I was just about to subscribe to a magazine on-line when Marty asked me to check and see if there was anything he would like. I couldn’t find a way to browse their technical magazines so I ran a search for “linux”. The only result was for a magazine called “Windows IT Pro”. We won’t be buying that.

Nothing To Talk About

The deadline for talk submissions for YAPC::Asia is tomorrow. I won’t be submitting a talk. Usually at a YAPC I talk about communication or management – things I don’t have any experience of in an Asian context. I did think that Marty would submit a talk but he doesn’t use Perl much anymore and doesn’t think he has anything to talk about.

I am considering not speaking at any conference this year. Part of me loves to speak but the part that hates it is stronger tonight.

Too Much Scrabulous

You can tell you’ve played too many games of scrabble when … you receive an email from your lawyer and your first thought is, “his surname would be worth a lot of points”.

Japanese Pick-up School

Norwin drew my attention to this Wired article:

Fujita’s Pickup School for Men Who Can’t Get Any teaches geeky, insecure men of all ages how to gain confidence, score dates and get laid — all based, he says, on a proprietary “science” he discovered after a decade of careful research.

I know the Japanese like to learn new things but I wasn’t quite expecting that.

One Response to “Japanese Pick-up School”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    I love the ‘decade of careful research’ bit. Now I will be sure not to question the validity.

Japanese Idiom: uchiwa no nori

I was trying to translate one of Mint’s blog posts when I came across the following idiom, “内輪のノリ”. Google translate usually gives amusing translations and this one was no exception: “noli private”. “Noli” should really be “nori”. Nori usually refers to food that is wrapped in nori seaweed – like balls of rice or rolls of sushi. The phrase talks about the private part that is inside the nori, which seems a strange thing to put in a sentence about the organisers of My dictionaries don’t help with idiomatic phrases but I assume that this idiom actually means a clique and is much more colourful than that English word.

3 Responses to “Japanese Idiom: uchiwa no nori”

  1. Tatsuhiko Miyagawa Says:

    ノリ here means “atmosphere”, like 雰囲気 or 空気, and not that food. It’s a variation of the verb のる, which is like “cooking” as in a rock music live.

    So, 内輪のノリ (or 内輪ノリ) literallly means “private atmosphere” and is usually used to criticize small group of people that don’t get along with newcomers or outside people, but I guess Mint here wants to say that lots of attendees are from and know each other very well (as compared to YAPC::NA where lots of people come from outside the host perl mongers).

  2. karen Says:

    That’s fascinating. I did ask some people but they weren’t able to explain the full phrase to me. Oh, they knew what it meant but they have never tried to explain it in English before.

    We got as far as working out that it could be used to describe say a group of school-girls who knew each other really well and weren’t particularly welcoming to newcomers.

  3. Barbie Says:’ers as schoolgirls! What a terrifying thought. Please don’t go giving Stowe ideas 😉

Food Additives

When I had the flu I wanted to eat something other than toast at lunch time. I liked the idea of having a large pot of home made chicken soup but I wasn’t well enough to make it. As a compromise Marty went out and bought me tins of Campbell’s soup. Growing up I always preferred Heinz’s soups. Campbell’s soups are concentrated and I find the concept of adding water to canned soup a little odd. (I’m not sure why I think this since water is one of the main ingredients of every home made soup that I make).

I was thrilled that one of the flavours he bought was tomato. I love tomato soup. The labels on the back of the can had mostly been covered with a new Japanese label. But one thing wasn’t. It stated “contains 2 x the Lycopene of a fresh tomato”. Is that really a good thing? I have no idea what lycopene is (even though I spent three years studying biochemistry). Marty didn’t know either but decided that it would be cool if it was something that helped turn you into a wolf…

I had a look on Wikipedia and discovered that processed tomatoes are a better source of lycopene than fresh ones:

Lycopene in tomato paste is four times more bioavailable than in fresh tomatoes. This is because lycopene is so insoluble in water and is so tightly bound to vegetable fiber. Thus processed tomato products such as pasteurized tomato juice, soup, sauce, and ketchup contain the highest concentrations of bioavailable lycopene.

One Response to “Food Additives”

  1. Norwin Says:

    More food that turns us into werewolves! Excellent!

Valentine's Day

Marty wanted to follow the Japanese traditions for Valentine’s Day. He finds it stressful buying me a present and prefers a tradition where only the women give gifts. I agreed to go with part of this tradition – the part that involves me buying him chocolate. But I still want to receive a small gift.

