Autumn snuck up on me

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Caius College tree turning colour

It’s whizzing by pretty fast, actually.  But when I took this photo, on my way to work just at the end of September, I was suddenly noticing that summer had switched off.  Autumn has its own set of atmospheres: the changes in the light, the sense of briskening pace, and various geographically-dependent variations in humidity and temperature.  The start of the new school year is so potent it charges the air even though everyone in our house has either left school far behind or is as yet blissfully oblivious to its existence, and it’s blowing by, dragging Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving (if you’re on the other side of the pond), and Christmas close behind.

xkcd, Google Trends, and opportunists

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I’m enough of a geek that I almost always get xkcd. But when yesterday’s “RPS” comic popped up in my RSS sidebar I was nonplussed.  I must suddenly have felt I had more free time than I actually do, because when I restarted Firefox later today and found myself staring at the comic again, I googled for “rps.” This yielded a variety of unrelated pages, but nothing that seemed likely to be linked. But I did notice that “rps” was apparently the 100th most popular search in the past hour.
Looks as though I’m not alone in my inadequate geekery.  Geekitude?   Obviously I need some English lessons too.  Speaking of geekery, notice the link to the World Rock Paper Scissors Society up there?  Teehee.

Searching for the full “reverse polish sausage” yielded a bunch of direct hits.  In fact, “reverse polish sausage” was the 28th most popular search in the past hour!  Ever perspicacious, I deemed this to be Not a Coincidence.
The ones I clicked on either masqueraded as some sort of malware scanner and tried to install some (malware, that is) on my computer, or contained an ad banner, something that looked like a flash video player (I didn’t click), and a bunch of text with a high proportion of the words “reverse,” “polish,” and “sausage” to lead the search engine to it.  Some had pictures of Polish sausages.  Nice touch.  Some numbnuts (possibly some numbnuts’ computer) is watching the Google search trends for the purpose of reeling people in with garbage web pages.  One heartening result was a blog entry referring to the comic.

Back to the Google trend: the graph is actually pretty neat.  Notice how the plot for “rps,” which locate some actual valid sites (Royal Photographic Society, anyone?), shows some searches before yesterday evening (PDT), whereas “reverse polish sausage” is pretty much flat at zero until the comic comes out.  This serves to illustrate just what an attractive target this hot search phrase makes: it’s really easy to be near the top of the search results while there are hardly any pages already out there with that particular combination of words in them.

So finally.  What’s the comic about?  It’s not, as I feared, some very rude web meme.  It’s a silly pun for Reverse Polish Notation (Wikipedia), one convention for which order to put your numbers and mathematical operators in.

So it transpires that I’m just about nerdy enough — or is it that I’m nerdy enough, and just about old enough? — to have got that one but I missed it.   Now young G, on the other hand, has recently figured out walking while holding on to things.  She has used this new ability to make her way to the calculator her Dad left on the coffee table, and is tapping away soberly at the keys.  Is she born to be a geek (nature and nurture both somewhat stacking the odds here), or is she just wondering why this mobile phone has such a small crappy display?

Now that I’ve spent the time musing over this, what are the odds I will sink more time when the next xkcd comic comes out, checking to see whether the reference was obscure enough to cause a blip in Google trends?

Final note: I see there’s a link on the xkcd page now to the Wikipedia entry on Reverse Polish Notation so this must have been unusually obscure.  As of 20:30 BST, October 5th 2009, there is no Wikipedia entry for Reverse Polish Sausage.

Poem number one

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I composed this riding home one evening.

The freshening air
must be stirring the young ones from their stupor
There’s a lot of bad driving
in small cars
[oh crap]
in cars

In the clear dark sky there is
a bit more than
1/2 lune/moon

Bobbing higher and lower
further and closer
but sinking

Oh look
On the shared-use path along
the stretch of road
where the bike lane vanishes

There’s the darkly-clothed man with
the dark dog and
the dark extensible lead.
He is there most times I pass.

Does his dog have
a delicate urinary or

Or does he simply spend his time
in wait
hoping a cyclist does not see
him or
the dog or
the dark filament
strung across the way
in time

I am home
Goodnight moon

Oh hello

Steam cools on my glasses
The wisteria
now only leaves and stem
look a bit dessicated

I could probably use an editor.  If only to prevent there being a Poem number two.