Zooming in the rain

On Wednesdays, there’s an interesting group of catering vans that collect at the far end of the West Cambridge campus, and I like to go there for lunch.

But it’s a bit of a distance, and the weather today was bad, so it was important to find the most appropriate method of transportation…

Everything stops for tea

There are some tunes that are so catchy, they stick with you for ages.

I think I heard ‘Everything stops for tea’ about three or four decades ago, and probably only once. But the wonder of modern search engines is that they allow you to go back and renew your acquaintance with the things that formed those neural pathways all that time ago…

Adding custom ringtones to your iPhone using iTunes

In case you’re Googling for it, or in case I forget how to do it…

If you search online, you can can find various articles about how to take an MP3 or AAC audio file and make a .M4R-format file which an iOS device can then use as a ringtone. I’ve had a bit of Gilbert & Sullivan as mine for years, and have probably infuriated and/or amused those around me in equal measure when my phone starts announcing that I am the Captain of the Pinafore…

I lost this, though, in a recent wipe and re-install of my phone, after which I discovered that iTunes no longer makes it at all obvious how to put these custom ringtones onto your device. It’s easy if you buy them on the iTunes store, of course, but otherwise no amount of dragging and dropping would get my old favourites into iTunes or onto my phone.

But it turns out that there is still a way, and it’s documented some way down on this Apple page. As a quick summary:

  • Connect your phone to your computer, so it appears in the sidebar of your iTunes
  • Go and find your ringtone(s) in the Finder or Windows Explorer and COPY them.
  • Select the ‘Tones’ section of your device in iTunes and PASTE.

This works fine for me in iTunes 12.7 – no dragging and dropping needed. You should then see your ringtones, and be able to choose them in Settings > Sounds on the iPhone.

Personalised echo chambers

John’s column in the Observer this morning is a good one. Extract:

This doesn’t mean that YouTube’s owner (Google) is hell-bent on furthering extremism of all stripes. It isn’t. All it’s interested in is maximising advertising revenues. And underpinning the implicit logic of its recommender algorithms is evidence that people are drawn to content that is more extreme than what they started with – or perhaps to incendiary content in general.

So YouTube (like Facebook) is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, it’s embarrassed by the way in which it is being exploited by unsavoury actors (and also possibly worried about the longer-term threat of regulation); on the other hand, its bottom line is improved by increasing “user engagement” – ie, keeping people glued to YouTube.

Stormriders

I’m in a lovely but slightly moist campsite in Norfolk. The climatic conditions are, I must admit, mitigated for us by the simply splendid heating system built into the campervan we’ve rented for a few days. We’re not really ‘roughing it’!

Anyway, inside the facilities block, where I’ve just been doing the washing up, there’s a large motto printed on the wall.

Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.
It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Yes. Amen to that!

The Snowdial

Here’s a photo of snow melting in my front garden this afternoon. It occurs to me that, even without other clues such as the British number plate on my car, you could at least work out from this whether I was in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere. Can you see how?

The great moral dilemma of the age

In the case of doubt over a particular item, is it a greater sin to recycle that which we ought not to recycle, or to leave unrecycled that which we ought to recycle?

Setting healthy boundaries for your child’s use of fire

Here’s a thoroughly enjoyable piece in the New Yorker, providing guidance for concerned Palaeolithic parents. Extract:

You don’t want to be the bad guy, but you also want to make sure that your child engages in other activities, like mammoth hunting and the gathering of rocks and bones with which to make tools. So, how do you set appropriate boundaries for your child on fire usage without jeopardizing the family unit so crucial to the survival of the species? Here are some tips…

The Reasonable Man

Until a few hours ago, I knew nothing about Jordan Peterson, but picking up on the attention he’s been getting, I watched his interview in Channel 4. It’s fabulous stuff.

Cathy Newman, the interviewer, is so desperate to be offended, to be the victim, that she keeps trying to put words into his mouth. It’s almost as if she’s trying to be a caricature of everything that’s bad about modern reporting, and modern political correctness, but she’s apparently serious.

And with astonishing patience, for half an hour, Peterson just keeps coming back, again and again, with facts, with logic, with reason, with intelligence, with sanity.

I once found myself at an event being followed around by a woman who adopted much the same approach, though she knew nothing about me and we had only just met. But she had clearly come with the intention of finding a man to be insulted by, and I was her victim for the day.

I wish I had handled the situation as expertly as Peterson does; in the end, I just had to leave the event early, because when people are so desperate to be offended, I sometimes get the overwhelming mischievous urge to give them what they want, even though I might misrepresent my opinions just for the fun of winding them up! I thought it better to depart before she reached that point.

The follow-up interview with Joe Rogan is worth watching, too.

I don’t know anything about him other than this, I’m not sure whether I’d agree with him on other things. I haven’t read his book.

But I certainly plan to do so now.

A healthy glow

Here’s a little video selfie of me breathing. Pretty exciting stuff, eh? The reason I look so strange is that it’s taken with a thermal camera: the white and yellow areas are warm, the blue and black ones colder. I haven’t decided whether or not it’s an improvement on my normal appearance.

One reason for our interest in this at the Lab is that you can clearly see my nostrils getting cooler as I breathe in, and warmer as I breathe out. So a thermal camera is a pretty straightforward way for a computer to measure my breathing rate.

But I had some fun playing with the camera at home, too. Pointing it at my hall floor showed glowing tracks where the hot pipes run under the tiles, allowing me to see how the radiators in different rooms are connected up.

When I was looking around upstairs, I noticed some light patches on the floor and wondered what they were. It took me a moment to realise that Tilly had trotted up behind me to see what I was doing, and had silently departed, leaving only warm paw-prints behind her as evidence.

© Copyright Quentin Stafford-Fraser