I was told that the shops would be busy but I wasn’t expecting to have to take a number to queue for chocolate. Nor was I expecting to be pushed out of the way by an elderly woman in her haste to get to the chocolate counter.

I wanted to buy something special and bought some expensive Godiva truffles. And then I thought that maybe I should buy some British chocolates. And then I was worried that he would have expected both these choices so I went and bought some French chocolate. At one point I ended up in a supermarket staring at the chocolate counter thinking that maybe I should buy him a different type of chocolate for every year we’ve been married! It was at that point I realised that I was getting carried away…

5 Responses to “Valentine’s Day”

  1. Neil Says:

    A traditon where only the women buy gifts sounds like a good idea to me! Perhaps you should be like Carolyn and drop not-very-subtle hints, such as “I’d really like a box of Milk Tray for Valentines Day”.

    This is sooo much easier for the male species …

  2. Tatsuhiko Miyagawa Says:

    If you follow the Japanese tradition, you should get the gift back one month later!

  3. Neil Says:

    According to Wikipedia, “the gift the boy gives (one month later) is supposed to be three times the value of the gift he received”

    Not sure I’m sold on this idea – it sounds like the whole thing was thought out by a woman. A bit like the old theory (in the UK at least) that an engagement ring should cost a month’s salary. Now people are saying that it should be two months’ salary instead; it won’t be long before they’re claiming three …

  4. Alan in Belfast Says:

    Neil – Think I got away lightly …

  5. karen Says:

    I saw the posters and adverts for White Day last year but I didn’t manage to work out what it was. I’m sure Marty won’t mind buying me another present 🙂

    As for engagement rings I asked Marty not to spend a month’s salary on mine. I didn’t want one as I don’t like wearing a ring – and once we got married I tended to only wear my wedding ring as wearing two drives me nuts. The main reason I agreed to have one is that he thought that other people would find it strange if he didn’t buy one and didn’t want to try to explain this every time someone said “can I see the ring” – which happens a lot when you get engaged.

Perfect Valentine?

I like to plan things and today I planned our Valentine. I wanted it to be perfect. I planned to look good, have great food, watch a romantic film, and cuddle.

Looking Good

I was going to wear a dress and I knew that things weren’t going well when I couldn’t work out how to put it on. After three attempts just to get the stupid thing over my head, I kept getting confused with the net and petticoats, I realised that it’s one of those dresses you can’t put on by yourself. It crosses over strangely and has a zip that I can’t reach.

Then I thought that I would put on the jeans I wore on Tuesday night. They fitted perfectly only two nights ago but today they were really uncomfortable – the joys of being female and hormonal. I gave up and put on a pair of Marty’s baggy trousers and a t-shirt.

Good Food

Marty arrived home late. I was chatting to my sister on the phone when I heard someone thump the front door. I realised it was Marty when he started to yell. I had accidentally locked him out. I must have bolted the door without thinking after I got the shopping. It rather spoiled his entrance with a bouquet of roses as I dashed out and opened the door and then rushed back to finish the call with my sister.

As it was already after 8 we were both very hungry. I imagine that during a romantic dinner you don’t normally stand and eat starters in the kitchen while you cook the steak. But then you probably aren’t supposed to eat it whilst balancing a plate on your knee and sitting on the sofa either.

Romantic Film

We watched Love Actually. Not all of it though as the DVD broke just over half way through.


Now that the romantic film is over I am blogging, as Marty has a conference call with New York in 20 minutes.

Thankfully the only thing I actually need for a perfect Valentine is Marty.

2 Responses to “Perfect Valentine?”

  1. chrissy Says:

    aw you are sweet.

  2. sarah mcdowell (karens wee sis) Says:

    aww howww sweet just hope marty says samee about u all i need is karen 😛 x0x

Lack of Low-cost Carriers in Japan

I have been trying to find cheap flights from Tokyo to Taipei – but I’m getting nowhere. When searching for airlines failed I thought I had come up with a great way to discover who flies between these two places: I went to Narita airport’s web-site and checked the departures list. This shows quite a few airlines that fly to Taipei. But when I then went and searched the web sites of Eva Airlines, Delta, and China Airlines I got a variety of different error messages. I assume that they are operating code share flights with either ANA or JAL.

Going to the OSDC in Taiwan may be quite expensive.

