Warning: cartoons containing advanced mathematics

If you know your isosceles triangle from your angular momentum this is the place for you

Only in Texas…

Here at E-tales we’re not quite sure what a groom’s cake is, but here is one. This particular gung-ho creation recreates a gun sitting on a target. Created in Texas, and sent to the “weird and wonderful” Boing Boing site, we’re still mulling over some of the not very pleasant implications that come to mind. (Maybe it’s because this E-taler recently watched the teen school shoot-out movie Elephant on DVD). Anyway, I’m not sure any woman with a fully functioning self-preservation instinct would go anywhere near such a groom. But they do things differently in the US.

Homering-in on the virtual Odyssey

Discussing the progress of e-government in the wake of a recent conference addressed by State Services Commission deputy commissioner Laurence Millar, our E-taler recalled an earlier remark by previous supremo Brendan Boyle, who saw e-government as an “Odyssey”.

Our E-taler couldn’t resist extending the metaphor: “You mean a journey where you’re never sure if you’ll arrive; you face danger from monsters and whirlpools; you’re seduced by sirens and witches into following false paths, and the one-eyed throw rocks at you?”

“I might use some of that,” Boyle replied. We don’t know if he ever did, but parts of the aforesaid metaphor seem quite appropriate in retrospect.

IndraNet quietly spreads its net

IndraNet first raised capital in New Zealand in 1998 and currently has some worthy-sounding projects on the go, both in the telco space and in other areas. The company recently held some rather exclusive shareholders’ meetings in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. One item on the agenda was “events leading to the current capital raising” — as opposed to the many previous capital-raisings IndraNet has undertaken since 1998.

However, the company was not seeking the media attention normally associated with capital-raising efforts. A note attached to the invitations stated: “The meetings are strictly private and open to shareholders, shareholders’ family and friends only. No members of the media will be allowed.”

IndraNet is, of course, quite entitled to so bar the media in the interests of smooth capital-raising. Who wants pesky reporters asking questions such as: “Why is yet more capital needed?” Or, “Will IndraNet ever make a profit?”

Shield me from this Voodoo

Following our recent E-tale about the Shield Me “earthing” card (“Snake Oil”, October 2), which is being sold at otherwise reputable chemists, E-taler Keith spied a pharmacy selling “genuine solid copper magnetic bracelets”. He asked the chemist if the shop had any juju arm bands left in stock. “He had the decency to blush,” reports Keith.

What next? Chemists offering medical advice based on phrenology or selling hand-crank drills, so you can release the evil spirits when you get a headache?

Droids without attitude

On the vexed subject of modern manners in the tech age, New Scientist magazine reported recently that in Japan, robots are now being sent to finishing school.

The Japanese have long had a love affair with robots, which are at last making some in-roads into the home with those brilliant little robot vacuum cleaners. The Japanese are now trying out robots in hospitality roles but are concerned that the domestic droids lack that elusive quality kansei, which, roughly translated, means the ability to detect a person’s mood and respond accordingly.

So, how do you teach robots empathy? Well, there are galvanic skin sensors (which measure sweat), which can then be connected up to a neural network that then interprets the results — and then directs said robot to behave accordingly.

For instance, Mr Sato had rather a lot of sake and that rot-gut Japanese whisky last night so perhaps vacuuming around the sofa, where he is still reclining comatose this morning, should wait a while.

Killing the mood

Our story “Emotionally yours” (page 3 last week), about software that can supposedly sense anger in email complaints, amused at least one reader.

Our honorary E-taler is long used to strange emotional readings from his Eudora email client, which includes a “Mood Watcher” feature designed to warn against both reading and sending rude or questionable messages.

Mood Watcher is rather enthusiastic however: it has been known to award demerit points for talk of “taking the knife to” a project, particularly if there are other references to “cuts” and “killing”. It is also especially alert for double-entendres and has been known to flag “he got off with … a light penalty” and “I am pleased I frequently get head … hunted by rival companies.”

Such errors show either an ingenious creator or, perhaps, just one with a dirty mind.

We like XKCD

If there’s one thing the web is good for it is cartoons. Take “xkcd: a web comic of romance, science, maths and language” for example.

If you know your isosceles triangle from your angular momentum then this is the place for you.

But be warned, the site carries this disclaimer: “This comic occasionally contains strong language (which may be unsuitable for children), unusual humour (which may be unsuitable for adults), and advanced mathematics (which may be unsuitable for liberal-arts majors)”.

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