April 17, 2007
The air up there

Things you don't want to hear in the lift in the morning at work:

"We had environmental consultants come in yesterday to measure the various pollutants in the building and discovered that we're between 10 and 20 times worse than WHO standards."

This is why they say ignorance is bliss.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:12
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November 20, 2006
I ponder

After years of holding out, a Sony software crash has finally pushed me towards joining the cult. I hereby declare the trend over.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:20
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June 02, 2006
New team addition

Subject to something raising my ire, my contributions in this space are likely to be limited for the next week or so. Don't blame me...

Blame her:


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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 22:01
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May 08, 2006
One step closer to the grave

Thanks for all the birthday wishes and gifts.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:01
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May 05, 2006
Health food made tasty

I just offered JC and BL their choice of breakfast cereals: Frosties, Nutri Grain or museli. Both took museli. What's happened to kids these days? They're actually rejecting the sugar coated stuff for the health food.

It didn't happen in my day.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 07:37
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May 04, 2006
The greatest question: PC vs Mac

Mrs M and I are engaged in a serious debate. Our hardy PC is now a stately 3 years old and is showing its age. As our thoughts turn to updating, the natural question becomes "now Macs are actually on the radar screen, do we make the jump"? Now I know there are two types of people in the world: Macaddicts and PCaphiles. But I need help....your help. We've spoken to the people from the Apple shop in Central (moderately helpful but no real answers...and why does Apple make it so hard to find people that sell and can explain their stuff?). But I need input from people who've used a PC and then a Mac and what their experiences were in converting.

We use our PC primarily for: email, internet, web-cam/video conferencing with the folks in Oz, music (iPod and a Sony), limited word processing and spreadsheets, photos, some scanning, some kids games. There's other stuff but these are the main tasks. The PC is adequate for these tasks and we back up the photos and music regularly to an external hard drive. One option is for us to just upgrade our current PC, and that's not a bad option. But we feel it's right to at least look at Macs, given those that use are so adamant they are better.

My questions are simple:

1. How easy is it to convert from PC to Mac, especially in importing photos, music and email?
2. What can we keep from the current setup, especailly peripherals?
3. What are the real benefits of Macs? Why the fuss? And what are the pitfalls of Macs (there must be some)?
4. Is there a big learning curve in going from PC to Macs?
5. Are our PC files and programs generally runnable on Macs (e.g. Word and Excel files)?
6. What kind of Mac is right for us?
7. What the hell is .Mac and is it worth it? We currently use Now broadband.
8. What additional software will we need to buy for the Mac?

Thanks in advance for any help you can give. In the meantime I'm going to keep on loading all these CDs onto iTunes.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 18:15
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April 21, 2006

I will be out of blogging action for a week or so. With a bit of luck and a subtle hint, my co-bloggers will dazzle and post in the interim. Alternatively, please avail yourself of the comments here or the forum to talk about whatever you like.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 17:36
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April 12, 2006
Raw greens

Today's trivia question: why do they always put that green plastic grass looking stuff into take-away sushi boxes?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 12:26
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March 06, 2006
Game theory of toilet seats

The push for sciences to prove their relevence to the real world continues apace. Books such as Freakonomics and The Undercover Economist both demonstrate how economic tools can be applied to the real world. Now I've stumbled across a paper by Richard Harter in something called the Science Creative Quarterly, titled a Game Theoretic Approach to the Toilet Seat Problem. Print this and leave on the bathroom door.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:56
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March 03, 2006
Scrunch or fold

There are two types of people in the world: those who divide people into two types and those that don't. One fundamental difference comes down to whether you scrunch or fold toilet paper. In a most interesting piece of research, I have discovered that this trait is not necessarily inherited. Middle daughter PB is most adamant she is a folding kind of girl, despite coming from a long line of scrunchers. And she's 3.

While not scientific, I wonder what the percentages are of folders vs. scrunchers. Please vote so we can resolve this age old issue.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 09:03
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February 03, 2006
Naming names

I've already mentioned that Mrs M is pregnant with our fourth child. Naturally it's a wonderful blessing, but it comes with a dreaded curse: finding a name we can agree upon. Inevitably my favourites are Mrs M's "no ways", and her "must haves" are on my veto list*.