3 Responses to “Lack of Low-cost Carriers in Japan”

  1. Tatsuhiko Miyagawa Says:

    That’s weird. I’ve flied to Taiwan for 4 times, and the roundtrip flights to Taipei from Narita never cost more than $300. I usually fly United or ANA.

    (Now did a quick search on expedia and Rakuten)

    Oh yes, I can’t find many flights going to Taipei on April and the ones I can find are pretty expensive like $1200. I’m sure it’s just because they haven’t decided the standard economy fare from April and it doesn’t show up yet. Try again in mid-March or something, it’ll be much cheaper.

  2. Tatsuhiko Miyagawa Says:

    Actually, shows lots of flights (mostly EVA and JAL) around 30,000 JPY. The same for,1_F,O#200804

  3. karen Says:

    Thanks for that. (I didn’t know that rakuten did travel.)

    I’ll check out both sites. I am having problems sorting out most of my travel this year as everything is much more expensive than last year. The flights to Europe are actually twice the price.

Wrestle Mania?

I asked Marty what I should wear to the WWE Royal Rumble tour. I don’t watch WWE on television – though Marty tries to change that – and I didn’t know what to expect. He suggested tight jeans with either a low cut top or one of his WWE t-shirts. I opted for the low-cut top. And then decided I would need to wear my hair down and full make-up. I think I did fit in. The audience was male dominated, most of them wearing jeans or some sort of droopy trousers. Some were dressed as their favourite WWE Superstar (I called them wrestlers but Marty was quick to correct me) and some women were even wearing kimonos.

The venue was impressive. It’s an aspect of living in a big city that I love – great venues to hold great events. We had seats on the arena floor putting us really close to the action. The seats weren’t tiered and when the crowd jumped to its feet, which happened a lot, I couldn’t see anything but the backs of all the tall people who stood in front of me.

I still don’t know what to make of the whole thing. It’s obviously staged – yet the crowd screamed and yelled with every fake punch. I was close enough to see a lot of the missed punches and kicks. However, they still throw huge men out of the ring and the acrobatics are amazing. It felt like a rock concert crossed with pantomime only the audience was more excited. I assume it’s because they have villains as well as heroes. Imagine how much fun a rock concert could be if the bands you thought sucked got hit over the head with chairs by the bands you thought rocked. O.K. some people would love that – I’m still not sure about the violence part.

Marty seemed to know in advance who would win every match. This puzzled me – why is it still fun if you know? He told me that no titles would change hands because the event wasn’t being televised. For the non-title events he could tell who would win by how the crowd reacted to the performers – apparently there was no way that Umaga was beating Triple H tonight. Or that Ric Flair would be beaten (something about a plot). The crowd went mad when Ric Flair came on. He is nearly 60 years old and he still was able to throw his competitor out of the ring and allow himself to be tossed about.

The crowd was fascinating. There was a little boy sitting close behind me. He yelled and yelled until he couldn’t yell any more. My favourite yell had to be, “you suck, forever and ever and ever … and when I die and I’m in heaven you will still suck”. He was also very cute when he realised that in his excitement he yelled that one of his favourites sucked. He would scream, “Jericho sucks – em no he doesn’t really suck, Y2J, Y2J…”.

I noticed that the losers get cheered as much as the winners. Even when the loser was someone the crowd was booing just minutes before. When I mentioned this to Marty he told me that this might be peculiar to Japan.

I didn’t enjoy watching the two female wrestlers. They were acrobatic and the crowd loved Mickie J but it didn’t have the energy or power that the men had. Some of the male wrestlers, like Jeff Hardy and Chris Jericho, have great charisma and had the audience hanging on every move they made. I really wanted to see a woman that made me think “warrior” and not “playboy bunny”. There is nothing wrong with woman looking like playboy bunnies but I felt that the emphasis on sex appeal stripped away some of their power in this forum. And I’m not saying that the men didn’t look good – Randy Orton was gorgeous – but the emphasis was very much on his skill and not on his beautiful body. Nor did I get the feeling that conventional beauty was a prerequisite for the men.

I can’t imagine this becoming my favourite sport or pastime but I am considering taking Marty to see one of the big American televised events – at least then he wouldn’t be sure who would win.

Out and About

I am finally over the flu!

Today was a national holiday. Marty was off work so we decided to go out for a walk. The snow has gone and it felt like spring. He wanted to explore the local area and to show me the Tokyo Institute of Technology. I can see why he was amused that I didn’t know where it was. The Midorigaoka section is less than a minute from our apartment. We aren’t sure where in the campus YAPC::Asia will be but it took under 15 minutes to walk to the main entrance and we weren’t exactly rushing.

