Archive for the ‘Fun and Games’ Category

My Thesis: Wordled

Dec 17th, 2010

When I turned my 2010 facebook status updates into a word cloud, I was unsurprised to see the word thesis looming large at the centre. It has certainly been one of the defining elements of the year for me, and facebook was a good outlet. By contrast, my twitter feed was probably more dominated by the election, and the associated politics; I can’t know for sure, as ‘2010 in statuses’ didn’t seem to look back beyond the past few days.

On seeing my facebook status cloud, a friend, who has had a similarly thesis dominated year, suggested turning my thesis into a word cloud. So I did.

Thesis Wordle

A word cloud of my thesis


I was amused by the huge ‘et al’ in the centre, a suggestion that perhaps I has spent more time talking about other people’s work than my own. The rest of the cloud is quite pleasing, an abstract in single word chunks. The dominance of the slightly generic ‘protein’ and ‘proteins’ is perhaps unsurprising, yet I am surprised at how comparatively small ‘gene’ and ‘genes’ are. It is a weighting which is entirely consistent with the focus of the thesis, but still feels at odds with my background in genetics.

The E3 News You Haven’t Heard

Jun 1st, 2009

As the gaming media turns all eyes towards L.A. for E3 2009, many blogs and news sites go into overdrive. While I’m not at E3 myself, and have absolutely no way of finding out information that isn’t already published elsewhere, I thought I’d still do my best to produce stories that I can guarantee you haven’t heard elsewhere!

Sinclair to Return to the Market

In a surprise announcement, Sinclair Research, manufactures of a number of classic 1980’s personal computers including the ZX81 and the ZX Spectrum, revealed that they were to return to the home computing market.
Founder of the company, Sir Clive Sinclair, revealed that the company had decided that the current market provided an excellent opportunity for the company to introduce its new product. “In the 1980s, Sinclair revolutionised the home computing market, and provided access to affordable computing technology to thousands of homes. It was Sinclair which sat at the centre of the early British computer games development scene, and gave birth to many of today’s prominent developers. In 2009, Sinclair hopes to release a new system, and encourage many of these leading developers to return home.”
Sinclair seemed initially coy when asked about system specifications, but began to reveal more information when he caught representatives from Sony and Microsoft sniggering at the back. “Obviously times have changed significantly since Sinclair last released a system, and the company has not stood still. The new system, the Sinclair ZX Millennium, will have a top of the range eight,” he paused, “Megahertz processor, and a whopping 512Kb RAM, that’s half a megabyte!” Sinclair looked unimpressed with the lack-lustre response from the crowd, and sighed before continuing, “These improvements have allowed us to take full advantage in improvements in display screen technology, delivering a full 576i resolution in a stunning 32 colours, all via your SCART lead for the crispest image reproduction. With the ZX Millennium your games will look just like cartoons, and thanks to the efforts of our engineers, we have been able to completely eliminate the problem of attribute clash.” Sinclair beamed, and looked around the audience for a reaction, clearly expecting this to be a bombshell, “That means that Dizzy can stand in front of a bush, and still look white,” he clarified, before collapsing forlornly after he was met with cold silence.
Karen Farley, of Modern Videogamer (US) asked whether the ZX Millennium would still rely on the cassette tapes used with previous systems. “Of course not,” responded Sinclair, “Our engineers initially toyed with the possibility of distributing games on compact disc, as the ability to skip tracks would allow a user to easily choose which game or piece of software to load, the media also had an improved shelf life when compared to cassette tapes. However we realised that this would show no appreciable improvement in loading times, as games would still be delivered as audio streams. Instead we decided to make the microdrive standard for the ZX Millenium.”
The ZX Millenium will be available from November 2009, priced at £175.

FIFA 1660

EA Sports today announced the release of FIFA 1660. Talking about the game, and EA spokesman said, “Electronic Arts have been developing soccer video-games since 1993, and rapidly made itself one of the foremost names in the genre. Since the release of FIFA International Soccer in 1993, EA Sports have released over fifteen titles on twenty-six different systems. This doesn’t include countless spin-offs and other variations. During this time, EA Sports has constantly tried to innovate and move the game forward, keeping up with the fast-paced game of football itself. Each year we have strived not only to introduce great new features, but also to ensure that the game reflects of the latest changes to teams, players and league tables. However, this led us to consider, what if we looked back.
In FIFA 1660 we take soccer back to its roots. Set before the rules of football were fully finalised, FIFA 1660 sees you enjoying the earlier, less codified game. With no referee or linesmen, players find themselves less restricted by the rules, and thus the new reaction-touch fight system allows for punches and kicks to be thrown at nearby players. The same system is also used to fend off those attempting to enforce the law, and disrupt the game.
Authentic historical research has attempted to ensure that the game-play accurately reflects the game as it was played at that time, and historical records have been used to provide names for the player database. Thus, when you play, you can be sure that your team are made up of genuine 17th Century players!”
FIFA 1660 will be released in Spring 2010 on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii and PC.

