Daily Archives: March 12, 2007

Blue Fusion 2007, day 1

One of the high points of every year I spend with IBM is the annual opportunity to participate in Blue Fusion, our contribution to National Science and Engineering Week. Anton gave a good write-up of how the event works, and I wrote about last year’s activities around the same time in 2006.

The activity I was hosting today was called Weatherman. It looked at how to forecast weather based on a set of current conditions and some of the rules of forecasting. Having decided on the forecast, the teams then had to give an inventive, entertaining and hopefully accurate (!) presentation. It was quite a difficult activity. I don’t suppose any of the students would have remember the old magnetic weather symbols that the BBC used to slap onto maps during forecasts, with everything being computer-generated these days… several jokingly complained that there are computers to do this now, but as I pointed out, the Met Office forecasters also have to be able to come up with the forecasts by hand.

The day was kicked off by a talk from a guest speaker about biometrics, and conveniently for my activity it ended up with a talk on the science of global warming.

Tomorrow I’m looking after a school for the whole day, which means I will get to see the rest of the activities on offer. On Wednesday and Thursday I’m due to be back at the activity hosting.

This is my third year as a helper. I’m told that it is fairly unusual for people who aren’t on the organising committee to devote such a bug chunk of time on a repeated basis. IBMers are all encouraged to volunteer, but usually the helpers will only be able to spare a day, and maybe not get involved on an annual basis. One of the organisers asked me today what makes me keep coming back. Well, as usual, it was a fascinating and exhilarating experience. We get time out from our usual activities. We get to meet people from across the lab organisation who we might not deal with day-to-day: for example, I was hosting today with people from the CICS test team, met people I know from our Platform Technology Centre, and met relatively new joiners to the organisation, too. I love interacting with the different groups and watching how they behave in problem-solving and competitive situations… one of my alternative career choices would have been teaching, so this is a good way of getting an opportunity to get involved in that kind of activity. I talked about a lot of the same themes last year, and looking back at those earlier posts I realise that I’ve covered the same ground in the past, but I’m filled with such enthusiasm again that I can’t help but write about it.

Today I also found myself showing the ropes to new helpers who hadn’t been involved in the event before – I remember I was pretty confused in my first year, so I hope this is helpful to others. I know I’ll be pretty tired by Thursday, but I’m having a great time so far. Looking forward to see what challenges tomorrow brings!

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Cats and tin foil

Two observations about my recent blogging habits. Firstly, I’m apparently blogging less than I did this time last year. Secondly, perhaps my twittering has reduced my interest in blogging.

I’m aware of the former, but I dispute the latter. I’ve been busy, attempting to think about what I blog about and when I do so, and yes, I apologise if I’ve been quieter than “normal”. I do want to get more technical again, and I’ll make an effort to do so.

In the meantime, here is a break from the norm. Stop reading now if you came for highbrow discussion of technology trends.

A fascinating and utterly frivolous fact that I learned from a Toffee Crisp wrapper the other day:

Cats will not walk on tin foil

Since making this discovery, my mind has been working overtime:

  1. Do cats know something that we don’t?
  2. Who discovered this? How did they do so?
  3. Does it matter which way up the tin foil is?
  4. How can I test the theory? Given a cat’s ability to leap a reasonably large obstacle, how large a piece of foil would I need to lay down and in what configuration would it have to be in order to place the cat in a position where it had no other choice?
  5. What else won’t cats walk on? We already know that a hot tin roof is no problem…

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