From there we walked through Ōokayama and on to Kita-Senzoku. We stopped walking when Marty got hungry, hopped on a train, and had dinner at Okusawa After dinner we went to Big Echo for a couple of hours and then home to watch “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”.

Tomorrow evening we are going to see the WWE Royal Rumble tour. Not so sure how I feel about that but Marty assures me that it will be fun…

2 Responses to “Out and About”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    Ooh, Hans will be so jealous when I tell him you get to go to the Royal Rumble!
    The Two Towers is my favorite of the three, both book and movie.

  2. karen Says:

    Marty loved it and I suppose I found it entertaining enough.

    I love the Tower Towers – it’s my favourite as well. We are about to start watching Return of the King.

Strange Pizza

Once I start to travel again I am going to eat some normal pizza. Normal pizza for me contains mushrooms and ham. Pizza in Japan can be strange. We had a pizza tonight that was half chicken teriyaki and half bolognese. The chicken teriyaki part contains teriyaki chicken, onions, sweet corn, peppers, broccoli and mayonnaise (we get ours without mayonnaise as I can’t cope with the thought of mayonnaise on pizza). Marty wanted to try something new, which is why we ended up with half a bolognese pizza. The bolognese half contained a beef bolognese sauce, béchamel sauce, extra cheese, and potato. It tasted really odd and not like pizza all. Marty liked it – but then Marty likes most food.

With our delivery we received an advert for a new pizza – hamburger pizza. They are actually making pizza with what appears to be lots of smallish hamburgers on top. Yuck!

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Saturday night is a great night to sit in, watch a film, and eat take-away food. Tonight we thought we would watch “Little Miss Sunshine” and eat pizza. It was snowing so we decided to order in. Marty logged into Dominos site but there was a message stating that no more deliveries would be made tonight. Then we tried the curry house but they also wouldn’t deliver. In the end we gave up as no one would deliver. Who knew that a little snow could be so problematic?

Tired Being Housebound

I need to get out of this apartment. I really don’t feel that bad. O.K. so when I look in a mirror I can see that my eyes are puffy and my nose is red and sometimes I can’t seem to stop sneezing but it’s just a cold, honestly. The flu is gone and I don’t have the plague. I can’t believe that I am actually thinking about getting a mask so that I can at least go for a walk.

3 Responses to “Tired Being Housebound”

  1. Norwin Says:

    You’ll be fine to go out in public once you have your face mask, your bell to ring, and you’ve learned the Jaanese for “Unclean! Unclean!” 🙂

  2. Geoff! Says:

    A hello kitty mask awaits! You know it makes sense. (you don`t even have to stick it on with sock glue!) 🙂

  3. karen Says:

    Now that I don’t seem to have a cold anymore I am going to be able to go out without a mask. Ah well, maybe next time 😉

Sweets Forest

I knew that I lived in an area famous for its cakes but I didn’t know that we had food based theme park within five minutes walk of the apartment.

On the second floor of the circular gray building, an ivy-covered gate leads into a small country village where the smell of sweets baking in the oven wafts through the air. The village is dotted with country houses, leafy pink and white trees, wooden mailboxes, birdcages and a wooden well. There’s even the sound of birds and music boxes to set the mood.

I have walked by “Sweets Forest” numerous times. There is some sort of water feature outside the building and occasionally I have glanced up the stairs and considered going to take a further look – but I’ve always just walked on by. I’m going to have to visit sometime soon.

Japanese Exam

We finally received the results for our Japanese exams. Unfortunately I didn’t pass mine. I knew when I was studying that it would be a close thing but I had hoped that I would manage to scrape through. In the end I only got 56% overall. I did do as well in the kanji and vocabulary as I was expecting getting 78% in that section but it was the grammar section that let me down.

On a happier note Marty did pass his. And I’m thrilled as his qualification was required for a course he would like to study.

2 Responses to “Japanese Exam”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    Sumimasen! Will you take the exam again?

  2. karen Says:

    I’m not sure. It can only be sat once a year and come this December I might decide to take the next level up. But I suppose whatever I decide I will continue studying and I will take more Japanese exams in the future.

Who Knows What Motivates You

I’m reading yet another paper (pdf) on motivation and free and open source software.

