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30 September 2016 @ 06:36 pm
The Romans (apocryphally, at least) shared a its researcher with Carry On Cleo. I'm not sure if this is true, I doubt that Doctor Who had the budget for a researcher. But there is definitely something "Carry On" in the DNA of this tale of intrigue and shenanigans in ancient Rome.

More under the CutCollapse )

In the end, I felt most of The Romans was a miss. Comedy is difficult to do well, and even harder to pull off when you want an element of genuine peril in your story. Doctor Who in the 1960s had neither the rehearsal time nor, I suspect, the expertise to pull this off. However, as a story, it has its moments of genuine charm and gives us a view of the Tardis crew we rarely get elsewhere.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/211233.html.
28 September 2016 @ 07:36 pm
Reading: The Silent Stars Go By by Dan Abnett. It's a Doctor Who novel and I expect it will feature Ice Warriors since they appear on the cover. All the chapter titles are lines from famous carols. I'm only about a chapter in so I can't really deliver any kind of verdict. I bought it because fififolle was sufficiently impressed by Abnett's Primeval Novelisation that she bought some of his Warhammer novels (despite not playing Warhammer at all) and enjoyed them sufficiently to write fanfic for them (albeit Primeval AU fanfic, IIRC) which I thought was pretty impressive. He wrote The Story of Martha which I wasn't so taken by, I must admit, but that wasn't in a standard format so I was interested to see what he made of something more straightforward.

Watching: Lupin III Part 4 which we are much enjoying. To be honest I think I'm enjoying it as much as Part 1 which was my favourite of the earlier versions (though I know many people prefer Part 2). I'm a bit bemused by the Italian co-production aspect though. It's very odd to have all these Lupin stories based in Italy rather than in Japan+exotic locations around the world.

Listening: It's mostly been Zombies! Run! episodes recently since I wasn't able to listen for a while and so created a bit of a backlog. It is much the same as always, though with the observation that 5 seasons into the storyline, they are very much downplaying the zombie threat aspect in favour of something more like a political thriller.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/210974.html.
27 September 2016 @ 03:59 pm
Why Britain should play the long game with its Brexit strategy
It is depressing to think that any chance we may have of remaining in the single market probably depends on the rise of far right parties across Europe.
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The civil service must keep calm and carry on with Brexit – but can it?
Interesting, though I would say clearly biased, viewpoint from a former civil servant.
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Robots versus immigrants: which group would “steal” the most British jobs?
Included largely because this is such an obvious question to ask/link to make and yet it had never occurred to me before.
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How can we engineer our cities to protect against the threats of the 21st century? | CityMetric
Included for the entirely unremarked upon factoid at the end that Manchester is the most "resilient" of the 12 cities they looked at. In other respects this reads a bit like a piece of marketing for city analysis and design services.
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Theresa May committed to introducing 'Alan Turing law' and pardon gay men convicted of 'gross indecency' | The Independent
I was always rather uncomfortable with the campaign to have Alan Turing pardoned. The use of the service he rendered to the country as part of the argument suggested that, in some sense, his service compensated for his homosexuality when, in fact, the argument should have been that the conviction was unjust irrespective of Turing's actions and service. I felt that if a pardon were given it should be given to all those so convicted so I'm glad to see steps now being taken in this direction.
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How much more trouble will the three Brexiteers cause for Theresa May?
The article makes the point that Davis' remark about the improbability of the UK remaining a member of the Single Market is very much considered as obvious by most in Westminster. I'm surprised that Boris' remark that Article 50 will be triggered early next year isn't considered equally obvious given what I understand about the timings of various electoral cycles. Still, as a remainer, I at least can enjoy watching the Brexiteers getting told off.
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Rise in 'freebirthing' suggests women feel midwives and doctors are ignoring their needs
Complicated thoughts around this one, including both the observation of the well-known effect that over-rigid adherence to safety procedures can have the negative effect of essentially driving people away from them altogether and that, while I have no complaints whatsoever about my treatment in hospital when giving birth, the experience didn't bear a great deal of relation to the "woman-centric" birth-plan specific story we'd been told in ante-natal classes.
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Removing gender bias from algorithms
Interesting both from a machine learning point of view and from the point of view of how language can reinforce stereotypes.
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This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/210797.html.
26 September 2016 @ 08:09 pm
The other day, I wondered what had become of Sir Gareth, an old boyfriend. When I knew him, Sir Gareth was a postgraduate physicist, a member of the Arthurian society, and his sister was married to the local Lib Dem candidate. Some weeks after we started going out my father regaled me with a garbled story about how said candidate had turned up on his doorstep, persuaded him to rejoin the party and mentioned, in passing, that his wife was called Louise and wasn't that a coincidence. Sir Gareth was entirely mortified by the whole thing.