And so, dear reader, this is where you come in. In order to prevent a desperate, last minute brain-storming session en-route to the delivery suite, I am appealing to you to help us in our quest for names. To pre-empt your question, we don't know the sex, so make sure you list both boy and girl names. I already have Simon Junior on the list.

To make it even more interesting, there will be prizes for the best suggestions.

Apropos of babies, it seems appropriate to repost a link to Simon's Abridged Guide to Living with Pregnancy (for Men).

* It is some kind of miracle we've been able to name the first three.


While on things reproductive, The Economist (full article below the jump) explains my recent weight gain:

THE term “couvade syndrome” has been used to describe men who share the symptoms of their mate's pregnancy. (Couvade is a word derived from the French for “to incubate” or “to hatch”.) Symptoms of the syndrome commonly include indigestion, nausea, headaches and weight gain. By and large, such symptoms—in particular, pain during a partner's labour—have been seen as psychosomatic, so that couvade has been put down to an exhausting list of possible causes ranging from anxiety to pseudo-sibling rivalry, identification with the fetus, ambivalence about fatherhood, a statement of paternity and birth envy. [Psychosomatic my arse - have they ever seen the bills for this thing? - Ed.] However, a new study on monkeys hints that when it comes to weight gain, there might be more to couvade than first meets the eye.

Toni Ziegler and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison examined the behaviour of fathers-to-be in two species of New World monkey—the common marmoset and the cottontop tamarin. They found that the male's weight in both species increased during their mate's pregnancy. The 14 male marmosets went from around 410g at the time of conception of their offspring to 424g when their partners gave birth five months later. The 11 male tamarins went from 556g at conception to 568g at birth six months on. A further 13 male monkeys (six marmosets and seven tamarins), which were not expecting to father offspring, showed no weight gain. The work has just been published in Biology Letters.

What was particularly useful about this study was that the researchers were able to weigh males and females throughout the pregnancy. It turns out that the males did not follow the same pattern of weight gain as pregnant females did, which is what you would expect if the males were eating sympathetically with their mates. In fact, the male monkeys started to pile on the grams far earlier than their mates, while their pregnant partners tended to put on most of their extra weight in the last few months of gestation.

So if the male weight gain is not simply down to sympathetic eating, what is going on? In mammalian species where both the mother and the father care for infants, the behaviour of the father is crucial for the survival of the offspring. In these New World monkeys, the fathers spend as much or even more time caring for infants than the mothers. They need to be prepared to engage in caring for their offspring immediately after the birth, which involves carrying more than one infant. So perhaps the fathers are gaining weight so as to prepare for the energetic costs of caring for their offspring.

What this means for couvade syndrome in human males is not certain, but it does offer the intriguing possibility that the father-to-be might, in his own modest way, be eating for two.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:09
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December 04, 2005
Photo finish

A golden rule in customer service is to always underpromise and overdeliver, and to avoid the opposite.

So in the signs you don't expect to see in top 5 star hotels category...

It didn't work, despite repeatedly following instructions


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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 21:54
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November 24, 2005
Minor announcement

In a desperate attempt to squander the world's remaining resources and to continue to have as little money and sleep as possible, Mrs M has fallen pregnant yet again. Luckily maternity gear is high fashion these days.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:19
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October 28, 2005
Watching the watches

I've been looking for a particular watch to buy and it turns out it's not available in Hong Kong. Impossible, I hear you say, that the watch capital of the world doesn't have it. Crazy that a well known watch company would widely advertise a product you can't purchase. You'd be right, but it's an impossibly crazy world.

Being a new age kind of guy, I turned to my friend Google. And sure enough, it turns out the watch is for sale, online, from a place called Orolus, which is based in Malaysia. It seems to have a good reputation, but this is a not-inconsequential amount of money. Any one used them? Any thoughts? Do we trust e-commerce enough these days?

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 19:19
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October 21, 2005
Un-intelligent design

Thought for the week: If the intelligent design crowd are right, why are we so badly designed? They could have at least included a cup-holder.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 14:07
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October 04, 2005
A heartbreaking decision of staggering genius

This is a tale of a vending machine, Kate Moss and irrationality.

