I was supposed to be going to bed an hour ago, but was just having a leaf through the Lonely Planet guide to wind down before turning in. We're planning a trip to Modena in mid-May to check out some of the car-related sights - Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati, De Tomaso... are all based in the Modena area. So, obviously, rather than wind-down, I've ended up opening the laptop and have been poking around an assortment of websites about all sorts of interesting-sounding little museums.
Quite a few of the museums can be visited only by appointment, which has introduced me to my latest false friend - richiesta.
A false friend is a word that sounds like an easy translation from one language to the other, but which isn't what you'd expect. For example, stufa doesn't mean stuffed, it means stove.
So when it says "le visite alla Fabbrica Maserati sono possibili su richiesta" it doesn't mean that "visits to the Maserati factory are only possible for the richest", it actually means that visits are only "by request".
Recently my mate Kieran has been helping me get my head round marketing as I try to get word out about tedium. I was trying to work out something I could do to say thanks, and as he's been reading The Paradox of Choice it occurred to me that I could share some of the TED talks with him (including the one by Barry Schwartz, the author of The Paradox of Choice).
Kieran isn't a geek by any stretch of the imagination, so I burned the talks onto a DVD so that he could watch them from the comfort of his sofa rather than having to sit in front of his computer. I think that's about the only problem with the presentations from TED.com - it's hard to watch something for twenty minutes if you've got all the distractions of the Internet.
The talks themselves are superb - interesting and insightful topics being talked about by passionate, clever, famous people. If you haven't seen any of the talks before then I heartily recommend having a poke round the TED website or downloading this TED Taster DVD.
That's right, now that I've put the DVD together, I might as well share it with the rest of the world. All the TED presentations are covered by a Creative Commons licence, which means that it's completely legal to copy them and give them to your friends and colleagues... even to random strangers on the Internet ;-)
There are six talks on the DVD. I picked ones that I enjoyed watching and that seem to be well thought of on the web:
Obviously I can't share physical DVDs over the Internet, so you'll need a DVD burner if you want to make your own TED Taster DVD. And because the files are pretty big I can't just set things up so you click on a link and download it - you'll need to use BitTorrent, but (as well as saving some of my bandwidth costs) that will mean that it will download more quickly.
Despite the scare stories you might've heard, BitTorrent isn't hard to use. Lifehacker have a good beginner's guide to BitTorrent and Gordon McLean wrote an excellent starter guide for anyone using Windows.
Okay, here are the torrent files you'll need to download the DVD. Choose the right one depending on where you live (well, really depending on whether your DVD player is NTSC or PAL). Each download is about 3.4 GB in size, so please be patient - it'll take a while to download, particularly at first when there aren't many copies around. And after it's finished downloading, please leave your BitTorrent client running for as long as you can to help share it with others.
And if you just want to watch them on your computer, I've collected all the original files from TED.com and gathered them into the TED Taster mp4 torrent (704 MB).
I know they aren't as easy to watch as your standard YouTube clip, but I think that the more people who get to see the TED talks the better. So, feel free to burn some extra DVDs and give them to your friends, or blog about the TED talks that you love the most, or point people here so they can download the DVD for themselves. Feel free to use the image above, and either link to this blog post or use http://www.mcqn.net/tedtaster (that's just a snappier URL that also points here).
The past few days I've found out a lot about 'dolore'. That's not the Italian version of Dolores, unfortunately - it's the Italian word for pain.
Since the start of the week, I've been suffering from frequent bouts of nasty pain in the left side of my jaw. They'd only last a few minutes, but were every hour or two and even combinations of over-the-counter pain-killers were only able to take the edge off the pain, not remove it.
Today was the first chance we had to go to a dentist to see what the problem was. Luckily the pain wasn't so bad that I couldn't go snowboarding yesterday (priorities, of course ;-) although I hadn't had too much sleep the previous night.
Rebecca came with me, which was great as that gave me much less translating, and less trying to understand or speak; plus some of the staff at the dental surgery could speak some English (probably a similar level to my Italian). So between us all, we managed to discuss whereabouts the pain was; whether it was affected by eating or hot or cold drinks; whether it was an ache or a sharp pain (Italians don't seem to do stabbing pain, but have cutting pain instead).
Then there were x-rays and experiments with super-cooled wads of cotton wool to see if the problem could be replicated or isolated. Luckily, while we were in the waiting room I'd idly discussed with Rebecca the Italian for 'smile' (which is 'sorriso'), so I understood the instruction when the dental nurse was taking the x-ray.
They decided it was most likely an abscess, and so I can now add devitalizzazione - root canal work - to my list of Italian experiences.
It was all very clinical and professional; the dentist even went as far as erecting a small trampoline in my mouth - apparently to stop any debris falling down my throat. It's a Canadian invention, she told me, and seemed quite surprised that I hadn't encountered such a device before. She also told me that my teeth were brutta (ugly), and had an extended discussion with some sort of electronic dental device salesman about the amount of amalgam in my mouth - all while pulling the nerve out of my tooth and filling it in again - so maybe she's come away with a less rosy view of NHS dental work.
My favourite new piece of vocabulary from this experience has to be dente del giudizio. Teeth of Judgement sounds much more apocalyptic and superhero-like than wisdom teeth.
Once again I'm late to the party with my blogging. A week or two back, Paul Robinson posted an entry to his blog lamenting the state of the computer industry. I agree with a most of what he said: services like Facebook could be a really good way to keep in touch and engage with our friends, but have devolved into an endless parade of me-too, frothy, time-wasting games.
By the time I'm getting round to writing about it, things have already moved on. There have been a few responses to Paul's initial post; he's posted a summary of them; and thrown up an area of his website to discuss "The Vision Thing". On there they've even started to draft a manifesto.
All of which is highly commendable, but having read through it I'm left feeling a bit like a goth who's arrived late to a rave. Paul talks about wanting some meaning, and a vision that goes beyond building something "a bit like eBay but with a social graph". I don't see anything like that in the draft manifesto. "Down with IE6" is just froth in geek flavour. "Look after yourself" is just good advice, not something to fight for.
It's a very British manifesto: full of good intentions, but lacking ambition. Microsoft didn't set out to "make businesses lives a bit easier", they wanted "a computer on every desktop and in every home". We should be aiming for "renewable power generation on every home and every office" or "computer and Internet access for every single person in the UK" or...
I know that I'm doing no better than Paul in just writing this blog post. I don't have a solution. Yet. tedium is hardly going to revolutionize the world, but similarly it isn't just froth. It's also just the first step towards building something bigger. I don't have a full handle on my mission to change the world, but I'm beginning to grasp the strands that will weave together to produce it.
The first quarter of 2008 is over, which means that I've just received my quarterly Productivity Report from tedium.
I can't make a direct comparison just yet because the last report was for a whole year, but if I maintain this rate of completing tasks for the rest of the year, I'll have done more than 25% more things in 2008 than I did in2007. Of course, I'm still managing to add new tasks faster than I can complete them, but you can't have everything...
Tasks are also spending less time in the "system" before I complete them. In 2007, on average it took just over a month for a task to be completed, but so far in 2008 I've almost halved that time.
Anyway, that's enough retrospection. I need to get back to doing things to keep my completion rate up for the next report!