Driving in UK: slow

diumenge, 20/07/2014 (01:03) per carles

Last weekend I went to Northern Ireland, which was my second time driving a car in the UK.

This time I was really relaxed and I found it almost as easy as on my usual side, probably because I’ve been living in London for 5 years and my brain has been re-wired for the other side of the road driving, while walking, using the bus, etc.

But something that got my attention while I was driving: sometimes I saw signs on the road saying “SLOW”. Slow what?! It’s not a speed. If one is driving following the legal limits… should the car drive slower? It was usually written before a bend or some place that required extra attention. I’m not sure what the Google Car would do there: 80% of the legal limit? Or just ensure that I’m at or under the legal speed? No one should be faster than the legal limit, right?

I don’t have any data to confirm this but in Spain they tend to change the speed limit much more than in the UK. In Spain, sometimes, before a bend, they change the speed limit and then change it back again after the bend. It seems that in the UK they display SLOW which is slightly ambiguous: if the speed limit is not slow what should happen there?

And yes, in Spain sometimes there are so many signs that one can’t focus on the road anymore…

Anyway, looking forward to driving again in the UK and this time perhaps with a manual car instead of automatic. It might be in Cornwall where an American friend said that it’s nerve-racking due to the width of the road and the bends.

Kirkaldy Testing Museum

dissabte, 12/07/2014 (23:44) per carles

A colleague from work wrote a blogpost with some hidden London museums.

On his blogpost he wrote about 5 museums that are not widely known in London. Some of them open once a month. It’s another type of museum compared to the typical British Museum, Tate, Science Museum, etc.

Recently I went to one of the museums: Kirkaldy Testing museum. The museum has the firsts machines to test iron and steel.

The very keen volunteers explain everything in a tour and they do demos: they broke a steel bar to show how the machine works and how to operate the machine.

Until they started testing iron and steel Victorians had many accidents: bridges that collapsed, railways that broke and boilers that exploded. Kirkaldy invented a machine to test and started, very meticulously, testing steel and iron from different manufacturers. All his business, at that time, was testing and recording the results.

He rapidly became an authority on testing and everyone used the results to know how good certain steel and iron was.

Nowadays we have companies that are specialized in software testing. My first time employer Elvior (in Estonia) or more recently for my work a potential software would be Frologic.

Visiting the testing museum helped to realize that in software engineering, even if we are doing more and more to test the software, there is still room to improve compared to other disciplines where testing is core of the business and not an addon that can be done or skipped.

Designing a sport

dissabte, 05/07/2014 (20:39) per carles

Let’s say, as an exercise, that I want to design a new sport. I would start with a list of requirements:

  • It should be possible to practise it indoors (so I can play regardless of the weather). Playing outdoors should be possible but not mandatory.
  • It should be an individual sport, so a team is not expecting me on a certain date. If desired, it could be played with a partner.
  • The game should require some thinking and strategy, not only physical effort.
  • The equipment should be easy to carry (in a backpack for example).
  • The equipment should be affordable.
  • Everyone should be able to play it, no matter what age, physical conditions, etc.
  • It should be fun to play, challenging, etc.

Should I think hard to design a game like this? Or just keep playing table tennis? I think that I’ll keep playing, it meets all the requirements. The only potential problem is that it always requires a partner (yes, a robot is also a partner) but it’s part of the fun!

Archipelago Restaurant: exotic restaurant

diumenge, 29/06/2014 (20:39) per carles

Recently, a few colleagues from work went to Archipelago Restaurant. This is a really different restaurant!

The menu has meat from unusual animals: zebra, python, crocodile, bugs, grasshoppers, etc.

Everything is cooked in the western style. The ingredients are different but the result is a familiar to what our taste buds are used to. The texture was all known too. As they said: everything is dead and cooked so don’t worry about what it’s come from.

Some of us enjoyed it a lot. Others didn’t enjoyed it so much, but it’s a small restaurant and I’d say that it’s worth going to.

If you think that you would enjoy please give it a try. They have less exotic food for friends who don’t fancy eating the aforementioned things.

Python Code Dojo in the Bank of America: cool!

diumenge, 22/06/2014 (21:20) per carles

In June 2009 I moved to London, and shortly afterwards the London Python Code Dojo started (in September).

I’ve already written about the Dojo here (in Catalan, see my personal point of view and how it’s organized posts).

It’s one of my favourite activities here in London – very rewarding, interesting, etc.

We don’t have a fixed location: we the Fry IT offices many times. We’ve been to some cool offices: Mind Candy, The Guardian, even once at Mendeley! (and many small companies that I can’t remember at the moment, apologies).

