Hard and fast

It just occurred to me this morning while I was skimming through a dictionary of English idioms: the “fast” in “hard and fast” has more to do with steadfast and fastener than it has to do with “fast and furious”.

“Hard and fast” rules always gave me the impression of stubborn, inflexible rules that were made in great haste and were therefore poorly considered. In writing the previous statement, it is even more apparent now that the context in which the phrase is typically used rarely suggests poor judgment or haste for that matter – merely a slightly negative connotation. How often do you hear “there are no hard and fast rules” compared to “these rules are hard and fast, stick to them”.

Perhaps the main source of my confusion comes from the relative ease with which one could use the phrase to describe the performance of a 100m sprinter at a race.

Strange how, in seeking to arrive at some form of cognitive coherence, my mind has fabricated its own meaning of the phrase over a word that has multiple meanings.

How to fake French, Italian and Malaysian English accents

After sitting in on 3 days of Symfony training conducted by French native, I’ve started to pick up a bit of a French accent in the way that I speak.

I’ve always been curious languages, especially the European ones. Usually learning the actual language is difficult, and there is no one to practice it with, so the next best option is to emulate their accents when speaking English.

While there are many aspects and nuances that one needs to watch out for when attempting such a feat, I’d like to share my findings as far as accents go. It’s of particular intrigue for me because of how simple the rules can be, and how effectively it works.

To accent a syllable in a word is to say it louder, or more prominantly than the its sibling syllables. Because accenting is relative to the other syllabi in the word, it doesn’t really affect single syllable words.

Try saying:

When travelling on public transportation in Melbourne, you should always carry an umbrella.

In typical British/American, it is a bit of a mish-mash, but it would go something like this.

When travelling on public transportation in Melbourne, you should always carry an umbrella.

For a French accent, stress the second syllable of every word:

When travelling on public transportation in Melbourne, you should always carry an umbrella.

For an Italian accent, stress the second last syllable of every word:

When travelling on public transportation in Melbourne, you should always carry an umbrella. Spaghetti marinara fettucinni raviolli.

Speaking English like a Malaysian is much harder, but there is a pattern still. The accents are the same across the syllable, but you rely on melody to group the words logically. With the melody, you generally have 3 notes (do, re, mi). The rule: you start low, end your words and phrases with mi.


orange (re mi)
origin (do re mi)
original (do re mi mi)
originally (do re mi re mi)
originality (do re mi re mi mi)
an origin (do do re mi)
the original plan (do do re mi mi mi)

So, you will say:

when travelling on public transportation in Melbourne, you should always carry an umbrella.


You owe me an icecream

We’ve been running TDD at work over the last 5 weeks or so since we started on this new e-commerce platform that we’re building for the business.

Five weeks in, our unit and functional tests have started to take more than 5 minutes to run, and this is after tweaks by yours truly, such as running the MySQL MEMORY tables instead of INNODB tables. 405 tests, just over 1800 assertions and consuming upward of 1.2GB of memory (bad PHP… bad bad PHP…).

Because there’s a team of 5 of us actively working on the same codebase, performing a complete git pull potentially breaks our local build/test cycles for various reasons. Given 5 people in the team (including oneself), one has high 4 in 5 probability of nailing the wrong person. If it turns out that the accuser was at fault, what ensues is a 100% chance of public humiliation.

So to soften the blow, I came up with a concept of owing an icecream. For example, when a colleague wrongly accuses you of breaking the build only to find that cause was him leaving something out, you’d say “now you owe me an icecream”.

So far it’s worked very well to express a combination of  “it’s not that big a deal, we all make mistakes” and “hey, you dumba**, don’t blame me for your incompetence” in a ratio that the receiver can tweak to taste.

“Icecream” invokes fun, carefree and light-heartedness. “Owe” bears the seriousness of the matter, and reeks of mortgage and interest rates. So the phrase becomes conversational equivalent of gunning down someone with a NERF gun or pillow-whacking someone over the head.

Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid

I’ve started reading this book because some smart sounding people think it’s a good book to make you sound smart too.

Up to page 72 now, and I’ve been introduced to self-referencing, Gödel’s Strange Loops, formal systems, proofs, typographical manipulations, meaning and interpretation, axioms and theorems.

I’m sounding smart already.

Hopefully as I read and blog, it’ll help me consolidate my learnings.

Myki and tacking on pronouns

Talk about poor brand message. Off the cuff, here are just two of the many ways this could go wrong.

Myki – It’s your key
If you didn’t quite get what my means, we’re referring to you,  get it?

Myki – It’s your key
I know I said it’s Myki, but it actually really is yours.

On the topic of tacking pronouns to the front of your core brand, doing so makes it very awkward for someone to refer to it in a sentence. One would invariably have to either squelch the pronoun (and diluting your precious brand) or risk sounding like he or she has bad english.

Consider the following:

“My Myki is usually in my wallet , but I can’t seem to find it today. Can I borrow your Myki for the time being?”

“Have you been to the thefreshgrocer in Bendigo? They have very friendly staff”

“Can you believe it? He left such a lame comment on my thefacebook wall” (which, thankfully, isn’t the case)

Here’s not to say that it should never be done. In fact products like newspapers do it very well by way of frequent exposure and being an everyday product. Still their escape isn’t completely unscathed.

“Did you get your tickets to the The Age journalism conference?”

So rule of thumb – consider all the varied and wondrous ways you’d like people to talk about your brand – and try not to make it too awkward to do so. Or, as Mr. Timberlake’s character would say “It’s not cool”.