Jesus hates photography

If you surf on any of the big photography sites you’ll know that photography is a tough business these days. There are more and more places that are banning photography. Usually this is chalked up to the increased threat of terrorism in this post-9/11 world. However my visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral has given me another reason to despise those freedom-hating photographers – respect for religion:

No Photographs

At first I was surprised. Why should they want to limit photographs of St. Paul’s Cathedral. a beautiful work of 17th century architecture? Could the creator of the universe really be concerned with my charge-couple device capturing free photons emitted from the church interior, converting them to electrical impulses and storing them in non-volitile memory? Surely that can’t defy the 2nd commandment? So I ignored the sign and snapped a few nice photos:

(Note: I can’t confirm it, but viewing these pictures may damn your soul for all eternity. You have been warned)

St. Paul’s Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

But then I started thinking: maybe the folks at St. Paul’s were right? Did you know that there are absolutely no photographs of Jesus? None! Not even after he went to America after his first resurrection. Of course, you may say, this is because photography wasn’t invented until after Jesus’ death. But let’s face it – Jesus was no ordinary man and was known for his miraculous abilities. While there have been primative pinhold cameras for many centuries, the first usable photography was available in the 1820 after the invention of chemical photography. Contrast this with Jesus, who lived in mortal form from approximately 0AD to approximately 30AD or 33AD. The undeniable fact that we can conclude from this: if Jesus wanted his picture taken he would have invented photography earlier.

So it’s clear that St. Michael’s has a a legitimate reason to believe that Jesus hates photography. However, if you still feel that you absolutely must have some photographs of the interior of St. Paul’s for your collection at home, fret not: there are plenty of photographs available for purchase at the gift shop:

Gift Shop Photos

I’m sure these photos are OK though: the photographers were probably ordained ministers and used cameras that were bathed in holy water or something. After all, banning photography to increase gift shop sales whilst claiming publicly that it’s for religious reasons would be blasphemous, and clearly that couldn’t be possible from the bless’ed staff of St. Paul’s.

This one goes to eleven

I started my day today with a fine bit of National Rail nonsense, care of First Capital Connect. I admit that I’m completely insane by living in London and commuting up to Cambridge every day and yesterday was a reminder of that.

King’s Cross Station

King’s Cross. I’m not sure what kind of monkeys run this train station, but they have a wonderful policy of not telling you exactly what platform your train is on until the last possible minute. Sylvia often runs into this when she tries to meet me at the station – they don’t mention what track the arriving train is on until all of the passengers have alighted, walked home, fed the cats, watched three reruns of East Enders, and finished off the latest Harry Potter novel. This morning, however, was really the crowning acheivement of King’s Cross mis-management.

This morning I left at 9AM to make the 9:15 train. Plenty of time. After two failed attemps to get tickets from the machine the third time was a charm but I was getting a bit concerned – it’s was 9:12 and my train was leaving at 9:15. I rushed out of the ticket office and checked the big board – the 9:15 to Cambridge is departing on … they don’t know. 3 minutes to departure and they don’t show the track number. Of course, the train is still listed as “on time.” They don’t know where it is, but by golly it’s going to leave on time. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that space and time are one and the same and you need both to specify a train departure.

A few moments later the board changes – platform 11.

Let me explain something to you about King’s Cross. It’s a pretty damned big station. There are 8 platforms in the main station. If you walk along to about the end of platform 8, turn left, walk outside, pass platform 9 3/4

Platform 9 3/4

… you’ll eventually arrive at the annex trainshed, which, as you might infer by its name, is a really bloodly long ways away from big board in King’s Cross. In fact, it’s so close to St. Pancras that you’re practically in Paris. This is where the fine aging trains of First Capital Connect are often relegated. They’re like the Ryanair of train travel – sure they say you leave from King’s Cross, but you really leave from the annex trainshed half-way across London.

It was chaos. 2 minutes until the “on time” departure of the train and a wave of people start running towards the trainshed. There were men in nice suits who blew past a woman with a giant suitcase who was left to fend for herself by her travel companion. I was in trainers so I quickly made it near the front of the pack. And who was there to greet me at platform 11? One guy, yes, ONE guy, who was checking everybody’s tickets. Asolute and complete chaos. I flashed my ticket over the heads of some clueless tourists and made it on to the train. A few seconds later the doors closed leaving at least 90% of the passengers still on the platform. An employee of First Capital started waving his hands yelling “Don’t leave! Open the doors!” Absolute chaos.

