Eye On The Hog

The Olympic Curling drew to close today, with the USA claiming gold at Sweden’s expense. Life – which had been on hold for the duration of the gold medal match – returned to normal across the US, and we were left (our lives newly bereft of granite and little sweeping brushes) with just one question following an arty close-up camera angle between ends:

Why are there LEDs on top of the curling stones?

This does seem to be a ridiculously technologically advanced addition to what is a sport basically involving some lumps of rock and a bit of ice.

And occasionally, some meldonium.

But I digress. Often.

In previous times, the LED question would have burned away at my brain for some arbitrary time period – let’s say about four years. But now we have Google, and the household’s curiosity could be put to bed long before even the Swedes were.

The answer (well obviously, durr!) is Eye On The Hog.

EotH is your goto system for Hog Line Violation Detection.

And it’s not new:

The concept for an electronic hog line violation detection system came from Professor Eric Salt at the University of Saskatchewan. He offered the concept as a fourth-year design project for a group of electrical engineering students. The original design team included Professor Eric Salt and students; Jarret Adam, Jason Smith, Johanna Koch, and Kevin Ackerman. Startco staff had some early involvement as Eric approached his long time friend Joe Dudiak of Startco to mentor the students. The U of S design had a permanent magnet at the bottom of the rock and a magnetic field sensing strip imbedded in the ice cable connected to a display. The initial in-ice sensing strip was assembled in the Startco facility in the winter of 1999/2000.

After the students graduated, Startco was approached to finish the design and to take the product to market. Although the design was extensively modified, Startco pays royalties to the U of S and the students for sharing concepts and contacts. After over a year of research and development Startco released the Eye on the Hog system.

Neil Houston of the Canadian Curling Association (CCA) expressed interest in the project from the beginning. The CCA was the first organization to purchase the system for use in their competitions.

I did actually wonder what the system was for making sure that the curlers (curling term) didn’t hold onto their stones (curling term) a bit too far. I’d assumed that there were judges at the side of the sheet (curling term) at the hog line (curling term) to ensure that there was no contact twixt curler and stone beyond that which was allowed.

How wrong I was. It’s all electronic, thanks to EotH.

And once you have seen the LEDs, you can’t unsee them. Of course, you only ever see the green ones in use, because theses are athletes at the top of their game (curling) and they release the stones well before the hog line. But in a competition of such fine margins, we’re lucky that Professor Salt and his team was on hand 20 years ago to help us out in detecting curling cheats.

I wonder if he came up with the drug testing idea too?

Water bill

I’ve been quieter about the Cape Town water crisis recently as the threat of Day Zero has all but evaporated (currently put back as far as 9th July). But we’re not out of the woods yet, and nor will we be for at least a couple of years, so saving water is still a hugely important thing to be doing.

Our municipal bill arrived today and I’m really impressed with the efforts our family has made.

That equates to 34.5 litres per person per day, well inside the 50l pppd limit within which we are supposed to be sticking. (Just as well, looking at how expensive those last 2.2kl were.)

And that’s not even including the beagle, which has a Category 4 water utilisation rating: notoriously hydroconsumptive.

This most recent meter reading has helped me understand two things: firstly, there’s the realisation that it can be done. You can live a “Western” lifestyle on less than 50 litres of water each day. Sure, it’s not as straightforward as life without water restrictions, and in fact some of it is actually a bit of a pain, but it can be done. Secondly, it’s made me realise just how blasé we were about using water previously. And fair enough, to be honest, because there was actually plenty of it to go around.

I suspect that I’m not alone in these epiphanies, and whether or not Cape Town runs out of water in a couple of months time, the habits of thousands – possibly even millions – of residents will have been forever changed.

And that’s got to be good news.


UPDATE: There have been some questions. I’m happy to answer them.

No, we were not away on holiday. We didn’t even go away for a weekend. We were here every day.

Yes, a beagle. I know.

I checked back to an old bill for the same period in 2012: pre-water restrictions. I was amazed to find that this bill represents a 94% reduction in the amount of water we used, compared to then.
i.e. We used as much water in just 40 hours in February 2012 as we did in the whole 29 day period this year. Equal parts of incredible and terrifying.

Yes, I’ve double checked. Yes, it’s amazing.

We’re not really doing anything too draconian, just being very aware every time a tap gets turned on. It’s clearly working.

And no, we’re not SEWing. In fact, since the kids are banned from using drinking water from their school, we’ve been giving them more to take from home.

My day

[Day 57 in the Big Brother House, and 6000 is getting twitchy.]

Truth is, it’s actually only Day 8. But this is post an operation that was supposed to take 3 days to recover from. And I’m nowhere near yet.

