Thursday, July 19, 2007

Swarm Intelligence - Better Than Mob Rule!

Because of a cock-up in my forward planning today, I had to buy something to read on the train and plumped for a copy of National Geographic. The article on swarm intelligence that I’d picked it up for proved interesting enough. However there was one paragraph towards the end which struck me as especially worth sharing with you;

“Crowds tend to be wise only if individual members act responsibly and make their own decisions. A group won't be smart if its members imitate one another, slavishly follow fads, or wait for someone to tell them what to do. When a group is being intelligent, whether it's made up of ants or attorneys, it relies on its members to do their own part. […] the bottom line is that our actions matter, even if we don't see how.” [Shamelessly lifted from the NGM website; please don’t sue me!]

We humans can learn a lot from nature. Go read the article.


Is it just too wierd of me to admit to quite fancying one of the shop-window dummies in Austin Reed? Hmm... I guess I just never realised that metallic grey skin (and hair and eyes) were my fetish.
It's amazing what you can learn about yourself while going to see a man about a photocopier!

Monday, July 16, 2007

A Full House

The weeks do seem to fly. Only notable thing about work this week was my boss’ performance in the taxi on the way back from a meeting. We had been visiting a prospective supplier and after the usual sales pitch they showed us around their offices. On the journey home we were comparing impressions and Ian (the said boss) sat there and estimated the company turnover, profit margin and directors’ salaries just by extrapolating what we’d been told about company size and the sales targets we’d seen displayed on a whiteboard in their sales area.

Apparently this is what accountants do subconsciously…

The weekend has been very enjoyable. We were couch-potatoes on Friday night but Saturday we had invited a few friends around for a bit of a house party. It meant lots of cleaning on Saturday morning (which was no bad thing to be honest) but the afternoon was spent with Rod & Jess and Ruth & Chris. R&J headed off towards early evening after a game of Trivial Pursuit which we ended up abandoning because we got so few questions right and it was becoming tedious. We ordered pizza and Ping & Uwe turned up just in time to partake and then join us for a friendly game of poker.

Normally when you are just playing for fun, people tend to be a bit reckless with their betting and the game is over quickly, but I think because neither Ping nor Uwe had played before they were more cautious. Anyway, the game continued until about 1:30 Sunday morning when Uwe finally collected all the chips. It was a most enjoyable game, although I rather get the impression that Ping (the first player out) was a bit bored and Chris was just sizing us up for the game we’re organising for cash in a couple of weeks…

Today was the inevitable clearing up after the party, but we all three pitched-in and it was done in no time. Brett and I headed down to Bromley to do some shopping. It was a targeted trip and we were done in an hour – which, given some recent shopping trips (which have lasted all day and still not purchased everything on the list!) was pretty good going. As a result we had plenty of time to enjoy a lazy Sunday afternoon reading and watching TV. One of the new shows we’d recorded was Dexter which looks interesting, if a little morally ambiguous. The other one, Jekyll, we didn’t even get past the first ten minutes of before we gave up – although that may have had something to do with my mother ringing just as it started…

This evening, we headed up to The Dome to watch the new Harry Potter movie. We’d chosen the Dome as the venue to see what they’d done to it. It was a bit tricky to find as the signposting was minimal and generally too late unless you were really eagle-eyed. Once we got there we sat in a line of traffic until we could be charged £5 for the privilege of parking the car, which I thought was bloody cheeky as there are acres of parking and it hadn’t said anything about parking fees when we booked the tickets.

Once you get into the Dome itself the signage isn’t any better – although we did realise on the way out that there are a couple of floor-plans in the main entrance hall that we’d missed. It’s laid out like a circular street with lots of pavement cafés and restaurants (in fact, looking at the floor plan, that’s pretty much all there is at the moment; the arena, the cinema and a dozen restaurants and cafés!) So we bumbled our way around to find the cinema, the ticket machines weren’t working so Rosie had to head off somewhere else to get the tickets printed, then we joined a queue to get into the auditorium, only to find that a portion of best seats were cordoned off. We still managed to get good seats though, just behind the closed rows, and then we realised why they were roped off; the giant tent isn’t waterproof!

There was a constant flow of water down from the ceiling into big buckets balanced on seats in the roped off section. Luckily the constant ‘spit, spat’ sounds weren’t too distracting from what turned out to be quite a good movie.

