Move Over Jeeves!

It’s part of the common vernacular to ‘Google’ something – just like you’d stop a runny nose by reaching for the Kleenex, or fixing a cut with a Band-Aid. While it’s hard to argue that Google isn’t the ‘best’ at finding results (if you find yourself in the 2nd page of Google results, chances are you won’t find what you’re looking for), there are definitely different ways in which search engines could deliver results to their users.

First I’ll get the technicality out of the way. I’m going to explain (preaching, really, to a congregation of more faith than I) how to make a certain search engine the default search engine.

Oh wait…no I won’t!

(Kidding, of course I will, it’s worth half a mark just to do it.)

How to set default search engine:

To make things clear: I will simply be outlining how to do it for PC Chrome users. It really should be the browser to use, because not only is it run by the same people who basically run Gmail, Youtube, Drive, Maps, Translate and, well, everything you ever need to pretend to be smart, it’s a very fast browser, and extremely easy to delete the whole bunch of toolbars and plug-ins that your parents got suckered into installing.

First, go into the main menu by pressing the horizontal lines to the top right hand corner of the browser, right under the big red X. Go down to settings, and enter the settings page. On the fourth heading on the Settings page, where you see the word ‘Search’, you’ll also see the button ‘Manage Search Engines’. Clicking that will open up a small box where there might be a whole list of websites that have any form of search function built in. The top section of that list is the list of “default search engines”, and hovering over the one you want to use – say, ‘Bing’ (ha) – will bring up a small choice to ‘Make default’. Click it, and now when you type into the blank searchbar, you’ll be using Bing by default. Quick, change back before you regret it!

Alright, now to the comparisons.

I am comparing DuckDuckGo, instaGrok and the mighty Google.

The search term which I used across all three engines was ‘dofp’, the abbreviation for ‘Days of Future Past’, which is the title for the upcoming X-Men movie. I used this because the theatrical trailer was released yesterday, so the buzz should be quite high.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo focuses on getting the user an answer, straight away, whereas instaGrok is about teaching the user anything they would want to know about the topic, and all the sub-topics, etc. Google will find you links to sites that would have information on what you searched, placing the most commonly accessed and/or relevant on top, so on.

Because of this, DuckDuckGo gave me an Instant Answer box, which actually told me about the original comic of Days of Future Past. Then, the third result down was the one which mentioned the film in a journalistic capacity – that is, not purely review – with the video to the trailer. The first result was actually to acronym.com, to tell me what dofp could stand for, despite the Instant Answer having told me already.

In this way, DuckDuckGo was rather useless in terms of helping me get to an immediate access to a trailer, a cast list, a release date, or news from major sites, but it did give me an immediate answer, albeit to the wrong medium.

Top results with DuckDuckGo

Top results with DuckDuckGo

InstaGrok

instaGrok is probably not built for this kind of searches. Firstly, I actually had to re-assert that I was searching ‘dofp’, not ‘dop’, but after that, things got interesting. instaGrok works like a mind-map, the kind you drew in primary school with branches that come out of a central idea. In this case, the branches that came out of my search term (when setting the search difficulty to ‘Einstein’) gave me topics such as ‘Avenger’, ‘Bryan Singer’, ‘Evan Peters’, and ‘ Film’. Film was giving a separate part of the branch, meaning that it is of a different significance to the other branches.

So, I still have no idea what ‘dofp’ stands for, if that’s why I searched it, but instaGrok has given me the opportunity to delve into other, similar subjects. Bryan Singer is the director of the film, Avenger is a franchise which is set in the same comic universe as X-Men, although the movie rights are owned by different companies, and Evan Peters is an actor in the film. ‘Film’, on the other branch, gave me a chance to go off on a whole different tangent of knowledge.

Clicking on each segment gave me a few, unexplained choices. I realized that I could look at the key concepts of the segment as defined by other users (completely irrelevant for ‘dofp’), I could look at websites that discuss the search term (still useless but more relevant in terms of gathering some information), but none of them are in any way telling me about the search term, or giving me a chance to be linked to somewhere else that could, in a sentence, tell me about it.

Results with instaGrok

Results with instaGrok

Google

Finally, Google gave me news results to begin with – great, because the 2nd one down linked me to a big site that had the trailer – then went on to give me the Wikipedia link to the comic series page. To the right, Google also had a small box, much like DuckDuckGo’s Instant Answer box, that gave me a fast tidbit to tell me it was an upcoming movie.

Top results with Google

Top results with Google

Now, I spent so long explaining the first two search engines, because the results were very interesting to me. While the search term that I used may not have been the broadest of terms, it is one which would be quite popular at the time of writing given the surrounding societal situation. DuckDuckGo is good for that instant answer, but delved into strange results, especially by prioritizing smaller or unknown sites over large, expansive ones (Joblo.com before IGN.com). instaGrok, on the other hand, was almost completely useless in this search term, but if I was to be doing research on X-Men, for example, I would given segments to explore all kinds of terms related to the in-universe as well as the genre aspects of the term.