One thing that most of the papers I have read have in common is that they use a survey to gather their information. However, most do not publish the actual survey so that I can see the questions they ask. Surveys will be biased by the people writing them. They will have a predefined list of things that they think are motivators and they will ask questions about them. In the last couple of these papers I have read the researchers are getting a very low response when asking questions about reputation. But really, who is going to actually admit to taking part in an open source project because it will enhance their reputation? It seems so much nobler to suggest it’s because of ideology or that you do it because it makes you feel happy.

The problem with asking people questions about the things that motivate them is that many people don’t actually know what motivates them. Provide them with a list of the sort of things you expect to motivate them and they are bound to find one that the like the look of better than the others.

They will have some idea as to the sort of thing it might be, or things they would like it to be, but they may not know the real reasons as it’s a very difficult thing to work out.

How do I know this? Well, I’ve read Maslow’s book on “Motivation and Personality“. I could give you very plausible reasons behind my actions and I can speak about motivations in an educated way that would convince many people that I know what I am talking about. But, for example, I haven’t got a clue what motivates me to write. I really don’t. Why do I spend hours writing on this blog? It could be a desire for intellectual stimulation; it could be that it’s an enjoyable pastime; maybe I think it will enhance my career prospects; or I want the respect of my peers…

But that’s all just made up from a list of things that I know are supposed to motivate people. I just don’t have a clue. And after reading Maslow I realise that I am not alone.

Today's Reading

I don’t seem to be getting anywhere today in my reading. In my quest to find out more about communication I keep coming across papers that fail to communicate. Researchers from different backgrounds use different words to describe the same concepts. I have to keep checking to see if they are all really writing about the same thing or if there is some important yet subtle difference that I am missing.

I have read about a university that is trying to include an oral communication element into their Computer Science and Mathematics classes to prepare their students for the workplace that values communication skills over advanced programming skills. I have read about the problems that women face in Computer Science classes because the social setting in the classroom is defensive and not supportive – leading the women to believe that they don’t belong.

The new word of the day is para-verbal which appears to be a very similar concept to the linguistic one of prosody but I haven’t quite worked out yet if they are synonyms.

I am going to give up and read some fiction as I can’t face the thought of reading any more technical or scientific papers tonight.

One Response to “Today’s Reading”

  1. Alan in Belfast Says:

    para-verbal … there’s a candidate word-of-the-week.

Cultural Differences: Sock Glue

A while back I was sitting on a train on my way to meet Marty when my I noticed that the girl beside me was fiddling with her socks. Girls in Japan tend to wear long socks which are pulled up to their knees or that are worn over the knees. These socks were just below her knees. She had pulled one of her socks down and was holding something that looked to me like Pritt Stick. She started to apply this to her leg. I looked away, as it’s rude to stare, but couldn’t help but look back. She appeared to be gluing her sock in place. She then did the same thing with the other sock.

I have always thought that schoolgirls in Northern Ireland did strange things with their socks. They roll them down in a certain way and the last time I asked my little sister they were wearing about three pairs of these at a time. But they don’t glue them to their legs!

I asked some Japanese friends about this and they wanted to know what I did to keep my socks and stockings in place, as the obvious way to do this is to use sock glue. I think for now I’ll continue to let mine slide down.

4 Responses to “Cultural Differences: Sock Glue”

  1. Neil Says:

    Have they never heard of sock garters? That’s what we had to wear years ago when I was in the Cubs (ah, happy days …) to keep our socks up 🙂 Fold the top of the sock over it, and you’d never know it was there.

    I’d rather have a red ring on my leg where the elastic was pressed against it than physically stick a sock to it (although I’m assuming sock glue is as sticky as a Post-It note). Maybe Japanese girls have a different view on this, though.

  2. karen Says:

    Thankfully I have never worn sock garters either 🙂

  3. Geoff! Says:

    If I remember my Cub Scout sock garters correctly, they had two green tabs hanging down from them to decorate, in a more scoutly fashion, otherwise ordinary grey school socks. 🙂

    You don’t know about sock glue? Really – you don’t watch enough anime! 😉

  4. karen Says:

    I didn’t know about sock glue. I also hadn’t really thought about sock garters either though and even if I had it would never have occurred to me that I knew people who had worn these!

    I asked Marty about them this morning but he just held out his hands and said “I know nothing”.

Wii Success

For the first time since we bought the Wii I managed to beat Marty at Wii Tennis! I’m thrilled. Blogging – a new tool for gloating.