I haven’t been desperately fond of the earlier Harry Potter movies; several of them seemed to be just long video-game commercials. This one felt a bit more substantial though; definitely got the more ‘adult’ feel to it that a lot of the pre-release hype suggested. Maybe the next couple will really be worth watching.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Atta boy, Husky

After doing my usual tea-lady role at the Chorus rehearsal tonight I went up to listen to the second half of the rehearsal. They were doing the March of the Toreadors from Carmen Jones and they sounded really good. The last time I heard them rehearse the piece, it was undistinguished, but now the voices are confident, the diction is clear and the choreography, instead of just looking daft, adds to the story of the song.

I was whistling it all the way home and am definitely looking forward to the shows! (1 & 2)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

I’ve been in a funny mood this week; generally pissed-off with the world. No apparent reason for it, that’s just how I’ve been feeling. It’s meant I wasn’t very productive at work towards the end of the week but I got through it and the weekend has been enjoyable; Mark S, one of Brett’s friends from years ago, was over for a brief visit (mostly for Wimbledon) and was staying with us.

Friday night we went to hear Brett sing at the National Portrait Gallery gig, part of some scheme to get Londoners singing and afterwards we had dinner on St. Martin’s Lane with Dan L and an old flame of Mark’s. Saturday we lazed until mid-afternoon; Brett had got tickets for a matinee of Avenue Q which Mark hadn’t seen (I think it’s my fourth or fifth time seeing it!) so we did that, grabbed a drink in the now smoke-free Halfway To Heaven before coming home for dinner. Mark left late to head to the airport for a (very) early morning flight to Eastern Europe where he’s about to start a choir tour.

This morning Brett and I were up early to go into work. It wasn’t really for work, but the office was opening for staff to watch the Tour de France go by and I’d volunteered to be the nominated First Aider. They’d laid on pastries and bacon rolls and lots of coffee which made it bearable, although it turned out there was an awful lot of waiting around and watching support vehicles before the bikes actually turned up – and then disappeared again within a minute. I was busy with the office camera but didn’t get anything remarkable as they sped by.

Ah, well, at least it was a nice sunny day, in contrast to the recent weeks of endless ‘showery’ rain and floods. This afternoon I’ve done some more tweaking of my Facebook profile and finally gotten around to inviting a few friends over for a board games and stuff next Saturday.

Other than that we’ve been couch-potatoes watching TV all afternoon & evening. I fear we are watching too much TV; our spare time is becoming like an episode of The Royle Family (except without the humour.) What happened to our dreams?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Week In Summary

This week was a bit stop-go. I took Tuesday off work as time-in-lieu of the full day I’d put in on Saturday. I spent most of the day reading or commenting on a couple of blogs in between some TV watching.

In the evening I went out for dinner with Ping while Brett was at the Chorus' Steering Committee meeting. Ping’s just back from Malaysia again, where he’d been summoned to his grandmother’s death-watch. We dined at an over-priced steakhouse on the river by Canary Wharf and had to change tables after the first course because we had a group of extremely loud American bankers sitting behind us who made normal conversation impossible. Once we were seated in the pavilion out front though, it was more pleasant. Our over-dinner chat was as eclectic as ever, ranging from funeral customs to sexual etiquette. We ducked out after the steaks though and had dessert and coffee at Carluccio’s and watched all the young, beautiful people (Ping likened it to Logan’s Run!) go about their evenings’ entertainments.

Wednesday I was back at work and dealing with an Internet outage in our Leeds office caused by the severe flooding that’s been happening in the north (103mm in one day in Fylingdales!) Floodwaters in Sheffield swamped both the primary and backup systems of our ISP and left the office offline for the afternoon.

The rest of the week was solid with meetings, mostly to do with the projects we are starting but there seemed to be so many meetings I didn’t really have time to do any work.

Friday I got an out of the blue text message from Chris C in Dallas asking how Brett and I were, which seemed a little out of place as usually he emails. It wasn’t until later on, when I saw that the car-bomb discovery was getting coverage in the States, that I connected it. It’s nice to know that people care about you.

That evening was leaving drinks for a couple of guys from work; Mark R from Finance and Maurico S one of the consultants. I’m sad to see them go as they were both distinctive characters in the company. Mauricio had a great sense of humour, very wry and understated and he was always fun to chat to. Also tended to wear distinctive red Merrell trainers as a kind of trademark. Mark, somewhat more plain spoken, was always direct in what he said and was an interesting guy to be around. He always seemed more well-read on topics than anyone else and he too had a distinctive brand of clothing; on dress-down Fridays he invariably wore a bright pink t-shirt for no other reason than because he could. I will miss them both.