This week has come and gone, and somehow I don't feel as productive as I would have wanted to be. Maybe it is the stinky hot weather or maybe the time just slipped away, but either way yet another week has passed by. Hopefully I'll be able to use my time more effectively this coming week. As for the the Week 47 musings...

Sunday, 15 November 2009

#319 - Two things: Fast decision making can be critical at times and people can sometimes think very irrationally...

I was standing at the train station today waiting for the train and looking at a group of three people who were just talking to each other. Suddenly one of them accidentally drops their phone (an old Nokia 3315), all three look down at the phone, then one of them stepped forward to pick the phone up. Except when he stepped forward he kicked the phone down onto the train tracks. Now all three were staring at the train tracks. At the same time the announcement overhead starts "The train arriving at platform three...", the group looks to their right and indeed a train is coming.

So what do they do? One of them is just standing there seemingly still deciding whether he should go and grab the phone or not; the other jumps down to grab the phone while the other is yelling "leave the phone!". Luckily the guy that jumped down to grab the phone jumped back up before the train passed - he had probably only 1 or 2 seconds to spare. The fast decision made by the guy that jumped down meant that he was able to get the phone and be safe (had he hesitated he would not have made it in time), but on the other hand, I feel that it was a rather silly decision to make - risk your life for a phone.

Monday, 16 November 2009

#320 - Yann Tiersen's  Comptine d'un autre été: L'après midi is lovely song.

My sister introduced me to "Comptine d'un autre été: L'après-midi", a piano piece composed by Yann Tiersen and I feel it is a very nice song. If you feel like you've heard the song before it might be from the movie: Amélie. Although the YouTube movie clip isn't actually related to the movie, it is a nice (but sad) clip to watch. Will be looking forward to learning to play this song when I get my hands on a piano!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

#321 - Message to Oracle: Empty string is not the same as null.

This is just a rant as a result of a 'bug' that needs fixing from work. For those of you who are non-programmers, 'null' in programming is quite literally 'nothingness'. While 'empty string' is a string that has zero characters to represent nothing (Strings are just a series of characters). Null is the absence of a value. Empty string is something to represent nothing. This probably isn't the best explanation, so it might not make much sense as to why there is such a distinction to represent "nothing" ... but take my word for it there is.

So this brings me to my rant of the day - Oracle databases silently converts any empty string values into null. So if you try to store an empty string into Oracle it will magically be stored as null. This causes all sorts of problems when you take the value out from the Oracle database and try to use it, since it will give you null when you are expecting empty string (all other databases will return empty string).

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

#322 - Understanding Your Brain for Better Design: Left vs. Right

As most people know our brain has two halves - left and right. The biggest difference between the two halves is how it processes what we see. The left brain takes a more 'bottom up' approach - looks at all the small details and builds a bigger picture. Whereas the right side is more 'top down' - looks at the big picture and slowly breaks things down into details.

Obviously we need both halves of our brains to work, but generally we all have a dominant half which effects the way we think and perceive the world. I used to feel that the more creative of us were right brain dominant and thus it was in their nature to be more creative. However, this article brings up a very good point - left brain dominant people are just creative in a different way compared to right brained people and depending on your brain dominance you should play to your dominant brain's strength. I'll be giving that a go and trying some slightly more orderly creativeness :)

Thursday, 19 November 2009

#323 - Don't be afraid to ask for help when you're in trouble.

Today was a rather slow day at work because I was attempting to figure out something I knew very little about. When first tackling the problem it felt like there was a possibly I could get it working, but then as the hours passed by it became clearer to me that I was just going around in circles :( I could have (and should have) at that point asked people around me for help since I knew they would know much better than me, yet me being stupid I didn't. Why? As stupid as it sounds, it was because I didn't want to feel stupid asking a potentially stupid question. But as the day drew to a close and not having progressed much, I realised my stupid mistake and felt very stupid.

So, the lesson of the day? Ask for help when you feel like you need it (do give it a good try first, don't just ask for help before giving it some thought), because it may or may not be a stupid question, but if you don't ask for help at the end you will most likely eventually have to ask for help and you will feel stupid for not asking for help!

Friday, 20 November 2009

#324 - Google releases the Chromium OS open source project.

Sometime ago there was talk about Google releasing Chrome OS and today that exact project has been open-sourced! The main idea behind Chrome OS is that for most of us, a good majority of what we do on a computer these days is using the Internet. We boot up our computer, and chances are we open the web browser, check our email, the news, forums etc. So the smart people at Google thought, well if we are hardly using any of the desktop applications and all we really want is to surf the Internet, why not cut out all the wasted time loading desktop applications that we rarely use? As a result, they came up with Chrome OS. It seems like a very interesting idea to me and now that it is available for poking around, might just install it on my old laptop and see how it goes :) ps. Is it just me or does it feel like Google will take over the world?

Saturday, 21 November 2009

#325 - Writing emails in a language you are unfamiliar with is a long and painful process.

It's no secret that I'm not that great with written Chinese, in fact I'm quite bad at it. Today I tried writing an email to my parents in Chinese and it was really really hard! In the past, I would enter Chinese using 'bopomofo' (a phonetic way of entering Chinese) which was slow since I didn't know which keys were where; but do-able since I know how to speak Chinese, so all I had to do was enter the sound and pick the correct character.

However, this time I was trying to practice my written Chinese so I was using the awesome Chinese input method in Snow Leopard - you quite literally draw the character in. After a couple of characters, I realised how much I had forgotten - even the most basic of characters I had no clue how to write! I ended up going to a English-Chinese dictionary and looking it up. The entire email of approximately 3 sentences took me at least 30min!