How men should urinate in the bathroom

I find that generally, ladies’ bathrooms are cleaner than the men’s bathroom. Ladies’ bathrooms are also more crowded because women tend to chat and hang around in the bathroom, primping themselves, but men are very succinct when they do their business. Come in, do what you need to do, leave. Kind of like a commando raid.

However, I look at the floors in the men’s room and I usually feel ill. It’s a muddy collection of footsteps in yellow fluid.

At home, I like to keep the bathroom clean. I like the bathroom floor to be dry after I use the bathroom. My motto on bathroom use: “Cleaner than when you arrived” which roughly can be interpreted as, if one uses the bathroom, one should use it cleanly, in fact, the place should be cleaner and tidier than when you first arrived.

I keep the toilet seat down after I use it since I’m the only male in the house (two females, three, if you include our nanny who works days). Before we acquired our nanny, I spent last year cleaning our bathroom at least once every two weeks.

Muddy bathrooms are like itchy spots in the middle of your back. They are really hard to reach and they are incredibly irritating. I keep looking at the floor in angles, detecting puddles which are hard to see especially if it’s clean water. Muddy puddles are easier to see but since I want to practice prevention, if I see a muddy puddle it means I failed in being vigilant; I’d just stepped in a puddle, making the water muddy.

Men’s bathrooms are smelly, dirty and unhygienic solely because of the way our…equipment are designed. Many guys don’t realize it, but when they drizzle, there’s a little tinkling in the opposite direction. If they aren’t careful, they may have actually sprinkled on their pants already (but the urine spots are so few and small, they usually dry up and aren’t noticed).

In Indonesia, some urinals have become positively draconian. The management attached clear plastic shields that look like those bulletproof shields a machine gunner turret has, with a little notch that makes room for our equipment so that we will tinkle into the urinal, and not on to the floor. I think the measure is too much, but I do feel for these folks. I keep checking the floor in front of urinals for little yellow puddles and when I see spots I shoot a mental thought at the previous user, “Boor!”

The tiny backspray is almost undetectable because the man, from his point of view, can’t look under his equipment and see if his drizzle is spraying a little in the opposite direction. When men take out their little friend, the lips of the tip of their equipment are stuck together because for a long time it’s been stuck in the pants. When we urinate, the gummed up lips are like putting your hand in front of a garden hose: instead of a nice, clean, steady stream, the garden hose is spraying everywhere.

So it is with us when we tinkle.

I have a solution for this.

I like leaning forward when I tinkle, so that from the side, I’m a little like the bow of an archer. I try avoid touching the ceramic of the urinal or toilet so that it will not stain my pants (in case there are fluids or brown stains there). Then I grasp the head, and with my two pointing fingers, make my equipment talk. I mean, I widen the lips of the head to unstuck the lips. This helps reduce any backspray, and I can tinkle fairly assured I won’t wet my pants or spray on the floor.

Does it work? Well, after urinating, I check the front of my pants. They are dry. I check the floor for droplets. No drops. So far, the system works for me.

Be polite. Keep the men’s bathroom clean. Don’t wet your pants or piddle on the floor. Do a little ‘talking’ to make sure the little guy’s opening is free and clear to urinate.

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Why The Dark Knight Rises isn’t in 3D but is in IMAX instead and Why That’s GOOD!

Exactly what is Imax and why do I argue you should watch “The Dark Knight Rises” in Imax?

I remember when I was buying a ticket to Mission Impossible 4 Ghost Protocol, the guy behind me asked if the movie was in 3D. The saleslady was forced to say no. I had to butt in. “The movie isn’t in 3D but it’s in Imax, which is a film size ten times bigger than a normal movie. When you watch it, it will feel like they knocked out a wall in the theater, it will feel like you’re really there! For normal movies, you don’t need this, but for a movie like this Mission Impossible, like in the Burj Khalifa scenes, when the camera looks down, you are looking from the tallest building in the world. Imax is worth it, in this case. 3D will just diminish the experience.” I think he bought the ticket.

First, let’s talk about resolutions. For convenience, we’ll use pixels to compare resolutions. Pixels are the little dots that make up the pictures in a video screen. Depending on the technology, a pixel can be a colored dot in the old Cathode-ray tube television, a Liquid Crystal Display dot on an LCD screen or a Light-emitting diode dot on the new LED televisions.

So here’s a graphic showing the various kinds of video display resolutions, ranging from the VCD format to Blu-ray to 1080p High Definition TV’s and the 4k format used by high-end video cameras.