Political Compass

Apr 22nd, 2009

I first played around with the political compass a few years ago, and was vaguely worried that I may have betrayed my old self, and have darted to the far right without quite realising it. As it happens I haven’t, and indeed I think the score is somewhat more extreme in the other direction than it had been previously.

Your political compass
Economic Left/Right: -7.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.62
Political Compass

Now in practice of course I realise that asking everyone to march to my drum would be ineffective, impractical, and immoral. While I’m not prepared to indulge every contradictory philosophy, finding some abhorrent, and still others mutually exclusive, I realise that expecting everyone to become raging liberal-lefty is not going to work in political terms, or even practical terms. As a result were I ever to become a mainstream politician, I’d probably have to take a bit more moderate a position. This is probably why I’d never be a mainstream politician.

There are also many points raised on which my opinions are far more nuanced than a four point scale will allow. I don’t think this changes my idealism in my approach to them, but believing something is a good idea is still fundamentally separated from knowing how to implement it. I also realise that any ideas I may have will almost invariably need to work in our current social climate, and complete political upheaval required to achieve some ideals will cause more problems than it solves. While I may be less than enamoured by the pandering to popularism democracy results in, I’m far less keen on many of the alternatives which have been seen. I may very well love everyone to live governed by rules of sunshine and happiness, but unfortunately I fear that the rules of Kalashnikovs and power would find a way to take hold.

One question intrigue me, and I’m not sure I see it as a left-right argument.

There is now a worrying fusion of information and entertainment.

The question itself could be interpreted to apply to many facets of the modern entertainment and information industries. I’m currently a big fan of Charlie Brooker’s Newswipe, but should that push me more to agree or disagree? The program is entertainment undoubtedly, but also informative, but paradoxically one of its prime thesis is to attack the way in which the news has allowed the need to deliver facts to be hijacked by the need to entertain. Is there hypocrisy in this situation? Secondly, infotainment has been one of the primary driving forces of the web and internet, with sites like Wikipedia being both methods of entertainment and sources of information. While I think letting entertainment get in the way of your facts is a Bad Thing™ I don’t think I could say the same for the reverse, although perhaps the end result is inevitable.

Fighting terror with terror

Apr 10th, 2009

In attempting to ‘combat terrorism’ the British government has been promoting fears of its own, namely fears of terrorism. All too often this has been in the form of encouraging the British public to be suspicious of everything around them, even going as far as promoting fear of photographers. Most disturbingly, this has been accompanied by police harassing photographers, as well as more troublesome discussion of legal restrictions against the photography of police officers. It is not difficult to see why this is a problem.1
It doesn’t help that pre-existing assumptions and stereotypes mean that a lot of these campaigns contain embedded racism and xenophobia. while the campaigns don’t mention it specifically, the characteristic that will make a person using a mobile phone, or camera look dodgy is, for a lot of people, a middle eastern appearance. If you think I am over-reacting in this case, I can indicate several situations in which air passengers panicked about fellow travellers because they were of Arab appearance.2

The latest campaigns from the British Transport police continues this tradition. Below are two desgins that were rejected.3

Whats he doing sat alone? I bet hes planning to bomb something. Better report it, just in caseThis duck wont be able to make a bomb because it is a duck. But you should be scared anyway.

Click for full size

  1. Also, as I write this, BBC News 24 keeps mentioning that the police raids in several Northern English cities have revealed photographs of possible terrorist targets. No mention how these differer from tourist photos. []
  2. Of course, in some of these situations other ‘reasons’ were given. However I can’t help feel that none of these ‘reasons’ would have raised suspicion is the passengers were not of Middle Eastern appearance []
  3. Of course they are actually parodies. Although I realise that it can be difficult to tell when faced with some of the real posters. []

Wait… what?

Mar 22nd, 2009
A Helpfull Error Message

A Helpful Error Message (Click for Bigger)