Friday, April 26, 2024

Planting my retirement tree

 When I retired last August, I had an idea to plant a tree to mark the occasion. It is a testament to how busy I have been that it has taken me 8 months to finally get around to it. 

What is really cool about this tree is that it has parts of a James Grieve apple tree combined with cox's orange pippin so the tree should be able to pollinate itself.

Fallng into the manosphere

Recently, my daughters were horrified to hear that I was listening to Jordan Peterson's podcast about his 12 rules for life. They worried that I was accidentally going to fall into the manosphere, but to be honest I find his rules to be more bizarre than offensive. In any case shocking my daughters is just a bonus :-)

Eventually  stopped following Jordan's blog, but more due to boredom than in shock. In general I think that people like Jordan should be allowed to speak freely. The whole point of free speech is that we tolerate people we disagree with rather than just people we agree with.

Thursday, April 25, 2024

How fast is a drone delivery? Very fast


After I posted a video of a drone delivering coffee to my home, two questions arose:

  • How fast was the delivery and was the coffee still hot on arrival?
  • Was the coffee secure and was any spilled en-route?
The delivery was very fast - either 5 or 0 minutes depending upon you count:
  • 8:06pm - I decided to order coffee
  • 8:11pm - I pressed the 'confirm order' button. (The time taken was because it was my first order so I needed to input my address and card details etc.)
  • 8:16pm - They sent me a message to say the order was on its way and to make sure no people or pets were in the landing area.
  • 8:20pm - The delivery was made.
The coffee was in sealed cardboard containers and no spillage happened.

Monday, March 4, 2024

Why I am planning to vote Yes/No

Ireland will have 2 referendums on next Friday 8th February 2024. Both referendums are related to family status, but they are separate. I am planning to vote Yes in the first and No in the second. My reasons are influenced by this article and this article.

  1. The first referendum concerns a commitment in the current constitution to support "the family based on marriage". The proposal is to replace this with a commitment to support families whether based on marriage or a "durable relationship". I think this is a welcome change reflecting the fact that many modern families do not consist of a married couple and their children e.g. single parents.
    Some people have complained that the new wording will effectively make people who have consciously chosen not to get married still have marriage type responsibilities. My take on this is to have no sympathy to people who have formed a family and are trying to evade the consequent responsibilities.
  2. The second referendum is not quite as straight forward. The existing clause in the constitution says that the state shall value the caring done by women within the family. This clause has rightly been criticised for being sexist (when the constitution was drafted back in .the 1930s, nobody thought about house husbands). As the FLAC article states, it is unfortunate that we don't have the option to simply delete the offending clause. Instead the referendum proposes to replace the clause with a new one which values caring provided within the family. This might seem innocuous, but disability rights campaigners have said this wording will be used to force family members to do all of the caring. I am not as clear in my opinion on this referendum, but if in doubt I will vote no.

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Which social media site to use

There are many different social networks in use at the moment. I thought I should write a quick summary of when each of the most popular ones is suitable to use:
  • Main sites
    • Facebook - is the default social network.  It has almost 3 billion active users (out of 8 billion people on earth) so there is a good chance that whoever you want to interact with is using Facebook.
    • Instagram - Has 1.4 billion active users so it is almost as popular as facebook. In particular it is popular with the younger generation. It's main appeal is that it comes with cool photo touch up tools so everyone can look their best. Interestingly younger users like the fact that the older generation don't use Instagram so they can interact with their peers without any interference from their parent's generatiom.
    • LinkedIn - Is a social network for professional use with an impressive 1 billion users. There is no need to feel embarrassed to be seen to be boasting on LinkedIn, because boasting about your achievements is more or less the point of the site. People post here to say things like:
      • I passed an exam
      • I moved to a new company
      • I got promotion
      • etc.
    • Twitter/X - has only 500 million users. It is more of a broadcast site than a social network. Twitter users follow other users,  but this is not comparable to a friendship relationship on FaceBook. Because posts can be seen by anyone, Twitter is not suitable for semi-private updates that you only want your friends to see. Instead Twitter is used by politicians, journalists and other public figures to share thoughts with the world.
      Instead of having a fixed friend list, Twitter users congregate around hash tags. For example, if I was watching an international rugby match I might post my opinion of the referee's poor decision using the #6Nations tag. This post might be seen and responded to by other active users also using the same hash tag, rather than by a fixed friend list.
    • TikTok - has 1 billion users, but only a small proportion of these post videos. The bulk of users mainly watch videos and/or share videos created by others. So it is not really a soocial network site as such.
  • In addition to the major sites above, there are some interesting niche players such as:
    • Strava - Is not a social networking site as such. It is a site for athletes (mainly runners and cyclists) to record their training. However, it has a number of social features where users can:
      • post photos of their training spin.
      • give kudos to each other (similar to a FaceBook like) 
      • leave comments on a training spin
      • Engage in competition with other athletes who are cycling/running the same sections of road even if they don't know each other 
    • BeReal - aims to help you to find out what people are. really doing. People only post on a site like Instagram when they are doing something cool so users browsing their feed get the mistaken impression that everyone else is having fun. BeReal combats this by forcing users to post a status photo at a random time.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Wahoo colour codes

When my Wahoo is showing the route recorded, it uses a colour coding scheme to show how severe the climb is. I did some experiments today while cycling up and down Howth Hill and figured out what the colours mean.

