Sunday, September 30, 2007

Assignment: Jumping to Conclusions

Posting schoolwork 'cause I'm cool. This assignment for Zoology asked me to define the term "jumping to conclusions" in a scientific context, and then to provide an example of a time when I jumped to conclusions. Then I had to list 3 competing hypotheses as alternatives that, if proven correct, would disprove the conclusion that I immediately jumped to. Finally, I had to list 3 ways of investigating or gathering evidence that would help me determine which hypothesis would be correct in the given situation.

Basically, we're talking about making simple things complex. One girl's whole assignment, (these were posted online as a basis for discussion topics in a class forum), was about being intimidated by a barking dog, which is jumping to a conclusion since there are lots of reasons dogs bark. I chose to take things in a slightly unusual direction, and hopefully don't lose marks for doing so: I discussed the preference at my job at Sears to treat every customer as if they are going to buy something that day. It seems like a legitimate example since it is jumping to a conclusion, (albeit warranted for the sake of selling), that is often not correct. Anyhoo, here's my post:


1. “Jumping to conclusions” is simply an immediate assumption made about something. While the assumption is possible, and often the most likely conclusion, it has not been proven and therefore should not be considered a fact. The word “jumping” refers to skipping over multiple steps that are necessary for ascertaining the truth about something.

2. My personal tale of jumping to conclusions goes like this. Over the summer I worked for a major retailer as a sales associate in the home electronics department. As part of my sales training, I was taught to assume that every person who set two feet in my department was there to buy something – most likely a TV, the primary cash cow of electronics. For this reason I jumped to the conclusion over and over again that guests in my area were going to buy something, and treated them accordingly. Needless to say, this assumption was proven wrong more than once.

3. There are several reasons people could enter a certain department at a retail store. Here are three of them:
a) The Generic Customer Hypothesis
The position I took for the sake of being a good salesman, this hypothesis states that a person appears in my department because they are planning on purchasing something right then and there.

b) The Planning Ahead Hypothesis
People might decide to come in and look at prices, as well as ask questions about the merchandise because they are planning on purchasing something eventually, for a new home or an addition to their current one. They could easily be coming in just to compare our prices with those of our competitors so that they can make a better buying decision in the future.

c) The Bored Spouse Hypothesis
Another reason people might come to electronics is that, with special thanks to our three walls of TVs showing high definition signals, our department was simply the most interesting-looking part of the store. People could be coming over to simply gaze at the pretty pictures while their spouse looks at mattresses in another department, and kill time by having me explain the difference between interlaced and progressive signals.

4. The predictions that would provide evidence to support any of these 3 hypotheses are all fairly similar and straightforward. Usually, when I jumped to the conclusion that The Generic Customer Hypothesis was true, a visitor would communicate right away whether my or not my behaviour was appropriate for their situation. In most cases, the solution lies in communication.

a) Generic Customer Prediction
If this was correct, then the customer would usually indicate that they wanted a certain kind of product, (a new flat screen TV around 36 inches, for example), or something in particular, (like a 52 inch Sony XBR with a silver frame and one bonus HDMI cable)*. Aside from straightforward communication, further evidence to support the Generic Customer Hypothesis is a confident attitude in customers displayed through body language.

b) Planning Ahead Prediction:
Again, visitors in Electronics would regularly explain their situation, providing immediate confirmation or rejection of the Planning Ahead Hypothesis. In addition to verbal communication, a strong indicator of this hypothesis is a couple investigating names and numbers without employee help, and keeping track of things on a list they brought with them. This sort of behaviour would provide a strong likelihood that the people are “shopping around” and not intending to make a purchase right away.

c) Bored Spouse Prediction
Once again, communication is always the best tool. However, another effective method of prediction is, if I happened to see the customer come into the store I would know who they were with, if anyone. If the customer is with whom appears to be a spouse, goes to a certain department and then shows up alone later in my department, it is likely that they are “just browsing”. Typically, one spouse will not be seriously considering a purchase without their other half present – this is especially true of men.

*Click here to see that I'm not making this stuff up.


I really enjoy Zoology. I'm enrolled in it because it's a science credit, which I need two of for my degree. Despite it being something that I probably wouldn't have taken otherwise, I'm very pleased with it. It's the best kind of post-secondary education: the kind that says, "Everything they taught you in high school was wrong. Here's the real deal." To unlearn what we have learned. It's like we're all Luke Skywalker, minus Jedi powers and bad hair.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Three-Sixty Dream

Check out the newest gameplay video for Assassin's Creed. I will own and play this game....somehow.

