I am now the proud owner of a giant soft touch Python.

If anyone wants the aforementioned rubber serpent, then let me know. I want to get rid of it before it starts leaving little rubber droppings behind the television. I'll even post it to you for free (UK only). On the condition that you have kids and you're not just a geek with an inner-child.

Now if you will excuse me, I have to get back to day-job, which is something that we adults have to do.

© 2008 Will McGugan.

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