But by this time I didn’t care as I was comfortably sitting in my seat – the only person in the car. I opened my bag, pulled out my noise cancelling headphones and breathed a sigh of release knowing that I managed to push just enough old ladies out of the way to make it on time. Sadly they did open the doors to let the poorly adapted passengers on and a short 15 minutes later we were on our way.

Thanks First Capital Connect! Remind me to work from home tomorrow.

The excitement that is … Computex Taipei!

Marry Me? DianaAnother week of work with the same old grind. Well, that’s what you may be thinking, but I just got off the most exciting week of the year – the glamour and excitement of one of the world’s largest trade shows for PC component and peripheral manufacturers: Computex Taipei 2007! Yee haw! Jealous yet? You will be.

Computex Taipei is an enormous sprawling collection of Taiwanese electronics (fun fact – the domain name is the only .biz address not owned by spammers). The show is spread out throughout four buldings of the Taiwain World Trade Centre complex that surround the Grand Hyatt Taipei and Taipei 101 (after four days, still no word from Diana). The show floor is mainly made up of endless booths from every Taiwainese company you’ve never heard of.

Source Come Science & Technology
Who these days doesn’t own a monitor from Source Come Science & Technology?

Taipei Weather - Computex 2007Normally I look forward to the beautiful Taipei summer weather for my annual Computex pilgramige: a crisp 38C with 95% humidity and heavy smog. Unfortunately this year it was only about 30C with 90% humidity and constant thundershowers. Nevertheless, I didn’t let that put a damper on my mood – there was pointless technology to explore.

While you would think that most attendees come to see the latest in cheap Taiwanese electronics, the primary draw seems to be the booth babes. Seriously, follow that link. You would think by the photos that Computex is just an endless line-up of scantily clad Taiwanese girls flaunting obscure technology brand logos.

But there’s more to Computex than just booth babes. There’s also the exciting game of hunt the Engrish.

Keep Rotating the Earth
Few of us comprehended the importance of green power until now.

VESA Vedio
VESA need a spell checker.

Eee! PC! ASUS are one of the biggest PC technology companies in the world and they still don’t understand that “Rock Solid. Heart Touching” doesn’t make any god-damned sense.
I’ve been to and this is clearly false advertising.

Of course the big-names in the PC industry also share the stage with Shiunn Yang Enterprise Co., LTD. Intel and AMD put plenty of cash into the event:

Intel and one AMD
Never have I seen market share put so eloquently in picture.

In the end, Computex met all of my expectations – it was exactly the same as last year. As much as I would like to make this one my last (you know, go out on a high-note like Seinfeld) it’s pretty unlikely given my choice of career. It’s inevitable: I’ll be back for Computex 2008 along with all the rest. With any luck, Diana will have made up her mind by then.

See you at Computex 2008

The Great Sweetner-off

I was once in the coffee room of my old employer when I saw a co-worker getting a Diet Coke out of the pop machine (as people so often do). We began to have some idle chit-chat and I asked her how she could possibly drink the nauseating swill she was currently enjoying (a common subject of conversation). Not just because it’s Coke, I said, but also because it is sweetened with aspartame which tastes more like a nasty chemical concoction (think Matt Crane) than sugar. She commented that she can’t tell the difference between aspartame and sugar, at which point I told her what I though about her mother and we’ve never spoken since.

Since that day I have asked various strangers at bus stops, cafés, and barber shops about their take on sweeteners. To my surprise, many people say they can’t tell the difference between sweeteners and sugar. Could it be that these people never pay close attention and don’t really care? Possibly. But many of these people are the same people who claim they can tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi; “Pepsi is sweeter” they often claim. I have come to realize the truth: that I possess a super-human sense of taste that allows me to pick out unique flavour combinations inaccessible to the average person. It’s how I can taste an olive hidden in a 12″ submarine sandwich and wretch appropriately. I can spot umami a mile away upwind. And I can tell the difference between aspartame and sugar.