Sorry for the lack of interesting posting recently. I haven't read about much interesting stuff going on, aside from the release of Halo 3, which the mainstream media has covered. It seems like just about everyone I know has at least tried the new Halo, and after talking with my buddies tonight and watching some game trailers, I think the sleeping gamer in me is awake again - and he's hungry. Some day I'll have a know, in about 20 years, when people are talking about Halo3 like they talk about Space Invaders today.

The other reason I've been relatively quiet on here is because, for the last couple days, I've been suffering from an intolerable cold that I was bound to catch with everyone around me being sick. So far my free time this weekend has consisted of sleeping, napping, catching some Z's, and snoozing. Being sick takes the vigor right out of me, which is why I'm unable to attend either of the two things I was invited to tonight. One of those things is "Nuit Blanche" in Toronto - some kind of tour which takes groups around to different venues to look at modern art. The venues are everything from regular galleries, to alley ways, to Squash courts. Tomorrow sometime I'll probably use Technorati to search the blogosphere for any info about what I'm missing.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pop Star Video Spoof

Stumbled across this great video today and thought I'd share.

I Wanna Be A Pop Star - Watch more free videos

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Snape Kills Master Chief!

Halo 3 comes out today. I know of a few people who will be skipping classes to stand in lines waiting to buy it.

The cover story in the September issue of Wired magazine is a fascinating article. It describes the intricate scientific process Bungie employed when designing and fine-tuning the newest edition to the most popular series in next-gen gaming. Unfortunately it was only available online for a limited time, but it's worth a read if you can get your hands on it. Fascinating stuff. The reviews so far are singing Halo 3's praises. Hopefully one day I'll have enough savings to find out for myself, and the weather man will be saying, "Pack your parka if you're heading south to Hell today because it's freezing over."

Go go global warming.

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Shooting the Messenger

Yesterday I clued into some very old news that I've been waiting to hear for years. If you're completely out of the loop like I apparently am, then this could be the best piece of news you've heard since they announced the next Zelda game for the Wii. When are they going to release that, anyway? Sheesh.

I think it was a few years ago that I first thought to myself, "Y'know, some computer genius could make a killing off a program that could integrate contacts from all the main chat clients. Then there would never be the need for multiple accounts and running multiple programs to be in touch with all your people at once. When I grow up, I'm going to get a patent on that idea and hire a computer wiz to design it for me - and then I'll retire."

Well, a bunch of people beat me to it - probably before I'd even had that lovely inner monologue in its most primitive form. What's comforting is that those people probably aren't sipping pina coladas in Aruba just yet. Why? Because the applications in question are freeware. What could be more awesome? Last night I stumbled across Adium, immediately closed Messenger and removed it from my Dock, and haven't looked back. Before I talk about Adium, which is only compatible with OS X, there are three Windows-friendly apps that do the same thing: Trillian, Pidgin and Meebo. I'd be lying if I said I'd done more than a tiny amount of research on these programs, but I believe the general consensus is that Trillian is the most popular, while Pidgin is probably the most reputable. I was planning to say that I highly recommend giving one of these programs a try, but after I thought about it, I realized that there isn't nearly as much benefit for the average Canadian Windows user as there is for me. Unless you're sick and tired of Messenger like I was, or it's giving you problems that can't seem to be remedied, it probably makes more sense to stick with Messenger for now.

The reason I'm so happy about switching to Adium basically revolves around Mac-Messenger being terrible. It only provides the most essential features, and also sports a bland, Safari-like interface that resembles the inside of a tin can. And I can't neglect to mention the biggest problem, which was that you would not receive any kind of alerts while being set to "Busy". Countless times I left people hanging because I forgot I was talking to them, or didn't realize they were there at all.

Anyway, hopefully my friends have been subjected to that kind of treatment for the last time. Adium always lets you know when somebody's talking, but not with the blaring ba-dunk-a-dunka of Messenger that I still hear sounding off someplace in the room at least once during every lecture. Adium's default setting is to display names of people messaging you right on the Dock icon, as well as how many unread messages are waiting for you. It also features tabbed conversations, which I understand is an option on newer Windows Messenger versions, but of course, coming from Mac Messenger this is all new to me. Another key feature of Adium is the massive amount of customization it allows. You can change just about everything about how the program works, as well as all the cosmetic qualities.

The only major hitch I've had with Adium so far, aside from the fact that it sounds like a medication drug, is that there doesn't seem to be a way to invite more contacts to an existing conversation, although you can take part in multi-person conversations if you're invited. I tried to register on the official forums to ask about this but apparently their servers are temporarily down.

