undyingking: (Default)
His Scientific American columns, which I read in collected form (Mathematical Carnival etc) in my mid-teens, really enthused me with the joy and fascination of maths and associated concepts, games and delightful trivialities, in a way that school had never managed. He wrote beautifully, clearly and rationally -- as a non-expert himself, he took the job of communication of meaning seriously, and handled it with immense skill. His tireless work contra pseudoscience is also deserving of great praise.

It was through Gardner that I learnt about hyperdimensions, Cantor's investigation of infinities, Conway's Game of Life, the art of MC Escher, the Fibonacci sequence, the tricks of lightning calculators, how to build a learning AI... and countless other topics that each expanded my mind in a new and exciting direction. In his memory, I'm going to dig those books out and read through them all again. And I really ought to get hold of The Annotated Alice.

Did you ever read Gardner, and do you have any favourite subjects he wrote about that made a particular impression on you?
undyingking: (Default)
His Scientific American columns, which I read in collected form (Mathematical Carnival etc) in my mid-teens, really enthused me with the joy and fascination of maths and associated concepts, games and delightful trivialities, in a way that school had never managed. He wrote beautifully, clearly and rationally -- as a non-expert himself, he took the job of communication of meaning seriously, and handled it with immense skill. His tireless work contra pseudoscience is also deserving of great praise.

It was through Gardner that I learnt about hyperdimensions, Cantor's investigation of infinities, Conway's Game of Life, the art of MC Escher, the Fibonacci sequence, the tricks of lightning calculators, how to build a learning AI... and countless other topics that each expanded my mind in a new and exciting direction. In his memory, I'm going to dig those books out and read through them all again. And I really ought to get hold of The Annotated Alice.

Did you ever read Gardner, and do you have any favourite subjects he wrote about that made a particular impression on you?
undyingking: (Default)
Oh dear, I've just heard that Steven Wells died the other day, only 49, of cancer.

Back when I was an attitude-filled indie kid he was one of my favourite writers in the NME, under the name of Seething Wells and also as Susan Williams. Brilliantly acerbic, hilariously witty, desperately weird, often cruel, but his heart and values were very sound. His overriding theme was the crapness of so much of life, but he had the burn of a real satirist who knew that humanity could be so much better if it gave itself a chance. More recently he had an irregular sports column in the Guardian, which was just as fierily funny as his stuff about politics and music had been.

Sad loss of a very worthwhile and entertaining writer.
undyingking: (Default)
I am often guilty of making assumptions about how people think, particularly when it comes to the groupthink idea clusters of "if X believes thing A, then they probably believe B as well". On that basis then, I don't want to leap to assumptions about how people feel about The Daily Mail newspaper.

[Poll #1356468]
undyingking: (Default)
  • "It was only when he did not get up to take a bow that anyone realised something had gone wrong."
    This is the sort of story that if you put it in a murder mystery game, it would be dismissed as too absurd. Well done, Mr Hoevels, especially for coming back on the following night.
  • "Another stage-property that he pulled out of his box pretty frequently was the broken twig. He prized his broken twig above all the rest of his effects, and worked it the hardest. It is a restful chapter in any book of his when somebody doesn't step on a dry twig and alarm all the reds and whites for two hundred yards around."
    Mark Twain was an excellent writer himself, and a still more excelent journalist. Here he demolishes a considerably less excellent pen. This really is a supreme hatchet job; thanks to [livejournal.com profile] sturgeonslawyer for the link.
  • "Using a variety of store-bought teddy bears as ‘species’ source material, I am reverse-engineering what their skulls look like and the differences and similarities between ‘breeds.’ My approach is to make up evidence and document, present, and interpret that evidence in a formal manner."
    I can't remember now where I heard of this artist who makes peculiar sculptures out of felted wool. More power to her needling elbow, say I.
  • "fachys.ykal.ar.ataiin.shol.shory.cthres.ykor.sholdy
    sory.cthar.or.y.kair.chtaiin.shar.are.cthar.cthar.dan"

    I've been doing some reading recently about the Voynich manuscript, that most intriguing document. I hadn't realized that there had been so much respectable textual analysis of it. One day I'll work out a way of using this and other such cryptic artefacts in something creative, but for now it's just interesting to follow the existing delvings int it. (Former UNEXPLAINED players will note that this site is hosted in Nauru, of all places...)
undyingking: (Default)
I know lots of people have linked to this story about the Welsh road sign translation already, but it is very funny. A modern equivalent of those features on maps of remote areas that are later found to be called the native-language for I Don't Know, Just a Mountain.1


1 Joke © T Pratchett.
undyingking: (Default)
So apparently the govt is planning to seize the assets of Icelandic companies in the UK, to compensate the various local authorities, charities, etc who stand to lose something like a billion quid. Could make the Cod War look like a skirmish!

Of more immediate interest though: do the assets to be seized include West Ham United? If so, we could become the first nationalized football team. I think West Ham are ideally suited to being the British Leyland of the Premier League -- we already have the ovemanning, featherbed wages and endemic sicknote culture.