What Motivates Wiki Writers?

I have been reading a variety of papers to try to gain more understanding of communities and the things that motivate people to participate in various projects. Today, I came across a paper (pdf) by Majchrzak et. al. that discusses a survey carried out among 168 companies regarding the use of corporate wikis.

A while back I read an article in the November issue of the Communications of the ACM by Oded Nov entitled “What Motivates Wikipedians”. (There is an earlier version (pdf) available.)

The top two motivational factors that Nov gives for wikipedians are ideology – that information should be free – and fun. Fun came out ahead of ideology as he discovered that although people talk about ideology this talk does not always become action. It is after all easier to talk about what you believe rather than to actually make a change because of it. Nov also noted that as we get older Fun becomes more important as a motivator.

I was hoping that the paper on corporate wiki users would give me some indication whether or not the same motivational factors are present in the corporate world. But it doesn’t, as its survey questions focused on one of the other motivational factors given for contributing to open source projects – that of reputation. Only a minority of the corporate wiki users reported that the wiki enhanced their reputation leading the writers to believe that corporate wikis have a different effect on users than open source software community participation. This is different than the survey on wikipedians as the top motivational factors of fun and ideology were added to the survey because they are considered open source motivators.

Majchrzak et. al. state that the main benefit of a corporate wiki is that it makes work easier. The main reasons employees gave for adding to or changing the wiki were “information was of immediate relevance to my work” and “by keeping knowledge updated, my work would be easier”.

Most systems designed to share knowledge would have the benefit of allowing people to store information that was relevant to their job yet lots of them fail. It appears that wikis are considered to be sustainable in the workplace and there has to be more to that than its ability to store information. Is the primary motivator really that they make work easier or is it a combination of they make work easier and are fun to use?

Perl Collocates: Google Suggest

I am also interested in collocates of “Perl” that come from sources outside the Perl community. Google Suggest aims to make a best guess as to what should come next in a search and it doesn’t tailor these results based on my previous searches.

Google Suggest Results

I wasn’t surprised that people are searching the web looking for help on how to use various functions and data structures but I was really surprised that their highest search is “perl for windows”.

Perl Collocates: Preliminary Results

Marty has started to analyse the blog data he retrieved from

At the minute we are just looking at the collocates for “Perl”. Unsurprisingly “use perl” came out at the top but given the data source we are going to ignore that.

  • Perl 6 – 9,455 collocated occurrences
  • Perl code – 6,392 collocated occurrences
  • Perl source – 6,301 collocated occurrences
  • Wall Perl – 5,650 collocated occurrences
  • Larry Perl – 4,109 collocated occurrences
  • Perl 5 – 3,852 collocated occurrences
  • Perl unfortunately – 2,936 collocated occurrences
  • Perl Mongers – 2,769 collocated occurrences
  • Perl bug – 2,736 collocated occurrences
  • Perl Foundation – 2,732 collocated occurrences
  • Perl TODO – 2,722 collocated occurrences
  • Perl journal – 2,469 collocated occurrences
  • Perl course – 2,355 collocated occurrences
  • Perl programmers – 2,123 collocated occurrences
  • best Perl – 1,859 collocated occurrences
  • Perl6 Synopsis – 1,451 collocated occurrences
  • Perl6 doc – 1,450 collocated occurrences
  • Perl Horrors -1,332 collocated occurrences
  • Perl community – 1,005 collocated occurrences

The results for “Perl community” are being skewed because nearly 60% of the occurrences are from acme’s blog. I have no idea what “Perl Horrors” refers to and Marty is postulating that the occurrences of Perl 5 are low because that’s what people usually mean when they refer to “Perl” on its own.

There is still lots to do before I have a sensible way to display the results and also before I can graph their development over time.

Perl Collocates: Finding Data

I haven’t forgotten my earlier post where I stated that I wanted to find out what collocates of “Perl” were being used by the Perl community. Stray posted a comment asking me how I planned to define “community” in this context.

“How do you define the perl *community*? Those with the loudest voices? The self-aggrandising, self-publicising, sell-appointed spokespeople?”

At this stage I don’t plan to try to define the community and I am not just looking for those with the loudest voices. But they do need to have a voice as I want to analyse what they have written.

I have decided to start with the blog posts on Once I’ve done that I may take a look at the archives of some of the Perl mailing lists.