To test this hypothesis, I secretly obtained samples of 3 major sweetener brands by concealing them in my shirt pocket as I exited a restaurant. Fortuitously, the hotel was kind enough to leave a pile of paper cups in the lobby with absolutely no security supervision. Here are the results of this covert operation:

The Sweetener Lineup

Our contenders are:

Sweet’n’Low (Saccarin)
With its cute treble-clef design, Sweet’n’Low was first introduced in the late 1950s and has been a family favourite for generations. In the United States Sweet’n’Low is made with saccharine, a chemical banned in Canada. In Canada, Sweet’n’Low is made with cyclamate, a chemical banned in the United States. Yes, you read that correctly. It does not make sense.

Equal (Aspartame)
This sweetener is produced by The Merisant Company of Chicago, the same company that owns Nutrasweet. Equal has been on the scene for a long time and was the first apartame-based sweetener sold to the public in the early 1980s. It’s cheif ingredient aspartame is best known for giving me splitting headaches.

Splenda (Sucralose)
Despite being a newcomer to the party, having been introduced only in 1999, Splenda is the current leader in the artificial sweetnener market with over 60% market share. Splenda’s parent company lies to the public with its “It’s made from sugar so it tastes like sugar” message and their other businesses include eating babies and converting owls to gasoline.

Naturally to run a proper experiment a control cup needed to be included. My hotel room was stocked with two sugar packets which were added to the line-up to serve this purpose:

Sugar is added

I also used a cup of clean water to cleanse my pallet between trials. It’s not in the picture but it looks kinda like the other cups of water shown above.

After tasting each cup I can authoritatively say that unless you’re an idiot there is absolutely a huge perceptible difference between each of these options. Here are the results of my testing:

  1. Sugar – Nice subtle sweet taste with a clean finish. Shame about the diabetes thing.
  2. Splenda – Strong sweet taste, but not overpowering. Slight chemical taste that drops off very quickly. Hangs around at the back of the mouth for a while before inducing a slightly chemical after-taste. If only they didn’t kill those innocent owls.
  3. Sweet’n’Low – Completely overpowering punch of sweetness with a nasty chemical after-taste. One word: NASTY. And I thought aspartame was bad.
  4. Equal – Very strong sweet onset with a chemical after-taste developing in the middle of the mouth. Very long chemical finish. Tastes terrible. I don’t know which is worse – the excessive overpowering taste of saccharine or the long drawn-out taste of aspartame.

After clearly identifying the differences in the various options I decided to test my mad skills. Each cup was labelled on the bottom:
Labelled Cups

After a bit of shell-game swapping, I had the following randomized cups:

Anonymous Cups

At this time I was going to run a long list of randomized trials and record my guessing, tabulate my results, run statistical analysis, and record my findings in the next issue of Nature. Unfortunately I ran into a few roadblocks that prevented me from continuing:

  1. Randomizing 4 cups by myself is basically impossible. Each time I tried to move them around I kept subconscoiusly tracking which cup was where. I had to leave them alone until I forgot which was which. I don’t have all day for this. Acutally that’s not true, I do have all day for this but I still don’t want to wait 10 minutes between trials.
  2. Sweet & Low has destroyed my sweet tastebuds. Seriously, this stuff is nasty. After 3 trials of its mind-boggling sweet onslaught Sweet & Low started tasting like sugar and sugar started tasted like water.
  3. Aspartame is nasty and gives me headaches. I haven’t had an aspartame headache in years. It reminds me of drinking Diet RC Cola and those nasty gold cans of Caffeine-Free Diet Coke in the 80s.
  4. It’s actually not all that hard to tell these apart.
  5. Tasting sweeteners is absolutely no fun and my tongue feels like leather.

The results? Sugar still tastes the best with its sweet subtle taste. If you have to go with a sweetener it’s Splenda by a wide margin. And if you’re ever tasting a diet drink and have a nasty chemical feeling in your mouth you know you’ve had aspartame or saccharine. If it’s a disgusting overload of sweetness that drops off quickly it was probably saccharine, but if it sticks around for a while and gives you that fresh chemical feeling with a headache boot you’re the lucky consumer of aspartame.

In closing, I have no regrets about what I said about my co-worker’s mother.