Anyway, Sir Gareth happened to have a very distinctive surname so it was not difficult to translate my idle wondering into substantive action. I thus discovered that his wife (who has given simply loads of interviews that appear all over the Internet and, TBH, I'm not sure why I'm continuing to use a synonym here since they would probably welcome the publicity - the company in question is Honeybuns) started a baking business while studying for a PGCHE and expanded it when they moved to Guildford when Sir Gareth got a programming job there. In 2003 they bought a farm in Dorset, Sir Gareth gave up programming and joined the team and now they run a bakery business in circumstances that sound distinctly River Cottage. They sold gluten-free "mini-bites"* and I thought these, given the back story, would amuse my mother as a birthday present.

This is my Mum, with her gluten-free mini-bites in their refillable tin**.

* In fact my mother, who read all the literature that came with them, has now discovered that all their products are gluten-free and there is a gluten-free cookbook. She is quite excited by this. Given the hundreds of interviews all over the Internet, I'm sort of surprised I missed this fact.
** We were all deeply impressed by the concept of a "refillable" tin. What innovations will people come up with next?

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/210476.html.
25 September 2016 @ 04:23 pm
Sunday: A day of catching up and chores.

Monday: We tried a new format for group meetings at work. This was a brainstorming session in an attempt to identify possible collaborations. Somehow I had ended up in charge of it (on the theme of links between Verification, Planning and Learning). I think it went OK, though discussion did flag in a couple of places. I'm not sure if it will lead to anything though, at least based on the crickets that have responded to the follow up email. B. went to York in part because he was examining a PHD on Tuesday but also to see various family members so they could wish him a happy birthday.

Tuesday: Met with boss and another RA to brainstorm a new approach to a paper we have spent a year failing to get published. Celebrated B's birthday with steak and wine. Between us G and I gave him a Queen bass guitar book, a screwdriver and a roleplaying book (courtesy of philmophlegm and the excellent Shop on the Borderlands). He seemed pleased.

Wednesday: Y9 Introduction Evening at the school. These events are desperately dull, though at least this year we were spared the Internet Safety talk (do not allow your child anywhere near a screen for more than an hour per day) in favour of "useful twitter accounts you should follow". G will only be allowed to take 9.5 GCSEs - I predict much agonising.

Thursday: Considered spending the day working on various papers, but instead continued to wrestle with debugging an implementation of a planning algorithm, with which I have been wrestling for some time. I will need to get to the papers next week.

Friday: Got my hair cut. Played with LEGO Robots. Decamped the family to Oxford to celebrate my mother's 80th.

Saturday: Took my mother out for High Tea to celebrate her birthday.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/210342.html.
19 September 2016 @ 08:15 pm

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/210121.html.
18 September 2016 @ 02:40 pm
Sunday: Wedding Anniversary. Slightly marred by B. deciding he was too heavy to eat, drink and be merry. However since neither of us wanted to cancel the restaurant reservation we went along to a new-ish establishment on the Curry Mile with a contemporary look. Fortunately portion sizes were small so B. didn't suffer too much, particularly since he steered clear of the rice and naan bread.

Monday: My first violin lesson since we went to the Lake District. Went pretty well considering.

Tuesday: Got hideously wet in the thunderstorm that started just as I left Oxford Road Station to cycle home. By the time I reached the house I might just as well have jumped in a swimming pool. It took my shoes three days to dry out. The roof in the spare room had leaked (as is its wont) - fortunately B. had been home and able to strategically place buckets. G.'s piano teacher very sensibly cancelled.

Wednesday: Visited a school in Oldham to do a Lego Rovers sessions for years 1 and 2. I was a little concerned since I don't normally work with this age group and I was worried that the concepts might be a little complicated. I dropped most of the programming bits and I think they understood most of what I was saying, but their attention span was definitely a problem

Thursday: B. went to Madrid. I spent the day debugging code.

