Tag: interesting happening

Pow! Pow!

Last weekend, I went to Dublin with Damjan and a friendly group of volleyball players.

After all the formalities of the volleyball were done, we went out on the town to celebrate. I had a bit of Guinness, a bit of Baileys. In short, it was a good time.

It was 1 AM and we were walking back to our hostel when something strange happened. A man came at Damjan and barked, ‘Stab!’, jabbing a cigarette towards Damjan’s face.

The stranger continued passed us. When I shook off my surprise, I realised he was too far away to be reprimanded.

So I whipped my hands out of my pockets, made pistols out of them and shouted, ‘Pow! Pow! Bangbangbangbangbangbang!’

The stabber turned around, looking confused.

Fancy that. As if I were the freak.

Joan in Dublin

Here I am in Dublin. Like my new glasses?

Joan versus crackers

I was walking home from work along a main road when a bus roaring up beside me erupted into flashes and smoke.

I stopped and so did the the two people ahead. The bus, unharmed, continued on.

Another explosion. This time it was a rocket with a trail of white smoke behind it. BANG!

Tentatively, I started to walk again. Behind me, there was another RAT-TAT-TAT of machine gun fire sounds and yellow bursts of light appeared in the corner of my eye.

I turned to watch the group of six or seven kids throwing orange sticks in front of cars. The sticks exploded.

I watched for a minute, hoping to intimidate them into stopping. But another firework launched, again one of those rocket-type ones.

So I pulled out my phone and pushed 9. Then 9. Then 9.

‘Hello? What’s the emergency?’ asked the voice.

‘There are some kids throwing firecrackers into the traffic,’ I heard myself say. ‘It’s a really busy road.’

‘Police, then? You want the police?’


I waited two dial tones, then: ‘Police, what’s the situation?’

I told them where I was and what was happening.

‘Are they fireworks or crackers?’

‘Crackers, I think. They throw these sticks and it takes a while to explode into sparks. There are loud cracking sounds. I think they’re crackers.’

‘Okay, we’ll investigate,’ said the phone voice. ‘Do you want to leave your name?’

‘Ah, no,’ I said. ‘I won’t be in the area.’

I hung up, then went on to the gym, then home to cook dinner and fold my laundry.

I wonder if the police came.

Every little helps

I was proud of myself. Even though I was late for work, I still managed to make my own lunch by throwing together tuna, sweetcorn and yoghurt. I had this mixture for the first time last week and it was very tasty.

Only as I closed the door to my flat behind me did I realise I had forgotten a vital ingredient. Without lemon juice, my lunch would taste pretty uninspiring.

So at 12:30 , I went to the local Tesco. Of course, there was a long lunch time queue. Finally, I reached the check out to hand over my lone lemon.

The check out lady scanned the lemon and said, ‘That’s 32 pence, please.’

I looked in my purse. ‘Oh no!’ I exclaimed. ‘I’ve only got 30 pence.’ Indeed, in the coin compartment there was a small heptagonal 20 pence coin and the larger round 10 pence coin.

‘Oh well…’ I began, pulling out a £10 note.

The check out lady held up her hand to stop me. ‘Why don’t you bring the 2 pence next time,’ she said slowly. I could almost see her mentally winking at me.

‘Oh…! Okay. Yes,’ I stuttered.

She smiled as she took my coins. ‘I’m not allowed to do this,’ she confided softly.

Back in the office, I told my colleagues about my 2 pence windfall. They laughed and said, ‘Well, you shouldn’t feel bad about taking advantage of Tesco. Did you see the news today?’

Tesco achieves £3bn annual profit

Supermarket chain Tesco has reported underlying annual pre-tax profits of £3.13bn, an improvement of 10% on the previous year… The profits are the highest on record for a UK retailer.

I said, ‘Yes, well, you know what they say. Every little helps.’

Dumb resolution

I have a lot of experience setting objectives and targets. I do it for a living and I pretty well know how to put together a target, commitment or goal that actually spurs people to change what they do.

It may surprise you, then, that I have made a dumb new year’s resolution. It’s dumb because it’s not SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic or Time-bound.

My resolution is: ‘To enjoy going to the gym’.

Since coming back to the UK, I’ve been to the gym twice. Both sessions have been good — I think I enjoyed them. Does that mean that I’m keeping my resolution?

Well, it’s hard to say. It’s hard to say because ‘to enjoy’ is pretty vague. What does it mean? I also don’t know how to measure it. Am I having more fun than I had last year? Should I enjoy myself more tomorrow? What level of enjoyment should I have (whatever ‘enjoyment’ means) within three months? What about by new year’s eve 2009? Is it really possible to enjoy going to the gym or are those gym junkies deluded?

Speaking of new year’s resolutions, I brought macadamia-centred chocolates back to the UK so that my workmates could have a taste of Australia. Would you be surprised if I told you that about a quarter of the people to whom I offered a chocolate declined because they were on some kind of new year’s resolution diet?

I was astonished. How can one resist chocolate-covered macadamias?

But I shouldn’t be surprised, really. After all, I too have been on an nochocolate regime.