At the lowest corner, you can see the screen size of the VCD format. It’s laughably smaller than the DVD or the Blu-ray (the 1080p standard). Blu-rays, just estimating from the size of this graphic, have nine times the pixels of a DVD.

What does that mean for you? If you bought a nice new 100 cm LED television and you project a VCD disc, it would look incredibly ugly, a DVD would look kind of blurry, and a 1080p Blu-ray would look quite good.

The big red box is the 4k resolution, used by professional video cameras like the Red One or for rendering computer-generated visual effects for companies like Industrial Light & Magic. Let’s not fool around with that.

Now, a normal, everyday (actually, with the bankruptcy of Kodak and Arriflex and Panaflex’s halt on the production of film cameras, not so everyday anymore and growing rarer daily) film is 35 mm, so called because its width is 35 mm. Its pixel count is, well, none because it’s an analog medium, not digital. The film picture’s dots are in the atomic scale, when the silver molecules react with light to capture the image on the film stock. We can only estimate, oh say, 20 million pixels. A normal eye can probably detect 9 million pixels. The extra pixels are the subtle little colors and shades that makes a film picture look so realistic.

So a DVD image intended for the old television standard has a display resolution of 640×480 pixels, or a laughably small 300,000 pixels per image. A Blu-ray, with a resolution of 1920×1080 has a resolution of 2 million pixels. The new Apple Macbook Pro’s retina screen has  a resolution of 5.2 million pixels! Higher than an HD television crammed in a 38 cm screen!

But that’s still a far cry from a single frame of film, and I’m talking about the normal 35 mm film, the same film they’ve been using since Charlie Chaplin’s time, before the dawn of television and video. Film at its best has a resolution four times of Blu-ray. Even the professional video format, at 4k resolution, has a total only of 7 million pixels.

Compare the film format to Imax, however, and you’r talking about the Eiffel Tower versus Mount Everest. Imax film is two times wider than 35 mm. Yes, they use 70 mm film. But to get an even bigger film frame, they flipped the film 90 degrees. While normal movies project the film up to down, Imax projects it sideways!  Here’s a comparison of frame sizes.

Look at the sprocket holes in the 35 mm film. It’s at the left and right. When the film travels, it goes from up, down. The sprockets in the huge Imax film is on top and below, so the film runs sideways. The film frame isn’t just twice bigger, it’s now ten times bigger.

If a perfectly shot 35 mm film frame has an estimated 20 million pixels, an Imax screen has 200 million pixels per frame. That’s an image that is more realistic. You’re really there, you see all the details.

That means an Imax film’s screen can be 30 meters (almost 100 ft) tall.

So when there are epic scenes in The Dark Knight Rises (trust me, there are many) you will see all the crowds, all the explosions, all the details of the entire cityscape as director Christopher Nolan meant it to be seen. And for this Batman movie, he shot fifty minutes of the two hour and forty minutes running time in Imax. So if you want to get what you paid for and what he worked hard to show you for, you should watch it in Imax.

But wait! That isn’t all! Many Imax theaters nowadays, to spare themselves the expense, have been showing not FILM Imax but Digital Video Imax. The screens, while bigger than a normal screen, look puny compared to true Imax film. Here’s a comparison:

Imax experience theaters usually have 18 meter screens while real Imax theaters have 30 meter screens. If the screen is small, likely you watched at an Imax experience theater. The trouble is, they charge the same amount for totally different things! And they give no indications that there’s a difference!

Now, why isn’t it in 3D? Actually, real 3D are holograms, the kind portrayed in movies like Total Recall (I assume even the new Total Recall has 3D holography). When a 3D image is projected, you should be able to walk around it and see all sides. The 3D they have nowadays in movies is accurately called Stereoscopy.

While Imax has a big film image allowing you to view vistas with scope and grandeur, 3D tends to make things more intimate, like in horror films where the killer’s knife or ax swings towards the audience. 3D tends to make images so close you can reach out and touch it. Christopher Nolan, despite all the press about it, does not hate 3D. In fact, he was thinking of making Inception in 3D except they didn’t have time to do a quality 3D conversion. To quote him about 3D for The Dark Knight Rises:

” I find stereoscopic imaging too small scale and intimate in its effect…The thing with stereoscopic imaging is it gives each audience member an individual perspective. It’s well suited to video games and other immersive technologies, but if you’re looking for an audience experience, stereoscopic is hard to embrace. I prefer the big canvas, looking up at an enormous screen and at an image that feels larger than life. When you treat that stereoscopically, and we’ve tried a lot of tests, you shrink the size so the image becomes a much smaller window in front of you.”