Or maybe, as the club has been known for so long as "the academy of football", like an academy school we'll be floated off in some sort of PFI deal whereby secretive and cranky businessfolk put in a token amount of money and exercise arbitrary and whimsical control, with local people providing the bulk of the cash but with no say over how it's run. Oh, hold on, that's actually the way football clubs work already, isn't it? Carry on, nothing more to see here.

Lying git

Mar. 12th, 2008 04:12 pm
undyingking: (Default)
What's the maximum sentence for phoning while driving, anyone? I think this case will call for 'making an example', if ever one did.

"After being shown the picture, the paper said he told the reporter he could not talk to them because he wrote a column for another paper."

Edited to add the link, thanks Chris!
undyingking: (Default)
Goodbye Gary Gygax, it seems.

Like most people of my sort of age, he provided my introduction to role-playing. We may have moved onwards and outwards, but we can still thank him for our beginnings.

I met him a couple of times at Gamesfairs, when he was still with TSR. Being young and cocky, I did not pay him as much respect as I later thought I probably should have. But he seemed like a pleasant chap, and took the teasing in very good part.

I don't really know what he'd been up to in recent years, but I hope he was able to put the various disputes etc behind him and look happily over what he achieved.
undyingking: (Default)
Maybe not by the standards of the newspaper that proudly supported the Blackshirts, but most people would probably think this was pretty low:

"I am urgently looking for anonymous horror stories of people who have employed Eastern European staff, only for them to steal from them, disappear, or have lied about their resident status."

The suggestion of concocting fake stories to waste her time is a useful one, but maybe it would also be nice to send in some happy stories of reliable and trustworthy Eastern Europeans, just to shake a little good karma onto her dismal world-view.

Misc

Dec. 5th, 2007 11:26 am
undyingking: (Default)
Various things that have caught my eye just lately:

  • Map of blondeness across Europe -- from [livejournal.com profile] strange_maps. Nothing very surprising revealed, but I think this is a really nice presentation of the information. Notable that eg. the division in England more or less follows the Danelaw boundary. I suspect some of this is guesswork though, I don't suppose all these countries keep hair colour data. (On the source site there's a similar one for light eye colour, which not surprisingly is fairly similar.)
  • Analysis by Google of the way that HTML is coded on "a sample of slightly over a billion documents". OK, this is only really going to be interesting if you write web pages yourself. Plenty of illuminating notes such as "Typos were quite common; the td element, for example, had more pages with widht, witdh, aling, valing, with, and heigth attributes than it had pages with headers attributes." and "There are more <o:p> elements (from Microsoft Office) on the Web than there are <h6> elements." And my favourite: "One conclusion one can draw from the spread of attributes used on the body element is that authors don't care about what the specifications say. Of these top twenty attributes, nine are completely invalid, and five have been deprecated for nearly eight years, half the lifetime of the Web so far."
  • The Culture Archive is basically a collection of old advertising pictures on various subjects. Here's the page about men's ties, and here's the page on beer.
  • Chipwrapper is a simple little app which just pulls the current top headline off all the main UK papers. (Currently mostly about the quaint affair of Mr John Darwin.) And there are variosu RSS feeds, etc, that you can pull off it for your particular needs.
  • "They say cameras add ten pounds, but HP digital cameras can help reverse that effect. The slimming feature, available on select HP digital camera models, is a subtle effect that can instantly trim off pounds from the subjects in your photos!" I was hoping there was something clever involved, but looking at the demo, it seems that they've just compressed the image horizontally. That really is quite pathetic!
  • I'm not sure if this is RSS talker or RS Stalker, but either way it's quite clever I think. It lets you set up an RSS feed to track the price of Amazon products. Which change much more frequently than you might think. No adverts, they don't even take any of your personal data -- their angle is that if you click through to buy the item from the feed, they get the affiliate fee, which seems fair enough. You can even have the RSS track your entire wishlist, if you tell them your email address.
undyingking: (Default)
"... this is science, science, science! That is what is so fantastic about it."

I know we get the newspapers we deserve, but really, FFS.

Miscellanea

Jun. 6th, 2007 06:40 pm
undyingking: (Default)
Pollscraper )

Trolleyjammer )

Logobitcher )

Pinkdisser )

Flagbrander )

Birdwatcher )

Brainstormer )

Boynamer )

Boynamer II )

Lasteviller )

Pelicanner )
undyingking: (Default)
The streets )

A shedload )

Social )
undyingking: (Default)
Breaking news on the BBC site.

"A terrorist plot to blow up planes in mid-flight from the UK to the US has been disrupted, Scotland Yard has said.
It is thought the plan was to detonate up to three explosive devices smuggled on aircraft in hand luggage.
...
"Passengers will not be allowed to take any hand luggage on to any flights in the UK, the department said. Only the barest essentials - including passports and wallets - will be allowed to be carried on board in transparent plastic bags."

Yikes.

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