The good news is that I think that the bleeding in my knee has now stopped. So it’s now “just” a case of keeping it raised and iced and getting rid of all that fluid that’s stuck in my leg. That leg is a mess, physically and visually. My modelling career may be over (long) before it had even begun.

And while lying in bed binge-watching back episodes of Only Connect might be some peoples idea of heaven (me included, actually), it’s tempered somewhat by the pain each time I move anything anywhere.

So yes, I am a bit twitchy and a bit grumpy and a bit down. But then so might you be if you were stuck in my condition, forced to stay at home, and with this week’s lab work already a large blot on next week’s horizon.

Maybe a bit (more) of Series 12 will help with my situation…

Armchair humour

Local lady Desiree Ellis is now in charge of the South African women’s football team, as announced here:

Sofa, so good!

News24 link

Moving music

…or “GoodbyePod”?

I read this Pitchfork article today, all about the excitement of owning a Discman back in the 1990s. And they’re right – it really was something special. Compared to its predecessor, the Walkman, it was a massive step forward. Bigger and more ungainly, yes, but then it had to be because compact discs aren’t very… well… compact. But it was worth it for the ability to skip tracks without the guesswork of holding down the fast forward key for twenty or thirty seconds, like you’d have to do with a tape.

Aside from the size (and consequently, the weight as well), there were other drawbacks. The motor would use up the three or four AA batteries in a disturbingly short time and if you bumped, knocked it, the sound would skip would skip skip. But these things were worth the hassle for the sheer joy of digital music pumping into your head.

Of course, I couldn’t afford a Sony Discman. Not the official one. It didn’t bother me too much though because I’d never been able to afford the official Sony Walkman either.

“You’re only paying for the name,” I would argue. And although the sound quality on the real thing was surely far better than on my no-name-brand equivalent, the £1.99 headphones I was probably using would have been a great leveller, anyway.

I enjoyed tolerated my faux-Discman for a couple of years before I moved on to a Minidisc player (a top of the range Panasonic, no less). This was a step forward, but was also a bit of a pain because you couldn’t buy pre-recorded Minidiscs, so I had to buy them blank and copy my CDs across to them. But there were so many advantages: the size was the big one – this would literally fit into your pocket – as would the spare discs. The battery life was better (and it only took one battery), and it was much better at handling bumps without interrupting the music. Best of all though, you could add track names to the music and they would scroll across the screen while the song played.

This then was the future.

And then along came the mp3. I had a couple of small mp3 players before I got my first iPod in 2005. There wasn’t much difference in size beween my sexy Panasonic and my (white) second generation iPod, and while the battery life was a massive improvement, I’d never struggled with that on my Minidisc player anyway, so that didn’t make much difference either.
But while I could have 15 tracks on any given Minidisc, my iPod could hold 1500 or more. Amazing – sure – but I never did manage to listen to them all in one day.

Fast forward (no pun intended) to the present day, and I’m ready to move on again. My current iPod is full and while (as with many Apple things) it is a design classic, it also (as with many Apple things) isn’t the most user-friendly device. Add the disaster that is iTunes to the mix, and I’m actually done with Steve’s nonsense now. It’s time for another change – and I haven’t made that decision lightly, given that I like to listen to a lot of music while I’m on the go. This must work.

The choice, were I living in the UK (for example), would be clear: streaming. And yes, I do have some streaming service accounts and they work quite nicely, just as long as I am sitting next to a big wifi, as you might often find yourself doing overseas. But data in SA is ridiculously expensive and limiting, and instantly destroys any idea of wandering around listening to music over the net. And so while I like to have these things as a back up, the more obvious answer for me is a 128GB micro SD card in my phone: instant access, effortless movement and choice of tracks, virtually zero battery usage and all on something which I was inevitably carrying on my person anyway.

Apparently there’s not much of a market for single-purpose music players anymore. But I suspect that’s partly a matter of amnesia. We didn’t know it in 1998, but we were lucky that our portable listening devices did not badger us with news alerts and text messages. If they had, the euphoria of the Walkman experience would not have been so pure.

OK, so that is one drawback, and it’s true that pretty much nothing would interrupt my Discman experience back in the day (even though I had a mobile phone back then), but times have changed and if I’m honest, I quite like to have the option to keep in touch – just as long as I can choose to switch it off for the duration of any given album.

I’m open to other suggestions if you have any. I need space for about 12,000 tracks (because you never know when you’re going to need to hear Babylon Zoo’s Spaceman or White Town’s Your Woman) and I’m not willing to go back to CDs. (Oh, and I need a solution for my Windows PC as well, please.)