In all, DuckDuckGo would be a search engine I use for the Instant Answer function, instaGrok one which would start a research effort, and Google will ultimately be my friend for specific information.

Alex.

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Tracing letters along my back

Today Annie and I went to the uni library again to do research for our final essay. We thought it would be straightforward like it was for Asian PR, which we did a week prior.

It wasn’t.

We didn’t realize it when picking the topic, but the ambiguity of our research question drove us to near madness. We shuffled through the pages of our books hoping that something would jump out at us, or the jumble of quotes that we were slowly compiling would fall into some sort of essay structure.

Thank my stars Mela came just in time. She sat with me and calmed me down when I had my – and I never have these – attack of pure hopelessness. And it was a good thing she was there to do so, because otherwise I think I would have taken it out on Annie to the point where we would have had a massive fight.

While I was buried in my book and trying to make sense of the confusing language, Mela was watching a movie – tactfully turned away from me – and tracing abstract shapes and letters on my back. I don’t know if in her past this had worked, but I sure never told her that this was something my grandma used to do to lull me to sleep when I was very young. It calmed me down a lot and made me feel a bit better about my situation.

Sure, if I think about how much time I have left compared to the workload, I get scared again. But I’ve seen my ability to write even the most confusing and unresearched essay in a short period of time before. I’ve done the maths – I know that I just need to pass these essays to pass those classes, and even though that’s not the kind of mark that would make my parents happy, these are difficult and dry classes, and I doubt anyone would be having a good time in them.

I took a long hot shower when I got home. My skin reacted slightly to Mela’s sunscreen, so I let it soak a bit in the warm water. It feels better now, but it’s still a bit flaky.

I am going to go take some more notes before going to bed for a good solid sleep before doing as much as I can tomorrow.

And I love Mela, so very much. Not just because she came into the city today just to sit with Annie and me while we freaked out. Not just because she let me squeeze her hand whenever I felt overwhelmed. Not just because, even though she felt a bit ill, she still agreed to stay out a bit late. Mostly because she did these things willingly even when I didn’t realize the inconvenience it placed onto her, and never voiced my guilt when I did realize. Mostly because she looked into my eyes when I was going to just give up on the essay, and told me that I’ll be fine.

Alex.

Differences Noted

I think the major different of high school compared to university has finally dawned on me.

I mean, apart from the lifestyle – I mean the public lifestyle. Life at home is still the same. I’m still being treated like an 8-year-old who can’t make decisions for herself when it suits my mom’s needs…but that’s another rant – which is obviously different, like the blatant smoking and drinking around campus. Apart from that, the academic side of university is also finally showing itself.

It might have been obvious to Science and Biomed students from the get go, because their level of work is quickly stepping up (I cannot say for sure, not having done the subjects, but the speed at which high school chemistry traveled would indubitably be snail-speed compared to what university would be going). But for myself, an Arts student, the first few weeks of university hasn’t really been that different.

Sure, I don’t have to do maths or Chinese anymore, and each subject is getting more specialized and, to a certain degree, globalized (as in, each subject really only talks about the scope of said subject, and more about global issues rather than Australian issues) but really it just felt like a slightly more intense elective subject at high school.

But when my essays started hitting, I found things different.

In high school, you are more or less told what to do, how to do it, and then whoever can copy that formula the best while not appearing to have copied that formula gets an A. You might think you have more choice in VCE, what with the 3 different topics you can write about on the SAME book, or the “freedom” you have to “express yourself” in the “Whose Reality?” part of the exam. But, not really. Again, you’re more or less told what the expected outcome is, and you reach for that.

In uni, it’s just that one step scarier. First of all, you’re not REALLY told what is expected of you. You get a few samples of the genre/s that you’re probably trying to emulate – note, emulate, not copy – and these aren’t even past student examples, these are real life examples. You get the description of what the assignment is, for example “30 – 40 lines of poetry, roughly equivalent to a 1000 word essay”. Then they give you 4 weeks of random poetry to read, poets coming in to tell you how they stumbled across poetry, and then bam! your poems are due next week.

Poetry isn’t so hard to understand how to write, really. I mean, write, not write well. You can write anything and you can say it’s poetry, and no one can really dispute you, because it is poetry, just crappy poetry.

But my 2nd Creative Writing assignment had me stumped; a creative non-fiction.

I know what it is; I’ve read the Hiroshima example, and it was fantastic. But what topic can I write about? To be able to creatively write about a non-fictional topic, you’d have to have a respectable amount of knowledge about it. To get a respectable amount of knowledge, you’d have to research – and researching, then transferring this knowledge creatively, will take a lot longer than the time given for this assignment. So of course you’d have to write about something you already know.

That’s all good if you already knew shitloads about, say, Roal Dahl, or whatever. But I don’t! So a weekend was spent desperately trying to think of what to write. And that was the most frustrating part; I know I have the skills, I just don’t have a medium to show it. It would be good if in tutes we were given a list of possible topics, but we weren’t, and that’s how uni rolls.

