It occurs that I’ve been all technical recently.
I’m the bike rider, twisted bike rider
Have you ever let someone talk you into trying a different text editor or web browser than you normally use? If you have (and most people have) then you’ll be familiar with the strange sense of disorientation you get when you do this. Someone sneaks in during the night and puts some irremovable mittens on your hands, so when you try and work the next day you flail at the keyboard like that boy from Kid in the Corner on a high sugar day and get nothing done. I’ve been experiencing this particular blend of confusion, frustration, and the need to stop and smoke a cigarette just to get away from it all a lot over the last week. Nothing to do with text editors (gedit) or web browsers (Firefox), though. Instead, I’m doing something entirely unattached to the computer. I’ve got a bike. A push bike, no less. And I ride it to the railway station every morning. Those of you who know me might be a bit surprised at this. I’ve got all the gear, too. Helmet, bike lock, water bottle, everything. I even tuck my trousers into my socks when I’m riding so that I don’t rip my suit to shreds. It looks a lot like I’m going to have to change my name by deed poll to Norman. Cyclists are morons in stupid day-glo jackets. Take a brush to your bike, indeed. I’m not a cyclist. Sadly, I’m something worse: I’m a middle-aged man worried that he’s getting too fat. I’m not sure precisely when I stopped being a teenager full of piss and vinegar and started being someone who knows what the Bank of England base rate is, but it’s happened. I anticipate a slow and gentle slide into a genuine appreciation of Volvo’s safety record. Of gardening, and what mulch is. Soon I’ll be writing letters to the newspaper complaining about the dangerous chicanes on the A491 and spending my weekends walking in the rain on a hilltop with a compass and one of those waterproof coats that folds back up into its own pocket. On the other hand, today for the first time I managed to ride all the way to the station without having to stop for a breather. Anyone pointing out that my bike has 21 gears and I’m only using the lowest seven can fuck off.
Usability in the real world
This past weekend saw a visit to a local Chinese restaurant by a group of us. All very nice, as ever. On leaving, there was the usual conversation on the pavement — why no-one ever says, look, we’re going to stand and talk for twenty minutes anyway, why don’t we do it in the bar? is beyond the ken of humanity — and then a walk back to the car park. Now, the restaurant is midway along the side wall of this multi-storey, and so there are two entrances back to get your car; one each side of the restaurant. So we spent five minutes — I’m not kidding, five minutes — standing outside in the supernaturally cold weather discussing which door to go through. When usability people say not to offer the user two ways of doing the same thing, because they’ll spend longer deciding which to use than just doing it, this is what they’re talking about.
Y Viva Italia
Once again, this year’s summer holiday is Italy. Once again, it’s the Veneto. this year, though, the destination is Lake Garda. If anyone’s likely to be near there at the end of August, let me know. I’ll be the one doing his best to eat all the pizza and gnocchi in town and repeating the word “portacenere”. Unless it’s portocenere. I normally let my accent handle the confusion there.
It’s my birthday. I was born a prime number of years ago (a Mersenne prime and a lucky prime, in fact). In two years I’ll be as old as Jesus, which is something to look forward to. And the number of my years is also the Turkish slang term for masturbation. No, I don’t know why either. Speak on, Turkish readers. Those of you who are neither Turkish nor mathematicians (or indeed either, which would exclude Paul Erdos, unless he was Hungarian) and therefore don’t know what a Mersenne prime is might find the golden figure easier to work out if you first of all knew that my age is now one less than a power of two and secondly reviewed the 2005, 2004, and 2003 versions of this game. Those of you who are wholly mathematically incompetent should review the 2006 version and add one. If even that is beyond your abilities, then find the nearest person to you wearing glasses and ask them for help. I’ll be busy over here putting candles on the cake.