“Whereas the operatic quality of The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises felt very well suited to IMAX’s larger canvas. So it’s different depending on what film you want to do. But, in each case, as a filmmaker who’s been given sizable budgets with which to work, I feel a responsibility to the audience to be shooting with the absolute highest quality technology that I can and make the film in a way that I want.” from Collider.com

So if you want to watch “The Dark Knight Rises”and see the true epic grandeur of the movie treat yourself to Imax, but make sure it’s TRUE Imax, and in the Philippines, that’s SM Mall of Asia’s Imax!

43 Anniversary of Apollo 11

Today, July 21, 2012, is the 43 Anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. I was two years old at the time, but I remember the news, with black and white (that’s what we could afford that time) live broadcast images of two people in bulky white suits jumping slowly around like on trampolines. Their helmets looked enormous and they were quite clumsy in their suits. MSNBC posted a recollection of one of mankind’s greatest achievements, with links to some online interactive sites that include looking at the original landing site during different times of the lunar day. The MSNBC article also points out after the tragedy of the Colorado shootings last July 20, this is a gentle, but positive, reminder that people are capable of great things too.

Wanted: More Powerful, Efficient Robots

DARPA (the U.S.’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) wants to make robots last longer (currently they can live 10-20 minutes without a power cord). This can be useful when sending robots in hazardous situations (like defusing bombs, rescuing people in a fire, cleaning up nuclear waste).

If you think even further, efficient, intelligent robots can free most people from jobs we don’t want to do, like menial, repetitive work, the kind that drives Foxconn employees to riot and commit suicide because of the subhuman conditions they have to endure manufacturing iPhones and iPads.

Hopefully, the unwanted labor can be shunted to robots, and people will be left doing creative and uplifting work, work people want to do, instead of work people have to do because they have to make a living to support themselves.

However, as any science-fiction enthusiast knows, the more powerful and intelligent we make robots, the more likely they can achieve sentience, which, to some people, makes them qualified for human rights. And their forced servitude, without compensation, will be tantamount to slavery. So naturally, we have to give them equal rights and citizenship, and all those robots will be competing with us for jobs (and they might be more tireless, powerful and efficient at it than us).

Leaving us again without anyone but ourselves to do the gruntwork.

The British Aren’t Coming! Part 2

Part 2 – Our Jugular Vein

(Read Part 1- The British Aren’t Coming!)

When the iPhone was introduced, and Steve Jobs used Google Maps to look for the nearest Starbucks, call it and order for coffee, he captured our imaginations. A few years later, when Apple introduced Siri and her search/assistance capabilities, I thought of Jeeves in Iron Man (though Siri is still not as advanced as Jeeves).

With our increasing dependence on computers and the internet, the technology increasingly becomes our vulnerability. It is simply too convenient not to network our utilities (power, water, communications, etc) through the internet. In Jeremy Clarkson’s BBC documentary he demonstrates how he can kill a computer using an electronic magnetic pulse (EMP). A low-kiloton nuclear weapon detonated over a city can do the same thing.

However, I can already remember in two films, notably Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Live Free or Die Hard (Die Hard 4.0), the Hollywood writers speculate that cyber warfare can bring our networks down through cyberattacks and computer viruses. Nuclear weapons or exotic technologies that can generate EMP’s are not necessary. They only need to create a virus, and with our interconnected, socially networked computers, everything can easily brought to its knees.

Look around you and count the blessings computers have brought us: Internet access everywhere, smartphones that are bona-fide handheld computers, people being able to bank over the internet, work over the internet, buy anything over the internet. Then imagine if one terrible day, all these gifts were taken away. We will have to go to the banks to withdraw. We will have to go to the library to find out what we need to know. We will have to go to the office to work. Worse, what if all the power went out, all the water and telephones are cut, and when we go outside our homes all the streets are choked with traffic, all the airports are closed, the government and private offices are closed and no one can figure out how much pay they should get because all the computers and the networks are dead?

In a few hours, chaos. In a few days, anarchy. In a few weeks, our veneer of genteel civilization and scientific wizardry would be stripped away. We would be savages in a year.

That’s the Die Hard  scenario. In the Terminator 4 scenario, the virus achieves sentience and starts wiping us out, or worse, enslaving us.

Ludicrous? Impossible? No, we are eagerly rushing to meet this future! The future where we will willingly hand over all tasks, all our records and our mountains of data, all the inconvenient nitty-gritty of maintaining civilization, to computers. And one day, after computers have slowly replaced our gods, they will fail us or worse, rebel against us and punish us. What should be done? How can we prevent this? Would it be possible to still use computers to do the important clerical work but not relinquish to them complete control over our lives?

