Aug 192022
 

In 1996, my wife and I went on a cross-country trip, driving to New Orleans and then all the way to California, before we returned to Ottawa.

One novelty during this trip was that we had a cell phone. That was a brand new experience.

Not only that, I had an analog cell phone modem. With that modem, I was able to connect to my server here in Ottawa and even get my e-mail!

Of course, cellular reception was patchy. Once we reached less populated parts of the United States in the west, there was cell phone coverage near population centers but not elsewhere. Still… being connected was an experience. And it was during this trip that we briefly stopped at a parking lot near a secondary highway, and noticed a small sign at the edge of the lot: AT&T was warning contractors to call before digging, marking an optical cable underground. Data! The Internet! That was a serious wow moment.

But all that was 26 years ago. Today I am reading something else: Tanzania is installing Internet service on Mount Kilimanjaro. I wonder if that involves both peaks:

Incidentally, the same Guardian article also tells me that China may have had cellular service on Mount Everest as early as 2007. Wow.

 Posted by at 1:53 am
Apr 012022
 

With apologies to the late Dr. Seuss (indeed I have no delusions about my talents as a cartoonist), I felt compelled to make a few, ahem, creative adjustments to one of his classic caricatures, as the message appears just as relevant today as it was more than eight decades ago, when some overly “patriotic” Americans were trying to be BFFs with another murderous tyrant.

The original was published on June 2, 1941. The lessons of history should not be forgotten.

 Posted by at 12:22 am
Aug 142021
 

I am not happy admitting it, but it’s true: There have been a few occasions in my life when I reacted just like this XKCD cartoon character when I first encountered specific areas of research.

 Posted by at 11:48 am
Jun 302021
 

Yesterday, I saw an image of a beautiful altarpiece, Dutch painter Rogier van der Weyden’s Santa Columba triptych from 1455.

It was described as the biggest spoiler in history. Look at the center panel depicting the classic Nativity scene. Now look more closely at the center column:

Oops.

And then, I saw another image, a 1958 photo from Pál Berkó, courtesy of the Hungarian Fortepan photo archive, depicting the crowd greeting Khrushchov on account of his visit to Budapest. Greeting him with… smartphones in hand, taking selfies?

Not exactly. Those are actually mirrors that many used to be able to see over the crowd. But the resemblance is…

I guess it’s true: The more we change, the more we remain the same.

 Posted by at 8:03 pm
May 142021
 

No, it’s not one of my cats posting a blog entry.

Rather, it’s a whimsical title someone gave to the following composition:

I started my day listening to this. I am still smiling. I think it sounds a little bit like Klingon opera, or perhaps like a piano piece written by a Klingon composer. But it’s not bad, not bad at all.

 Posted by at 3:47 pm
Jun 122020
 

I just happened upon this 30-year old John Cleese sketch, where else? On John Cleese’s own Twitter feed, of course.

What can I say? Just perfect. As appropriate today as it was three decades ago, perhaps even more so.

 Posted by at 5:37 pm
Oct 112019
 

I just came across this XKCD comic.

Though I can happily report that so far, I managed to avoid getting hit by a truck, it is a life situation in which I found myself quite a number of times in my life.

In fact, ever since I’ve seen this comic an hour or so ago, I’ve been wondering about the resistor network. Thankfully, in the era of the Internet and Google, puzzles like this won’t keep you awake at night; well-reasoned solutions are readily available.

Anyhow, just in case anyone wonders, the answer is 4/π − 1/2 ohms.

 Posted by at 12:10 am
Aug 112019
 

Dear American friends: please stop calling your President “the leader of the free world”.

I live in what you call the free world but Trump is no leader of mine. I have not elected him. He does not represent my values.

On the contrary, he seems hell-bent on destroying the values that I consider fundamental to the free world. He already managed to drag his own country down (though arguably, other politicians and long-term partisan trends played an equally important role) so that it no longer qualifies as a full democracy on The Economist’s democracy index. Why would the rest of the free world want him to lead us down the same path?