In the end, I chose to write about music, and how music is experienced differently by different people.

But that’s just Creative Writing. Then we have Professional Writing, which is easier in some senses, and harder in some. I got my result for my first assignment – the magazine profile – back. I thought I’d done well – not fantastic, but well. I’d stuck to the conventions of my chosen genre of magazines – but the result said that, if I don’t draft this assignment for my end of semester folio, I’d only get a 60% mark. It would have been okay if I knew where I went wrong, but I’m not quite sure. I suppose that’s the difference – now you have to go ask the tutor why, and they’ll probably not answer you properly.

You know, I also noticed that I use the hyphen a lot more now. It gets annoying.

For my other two subjects, Cinema Studies and Intro to Media and Comm, I have 2 research projects’ due date coming up. After today (I’m going out today, which I will write about tomorrow, probably) I’m going to have to start doing the research for those two. Cinema Studies has me researching cinematic monsters, and Intro to M+C has me working with Annie and Christy for something which none of us has started so I guess it’ll be a bit of a last minute pull.

So things are definitely different in university now. I’m having fun, don’t get me wrong, because these things are my forte, and I actually enjoy them. But it is noticeably harder and more stressful to get that optimum mark.

Oh my god, I’m still mark-driven.

Alex.

Never Want To Be So Cold

[Falling Inside The Black – Skillet]

Something interesting I found on Tumblr, about dreams:

1. You forget 90% of your dreams. Within 5 minutes of waking, half of your dream is forgotten. Within 10, 90% is gone.

2. Blind people also dream. People who became blind after birth can see images in their dreams. People who are born blind do not see any images, but have dreams equally vivid involving their other senses of sound, smell, touch and emotion.

3. Everybody dreams. Every human being dreams (except in cases of extreme psychological disorder). If you think, you are not dreaming, you just forget your dreams.

4. In our dreams, we only see faces that we already know. Our mind is not inventing faces – in our dreams we see real faces of real people that we have seen during our life but may not know or remember. We have all seen hundreds of thousands of faces throughout our lives, so we have an endless supply of characters for our brain to utilize during our dreams.

5. Not everybody dreams in color. A full 12% of sighted people dream exclusively in black and white. The remaining number dream in full color. Studies from 1915 through to the 1950s maintained that the majority of dreams were in black and white, but these results began to change in the 1960s. Today, only 4.4% of the dreams of under-25 year-olds are in black and white. Recent research has suggested that those changing results may be linked to the switch from black-and-white film and TV to color media.

6. Dreams are symbolic. If you dream about some particular subject it is not often that the dream is about that. Dreams speak in a deeply symbolic language. Whatever symbol your dream picks on it is most unlikely to be a symbol for itself.

7. Emotions; The most common emotion experienced in dreams is anxiety. Negative emotions are more common than positive ones.

8. You can have four to seven dreams in one night. On average, you can dream anywhere from one or two hours every night.

9. Animals dream too. Studies have been done on many different animals, and they all show the same brain waves during dreaming sleep as humans. Watch a dog sleeping sometime. The paws move like they are running and they make yipping sounds as if they are chasing something in a dream.

10. Body Paralysis.

Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is a normal stage of sleep characterized by rapid movements of the eyes. REM sleep in adult humans typically occupies 20-25% of total sleep, about 90-120 minutes of a night’s sleep.

During REM sleep the body is paralyzed by a mechanism in the brain in order to prevent the movements which occur in the dream from causing the physical body to move. However, it is possible for this mechanism to be triggered before, during, or after normal sleep while the brain awakens.

11. Dream Incorporation. Our mind interprets the external stimuli that our senses are bombarded with when we are asleep and make them a part of our dreams. This means that sometimes, in our dreams, we hear a sound from reality and incorporate it in a way. For example you may be dreaming that you are in a concert, while your brother is playing a guitar during your sleep.

12. Men and women dream differently. Men tend to dream more about other men. Around 70% of the characters in a man’s dream are other men. On the other hand, a woman’s dream contains almost an equal number of men and women. Aside from that, men generally have more aggressive emotions in their dreams than the female lot.

13. Precognitive Dreams. Results of several surveys across large population sets indicate that between 18% and 38% of people have experienced at least one precognitive dream and 70% have experienced déjà vu. The percentage of persons that believe precognitive dreaming is possible is even higher, ranging from 63% to 98%.

14. If you are snoring, then you cannot be dreaming.

15. You can experience an orgasm in your dreams. You can not only have sex as pleasurable as in your real life while dreaming, but also experience an orgasm as strong as a real one, without any wet results. The sensations felt while lucid dreaming (touch, pleasure and etc..) can be as pleasurable and strong (or I believe even stronger) as the sensations experienced in the real world.

The part about how men dream more about other men made me laugh for a good five minutes, and the bit about the orgasm made me raise my eyebrows in amusement.

This also means that my dad never dreams, very loudly, every night.

Alex.