Friday: Day also spent debugging code. Foolishly updated phone to iOS 10 with pausing to question whether this was a good idea.

Saturday: 24:49 in the Park Run (5 seconds faster than last week) but could not find the play button in my iPhone's music app (this eventually was revealed to be because it had deleted most of my music and needed to be resynced with all my playlists). Then I went to the Science Museum for a session in which they teamed scientists up with poets in order to produce poems for performance at Manchester Science Festival in an event called Experimental Words. I was teamed up with Ciaran Hodgers and spent about an hour telling him all about implementing ethics in autonomous systems (I think I may have overloaded him a bit). He's going to have a think and see what he comes up with which may, or may not, involve both of us on stage.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/209727.html.
16 September 2016 @ 07:47 pm
One of my dinosaur books rather dubiously claims that Archeopteryx is "perhaps the most famous extinct organism in the world". I find this doubtful - surely Tyrannosaurus Rex holds that distinction?

Still, the discovery of the first Archeopteryx fossil in 1861 is a hugely important point in the history of our understanding of dinosaurs, bird evolution and evolution in general. B. has occasionally bombarded Archeopteryx specimens with fundamental particles.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/209607.html.
15 September 2016 @ 08:20 pm
We've never had much luck with The Monster of Peladon. At some point in the 1990s I was seized with the urge to watch it and we ordered it from Amazon on VHS. The first time we tried this, we were sent a Seven of Nine boxset, which we much enjoyed watching and wondered idly if whoever had received our Monster of Peladon video had enjoyed it as much. We then re-ordered Monster of Peladon and this time received the right VHS tape only to discover that it was blank after episode 2. Having found the first two episodes rather dull we, at that point, gave up on the attempt.

It was with some trepidation, therefore, that I purchased the DVD from Amazon at the behest of the Randomiser. This time all the episodes were present and correct.

So was it dull?Collapse )

Monster of Peladon is interesting in lots of ways, not the least its status as sequel to the earlier Curse of Peladon. I have always been of the impression that it is the lesser of the two stories, but the longuers of the first couple of episodes aside, I enjoyed this considerably.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/209260.html.
13 September 2016 @ 12:41 pm
A lot of these are quite old. You can tell I've been away and not posting a lot recently.

Research Check: is it true only half your friends actually like you?
Sober analysis of the research behind the "only half your friends like you" headlines.
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Wikiverse: a galactic reimagining of Wikipedia
Visualisation of Wikipedia as a galaxy. I found the navigation controls a little tricky to get to grips with but it's very pretty.
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There is much to celebrate this results day, but A-levels remain deeply flawed
Speaking as a former University Admissions Officer, post-qualification admissions would have made so much more sense than the existing system.
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Algorithms can be more fair than humans
An interesting discussion of the fact that although data-analysis algorithms have been shown to be at risk of unintentionally baking in various prejudices, they are at least also far more easily analysed for evidence of those prejudices with hopes that the algorithm can subsequently be fixed.
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Tribunal was right to order release of chronic fatigue trial data
Interesting both, I think, for people who are or have suffered from ME and people interested in Open Science in its various forms.
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Russell T Davies on Instagram: “We're back!”
Russell T Davies, instagrams a tweet I made!
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Why urban myths about education are so persistent – and how to tackle them
The whole Learning Styles thing has annoyed me immensely ever since they were foisted on my when I did my PGCHE (Postgraduate Certificate in Higher Education) and they had already been debunked then! G's school has got all the children to evaluate their learning styles and she has lapped the idea up that she only learns a certain way, which I think is bad for her (though I'm sure she'll survive) as well as for teaching in general.
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Britain is falling into denial about Brexit - FT.com
Interesting, though perhaps mainly to see that these educated guesses about the key decisions faced by the government over Brexit, namely when to activate Article 50 (early next year), whether to remain in the Single Market (it would be nice but we're not going to get it without compromises on free movement of people which is a red line for many both within the government and among potential Tory voters), and whether to remain in the Customs Union (it would be nice but then what is the point of Liam Fox? - one might ask this anyway) concur with my own largely uneducated guesses.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/209046.html.