Headache Inducer for $8.80

When eiron and I got back from watching the World Trade Center in the cinema this Sunday, we picked up a package delivered the day before. Leah was puzzled because she was not expecting any delivery but I kind of half expecting something. I did not expect it to arrive this fast though.

About an hour later, after we've both checked our emails, surf the web, check RSS feeds, etc. I finally got around to open the package. As I suspected, it was the Rubik's Magic I bought on eBay a few days ago. Leah was confused as to why I would buy it but it definitely brings back memory for her, especially because she had never solved it, whereas I bought it because I did solve it and want to do it again. When I was a kid playing this thing, I was able to solve the puzzle in 7 (8?) steps within 5 seconds.

It arrived in the initial state but within a few minutes of manipulation from me, it was already in a weird configuration. It took me awhile before I put it back to a decent 4×2 configuration and by then I got a headache. I told Leah about the headache and then I remembered that it used to give me headaches too all those years ago.

Leah summed it up nicely, "So you bought a headache inducer from eBay for 8 bucks?"


P.S. I am going to order Rubik's Cube from Amazon. This I never solved so I don't think I'll have any luck this time round either!

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QotD: Teacher’s Pet

What was (or is) your favorite subject in school?

When I was at school in Hong Kong my favorite subject was science, with maths a close second. I despised Chinese while English came quite nature to me. Strange for a Chinese but it's true. Then when I emigrated to the UK and progressed to A-Level, maths and science had swapped and maths became my favorite subject with physics second. I liked computer studies too because it is hi tech but at that time my mind was in the clouds of abstract mathematics and so I was no good at writing programs in BASIC. I did learn Pascal on my own and managed to write a rudimentary algebraic graph drawing program. Really I was more interested in computer games than learning it as a skill.

Then I went to uni to study physics and I enjoyed that very much in the first year. The maths was easy (the double maths A-Level I took prepared me for it) and really not much work was needed to get good grades. Then in the second and final years we got into the heavy shit; thermodynamic, solid state physics, etc. that involves statistical maths. I hated them with a vengeance, but since they are a very important part of physics I ended up not doing well in exams. It was then that I realized while I love the concept of physics I am crap at actually applying the theory. Around the same time I found that computer programming came very easy to me and I started taking more and more computing courses as my optional units to boost my average. It worked and I managed to graduate with a degree!

And this is how a physics graduate ended up working as a software engineer/developer/programmer. The road isn't that windy, really…

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Newsnight as you go

Last week while I was browsing around iTunes Music Store, looking for new podcast to subscribe to, I decided to see how many new BBC podcasts had been added to iTunes since I last looked. So I typed in "BBC" in the search box and the list was pretty long. As I read down the list, I spotted the Newsnight video podcast. It is a short excerpt of the week's footage so it is a nice way to get the best digest of the program.

I didn't manage to watch the three episodes until late last night and a couple of minutes into the first one, I wondered what file format BBC is encoding the podcast. A quick check in iTunes showed that it is just plain mp4 video, and I then wondered further whether my Nokia E61 will play it.

So I dug out the USB data cable and connected the phone up. The memory card showed up as a disk on my Mac desktop and I just dragged the file into the disk. A few minutes later I had it on my phone and RealPlayer was playing the podcast in its fullscreen glory! The video quality is pretty good. I didn't notice any dropped frames and the sound from the speaker is adequate for a talking head program. Battery life, of course, suffers when you play video on the phone but that is to be expected.

Anyway, after that it was just a matter of entering the long URL for the podcast into the Nokia Podcasting app on the phone. Soon it was download the latest episode onto the phone via the Wi-Fi connection. This is especially cool for me because I can't play video on my 4G iPod (obviously) and I am waiting for the next generation before upgrading. Being able to play video on my phone means I have less of an excuse to buy the 6G iPod when it comes out.

So now I have even more content to keep me occupied as when I am stuck in a subway train. One thing still annoys me though. Why can't all audio and video podcasts on iTunes uses non-DRM, non-proprietary format like BBC. How about that Apple? Can I have iTunes New Music Tuesday in regular mp4 audio format, may be as an alternative to the special one you've been using? I don't care for the album arts and chapters, I just want to listen to the podcast on my phone!

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