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Benjamin Oakes

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Hi, I'm Ben Oakes and this is my geek blog. Currently, I'm a Ruby/JavaScript Developer at Liaison. Previously, I was a Developer at Continuity and Hedgeye, a Research Assistant in the Early Social Cognition Lab at Yale University and a student at the University of Iowa. I also organize, ICRuby, OpenHack Iowa City, and previously organized NewHaven.rb. I have an amazing wife named Danielle Oakes.

Filtering for the month August, 2004. Clear

Dating Systems

by Ben

On to nerd(ier) subjects…

I’ve never liked the American date system because defies the logic used by other written forms of time. For example, when writing the time of day one starts at the left and writes the biggest unit: the hour. Then one moves progressively down units: minute, second, etc. That makes sense to me as it is quite logical.

For some reason, the people of the United States chose an interesting date format. Here, it’s commonest to see the date expressed as month/day/year, but in Europe the system is the opposite: day/month/year. Now, by using plain logic, one can infer that the Americans (speaking here of ones of European origin) changed at some point to our current system. In other words, they moved from the logical system to a separate standard that was and continues to be incompatible with Europe. As you can imagine, this causes problems when the two continents want to communicate.

The International Standards Organization (ISO) created a definite way for expressing of time called ISO 8601. This is the way I choose to write dates, as others are coming to do also. It works in the same order as our time of day, so the date and time at the time of this writing is: 2004/08/18 20:59:38. I usually don’t refer to time in a twenty-four hour format because few clocks are configured as such in the States. However, the United Kingdom uses twenty-four hour clocks, a pleasant surprise. Before the world becomes even more internationalized, I have a good feeling that the common people will move to this standard or one of its successors. People can be stubborn, though…

However, I still don’t understand why we use the bases we do. I know they are based upon the mathematical system of a early civilization in Mesopotamia that used base-sixty, rather than our modern base-ten, or decimal. It seems rather arbitrary, but I suppose there is a basis on which it is founded. In any case, America moved from non-decimal system of currency used in Britain not long after our nation’s birth. Of course we could move to decimal time, but I don’t see that happening any time soon, given the proliferation of clocks as they exist currently.


Now, if I were as kind to actually read the links I include in posts, I would be a much better person.

If you’re interested, the “mathematical system of a early civilization in Mesopotamia that used base-sixty” is actually the Babylonians, or as the author puts it “the sexagesimal system used by the ancient Babylonians.”

Not bad for working off memory.

Source: Decimal Time.


by Ben

I used to be into an operating system called BeOS. There was a band made up of employees of Be Inc. called The Cotton Squares (archived) who had their songs posted in MP3 format on their website, but I can only seem to get two of them: 5038 and Virtual Void. Oddly, only a few people on BeShare seem to have any.

The horrible thing is, I think I deleted them a few years ago. That’s the thing about computers, you can be a pack rat with out cluttering up your house. I guess I went on a spring cleaning rampage.

Update (2010/06/06): I’ve found copies of the MP3s I mentioned since writing the original post. I think it’s pretty safe to say they’re some of the last copies available. Since I know I’m not the only person who would go looking for these, I thought I should post them here. The BeOS has gone away, the band’s site is down, I can’t figure out how to contact their label, their fan club is no more, and I can’t even find anything on Amazon.
I think I found Baron Arnold (a member of the band) Facebook and Twitter, so I’m trying to ask him first.

Update (2010/06/22): My efforts to contact the band, its members, and their label has hit a standstill. All seem to have disappeared a number of years ago (but if that’s not the case, please let me know!) and I can’t find any commercial copies of these anywhere. I know several people have come by my site looking for more info about the Cotton Squares, so I thought I’d post the MP3s. Here they are:

(I especially like Focus Pocus.)

This is strictly a posting as a fan. If you’re the copyright holder and would like them removed, please contact me.

Update (2010/07/14): Baron has blessed sharing the MP3s here. See the comments below.

Update (2010/09/19): Joe Prostko contacted me with a download of the above songs, plus some remixes. Turns out I’m not the only one re-hosting this stuff. :) Thanks, Joe!

A little too coincidental

by Ben

The host of The Price is Right never ceases to amaze me.

I learned from a biography that he is a vegetarian. I didn’t really expect it, but I had never really thought about it much. For example, he always ends his show by saying “help control the pet population: have your pets spayed or neutered.” But the first time that I heard that he was vegetarian I had to stop and reflect on that point. Not something I expect from a game show host, for some reason. I was flabbergasted, really…

It’s a small coincidence that Bob Barker and I are both vegetarians, but that pales in comparison to the fact that we were both born on the same day. It makes one wonder, doesn’t it?

I can’t help but wonder what other similarities there might be.