Thursday, January 26, 2006

Toilet humour, a funky fluid, and motivation for me

One of my friends recently told me a funny true story. Modern Japanese toilets have lots of buttons and functionality, most of which nowadays require you to sit on the toilet seat before they will work. It seems that the "is seated" sensor is a relatively recent addition. Anyway, jump back a few years to when these new high fangled toilets came out (pre-"is seated" sensing capability). One of my friends' fathers was examining his new purchase and like most people with new gadgets did not bother to read the instructions. Apparently, he pushed the button for the bidet function (not knowing what it was) and saw this telescopic arm extend down from the back of the seat. Wondering what this was he bent down to get a closer look at which point he was greeted by a jet of water straight to his face. :-)

On TV the other day was a dilatant fluid (shear-thickening) demonstration. This particular fluid (though technically it is a suspension) was made from cornstarch (=cornflour) and water. It has the funky property that when sheared its viscosity increases. This was demoed by a guy putting his foot into a big tub of the stuff and being unable to pull it out (you have to move slowly) and then managing to stand on top of the fluid by running on the spot. I don't have a video of that demo, but here is another one that shows persistent holes:

[Silly Putty has dilatant-like properties but is technically a viscoelastic material.]

Further to the saga of New Year resolutions and the particular goal to improve my typing. I have been wondering what the best way to motivate myself on this front should be. The goal itself is a means to an end but not something I will enjoy in itself (unlike pool playing, snow boarding, language study, indoor rowing, etc). As such, I am thinking that I need some achievement awards or something to ensure that I am suitably incentivised to stick with this activity and see it through to the completion of the goal. I think the incentive should provide positive motivation, but apart from that I am having trouble deciding on what form it should actually take. One idea is to keep a clear jar that gets regular (perhaps daily?) cash contributions (either from loose change or of a fixed amount) and if I meet my monthly improvement targets then I can use the contents of the jar on something I enjoy (should be pre-decided at the start of the month; a fancy dinner perhaps?). Failure to keep up would perhaps mean that the fund needs to go into the savings account or 50% or so should roll-over to the next month. What other ways are there of providing good positive motivation for goals like these ?

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