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Friday, January 30, 2009

Earthquakes and iPhoto09

joseph at Zieteil
Random image: me at Zietal, the highest monastery in Europe (nr Savognin, Switzerland), age 10-ish. I was in a real strop that day, running off ahead and refusing to speak to mum and dad!

Earthquakes really do give me the jeepers. I think the fact that I'm currently listening to Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything doesn't help - in that he talks of the earthquakes that are way overdue in Japan, including the one centred on Tokyo which will no doubt see a lot of people killed and injured.

It got me thinking though. I tend to have this idea that great cataclysmic events (ice ages, meteor strikes, earthquakes, volcano eruptions etc) are all in the past, a part of Earth's history before it settled down and enabled the current eco-system to develop.

But listening to Bryson reminds me that the Earth is no less active now than it ever has been. It still has a molten core that lets off steam now and then, it still has an atmosphere that's changing in its composition (now more than ever of course), it still suffers from tectonic shifts. We're still in this 'historical era of cataclysmic events' - it's just one of those little quiet periods at the moment.

I find this fact useful. It reminds me how important it is to live for today, and to not focus on how much 'stuff' I own. If our house comes down in rubble and goes up in smoke, the only thing that will be left is relationships with others (and a backup of my hard drive that I have permanently attached to my inner thigh, updated hourly by bluetooth). Ultimately, nothing else will matter but preserving life itself. And when life itself is finally extinguished, as it surely will be, there won't even be relationships with others to get hung up about. Best not be overly obsessed with them either then.

On a sidenote, and I forget whether I blogged this before, when we were re-negotiating our contract on this apartment, we voiced our concerns about its age and earthquake-proofness. With a smile, the agent told us:

"Well, when the big one strikes most apartments will come down anyway, so I wouldn't worry about that".

Well, that's reassuring.

The two blessing we do have is that we have a park in front of us with a huge lake (useful in case of fire), and no buildings immediately to the east or south of us, thus reducing the risk of fire and giving us soft ground to jump on should we need to. In fact we're kind of ideally situated, as the park compost heaps are directly below our balcony - perfect for soft landings.

I do love being married. Things are really good. *Twinkle* is such a blessing in my life.

As I write, iPhoto 09 - one of the applications contained in Apple's brand new iLife suite - is trawling my collection of 30,000 photos searching for faces. It's been at it for over 6 hours now, and apparently will take at least another 3 hours to pick everyone out. (That includes YOU if I've ever taken a photo of you!).

It'll then ask me to name people, and will 'learn' what people look like, the idea being that when I add new photos in the future, it will automatically identify whose in them, and apply the appropriate tags. These can be synced to and from facebook - clever huh? If someone out there tags a photo of me in Facebook, my photo library on my Macbook will be automatically updated to include it.

[Update: The facial recognition thing is pretty damn good. Having labelled about 10 photos of *Twinkle* it came up with another 900 images that it thought contained her face - and was only wrong about 30 times. Not bad for a beginner!]

The ability to group photos based on their location is also pretty nifty. If your camera is not GPS equipped, you can tag your images by searching for a place name, or by dropping a pin on the built-in Google Map. The place index is a bit too US-centered for my liking, with tonnes of results coming up for American cities, but only the 'big places' listed for other countries. No doubt that will change.

Anyway, best get on. The earthquake has inspired me to look for an Earthquake app for the iPhone, which I now need to blog about.

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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Beware the Jubjub bird

Seven pretty strong earthquakes 100 miles from Tokyo today. I tend to worry when that happens. makes me wonder if *twinkle* is OK, as her parents' house is pretty old. If she's OK, it's likely my other friends are too (and she's fine, texted me news updates as they struck!) (although of course if it was a really big one, not like the '4' it was in Tokyo today, then I'd make sure I contacted all of my friends too [don't want them feeling unloved]).

I took a trip back in time tonight, by participating in the university's Mature Student's Open Evening. Sitting there listening to the finance chap explaining about FundaFinder, student support talking about the mature student's committee - wow, it was like 2004 all over again.

And the questions, exactly the same questions I'd asked 4 years ago. Except this time I was one of the people at the front of the lecture theatre helping to reassure everyone.

I find it interesting trying to read audiences. Initially, I was a bit concerned that they weren't having fun. I'd tried beforehand to amuse them when giving a tour of the IC, but they hadn't really responded. I think a lot of them were quite nervous: as one lady said to me afterwards, she felt like an impostor, that she shouldn't really be in a uni full of students. That reminded me of how I'd felt. For a moment I was able to forget that everything was familiar to me and see it as that big scary university that 'students' went to. After only 4 years I feel like a part of the brickwork.

Anyhow, back in the auditorium it was my turn to introduce myself.

What is it about public speaking that excites me? I don't know. I just love it. It's like a drug. I told them a couple of stories of some rather stupid things I did when I started uni - that got them laughing (at me, not with me).

It's a shame I don't have anything interesting to say that I could turn into some kind of show :-p

I got paid for tonight's efforts too, money that will go towards the wedding fund. Not only that, but I was able to bring two huge left-over platters of dips, wraps and desserts home from the new and improved uni catering service. Should stop me buying chocolate for a while.

Oh, and this morning I got paid for writing a short article about my uni experiences for a newsletter, perhaps the first time I've ever been paid to write anything (outside of CILASS). It felt good.

I had a consultation with a CV expert this mornin', armed with a document that hasn't been updated in 12 years. Sure, it's had stuff added to it, but no change in format. I was surprised by how much CV standards have changed - it seems these days it's ok to do away with a work timeline, and instead use wig wiggy stylee web two point woah woah wigness to portray your experiences. I shall endeavour to make it as exciting as possible. I was also thinking, perhaps I could record a mini-self intro and post it to YouTube - that might make an impression upon employers ("bloody hell, he really is as much of an idiot as suggested by his personal statement"). I'd just have to be careful that I didn't show my profile, or I would instantly be cast aside for having an oversize nose.

Tomorrow then is Thursday. This means two classes, the first of which is a newspaper class, hosted by Hugo (he who has a Facebook group devoted to him, titled "I have a crush on Hugo Dobson". Incidentally, I'm not a member, although as it will probably be him marking my dissertation I might have to start a new group called "Buy this book or this book or this book or this book or this book or this book or this book coz they're great".

Ok, enough jabberwocky. Best get on with dealing with this frumious Bandersnatch.

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