Make Faire: Meet the Makers

I’ve been in the San Francisco Bay Area (aka “Silicon Valley”) this weekend and have been trying to keep myself busy. I used to live in the area (during an internship at a tech company in Sunnyvale) and I have some friends who still live here. My friend Amber was kind enough to suggest a few interesting things happening this weekend and I decided to attend the Maker Faire. It turned out to be very entertaining! Unfortunately I didn’t bring my proper camera so you’re going to have to live with the pictures from my mobile phone or pictures I can find elsewhere online.

The event is put on by Make: Magazine, which is a quarterly magazine for people who like to make things (usually technology related). It a very entertaining magazine but I’m not enough of a “Maker” to justfy the exorbinant cover price (New Scientist is the only magazine I subscribe to FWIW). I acutally saw Mark Frauenfelder, editor-in-chief of Make: Magazine while I was there:

Mark Frauenfelder - not my photo

While not exactly what I would consider a celebrity encounter, he is the only person I’ve ever seen in person who has appeared on the Colbert Report.

But I digress. There was all sorts of cool things there including GIANT TELSA COILS there! YEAH:


This guy was lighting a fluorescent bulb with his Tesla coil:


Posted about were warnings like this one:

Waring - Telsa Coils

They had electric vehicals:

Electric RacecarElectric Bike

Antiquated technology:

A pile of old cables

People who made all kinds of wacky stuff, including giant robots:


And, of course, the truly insane, like this guy who was knitting whist playing the drums:

Knitting Drummer

And the “Redneck Pool Heater“:

Redneck Pool Heater

The event was much bigger than I expected and I never did end up meeting up with Amber while I was there. The SF Bay Area is one of the only places that can support this kind of insanity at this level. Between stuff like this and the beautiful weather it makes me almost miss living here!

Back from Spain

We’re back from our weekend in Spain’s coast. It was fantastic! Despite some early concerns about the weather the rain in Spain stayed mainly on the plane this weekend and we had beautiful skies for most of our trip.

I have some comments about Ryanair I’ll make later.

Never buy a Microsoft phone

I know this should be obvious, and I should have known better, but (suprise!) my Microsoft-powered “smart” phone that work bought me is a piece of trash. I’ve had this thing since November and it’s been nothing but trouble. The phone needs to be rebooted every day or the phone will stop rining and alarms and notifications will stop going off, making the phone basically useless. And now, whenever I reboot, I get this for about 10 minutes:


NEVER buy a Windows Mobile phone if you can avoid it. I’m just hoping that I can convince my work to get rid of this piece of trash and get me a BlackBerry again. Palm should be ashamed of themselves for going over to Windows.

Finally, a company that recognises my status

(Please note that I spelled “recognises” the British way. I’m learning!)

I’ve always thought that the title “Mr” never really summed up exactly who I am. It always felt a bit common or pedestrian to describe myself that way. Not that I want to be called “Mrs” or “Ms” of course: I’m fairly certain that I am male, but let me check…yep, still male. It’s just that I wanted a title that better defined me as a person. “The Reverend Doctor Jason Slaughter” always appealed to me, but I’m not religious…or a doctor for that matter.

Thankfully British Airways–everybody’s favourite big-business airline–knows that the members of its “Executive Club” frequent flyer program are a special breed. Like me. So when I signed up and selected my “title” from their little pull-down menu I was pleasantly surprised to see not just the bog-standard Mr, Mrs, Ms, Miss, Dr, Herr, Monsieur, and Frau, but a list truly deserving of the nose-in-the-air crowd.

The military is well recognized by BA. They’ve got Admiral, Lieutient, Sergeant, Corporal, First Officer, and even the dreaded Rear Admiral. They’ve got politicians covered with titles like President, Senator, and Governor but strangly no Prime Minister. Royalty are well taken care of with titles like Her Majesty, His Majesty, Prince, Princess, Her Highness, and His Highness. They’ve got wacky foreign titles like Jonkheer, Khun Ying, Hajim, Puan Sri, Embajadora, Tengku, and everybody’s favourite Tan Sri Dato. The religious are served with titles like Father, Rabbi, Reverend, and Pastor. They even have The Hon Justice, His Holiness, Deacon, Lord, Viscount, Brother, Sultan, Dame, Judge, and Justice.

