There are Lies, Damn-Lies and Statistics, Or Maybe Not

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Some people say there are lies, damn-lies and statistics. My computer systems lecturer disagrees. He says there are lies, damn-lies, statistics and benchmarks. After nearly a week spent slowly disappearing under a mountain of chips, wire and code, I’ve thought up a new one: There are lies, damn-lies, statistics, benchmarks and things-you-wrote-in-your-design-project-plan.

The following explanation has been carefully stripped of any direct references to electronic engineering. (More for my benefit than for yours. Rather unfortunately, my brain appears to have gone on strike. I’m sure I can placate it later with an episode of QI.)

So, my D4 group set out with the express intention of building an elephant. A robust, intelligent creature, capable of assessing complex situations (such as the building being on fire) and giving clear, easily recognisable signals with its huge flapping ears. As of today, we appear to have managed a cluster of blind, anti-social moles. Each individual does something, but at the moment they’re all digging in different directions, making snuffly noises and eating worms.

This is not an ideal place to be the day before the deadline. Still, our inspirational project leader seems convinced we can build the moles into a sort of elephant-shaped pile during the full seven hours we’re given in the lab tomorrow, thus winning fame, fortune and at least a “pass” for this module. To this end, I’m currently teaching my mole to shout very loudly at a handy bit of web hosting. (One I bought ages ago with the express purpose of building a personal website which, thanks to the wonderfulness that is sequential deadlines, currently consists of a holding page.) I mean, what better way is there to tell ECS students that the building they’re sitting in is on fire than via the internet?

Leaving my mole in the corner for a moment (don’t worry, it’ll just spit out test pages until it gets bored) and looking ahead to the as-yet mythical creature that is my other design project. The software one. My current idea would most likely resemble (when finished) a typical half-trained dog. You know, the kind where the owner lost patience after a few days, so it’ll “sit” on command (looking at you expectantly for a treat) but won’t do much else.

This simple approach has the advantage of being very achievable, but I’m still tempted to try something more like a monkey-butler. Namely, something that’ll do anything from polishing your shoes to long-division, but is more at risk of swinging from the curtains if it gets confused.

It’s a dilemma.

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