The British Aren’t Coming! Part I

One of my favorite teaching tools is the BBC video “Inventions That Changed the World” with its host, Jeremy Clarkson from Top Gear. Jeremy is a funny, sarcastic guy and he certainly got the viewer’s attention at the beginning when he demonstrated the love/hate relationship mankind has with computers.

However, I have a personal two favorite bits in his show, and I’m making a two-part blog post about them.

Part I – The British Role in Computer History

1. Charles Babbage conceived of a Turing Complete computer one hundred years before the the first constructed Turing Complete computer.

Babbage’s Analytical Engine was Turing-complete. The significance of being ‘Turing-complete’ is instead of making many specialized computers each able to do one thing, you have one computer that can do many things. The computer becomes a Jack-of-all-trades or the Swiss-Army-knife among machines. All you need to do is to switch the program you’re using to suit your need. If we want to listen to music, we open iTunes. If we want to play games, we open Plants vs. Zombies. Our smartphones and laptops are Turing-complete computers.

2. During World War II, Tommy Flowers made a code-breaking computer, ‘Colossus’, that helped win the war.

When the war ended, a fifty-year security clampdown prevented anyone from exploiting the technology. Anyone British, that is. The Americans knew about Colossus, and turned what they knew into world dominance over the computer industry today. The largest computer companies today, whether hardware or software, are American and Asian. Very few British computer-related brands (of any significant size) survives.

The upshot of both is: twice, the British were on the verge of a computer revolution years ahead of any other world power and twice, the British let the opportunity slip past their fingers. The first instance, during Babbage’s era, the British was a naval power, with an empire extending worldwide. Babbage’s Analytical Engine would have been a fantastic technological advantage, but Babbage spent all the government’s money without finishing his first machine, so the government stopped his funding.

In the second instance, Britain needed the Colossus computer to break the German Enigma code. When they won the war, they could see an upcoming war with their former allies, the Russians, so the British Government kept Colossus a secret so they would have a technological advantage in codebreaking against the communists.

Here is the fun part: What if in either or both instances, Britain ‘got it’ and developed and exploited computers?

In the second instance, after World War II, if the British did not save ‘Colossus’ as a secret technological advantage against the coming Communist threat (the Russians), then the British might have been toe-to-toe with the Americans, perhaps might even had dominated the industry and maintained their dominance, keeping the technological edge within Europe. Perhaps a British brand (‘Apricot’ Computers?) would lead the industry today, keeping IBM from the no. 1 spot, possibly preventing Apple from coming into existence.

If the British dominated the computer industry and the American IBM was no. 2, would they have crowded out Sony, Fujitsu, the Taiwanese Asus, the Korean Samsung? Would personal computing evolve or would they have kept the ‘mainframe’ and terminal paradigm? Big mainframe computers and dumb terminals for users to log in through? Would the Internet have evolved or would the industry freeze in the mainframe paradigm because the British have maintained their economic, technological and political dominance over the world for so long?

How about the first incident with Babbage? What if Babbage had succeeded and we had computers in the 19th century, before the development of electricity and gasoline engines even? That would be more fun to speculate about.

Would our computers run on steam? Can you imagine a steam-driven laptop or smartphone? With computers, would we have developed airplanes, or even better, safer air transport like dirigibles, evoking the future of steampunk fantasists?

Surely, armed with steam computers, the British Empire would survive till today. That means Hong Kong, Malaysia, India, Australia and more would still be British. With their computers, they can maintain their Empire and perhaps even expand it. Could a World Government be achievable? Hard to believe, more likely even with the help of computers running their empire the whole thing would still fall apart.

However, if the British maintained and even expanded their empire until the entire world were united as one government, would all our resources and efforts have focused outwards, towards space exploration? It was H.G. Wells, a British citizen, who speculated about these things in his novels ‘The First Men in the Moon’ and ‘The Shape of Things to Come’. Would the British World Empire decide to explore and exploit the solar system?

That would be fun to imagine, us maturing as a species, able to unify as one government, technologically advanced enough (thanks to the early development of computers) to colonize the solar system, giving us the confidence and practice to make the first leaps towards other stars light years away.

(Read part 2 of ‘The British Aren’t Coming!)

