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From The Green Death (I think)

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/216747.html.
21 October 2016 @ 05:35 pm
I tend to assume that everyone I know who spends any amount of time on the Internet is aware of xkcd but then every so often I will bump into someone who doesn't know it, so I'm mentioning it here on the off chance...

xkcd is a web comic with a minimalistic style and exceptionally wide-ranging content. Its comics tend to be just a few panels with a gag built in, and often with a computer, science or nerdy theme (and sometimes they are really obscure, I'd be surprised if there was anyone out there who has "got" every xkcd joke without some googling) however there are many many exceptions to that format from comics where the gag is only apparent from the "alt text" that pops up when you hover your mouse over the comic image to comics that are stories, games or serious infographics.

A representative sample:

Duty Calls:

Probably my favourite straight gag comic

Movie Narrative Charts:

An infographic showing the interactions of groups of people over time in several popular blockbuster movies

Time - Time was an animated story that updated slowly over nearly 6 months. I'm fairly sure when this first appeared I saw only the first frame, assumed it was an xkcd joke I didn't get and moved on, only to discover later that it was telling a story. The link her goes not to xkcd (which now only displays the final few frames of the animation) but to a separate site which lets you play the animation at the speed of your choice.

Hoverboard: Hoverboard appears to be a fairly simple, collect the coins game. By the time this appeared I was fairly wise to some of the tricks xkcd plays and so realised it was possible to escape from the initial simple space into a much larger world. It must be said I explored it a little and then moved on, but G. saw me doing it and she explored the whole game thoroughly managing to collect all but one of the coins.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/216438.html.
19 October 2016 @ 01:34 pm
Via philmophlegm. Very bizarre, am I very, very certain that I'm not an Elf. I definitely put "Very Short" when it asked me my height.

I Am A: Lawful Good Elf Wizard/Sorcerer (3rd/3rd Level)

Ability Scores:







Lawful Good A lawful good character acts as a good person is expected or required to act. He combines a commitment to oppose evil with the discipline to fight relentlessly. He tells the truth, keeps his word, helps those in need, and speaks out against injustice. A lawful good character hates to see the guilty go unpunished. Lawful good is the best alignment you can be because it combines honor and compassion. However, lawful good can be a dangerous alignment when it restricts freedom and criminalizes self-interest.

Elves are known for their poetry, song, and magical arts, but when danger threatens they show great skill with weapons and strategy. Elves can live to be over 700 years old and, by human standards, are slow to make friends and enemies, and even slower to forget them. Elves are slim and stand 4.5 to 5.5 feet tall. They have no facial or body hair, prefer comfortable clothes, and possess unearthly grace. Many others races find them hauntingly beautiful.

Primary Class:
Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Secondary Class:
Sorcerers are arcane spellcasters who manipulate magic energy with imagination and talent rather than studious discipline. They have no books, no mentors, no theories just raw power that they direct at will. Sorcerers know fewer spells than wizards do and acquire them more slowly, but they can cast individual spells more often and have no need to prepare their incantations ahead of time. Also unlike wizards, sorcerers cannot specialize in a school of magic. Since sorcerers gain their powers without undergoing the years of rigorous study that wizards go through, they have more time to learn fighting skills and are proficient with simple weapons. Charisma is very important for sorcerers; the higher their value in this ability, the higher the spell level they can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/216024.html.
15 October 2016 @ 04:05 pm

The cover of Doctor Who Monthly number 64 (EDIT: 62!). The first issue I bought. It was subsequently raided for pictures to cut out and stick onto things so I no longer appear to have the actual cover myself.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/215198.html.
14 October 2016 @ 07:31 pm
Alan is one of the Principal Investigators on the Verifiable Autonomy project (which employs me for half my time). He has a long standing interest in the various aspects of ethics and robotics, both how a robot might be programmed to behave ethically and the ethical issues surrounding the use of robots in homes, workplaces and other places. He is also involved in a number of committees involving robotics. He blogs about his work at Alan Winfield's Web Log, both reporting on current research in an accessible fashion, and discussing various activities he has been involved with. It's not a high volume blog, but worth checking out if you are interested in these kinds of issues. He's also active on twitter ([twitter.com profile] alan_winfield) and, I get the impression, very much enjoys discussing his work, ethics and robotics with people.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/215024.html.
13 October 2016 @ 07:29 pm
I have found some more Edinburgh LARP photos and these ones even (*gasp at the new fangled-ness of it all*) have an accompanying CD with them all on.

I think these must be NPCS (it would be difficult to get a party all to wear matching tartan shoulder sashes). Note youthful looking B. on the far left.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/214668.html.
12 October 2016 @ 08:03 pm
Reading: The Universal Computer: The Road from Leibniz to Turing - an oddly frustrating book since it is concentrating on the history primarily of the ideas being mathematical logic which I more-or-less knew, though I hadn't seen it set out in order like this before. However, I spend a lot of time skimming over the mathematical explanations because I'm so familiar with the maths, but feel slightly frustrated that I'm not getting more history to sink my teeth into.