By the way, I read about Adium while perusing an old post on Paul S's blog, entitled "10 Apps Every New Mac User Should Download". Although it was published nearly 2 years ago it's still an excellent resource. Some of the other programs listed there like CyberDuck, Text Wrangler and VLC Player are still in wide usage. A definite bookmark for current or future Mac owners. (Looking at you Kat.)

In other interesting news, I got my little entertainment unit all set up today. The table I bought at IKEA was weirdly difficult to assemble, at least until I got a better screwdriver. I also went for a 20 minute run tonight. Hooray for healthy lifestyle and such.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

Titles are for Sissies

Facebook Layouts
Me as a South Park character. Newest meme out there, I know.

After a long day in crew call, I hopped on a bus to Hamilton last night so that I could spend today buying things for my place. The big one being a table to put my TV on. I'll be keeping busy this week using GarageBand to put together some audio files for the production, on top of all the regular school readings/writings. By the way, the play we're putting on is actually 2 one-acts that go together, collectively called
The Indian Medicine Shows. I'll post up dates of shows and such very soon.

EDIT: Got bored while waiting for the car, so...
Facebook Layouts
Facebook Layouts
Facebook Layouts

Sorry guys.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hero Journalist of the Day

Actually, no name is given with the source article from the Montgomery Advertiser. But this nameless hero journalist is deserving of such a moniker for his or her wisdom on the subject of the effects of violence in video games on people - a topic close to my heart. One of the most uplifting stories I've seen on GamePolitics in a while, Dennis quotes the important parts and tells you what you need to know. I'm going to post the same excerpt, for emphasis, love and justice, and all that's true and good in the world. Hooray!

The notion that the courts should take into account whether someone was exposed to violent video games as a reason for that person murdering someone has no real place in the criminal judicial process…

If courts started routinely to allow exposure to fictional violence in such things as video games and movies as a way to avoid or minimize punishment for violent acts, it could have a huge, negative effect on the nation’s entire criminal process. Every violent criminal has been exposed to fictional violence in some form…

Millions of people, young and old, choose to watch violent movies and play violent video games and never harm anyone because of it.

Parents should monitor what their children watch… Consumer groups should campaign to minimize violent content… But those arguments belong in the court of public opinion, not in a criminal courtroom where a murder trial is being conducted.

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Got it, finally.

Stay off the sidewalks and such.


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Why Facebook will Go the Way of the Dodo

This is a post I've had rolling around in my head for several weeks now, and while it may be a little behind the times I'm going to get it out of my system anyway.

On May 24th of this year, the social network sensation Facebook introduced the ability to create applications for use on on the site. They range from useful things like a feed to links, to pointless, fun things like gifts, plants, pets, and one of my favourites, The Honesty Box. ("What do you really think of me? Answers are completely anonymous!")

At first these things seemed like a fun way to jazz up the uniform Facebook UI and give each profile its own unique look, as well as provide a way, if you're a developer, to share your creativity with your friends. That's all fine and good, until the sheer amount of clutter starts to overwhelm the core features of the site.

I've seen quite a few complaints about "application invite/request spam". A good example, large screenshot included, is a recent post from Paul S's blog. It clearly demonstrates how out of hand things can get when you have a lot of friends enthusiastically using and sharing their favourite applications. Personally, I don't have this problem - I guess because a lot of my closest friends are of the same mind as me, and maybe partly because I've never replied or sent requests to anyone else.

While I'm sure application spam is a legitimate concern for a lot of people, my main beef comes from a design perspective. (Not that I have any sort of qualification, other than being a 12-year-or-so veteran of internet browsing.) To put it simply, a lot of people's Facebook profiles are ugly now. Myspace-ugly. The reason a lot of college/university students embraced Facebook in the beginning was because it was a welcome change from the loud, obnoxious Myspace pages with background music and colour schemes that look like my sister's bedroom in the early 90's. Let's compare, shall we? Here's what profile pages looked like back in the day; ie. when I joined about 14 months ago:

By the way, I don't know this guy. The image is from Google. But it demonstrates how nice and clean things used to be. Nowadays you're more likely to see something like this:

It's not that I have some grudge against colours. This particular example isn't really too bad. (Again, from Google.) None of the apps pictured here are stupid or pointless, nor do they even look that bad. With this guy we'd be looking at a functionality issue, where the information you're looking for could easily get lost in all the other data that's there.

Here are two beliefs that I hold:

Number One: Mainstream trends are leaning more and more toward sleekness and minimalism. I'm sure we can all agree that Apple has been at the forefront of this revolution. Just look at the iPhone or the iPod Touch to witness the ultimate example of minimalist design in consumer electronics. It's what appeals to people these days. We see the same abstract themes in the design of cars and other material things. This might be a bit of a stretch for some people, but if you think about it, the same or similar elements of design are often present in everything from web browsers to electric shavers. (You may snicker at me for putting so much emphasis on fashion, but I would challenge you to provide a convincing argument that aesthetics aren't an enormous part of secular culture.)