Back in September last year, having completed my one month chocolate ban, I reintroduced chocolate back into my diet. For a while, it was going well. I ate a bit of chocolate here and there. But then, my chocolate eating started to ramp up. One day, just as I was putting another piece of pointless-sweet-no-flavour chocolate in my mouth, I realisedthat I had reverted back to my former ways.

So I made a new resolution and that time it was a SMART resolution. I am only allowed to eat chocolate with greater than 70% cocoa content.

Specific? Yes. I know exactly what I am allowed to eat, and not allowed to eat.

Measurable? Yes. It’s a pass/fail criterion that applies 100% of the time, although I have made exceptions for spectacular chocolate cakes on three occasions.

Achievable? Yes. If coeliacs can avoid wheat products and vegans can avoid animal products, then resisting milk chocolate should be a piddle.

Realistic? Yes. It’s not like an indefinite ban on chocolate — clearly, I would fail that resolution. With this goal, I’m allowed to have the yummiest and best chocolate but avoid the incidental stuff (e.g. team mates bringing in cakes and sweets). It’s the incidental (accidental, non-deliberate, unplanned) chocolate eating that has increased since moving to London.

Time-bound? Yes. The resolution was applied immediately and lasts forever.


Messy in translation

I was enjoying yum cha at a Chinese restaurant in Bayswater, west London. Yap said to me, ‘Do you know that word?’ He pointed to this character.

‘Luàn,’ I read. I knew this word. My mum had always lamented at how luàn my bedroom was. ‘It means messy.’

‘Ah,’ Yap nodded. He smiled. ‘Are you sure?’ Yes, I was sure, but then Yap pointed to the small print underneath the character.

Oh. Perhaps my mum had been more distressed about the state of my room than I thought.

English spider

‘There’s a giant spider in my room,’ I said conversationally. Damjan and I were talking to each other on the phone.

‘Oh! Are you going to kill it?’ Damjan asked.

‘I can’t. When I came in, I saw something black rush across the floor. I just caught a look at a massive hairy spider before it scurried under my chest of drawers. I can’t get to it now.’

‘You’re just going to leave it there?’ said Damjan.

‘I don’t really mind, as long as it doesn’t bother me. But if it comes out, it will be sorry. YOU HEAR?’ I shouted at my chest of drawers. ‘IF YOU COME OUT YOU’LL BE SORRY!’

Damjan laughed. ‘My sister would be terrified. She wouldn’t be able to sleep in the same room with a spider.’

‘Well, it’s not like it’s an Australian spider. It’s just a piddy English spider.’

Blown over

I went outside for lunch and was almost blown over by the wind. I really had to struggle through the air to get to the pedestrian crossing. I think, in fact, I leaned forward at an angle that would normally result in me falling on my face, but the wind held me up.

As only a nerd would, as I battled against the forces of nature, I thought how this could be represented as a free body diagram.

This doesn’t seem right to me. I feel like Fwind was actually horizontal and that a component of my weight force was horizontal in the other direction. Can that be right? For this diagram, I’ve drawn that the horizontal wind force is opposed by the ground reaction force (GRF). I am almost sure this is wrong because the GRF should actually be opposing the force of the foot on the ground.

I did lots of web searching to find a free body diagram of something toppling over and I couldn’t find it. Is it something to do with torque around the centre of gravity?

Sigh. I really should know how to do this. I’m an engineer.

Any help would be appreciated!

The bird

While waiting at a pedestrian crossing, I listened to a dance track with a pumping bass on my MP3 player.

I glanced up and jerked my head back in surprise when I saw that a pigeon sitting on the beams of the rail bridge above me was bopping in time to my music.

Bop, bop, bop, flap! Bop, bop, bop, flap!

The pigeon did this for about three bars. Then it stopped and it eyed at me.

I crossed the road.

Pain in the neck

My neck started hurting on the weekend and by today, I couldn’t move my head at all without it hurting a lot. Pain was accompanied by numbness, tingling and a headache.

After lunch, Anna from our team walked me over to the accident and emergency department of the hospital. I was lucky to be there on a Tuesday afternoon because I had a short two hour wait. If I had come on a Friday night, I probably would have waited four hours. On Friday nights, I imagine the A&E department is full of drunks and people wounded in fights.

The doctor x-rayed me and asked me to push/pull/lift various limbs. After looking at my x-rays, he said that there didn’t seem to be anything wrong. I had probably slept in an awkward position and the pain should go away in a few days.

He gave me painkillers, which help a lot.

I have isshoos

Last week was exciting. I spent Monday and Tuesday at Bristol to meet other engineers (and scientists and sociologists) that ‘think in systems’. I was able to confirm that I, too, ‘think in systems’. This means that I zoom out and see the big picture of how bits of a project or team interact with other bits in unexpected ways. (example and again)

For various reasons, there were a couple of non-systems thinkers at some of the sessions and I could tell that they thought we were talking gobbledy gook and mumbo jumbo. I’ll admit, sometimes things get so zoomed out and abstract that things get almost mystical. To a typical engineer, we systems engineers are hippies.

One thing that stuck out in my head from the conference was that while trying to make conversation with an older (retired) engineer, he looked at me patronisingly and made fun of me for saying ‘isshoo’ (issue). I think he was implying the correct pronunciation is ‘issyoo’. Horrid person.