Cultural Differences: Flu

I have had the flu for the past week or so. I stayed at home, slept a lot, kept warm and drank lots of fluids. Today I contacted my Japanese teacher as I wanted to have a lesson tomorrow. I am not completely better yet but I do feel much better than I did last week.

She can’t come and teach me tomorrow. She told me that in Japan flu is considered to be an infectious disease. I agree that it’s an infectious disease but what I didn’t realise was the impact of that statement. I’m not supposed to go out and, if I were working, I would need a doctor to say it was O.K. for me to go back to work. My teacher can’t come and see me yet because she knows that there is no way my flu is completely gone. She told me that under Japanese health law she is not allowed to put her other pupils at risk of catching an infectious disease, which could happen if she saw me.

She rang tonight as she was very concerned that I had not seen a doctor. In the U.K. we are encouraged not to see a doctor for something like the flu. You can easily buy decongestants and painkillers to help alleviate the symptoms and apart from that you stay at home, rest, drink fruit juice and wait to get better. In Japan you go and see a doctor as soon as you start to feel ill and again when you think you are better. I asked my teacher what exactly the doctor could do for flu and she said that they give medicine or maybe an injection. She told me that then people recover from flu within 8 to 10 days. I told her that people in the U.K. also recover from flu within a similar time frame.

At this stage in my flu I certainly won’t get a doctor to come and see me but it seems that I am going to be expected to stay at home by myself until I am completely better – which won’t be for a few days yet.

One Response to “Cultural Differences: Flu”

  1. Endrew Says:

    I really wish people here (Northern Ireland) would treat colds and flus this way. It really get’s my goat when people come in to work and you know they’ve more than likely given you a horrible disease that’s going to make you fell like shit for a couple of weeks. Totally inconsiderate.

Lightning Talks: Would I be brave enough to give one?

I always thought that Perl conferences had lightning talks to encourage new speakers. I had a look at the description that MJD wrote when he was organising them and he mentions how they are a good place to start speaking. Geoff, who now runs most of them, also states that they are a “great choice for your first speaking experience”. But I’m not convinced that is true anymore.

In Vienna and Houston last year the lightning talks were held in the main hall in front of the whole conference. The only other speakers who were put under this much pressure were the keynote speakers – who were all experienced. Can you imagine having to give your first ever talk in a large room in front of 300 or so people?

Of course many of the speakers who give lightning talks are very experienced. How would you feel if you were giving your first talk ever and had to speak after 8 other people who had obviously been speaking for years and on top of that were witty, original and funny? Lightning talks have become stand-up comedy. The ones people rave about tend to be the ones that were most entertaining. I imagine that for most people it would be easier to speak for 20 minutes on something technical rather than try to give a five minute talk that is entertaining enough to keep the audience laughing with them throughout it.

I asked Marty recently if he would give a lightning talk at a conference and he said, “I have nothing funny to say”. And I think the expectation is now that lightning talks are there not to teach you something but to entertain you. There was a really good non-funny lightning talk at YAPC::NA last year but it seemed to be out of place. When Paul started talking about his elderly parents I wanted to laugh because that’s all I had been doing for the rest of the talks. It is hard to change pace and recognise that the person on the stage isn’t telling a joke but sharing a technical solution to a serious personal problem.

The lightning talks are not scheduled against anything else at YAPC conferences because so many people want to go to them. We all want to be entertained and I think we should keep these but I would like to see an appropriate forum for inexperienced speakers to talk about technical things.

One Response to “Lightning Talks: Would I be brave enough to give one?”

  1. Barbie Says:

    This was something I took up with Geoff and Thomas, after Houston, in an attempt to think ahead for Vienna.

    Firstly, I suggested having a separate session for new speakers, slotted in amongst regular talks, so that the speakers don’t feel so intimidated. Secondly, I suggested that serious topics are held at the beginning of the session, and purposefully humourous ones are saved to the end of the session.

    Paul’s talk in Houston was fantastic and with the comedy talks around him, it lessened the impact of his talk. I really hope Paul decides to submit a full talk based on his lightning talk for Chicago, as it really does warrant a more indepth talk.

    The current expectation in the audience is that they are going to be entertained, and while I have nothing against some light hearted talks during the conference, there should definitely be a session be allocated for new speakers and serious talks. Speaking in front of 300+ people, who are all expecting you to be funny, is giving the wrong message to speakers of the future.