  • Downhill = Gray (no matter how steep the descent)
  • Grade 0-4% = Green
  • Grade 4-8% = Yellow
  • Grade above 8% = Red 
For example, the picture on the right shows my screen after climbing the steep side of Howth hill. As you can see the climb is mostly yellow (4-8%) with only a bit of red (after passing the church) and a little bit of green (near the top of the climb it levels out).

Friday, February 23, 2024

Drone delivery comes to Dublin 15

 I was recently  notified that the Manna drone delivery service is coming to Dublin 15. This was a cause of great excitement. I know that drone delivery has been going on for some time in North Co. Dublin, but I personally never had the thrill of eating drone delivered food yet.

The first step is to install the phone app which I did last week. This automatically detected that I was in the greater Blanchardstown area and so they told me the service was coming soon.

This morning (about 9:10 am) the app notified me that I could apply for a free trial of the service. I love free stuff so I instantly click on the necessary buttons to say I wanted it dropped in the back garden (there are cars parked out front). They told me that expected delivery was 10:03am, so I felt free to run a quick errand before it arrived. This was a mistake because the delivery arrived early around 9:45am and I missed seeing it.

Nevertheless I did get to consume the free goodies. The delivery was in a sturdy paper bag as you can see in the picture. A long thin string was used to attach the bag to the drone and this was dropped in the garden too.

I tried to order a real meal from the service, but they are not taking orders yet. Therefore I can't comment on whether it is good value for money.

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Improving your Wordle performance

The wordle game is deceptively simple. However, I find myself tempted to cheat by employing outside resources when completing a game. There are many useful tools available such as the Merriam-Webster word finder which help in some situation, but none are explicitly built to help with Wordle. So I decided to write a little python utility called Wordle Cheat which aims to help Wordle players by providing a list of dictionary words which meet the clues they have been given

Since I released the project under an open source licence, it also technically meets my retirement goal of contributing to an open source project. I hope it is useful and please let me know if you find any issues with it. Of course if anyone wants to add a new feature(s), I would be delighted.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Playing Wordle


Everyone seems to be obsessed with the Wordle game so I decided to give it a go. The short summary is that I am not impressed.

The game rules are very simple. You have 6 attempts to guess a 5 letter word. Each time you guess, you are told if each letter in your guess is either a correct match, a correct letter in the wrong position or not in the word at all. However, this is tricky enough to play - this forces you to use your brain which is the general idea.

The good news is that it is an easy way to pass time. The bad news is the advertisements which are constantly popping up and they seem to be deliberately hard to dismiss.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Paying with your mobile phone - How does it work?

It seems like magic to me that it is possible for me to pay for stuff using my mobile phone.  I am not an expert in payment systems, but this blog post is my attempt to describe what happens behind the scenes to make this possible. Since I have an Android phone, I will describe how it works with Google Pay - I assume that the same principles apply to using Apple Pay if you have an iPhone. 

  1. The first step is to register all of your cards with Google Wallet. To make this easy Google Wallet allows you to simply take a picture of your credit/debit card(s) and it will save the card details without the need for you to type in the long card number manually. When you enter a card Google automatically communicates with your bank to ensure the card is valid and not reported stolen.
  2. When you are buying some goods or services, the merchant will type in the amount on their point of sale device.
  3. Assuming you are willing to pay the amount requested, you first need to pick which one of the stored cards you want to use for this transaction. With android, this is done by long pressing on the power on/off button and then swiping left and right to highlight the card you want. To make it easy for you, Google Wallet will display a small picture of what the original card looks like.
  4. Having activated your chosen card you hold your phone within 4cm of the POS terminal so they can use near field communication (NFC) to exchange details of your card. NFC is deliberately limited to only work at such short range to avoid accidentally paying for someone else's purchases.
  5. The POS terminal then checks with Visa/Mastercard who in turn contacts the banks which issued the card to verify that you are credit worthy.
  6. Occasionally the bank decides that they want to double check the identity of the person making the payment. If this happens, you will be asked to unlock your phone using a PIN code, unlock pattern or fingerprint reader. After this happens you need to return to step 4 above.
  7. When payment is successfully made, your phone will display a confirmation message with the last 4 digits of the card used (displaying the entire card number would be aa security weakness).
As I said, I am not an expert in payment systems. So if I got something wrong please let me know.