Number Two: Convenience is a hugely important factor in our day to day lives, especially when it comes to computer usage. Well-designed websites make data access as easy as possible, with more information readily available. It's organized and uncluttered. Period.

Facebook is moving away from both these things. It has taken two steps backward in allowing users to transform its look into something reminiscent of the chaotic Myspace era, while simultaneously making it harder to access information. Which leads me to my next point: Facebook also gives users a huge amount of privacy settings, so that they can modify their page in almost any way imaginable to hide or limit certain aspects from the world, or just certain people - like parents. Maybe it's because I'm more willing to police my own content, but I can't identify with people who feel that they need to block access to their profile page from folks they don't have listed as friends. While it's possible that there are some people who only want their friends to know that they like watching The Hills, (understandable) I think the major concern is with items like contact information and Wall posts.

I say, if it's something you'd be worried about somebody knowing, then don't post it at all. If your friend needs your new address, that's what private messages are for. Back in April, the cover story from Wired magazine talked about how transparency is the best policy for business and social interaction these days, and increasingly so in the coming years. I won't spend time going into that, but in a nut shell, just think of it in terms of: "Nothing To Hide = Trust". Make sense? I think so. It's a better idea to not publicly share things in the first place and be prepared to put forward the tiny bit of effort required to moderate content, rather than bluntly hide information and make people wonder.

So, in the end, what we're seeing is Facebook making 3 major mistakes. Still, its popularity is on the rise even now, and I'm sure its success isn't near its end yet. I'm just saying we've seen the beginning of the end. I think Google's on the same page as me, considering that some information's recently leaked about a few web apps they'll be putting out that will challenge Facebook head-on.

Anyhoo. Time will tell. Right now time's telling me it's time to pack up and book it to Zoology.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

Anyone Want 20 Million Bucks?

Google has put out a challenge to send a robot to the moon, have it travel around taking pictures and video, and then beam the media back to Earth. The first person to pull this off wins twenty million dollars, or up to thirty million if they pull off some extra stuff like lasting longer. The whole story is here from Wired.

Upon first reading this, I was like WOW COOL!!!! And I guess I'm still saying that. In addition, as part of a fundraising campaign, the NPO X Prize Foundation is initiating something called the Lunar Legacy Program. Anyone who donates 10 dollars to the program can upload a photograph to the X Prize Foundation's website, along with a message. The money is being used to fund the project, which I'm guessing involves paying the international panel of judges that are watching for under-the-table government handouts.

All those photos and messages are being put on DVDs and rocketed to the moon to be left as artifacts of human exploration. Pretty cool, actually. I think I'll do it. Here's the Wired article with more info.

However, after that "Wow Cool!" factor subsides a bit, I start thinking to myself, "wouldn't a more productive use of Google's money be some kind of donation to refugees out of Darfur or something?" Truthfully, being the world issues-ignorant son of a gun that I am, I don't even know if there are Darfurian refugees. But my point is hopefully clear: how important is this robotic space race? They say they hope to ignite innovation through holding the contest - innovation whose results will hopefully benefit humankind...somehow. Any ideas on how this might lead up to something beneficial? I'm worn out from a full day of school.

Oh, and for past 20 minutes or so, this random asian girl a few feet away from me has been snapping photo after photo of pages from a huge book. I can't be sure from this distance, but I think that camera is a Sony. She is taking some high quality pictures. Is that even legal? Maybe it is. I should read up on this stuff. For now I have to get back home because my buddy Stefan is coming over tonight to help me move furniture. Hey Google dudes, can I have 20 million if I get a chest of drawers down two flights of stairs without scratching anything? Please?

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Hooray For Lack of Lame

The mayor of NYC wants to put a ban on cellphones in public schools. Guess he had an insatiable craving for Public Outcry?
(Big kudo-rama to Kat for sending me this story!)

I'm so glad things here in Guelph aren't so ridiculous. All I have to do is worry about keeping my phone charged and on vibrate. Half the reason for Bloomberg's crusade is that ringing phones are a distraction in class. Gimme a break, man! I mean, ok; I realize things are a little different in a university setting, but phones definitely go off all the time in lectures, and it's no big deal. Like Kat said in our conversation, profs tend to make a joke about it, ("Ok now tell the truth! Is that a girl calling to invite you to a party on saturday or your mom calling to make sure you have clean underwear?") or they just keep right on going without a word.