Filipina Helps Prove Einstein’s Theory of Relativity

This is old news, it happened two years ago, except this March, 28 year old astrophysicist Reinabelle Reyes visited the Philippines, rekindling interest in her two-year old achievement at the tender age of 26. She, and a group of fellow scientists, managed to prove how galaxies up to 3.5 billion light years away cluster together just the way General Relativity predicted, proving the theory in a pan-galactic scale when it has only been previously proven within the solar system.
In her interview, she comes off as a sensible, humble person; her achievement is certainly refreshing considering women in the news nowadays range from ex-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s fight against corruption charges to Kim Kardashian, about which the less said, the better. If young girls want a role model, they would be wise to choose Ms. Reyes.

I find it also interesting that Ms. Reyes is an atheist (from reading the article, I suppose she is, though there are so many subtle shades of position in the matter of one’s faith that I could be wrong). Yes, it is common for astrophysicists and mathematicians to be atheists (the most popular example is Stephen Hawking), but there are also many Jesuits who are astrophysicist and mathematicians, the most notable is Christopher Clavius. The previous president of Ateneo de Manila, Fr. Nebres, is a mathematician. The present president, Fr. Villarin, is a physicist. It would be interesting to ask these two people how their faith survived the scientific method.

A Belated Happy Birthday to Alan Turing

from https://i1.wp.com/www.bilerico.com/2009/09/Alan_Turing.jpg

I have been woefully remiss. Turing’s 100th Birthday came and passed last June 23 and I didn’t post a single thing in this blog named after his famous (well, I changed it a little) test for Artificial Intelligence. Exactly what did Alan Turing do?

He’s the father of computer science and artificial intelligence. In layman’s terms, he thought a computer can solve any sort of problem as long as you can break down the problem into simple step-by-step calculations called an algorithm.

He also thought of a Universal Machine (nowadays called a Universal Turing Machine) to demonstrate his idea. It was never meant to be built, but it was a ‘thought experiment’ (Albert Einstein popularized the idea of using a thought experiment if a real experiment can’t be performed), of how a computer works.

The Turing machine can be described as a simple box that can read symbols. The box is attached to an infinitely long tape with symbols. Depending on what symbols it reads, the box will move forward or backward along the tape, reading, memorizing, copying or writing on the tape.

And that’s it. From that simple idea, the whole field of computer science emerged.

His Universal Machine was the theoretical breakthrough that led to the Stored Program Computer. A Stored Program Computer is a very simple idea. Before the Stored Program Computer, computers were thought of as specialist machines. A calculator is used for calculating, right? You don’t use a calculator to take pictures. But the Stored Program Computer can change its purpose depending on the application you open. If you open your Photoshop application, you can fix photos. If you open iTunes, you listen to music. If you open Windows Media Player, you play videos. If you open Plants vs. Zombies, you play games. You don’t need to open up a computer and add parts or change the wiring . Suddenly, the computer becomes some kind of Swiss Army Knife among machines, able to do almost everything you want as long as you switch the application program to use.

All computers nowadays are Stored Program Computers, from your smart cellphones, to massively parallel supercomputers, to automated teller machines, to iPads and ebook readers. And all owe their theoretical origin from Turing’s Universal Machine.

What else did Turing do? He was a codebreaker at Bletchley Park, among the mathematicians who broke the Enigma code for Hitler’s top secret radio transmissions. Their work help win World War 2.

Turing also invented the Turing Test (which, slightly modified, is the name of this blog). It’s a test to see if a computer is self-aware and sentient, in short, an artificial intelligence. Like his Universal Machine, the test is easy. Put a computer in one room, a man in another room, and an interviewer in a third room. The interviewer can read text messages from the man and the computer. If the interviewer, after a long conversation, can’t tell the difference between the two, the computer has intelligence.

Turing was gay, which was illegal in the United Kingdom at the time. To avoid jail, he accepted chemical castration (taking female hormones to reduce libido), and committed suicide two years later at 41 (though his family disputes this).

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown,  a few years short of the centenary of Turing’s birth, made an official apology on behalf of the government about “the appalling way he was treated”.

Some good Turing links if you want to know more about this man:

A website by Andrew Hodges, a biographer of Turing: http://www.turing.org.uk/turing/

The wikipedia entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Turing

An interesting essay on artificial intelligence and how far we need to go before achieving it: http://www.zdnet.com/blog/btl/what-happened-to-turings-thinking-machines/80639?tag=mantle_skin;content

Hairy Selection in Photoshop

Ah, hair, the nightmare of selecting a person and pasting him somewhere else realistically. I can zoom in, use mask or lasso and do it hair by hair, but that would be too tedious. Here in this tutorial is probably the best method I’ve encountered so far in extracting a person from the background, with the added bonus you get to practice with some obscure tools and settings.