Category Archives: just asking

Just asking… #6 – ROFL

I’m sure you’ve already read the expression ROFL: rolling on the floor laughing. You even might have used it yourself from time to time in social media posts or text messages when LOL was not strong enough. But suppose you take this literally, drop to the floor and start laughing while rolling. How long can you do this before people start wondering if there might be something wrong? How long before someone starts feeling uncomfortable? How long until that becomes uncomfortable enough to call the emergency service? How long before it’s been decided that you might be a threat to your environment or to society?

It is a specific example of my more general question: when do people consider you to be crazy instead of just silly? I have to admit – a fact readily confirmed by the people close to me, although most of the times there are no witnesses – I can act silly at times. And on occasion there is an urge to just go on and on, without any real reason (assuming there was a reason, or at least a trigger to start with).

So, how far exactly can you go, rolling on the floor laughing, before they lock you away? Just asking…

Just asking… #5 – Is your next boss a robot?

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Some people are worried that in some not so distant future robots will take their jobs away, and that in whatever jobs are still left, humans will be bossed around by algorithms and machines. Personally I think those people hugely underestimate human resourcefulness, but still I’d like to pass on a thought to those more worrying-natured: why on earth do you think this will only happen in the future? It is already happening right here, right now! Just look around: every day your smartphone sends you (with a unrelenting sequence of notifications and sounds) on a hunt for power to recharge it. When you have done that and then sit down to enjoy a movie, the dishwasher starts squeaking – until you get up and push a button to stop it. And when you have just settled down again and hit the play-button, there is the dryer informing you that you need to get up again and fold some laundry…

So, is your next boss a machine? Or is it your current one? Just asking…

Just asking… #4 – Translating metric units

Some countries mainly have dubbing or voice-over for movies and TV shows (Germany and France to name a few obvious examples), in others subtitles are being used. The latter is true for the Dutch speaking part of Belgium – where I often spend some time watching subtitled video content. [For those who have ever wondered why more or less everyone in the Dutch speaking area is quite fluent in English: exposure to video content in English with subtitles in Dutch is definitely a key element.] And what has always puzzled me is the way some English or American metric units of distance are being translated into Dutch subtitles.

You have to realize that 2 ‘levels’ of translation are happening when creating that particular bit of subtitles: at the first level, the words are translated, but for the metric unit there is an additional layer of translation as the anglo-saxon metric unit needs to be converted into the international one. I completely agree that in an sentence such as “The top speed of this car is 154 mph”, the translation of the speed should be “248 km/h”. But what about “The next town is 20 miles down the road”. Should the 20 become “32,2 km” (as I’ve already seen in actual subtitles)? Or should it be “32 km”? Or simply “30 km”? To me the last option definitely seems to be the most natural one – and certainly the one that best captures the underlying meaning of the original phrase, as that was most probably not meant to mean “exactly 20 miles, not 19,9 or 21,1”, but rather “something roughly in the neighbourhood of 20 miles”. So is 20 miles 32,2 km or 30 km? Just asking…

Just asking… #3 – Scrollbars

On most websites and in lots of widely used applications (Gmail and Microsoft Excel to name just a few) the navigation elements that you use most frequently are on the left hand side of the screen: the complete menu (or the most common menu items in case of top navigation menus), the checkboxes to select emails, the info in the most important columns of a spreadsheet (to stick to my examples)… all on the left had side of the screen.

So, why is it that whenever the webpage or the file contains more content than will fit on a single screen, a scrollbar appears… on the right side of the screen? Especially when you are working with a mouse (or trackpad) on a laptop with a relatively small screen, this can be very inconvenient. You simply keep moving the mouse from the left end side of the screen to the right end side over and over again (yes, dear keyboard-shortcut fan, I do know about keybaord shortcuts, but you will have to admit: they can’t be used in all scenarios).

Is someone benefiting from all those extra cursor-miles? Just asking…

Just asking… #2 – Time bombs


There’s a pretty good chance you’ve already seen a few movies or TV shows where a time bomb will go off once the timer reaches the dreaded 00:00. Unless of course the good guy succeeds in dismantling the device – typically at 00:02 or thereabouts, and typically by cutting the red wire, after having had an nerve-wrecking argument with a sidekick character about the color of the wire that needs to be cut first.

That is of course fiction. But what you see in movies is often at least partially linked to reality, so I guess colored wires actually play a role in some real incidents that involve explosives. So: why hasn’t anyone come up with the idea of creating a tool that will cut all wires at exactly the same time, and made this part of the standard equipment of all bomb squad members? Just asking…

Just asking… #1 – Soccer


Around this time of year, in most European countries the soccer competition is starting again. The basic underlying concept is that you have 20 or so teams playing 1-on-1 games of soccer against each other (11 guys or girls kicking a ball from left to right in an attempt to kick it into a goal at the right end of the field and 11 others – conveniently outfitted with shirts of another color – doing exactly the opposite). The team that wins a match gets 3 points, the team that loses obviously get no points. If both teams have scored the same amount of goals during the match, both teams get one point. The teams that has gathered the highest amount of points at the end of the season is that year’s champion.

But now I am wondering: what happens if all matches in the season end in exactly the same score? Say 1-0 or 1-1. By the end of the season, each team will then have the same amount of points and the same amounts of goals scored (usually the second element taken into consideration to determine the ranking). So who will be champion then? Just asking…