It was a long search, but I finally found the title that suited me best. Thanks again BA for recognising me for who I am:

Crown Prince Slaughter

What title are you?

2 wires, £81 each

I solved my little BT problem last night. After some short research on the net (particularly this great PDF) I found out that it really was as easy as I thought it would be.

Here was my daunting task: 6 wires. But which should I hook up?!

6 wires

According to my research online, only two are required (technically wire 3 should be hooked up or the phone won’t ring but those little ADSL filters they give you take care of that and the less noisy wires the better for Internet access). 5 minutes with my trusty 110-block punchdown tool later and we’re done (you do have a 110 punchdown tool at home, don’t you?):

110 punch down tool

And the final product:

Wired Up

5 minutes for £162. Not a bad day’s work. I hate you BT.

BT, Bloody Theives

As if it wasn’t bad enough that they force you to get an £11/month home phone line with a £106 “set-up fee” to get DSL Internet (something not required in Canada). Now I find out that when BT hooks up your phone, they only hook up one phone jack. To get your phone line in any other room you need to pay for an “extension socket” for the low, low price of only £162.16 including installation. £162! Just so that we can get our ugly Internet router out of our livingroom and into our second bedroom!

I just couldn’t bring myself to do this because I know it’s just hooking up a few wires (I just don’t know where those wires are in my house). The sockets are already in the house, they’re just not live. A blindfolded retarded monkey could hook up a phone line:

Phone line twisted pairs

Does anybody know where the phone line hookup is normally found in a UK flat? I’m sure people regularly do this themselves. Certainly people don’t actually pay £168 to attach a few wires, right? Right?

Theiving Bastards

I do have to give them credit though – BT find some very innovative ways to screw people that I’ve never seen anywhere else.

More on Business Cards

The ordeal continues! We have a new employee who has joined us in Japan and he’s put in his 2¢ towards our business cards. He suggested changes across the board with my title changing to シニアプロダクトマーケティングマネージャー. I have a feeling that I will never resolve this, so they’re going to print! How bad could it be?

The Joy of International Business

As if flying 10 to 14 hours to Asia all the time wasn’t enough of a pain in the ass, I’ve been jumping through the hoops of getting local language business cards. You would think it would be an easy process but as Engrish reminds us, translating to and from European and Asians languages is not a trivial process.

Chinese Business Card

For my Chinese business cards, a coworker who lived in Taiwan (and is moving back there) mentioned that while technically correct, the Taiwanese would find my title of 高級產品經理 to be particularly funny. He loosely translated it as “High Class Product Manager” which isn’t quite what we were going for. He recommended 資深產品經理 as a replacement. Maybe I should just go with 白屁股大熱賣 and be done with it – I doubt anybody would forget that business card.

Japanese Business Card

Then for my Japanese business cards I sent them over to a friend in Japan. After being told the font was “too traditional” (that is, “Chinese”) he said his coworkers’ comments were that my title was “not normal or somehow funny sounding.” They recommended a katakana replacement of 製品担当シニアマネージャー.

Korean Business Card

After all this fun with Chinese and Japanese is there any doubt that I’m concerned about my Korean cards? Unfortunately my Korean friends have never lived there and I’ve never been to Korea so I don’t know a lot of qualified Koreans to ask. I’ll have to rely on our outsourced Korean sales reps to give this translations the OK.

It may be a pain, but I think it’s worth spending the time to get it right. Of course by having these cards done my employer is sending a pretty clear message – “you’re going to be in Asia a lot!” 🙂

It does what it says on the tin

This is one I hadn’t heard in Canada: “It does (exactly) what it says on the tin.” The meaning is immediately obvious; it’s something that does exactly what it purports to do. It’s generally used positively (that something purchased worked as expected) but it’s occasionally used negatively to mean that the product works just barely well enough.

It does exactly what it says on the tin

What’s for Pudding?

“Pudding” here is not just a creamy dessert, it’s just dessert in general. It’s like going to the States (especially the South), asking for a “Coke,” and getting the response back “What kind’a Coke do ya want? We gots Pepsi, 7-Up, Dr. Pepper…”

Notable Example:

“how can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat?”

-Pink Floyd.