Important update at the end of this post

We have a vending machine at work. It has proven extremely popular with the staff, especially as the drinks are provided gratis. This has provided material for an interesting experiment. Now that price has been removed from the demand equation, it can be safely assumed that other factors will come into play. Taste is one, packaging another, familiarity (i.e. advertising and experience) yet another. The machine has two rows of 8 selections. The selections were:

(Top): Coke x2, Lemon Diet Coke (why?), Diet Coke x3, Aloe Vera Tea (again, why?), Lemon tea.
(Bottom): Bonactive (I think it's water in a can), Soda Water, Soda Water, Bonactive, Orange Juice and three variations of iced coffee.

Bear with me here. Inevitably the first drinks to run out are Coke and regular Diet Coke (there's always lemon Diet Coke left, even when everything else has run out, as you would expect). Naturally you would expect the bottler to realise that Coke and Diet Coke are the most popular drinks and some of the lesser variations should be dropped to make more space for these drinks.

You would be wrong.

In a decision that can only be described as incredible, the machine has had its two lines of Diet Coke cut (insert Kate Moss joke here) and replaced with Bonactive and Soda water. Why? It makes absolutely no sense at all.

Yes, I think I work in the Twilight Zone.

Update (10/5 @ 17:08)

The machine has been refilled and restored to its natural order, with 3 lines of Diet Coke back in place.

Obviously either someone complained, someone came to their senses or the evil conspiracy unravelled thanks to this blog post.

I like to think it was the latter.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 16:57
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April 18, 2005
Hong Konger launches human rights appeal

An unprecedented appeal against human rights abuses has been made by a Hong Konger known by the initials BL, a resident of the city for 8 months.

In what may be a world first, BL has launced a human rights case against his own family. A warning to readers: some of the abuses detailed may be disturbing.

BL's claim outlines a litany of allegations. Between once and three times a day his clothes are changed, usually without his say-so. Even worse, he is objected to exposure of his privates on a regular basis, usually to females. He is often transported to new locations without any prior approval and sometimes against his will. He is forced to eat mush and occassional pieces of toast. He is only allowed to drink milk or water. His movements are constantly watched and he is often forcibly forbidden from approaching certain areas. Occassionally he is allowed to enjoy entertainments of his own choosing, but usually he is subjected to a constant regimen of repeated propaganda*. His attempts at communication are often taken for jibberish and ignored.

Despite all these privations this reporter found BL to be a generally happy and bright young man. His stoic ability to deal with the constant handling and provactions, especially from two older female inmates, is testimony to his specialness. He rarely complains and typically greets friends and visitors with a smile.

Human rights activists are seeing BL's case as a rallying point. "BL is not alone. Unfortunately this kind of treatment is all too common," said Virginia Sourkraut of the Hong Kong Association of Concerned Citizens and Busybodies. "Right across this city and the world there are others suffering in similar silence," she said as she dabbed a Kleenex.

When asked to comment, chief warden Mrs M denied all knowledge of the allegations. "You've got way too much time on your hands" she told this reporter**. On a tour of the facility where BL is being held this reporter noticed several eye-opening incidents but due to a confidentiality agreement cannot be revealed here.

This reporter was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with BL this morning to ask his thoughts. With a trickle of drool and a mouth of only two teeth, this quiet hero said "Ba ba baaaaaaaa" while gesturing wildly and grasping a soft steam engine, clearly a much loved childhood toy. A tear came to this reporter's eye as BL firmly gripping and proceeded to pinch at my arm hairs. This brief but life changing moment was interupted by Mrs M, who firmly stated it was time for BL's breakfast. With a pleading look in his eyes I was made to say goodbye to BL and his two fellow inmates, JC and PB, under the guise of "going to work".

It is hoped the UN with splash millions of dollars on the affected family. Donations can be made via this reporter at the Paypal button or by purchasing items of this Amazon wishlist. Little BL thanks you.

No babies were harmed in the making of this post. A couple of Cokes were consumed, but that was it.

* by Mattel or Disney, usually.
** this reporter declares a slight conflict of interest as he shares the same bed as Mrs M.

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[boomerang] Posted by Simon at 15:53
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