When We Touch

I’m still thinking about Schwern’s post and the following line:

Touch is powerful, but complicated and we usually don’t employ it

The first part I agree with, touch is indeed powerful. I agree less with the second part, as touch is not always complicated. It’s the third part that surprises me. We use touch all the time when we communicate face-to-face. How often we touch and what is considered appropriate touching is cultural.

A few examples. People may touch when they meet. In the West we shake hands, hug or kiss. People touch at the end of conversations – again they may shake hands or maybe pat each other on the back. People touch during conversations by lightly touching someone’s arm or leg.

As I said the degree of permissible touching depends on where you came from. It was really funny for me to watch Marty’s Dad touch an elderly Japanese man on the train. Marty’s Dad was thanking the man for moving over and giving him a seat. He touched the man without even thinking about it. The Japanese man looked as if someone had just groped him. So there is no doubt that what touching means is open to debate but it still happens all the time.

My Japanese friends have been shocked when I have told them that I have been kissed on the cheek in the office by a business associate. For them that seems overly sexual. To me it’s just a greeting from a colleague and completely sexless.

I was wondering if Schwern was writing about touching in a specific context – that of geeks communicating with geeks. But that still doesn’t make sense to me. I am considered by many to be a geek and Schwern touches me when we chat face-to-face. So maybe it’s just another one of the things we do during face-to-face communication that we aren’t quite aware of. But we shouldn’t discount it, as touch is something that helps us connect with the people we are talking to in a way that can’t easily be replicated when communicating remotely.

2 Responses to “When We Touch”

  1. Schwern Says:

    I didn’t mean to be dismissive of touch. I’m playing the role of teaching by keeping one chapter ahead of the class, and I haven’t put much thought into touch yet. Not enough so I feel comfortable teaching it. There’s a lot of ways it can go wrong.

    I’m glad you’re picking up on the ideas I leave on the floor. You can teach the “advanced topics” class. 🙂

    You’re not the only person to catch my blow off of face-to-face. My friend Alex pointed out that face-to-face is attention grabbing, you can’t ignore someone when they’re physically present.

  2. karen Says:

    I’ve never thought about trying to teach people how to use touch to aid communication. Sounds like that would be a very difficult thing to do.

    I have many other blog posts in draft that pick up points on your blog. I must get round to finishing them – I put a hold on this the other night as I didn’t want my blog to read like a “pick on Schwern blog”. But I do realise that you are happy for people to argue about the things you post.

Smells A Bit Odd...

I was reading the most recent post on geek2geek. In it Schwern discusses face-to-face communication and suggests that video communication is almost as effective. There was quite a bit in the post that I didn’t agree with but for now I’m going to focus on just one aspect of it.

Once those are accounted for, what’s left? Smell? Touch is powerful, but complicated and we usually don’t employ it.

Why is smell such an overlooked sense? Schwern discounts it as quickly as it takes to type it but it is important and does have an impact on face-to-face communication. Most people are aware that body language plays an important part in how we communicate with each other. They are aware but that doesn’t mean that they consciously understand the body language. The sense of smell is similar. For some people, like me, it’s really important, yet some other people are not aware at all that smell can affect how they are feeling.

We use the sense of smell to gather information about the environment around us. This includes information about the person we are talking to. We all have our own unique smell (though some researchers think that identical twins smell the same) and we can recognise our parents, siblings and friends by their smell. We can actually smell fear and apparently we can also smell happiness.

People differ by how important each sense is to them. NLP practitioners believe you can tell how important each sense is by the metaphors that people use when they are speaking. For example people who rely more on their sight use phrases like “you brightened up my day”. And using phrases like “code smell” at least suggests that geeks are aware of smell in some way.

The sense of smell has been important to me since the first time I realised that I felt safe in my parent’s bedroom because it smelt like my mother. Or how happy I can feel in a friend’s apartment because it smells of someone I care about. I know that I can feel dislike towards a person who smells of stale alcohol because it triggers childhood memories I would rather forget. I also know that I can be influenced or distracted by a man who smells really good.

I can also tell when Marty is sick by how he smells. Maybe you are wondering why that would have an effect on how we communicate? When someone is feeling unwell they are much more likely to be short-tempered. Being able to tell that he isn’t quite himself means that I am much more understanding if he snaps at me. I also know that he is much more likely to get annoyed if I am not clear in what I am saying to him – and there are so many times when I don’t make myself clear when I am talking.

But even if we are not aware of how a sense effects us when we are communicating removing it will take away from the experience.