But a special mention for an unexpectedly good one: Bank of America.

To have a few surprises of how spoilt we are there:

  • We have the usual pizza… and catering!
  • We have barmen to serve us drinks of our choice
  • They don’t try to recruit people (the first time that I step there I was afraid to be recruited by some banker)

    I’d like to also mention that Bank of America is involved, as a sponsor, in the Python Conference UK specially on the Education track. Ah! and they use Python obviously! (you already guessed that, right?).

    If I ever want to work in the finance or banking industry that will be one of the first places that I’ll look at.

    So, without forgetting all the other companies hosting the London Python Code Dojo: thanks to the unexpectedly (for some of us) good Bank of America. And please do host us again!

London Loop – 4 stages

diumenge, 15/06/2014 (21:14) per carles

On the The Saturday Walkers’ Club (I mentioned it on another post) I found the London LOOP.

The London LOOP is a hike around London. LOOP in this context means London Outer Orbital Path. It’s bout 220 Km. originally in 23 stages but nowadays it’s commonly done in 15 stages -a popular guide book divided it into 15 satges so that the length of the stages was more even, usually between 15 and 20 Km.

My favourite webpage to see the description of the stages is Luphen’s webpage, Luphen did the hike took photos and commented on each stage. For the detailed instructions I use the book and the GPX files for the directions. What I have on Luphen’s webpage is a personal commentary and photos to see what it will look like.
Llegir la resta de l’entrada »

The Saturday Walkers’ Club webpage

diumenge, 08/06/2014 (23:13) per carles

Some time ago I discovered the webpage The Saturday Walkers’ Club. If I had to design a webpage with hikes it would be very similar to that one:

  • Almost all of them start and finish from train stations
  • There is the GPX route for each hike (the route to copy into the GPS device)
  • Detailed description
  • Useful information: where to eat (where the pub is), where to have tea, what time to leave from London, etc.), history of the town, local recommendations, etc.

If you are searching for hikes in England: check that webpage.

From my point of view hiking in England has a problem: lack of mountains (and sometimes too much mud can be problematic). There are a few hills but they are almost nothing compared with the Pyrenees or even Montserrat mountain.

Different tastes

dimecres, 21/05/2014 (22:10) per carles

In London I’ve been to many performances (music, dance, theatre, musicals, standup, magician, Ukulele extravaganza, etc.). See, for example, another blog post where I talked of Festival of the Spoken Nerd, one of my favourite ones.

I thought that I would enjoy anything. I’m not picky: I’ve been to improvised comedy and Shakespeare (once in Polish) and I had good times (more or less) with all of them. Sometimes better, sometimes not so good. Actually I’m easily pleased and easily surprised!
Llegir la resta de l’entrada »

Delete photos on the way

dimecres, 14/05/2014 (21:49) per carles

I like taking photos. Not all the time, and I don’t ask all the time my travel-mates to pose for me… but I take photos now and then while travelling.

I very rarely delete photos using the camera. If it’s a bad photo (or if I think that it’s not good enough) I take quickly another one… but usually I don’t delete the previous one. Why? Because at that moment I’m enjoying the landscape and the experience. I take the photo at that precise moment because I can’t postpone taking the photo for 2 weeks because the view is gone. But I can delete the photo later on or when I’m back home.

Also, I find deleting photos on the computer better: it’s a bigger screen to see the details of the photo and I can sit comfortably at home… instead of using the camera with a much smaller screen, often in a place with sun or cold.

A few weeks ago my travel mate was taking photos and every now and then she was spending 5 or 10 minutes reviewing the photos… instead of enjoying the new landscape (when we were in a car). Come on!! She could have reviewed the photos at home with the laptop, so why was she missing 5 or 10 minutes of new landscape reviewing the photos of the previous 30 minutes? Why was she looking at the photos of the last hour instead of enjoying the new 10 minutes?

I asked why but I didn’t get any sensible answer… or at least not sensible following my logic. Perhaps it was for her.

Analogies in a meeting

dimecres, 07/05/2014 (21:14) per carles

Some time ago we had a meeting where two sides of the meeting didn’t understand each other. The topic is not very relevant here as it was a software engineering topic.

What I enjoyed the most in the meeting and what amazed me were the analogies used there. They were so good that I even took note. Without going into details the different analogies:

  • train with a wiggly car
  • zebra embryo
  • serving non-cooked food
  • digging a hole
  • ship that sinks
  • oil tanker
  • a working screw
  • the car and the working screw
  • pants and trousers
  • knitting trousers

I was really amazed by my colleagues’ imagination. And it also showed that the analogies don’t work if the different parties don’t want to understand each other.