 Posted by at 12:41 pm
Jan 092019
 

This editorial cartoon from the New York Daily News is not new; it seems to be from 2016, drawn by Bill Bramhall. I only just saw it though, in the feed of a Facebook friend.

Yet I think it is even more appropriate today, now that we have seen two years of the Trump presidency.

It of course is a reference to one of the scariest scenes from the 1979 movie Alien. I don’t know if the caption (those words were uttered by Ash, the film’s robot antagonist who is willing to sacrifice the spacecraft’s human crew in order to return the alien to his corporate masters ) was part of the original version of the cartoon, but it is this caption that makes the cartoon especially poignant these days.

 Posted by at 10:43 pm
Mar 242018
 

I just came across this delightful drawing on Twitter. It’s from a Franck D. Nijimbere (@nijfranck). I don’t know if it is his original creation or if he found it elsewhere, but it describes a situation in life with which I am more thoroughly familiar than I care to admit.

Nijimbere’s caption: “When the deadline comes too close…”

Yes. I’ve been there way too many times <sigh>.

 Posted by at 11:42 am
Jan 312017
 

Here are two contributions from personal experience to the ever growing list of Internet pictures that go with the “You had one job…” meme.

First, a nice loaf of our favorite nine-gain bread, from a neighborhood Portuguese bakery:

Yes, you are seeing it right: It’s sliced lengthwise. Needless to say, the hapless employee who offered this stunning demonstration of human intelligence did not remain on the job much longer. (Regardless of how it was sliced, the bread was yummy.)

Next, one of my favorite deserts, an Austrian delicacy, a Mozartkugel (Mozart ball):

What’s wrong with it, you ask? Well… the portrait of Mozart is not supposed to be on the bottom of the piece, you know; it usually goes on top!

I know, I know, there have been much bigger fails on the Interwebs. Still, I found these funny.

 Posted by at 9:05 pm
Jul 042016
 

I just came across the wittiest explanation yet of the Brexit fiasco.

It would be funny, too, if it weren’t so painfully true. This particular paragraph says it all: “To recap: One old university friend pushed the country to a constitutional and economic crisis to gain power from another old university friend, but got stabbed in the back by a third old university friend, at which point he decided not to bother after all. GOOD TO KNOW IT WAS ALL WORTH IT.

 

 Posted by at 10:17 pm
Mar 062016
 

The other day, I saw this media photo of a SpaceX rocket that was readied for launch:

The photographer’s choice to include the No Photography sign in this picture reminded me of a No Photography sign I saw a few years ago in Budapest, at a construction site in the vicinity of the US embassy:

These signs are ridiculous. You don’t see them often in democracies; they were very frequently encountered in the former Soviet Bloc. Which once made me wonder… all a Western spy had to do was to drive around the country and mark the location of No Photography signs in order to get a fairly accurate map of all the communist regime’s sensitive installations.

In the era of the ubiquitous smartphone with HD camera, not to mention more advanced gadgets like Google’s Glass or even toy drones with HD video, these signs are pitifully pointless.

 Posted by at 11:35 am
Jan 122015
 

The cover art of the upcoming issue of Charlie Hebdo has been leaked. Unlike many of their cartoons that were deliberately gross and provocative, this one depicts a grieving Mohammed:

I have a suspicion (make it a hope) that even among Muslims, few will find this cover offensive, especially in light of last week’s events.

But even if I am wrong… I said it before and I will be saying it again: as a citizen of a liberal democracy, it is my fundamental right to ridicule other people’s beliefs. At the same time, it is my fundamental duty to defend, risking life and limb if it comes to that, the rights of other people to believe, no matter how ridiculous those beliefs appear to me. After all, Ahmed Merabet, the Muslim policeman who was first at the Charlie Hebdo scene, died defending the magazine’s right to ridicule his beliefs.

 Posted by at 6:27 pm