Listening: Frustratingly, just as I started listening to the Two Minute Time Lord podcasts they stopped. However there are 419 episodes so I decided to tackle the backlog - or at least the backlog going back to episode 271 which is the first my podcast app deigns to provide me with. I'm currently listening to an interview with Toby Hadoke (which is taking considerably longer than the two minutes advertised! - it's described as a "Time Dilation" episode).

Watching: Canon review for Yuletide. I doubt my recipient is following here, but it probably doesn't hurt to be a little coy. It's a fun movie, sufficiently fun that B is happily rewatching it with me - though I'm having slightly cold feet because I hadn't quite clocked I'd need to get to grips with a particular city at a particular time in order to do the story justice and its not a time or place with which I have much familiarity. Luckily wikipedia has an extensive page on that precise city in the 45 year period towards the end of which the movie is set, so hopefully it'll be good enough for rock and roll, certainly given the movie is obviously set in a universe slightly to the side of our own.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/214274.html.
11 October 2016 @ 07:26 pm
US election: what impact do celebrity endorsements really have?
I'd been wondering this and am a little surprised at the conclusion that celebrity endorsements are important, since I'd a feeling that they were the sort of thing that only seemed impressive and compelling to people who were already signed up to a cause.
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'Don't feed the trolls' really is good advice – here's the evidence
It must be said I've always thought "don't feed the trolls" sounded like good advice. But I have seen several think pieces which have asserted that trolls do not go away if ignored. I'm sure this research isn't the end of the story, but it is interesting none the less.
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Post-truth politics and the US election: why the narrative trumps the facts
Interesting analysis of "Post-truth politics" which digs into the issue of construction of narratives.
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This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/214177.html.
10 October 2016 @ 04:55 pm

Image of a Lego Rover on top of a giant abacus in front of a reproduction of the Manchester Baby (the first stored-program computer).

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/213901.html.
09 October 2016 @ 01:37 pm
Sunday: 16k run (thought I might work slowly up to half marathon distance and see how I feel about it). Usual household chores and catching up. Sausage Casserole for supper (may the various packet sauce companies never stop making Sausage Casserole packet sauce!)

Monday: Gave a talk at work (a re-run of my TAROS talk), seemed to go OK. Read project specifications from some of my students.

Tuesday: Wrote up a quick guide to software engineering for my project students in the hopes that their project plans would become more realistic as a result. Had some rather frustrating conversations with them in the afternoon. E.g.

Me: Why did you add all this complicated stuff into your project plan?
Student: Because it says the robot should explore the room in the project description.
Me: I'm sure it doesn't, let's take a look.
* We look at the project description. I read it out to the student. Including the bit about finding and displaying Mars surface data in a 3D simulator *
Student (panicked): But I don't know anything about 3D simulators!
Me: But it says in the project description "student must be familiar with 3D simulators"
Student: I didn't read that bit

Bear in mind that the project description is only 3 paragraphs long, I wasn't expecting him to have read and understood 10 pages of fine print. I've no idea what project he thought he'd chosen. I keep telling myself that, with 8 students, there was always a high chance that one would be at the lower end of the bell curve and I shouldn't invest too much time and energy in trying to rescue him. As B. has pointed out, there's a reason why I was so happy to give up teaching when I stopped being a lecturer. I'm definitely going to have to work on keeping my stress levels down, even with the fairly minimal amount of teaching that comes with the new post.

Wednesday: Went to a briefing meeting for an "Inreach" project in which I will mentor a bunch of undergraduates producing an activity for a University "Science Jamboree". Actually got some work that might pass for research done!

Thursday: Drove to work in order to collect the "robot table" that I use for some events. Problem project student emailed asking for a meeting because he couldn't get his Raspberry Pi onto the university Wifi network. Although I did actually have time I figured I could waste quite a lot of it on a day ear-marked for research doing this for him, so emailed back to say I wasn't available and he should familiarise him with running his Raspberry Pi powered robot directly, rather than over the network (was terribly proud of myself). B's older brother was at home when I arrived, though he left before my sister turned up to stay the night (she was speaking at a conference in Manchester).

Friday: Went out for lunch with B. We tried the new(ish) restaurant at the Whitworth which had been much trumpeted when it opened (indeed last time we tried to go there for lunch we couldn't get in). It was something of a disappointment the starter arrived after the main course (though B. thinks this was because we messed up when ordering) and my burger was burnt (B. tried to persuade me it was artistically char-grilled, but I'm fairly sure it was burnt). Conference call in the afternoon with the IEEE committee that's trying to come up with guidelines on the ethics of artificial intelligence and personal data.

Saturday: Spent the day at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry running a Lego Rover stand as part of International Day of the Girl. The plan was that groups of Brownies and Girl Guides would go around various stands to experience structured activities. Initially this was pretty chaotic with random children turning up and leaving, but by about midday they had sorted themselves out and a small group would, indeed, come to the stand to be lead through what was going on. I also talked to a fair few members of the general public and some people from Computing At School North West who seemed interested in the idea of adopting the Lego Rover activity as something primary schools might use, so all in all a useful (if tiring) day.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/213663.html.