Take a page from our book, Bloomie. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Everyone knows there's no serious issues with phones in schools. You can stab somebody with one of those compasses for drawing pretty circles just as easily as you can stick your phone under a stall door to snap a classy 1 megapixel photo. Punish the fools who do this, not everyone.

Moving goes well. I'm almost finished. I love my BRITA filter, and my cozy new zip-hoodie.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Underachiever Blog

Look what I could be getting if I worked harder at my blog! And were American!

First day of classes today. It's fun getting back into the swing of things. Three hour Political Science lecture tonight. Boo. New room still under heavy construction. Pictures and such coming when it's done.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

A Few Things

Rockwell's website is up and running. The main Flash intro page is here, and the blog is here.

Apple announced the iPod Touch today. The video iPod will now be called the Classic, and the Nano has received a complete design overhaul. I can't figure out whether I think this is a good change or not. Apple also reduced the price of the iPhone by a third, much to the chagrin of early buyers.

I was in Chapters today looking around for a recipe book, since I'll be preparing a lot more of my own food this year. I wasn't having much luck, but as I was browsing through the stacks I was listening to the latest CommandN podcast on my iPod and Will Pate recommended for exactly the kind of information I was looking for.

Speaking of podcasts, the ones I'm currently subscribed to are:
Amber MacArthur's CommandN and Webnation
Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech (TWiT), The Tech Guy, and MacBreak Weekly
Attack of the Show's The Daily Feed
Morgan Webb's WebbAlert

Remember when I wrote about Mahalo, the human-powered search engine slash encyclopedia? Well, I'm now a part-time employee with the Panasonic result page reserved for myself. If the results pages I write for them, (which are more HTML-oriented than anything else) get enough hits, I'll start getting royalty checks in the mail. Awesome.

Highly-regarded blogger Paul Stamatiou published an excellent article about a month ago that's meant to be a realistic back to school guide for college/university students. It was in direct response to all the articles put out by folks like Wired who seem to feel that our schools are paying us for enrolling. Yeah, right. After reading Paul's guide I feel like I'm doing pretty well, but I learned a few really handy things such as the ultra-cheap price of an HP laser printer available on If you're a student, read it. If you're not a student, read it anyway.

Yes, I am moved into my new place in Guelph, and no, I won't be posting about it until later. I plan on posting photos and such once everything is in place. Aiming for next week sometime. That's it for now.

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Exploding Phones and China's Spot at the Lunch Table

By now everyone knows that the iPhone's been hacked so that it's no longer bound only to the powers of AT&T. (Seventeen year-old hacker George Hotz is practically set for life.) But what you might not know is that Apple's new darling is set to self-destruct when tampered with!

Ok, so that's completely untrue. But it did happen - not because of Apple or the iPhone itself, but because of the dangers of lithium-ion batteries. Here's the Wired article, and here's an image of the wreckage:


This story reminded me of something my dad told me he read in a magazine yesterday about another exploding phone incident. As it turns out, the above-linked article also links to that story which Wired covered back in July. Basically what happened in that case is that a 22 year-old welder named Xiao Jingpeh was killed when his Motorola exploded last June. The handset was in his shirt pocket when it happened, and the concussion sent fragments of his ribs into his heart. It's believed that the heated environment of the factory Xiao worked in is what set the phone off.

Incidents like this have brought scrutiny to those cheap knock-off batteries in particular, as well as other imitations of potentially dangerous products. It's no secret that walking down the street in a Chinese city like Beijing will present you with numerous opportunities to purchase cheap goods like DVDs, video games, and any manner of electronics in addition to other products. I own a Japanese Wakizashi that my brother bought for me as a gift on one of his travels to China - probably from a street vendor. The widespread knowledge of these products, and now, the growing awareness and concern about their under-par quality will probably spur China into some house-cleaning action. It's in their best interest after all, considering the whole 2008 Olympics situation. The adventures of Canadian/Tibetan blogger Lhadon Tethong, who was kicked out of China in August for trying to uncover evidence that China was using the Olympics to conceal their occupation of Tibet, are proof that the communist nation is already worried about her reputation with the rest of us.

So basically, if you want your one dollar copy of Transformers, better board a plane, (or find a really big shovel!) and get it now.

As you can see I'm working really hard packing for my big move. I'm able to do this because I stole Dr. Octopus's omnipotent arms.

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Sunday, September 02, 2007

Moving is Hectic

Oh yes it is. I'm back and forth to Guelph this week like the pendulum of a grandfather clock on Ritalin. Uploading photos and stuff of my place soon.

I actually just wanted to post something.