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Walkman v iPod

I enjoyed this story about a teenager, Scott Campbell, who gave up his iPod [^] for a first generation Sony Walkman.  Scott Campbell's Walkman v iPod

Yes, cassette tape against modern electronics. At least it was a Sony, not one of the generic ones that most of us had. The verdict: big, heavy, battery-hungry, and Scott’s biggest grumble there’s no shuffle. And he didn’t even get to experience any tape munching or mangling either.

It’s amazing how the must have gadgets from the late 1970s through to the mid 1990s now seems so alien. It just makes you wonder, what’s an iPod going to look like in 25 years time? Me, I’m happy with my MiniDisc Walkman . . . for now.

Rules for Time Travel

After years of reading and watching science fiction, fantasy, and other time-travelling fiction it’s nice to know that someone has had a serious think about some rules.  Discover magazine, propelled by the latest Star Trek movie, has published a list of 10+1 time travel rules [^] that should be followed to maintain current scientific accuracy. 

The first, and probably most telling rule is the rebuttal of the fiction favourite: the time travel paradox. Reality simply doesn’t allow for paradoxes. Two contradictory, mutually exclusive outcomes from one event (like the Grandfather Paradox [^]) cannot exist simultaneously.

What is really interesting is the amount of serious discussion that this article has provoked. Especially as the article notes that this is an area that is still in it’s infancy in the highly theoretical realm.

Zachary Quinto and Chris Pine as Spock and Kirk

There is one thing that I am sure of, and that is that writers will never let some new theory get in the way of a good plot!

As for Star Trek [^], well it is one of the better Star Trek movies. It’s big, noisy, and enjoyable. And it doesn’t always take itself too seriously, quite a bit of which is down to “Bones” McCoy and Simon Pegg’s “Scotty”.

The one gripe that I have about the film is the completely unexplained “Red Matter”. Come on guys couldn’t you explain that a bit – it’s like there’s five minutes of tape missing. We don’t know what it is or where it comes from even at the end of the movie, and this is a key part of the story!

The 2009 Star Trek movie seem to be a good entry point for non-Trekkies/-Trekkers, and a fantastic excuse for a spot of revision. Oh, yes there is a time-travel twist in the movie, but it might not be as good as Discover’s:

“Spock travels to the past and gets a sex change and becomes Kirk’s grandfather lover”.

Digging to Australia

Growing up in the UK, I was always told that if you had a big hole in the ground that you were “digging to Australia”. Fair enough, that kind of made sense to me, it was about half a world away, and everything should be upside down.  Surely they don’t call it “Down Under” for nothing.

Confusion set in when we moved to Australia though. Logic would dictate that if you are in Australia and digging a hole surely you are digging your way to England. Apparently not. Australians think that you are going to China!

At long last the conundrum has been solved. Ze Frank has created a Google Maps mash-up that shows opposite points on the globe – if the world were a sandwich [^].

world sandwich

The answer is neither country is exactly right. Great Britain’s closest landfall on the opposite side of the world is the south coast of New Zealand.  While Australia’s opposite is the mid north Atlantic, coming very close to Puerto Rico.

The Americans with the China Syndrome [^] have a belief that they are on the opposite side of the world to China. A quick check reveals that they are not! That’s almost as bad a guess as the Aussies.

Do any other countries have such a poor understanding of geography, or find it too hard to look at a good old-fashioned (analogue) globe?

Love/Hate Relationship with Social Networking

Steven Levy in “The Burden of Twitter” on Wired has this to say about social networking [^]:

Because of time constraints and just plain reticence, I worry that I’m snatching morsels from the information food bank without making any donations. Instead of healthy, reciprocal participation, I’m flirting with parasitic voyeurism. . .
Steven Levy – Wired [^]

This is one article that does not decry social networking as the ultimate invasion of privacy – no-one is forced to FaceBook , Twitter or blog. We choose what we share and who we share with. Just make sure that you check your account settings in FaceBook.


Do we all go through bouts of lurking, followed by big blurts of self-confession? How many other people feel remorse at going to the all you can eat gossip bar, and leaving nothing in return? Or is it worse to show up only occasionally to hang-out with your friends?

Excel Formula Helper

Chandoo on the Pointy Haired Dilbert blog [^] has launched an excel formula helper [^].  The aim is to provide normal users of Excel with an easy to understand English explanations, and examples, of some of the most commonly used Excel formulas. 

Excel Formula Helper - max

I am a professional Excel-wrangler, and occasionally I have to resort to using Excel Help, and it is never a pleasant experience.  And, for the most part I know what I’m looking for / at, so what’s it like for “normal” people.

I am also a point of contact for some of less experienced Excel users around the office.  Usually it’s for formula help, “how do you …” and “why doesn’t this work?” type problems.  It’s nice to know that I now have a resource that I can point others to so that they can help themselves or if I’m too busy to explain a formula.

Chandoo has promised that if this popular then he will expand this initial offering, so help everyone and point people there.