Category Archives: Hyperlinks

Lolwhut, civilization?

I think I’ve mentioned this earlier that I find the latest Civ 4 add-ons hardly playable and enjoyable: Beyond the Sword is one of the main culprits. The balance of the game seem to have tipped more towards combat, and (as frequent Civ players know) being in a constant wage of war will eventually hurt technology progress. With announcement of Civ 5 (“Coming this Fall”), one can only hope for the better.

Talking about civilization, I had one link still in my queue of links to be elaborating on, which is Thinking Meat’s “Was civilization a bad idea” posting a while ago. The posting was a response to Spencer Well’s Seed Magazine essay ‘Pandora’s seed’, where the geneticist discusses how the rate of cultural evolution (technological advances for example) seem to have taken a toll on human evolution. As an example, the geneticist notes that:

The unprecedented rise in chronic disease in westernized societies is perhaps the most obvious example. I say westernized, rather than western, because we are now well aware of the growing incidence of heart disease, diabetes and plain-old obesity in the developing world, particularly in places such as India and China. As they become more like us, they are taking on many of our worst attributes as well.

If you think of the medical progress we’ve made since the early ages, where thanks to medical science the life expectancy went from, what, 20 years to 65+ years, it feels a bit ironic that thanks to that progress we’re in need of more medical care these days than in the Stone Ages and that our health has come with a (monetary) price.

I guess the point of healthy life is that you should just eat healthy and with moderation. Otherwise the bugs will take over in a couple centuries.

1.Reddit, Civ 4 tips and Steam.

Jupiter and so

I read this the day before yesterday: apparently, Jupiter has lost one of it’s bands (National Geographic on this) within the last couple of months (or even year). If you’re curious if this will have any impact on our Earthly lives, please check your local daily astrology forecast.

Computers are fascination and so are games: depending on your mileage, of course. Earlier this month, I learnt that a senior fellow in the US managed to defeat the game ‘Bejeweled’ by reaching the topscore of (wait for it, wait for it), 2,147,783,647. If you’re not familiar with that number, for your reference I present Wikipedia’s entry on Integer numbers.

And last but not least, via Reddit, I came across this gem (or youtube video) showcasing the excellent animation stuff in the Arma2 game. I looked at this game a year or so ago and while buggy, I was extremely impressed with the online-multiplayer portion of Arma2. From the ‘Leave no man alone, rescue Arthur’ mission, to that ‘long lonely walk until someone offered me a ride on his bike to the battlefield’ occasion. No really: surreal.

Welcome to the internets

I read Something Awful’s ‘Deadly Premonition’ review the other day: many other gaming review sites have called this game ‘horrible’ to ‘outrageously bad’ (see Metacritic). Obviously, the makers of the game (age check required) were Twin Peaks fans, as some of the reviewers noted, as it features twins, absurd story lines and an FBI agent. Also, if you’re a Twin Peaks fan, you’ll recognize the photo in the screenshot above (if not, here ya go). Too bad the game is only released for the XBOX 360 platform.

I’ve only slightly followed the NoSQL movement and mostly because it was linked to from one of the mails I get from the Postgres mailinglist. I’m not certain how people can call databases ‘non-scalable’ when most serious databases (including MySQL, I guess) have been around for ages. If you can’t get the right performance out of a database, you probably have to rethink your indexing strategy and if you’re too lazy to do that, you’ll probably end up at in the NoSQL corner. But seriously, this in fact doesn’t mean that SQL servers are becoming outdated and I don’t think they will just yet.

I also read that the PM is looking to replace the current governor-general, Michaelle Jean (the official site). I think she was appointed by Paul Martin in 2005: I was certain that the GG was there for life (or until they resign/retire). From all the suggestions in that CBC article, I find only William Shatner a compelling candidate1. The other ones, not so much.

1 Uh: on preview maybe not…

Roll up the rim, anno 2010

It’s another year of trying to win a single donut and I bet you are about to run to the local Tim Hortons to put the statistics into practice. Hold on a second: At xsamplex, we’ll get you the numbers, once again (click for all entries).

It looks like the number of contest cups is in a downward trend which peaked in 2008. Compared to last year, the number of contest cups lost stands at 1,474,2000. The general distribution of contest cups shows only slight changes, with Ontario losing the most cups (5 million or so?) and a small rise of numbers in the Alberta, Quebec and Atlantic provinces regions. Quebec is the winner this year, but, with only 2 million more cups, I’m not sure if that’s something to celebrate.

For the 5th year in a row, a Toyota car is the highest valued prize to win: We’ve gone back to SUVs, or rather, the RAV4 has returned. The last time the RAV4 was the main prize was in 2005. This year, there are 40 cars given away, which is 5 more than last year, and all these extra 5 can be win in Ontario. So, if you want to win a car, it looks like Ontario is the place to go for. I bet you’ll look great in your RAV4, 4-wheeling down Toronto’s Younge street.

The other prizes haven’t changed: the numbers are all the same and the distribution has changed in favour of Canadians. The Alberta region seems to be the overall winner here (with the Atlantic provinces next in line): I could make a joke about this (“The Americans get less prizes because of Sidney Crosby”), but the numbers for these two regions just don’t look all too appealing. And again, this yeaer, we see that Toshiba provides the computer gear. That is, compared to last year, this year you can win a sub-par Intel Atom-based netbook. If you win one of those make sure you look happy.

So, generally, I think this year, I’ll stick to instant coffee with a croissant. You should probably too.

Previous entries: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003 and 2002. Or click this tag for all posts tagged with ‘Roll Up The Rim’.

Not so Olympic

In a couple of days, the 2010 Winter Olympic games will start: this year, Vancouver, BC, Canada will host the games. If you’re into this, the full schedule is of course readily available online. Which reminds me that a couple of months ago, the Olympic torch did pass by Saint John, NB. On November 25th, I witnessed the Olympic procession on Prince William’s: this was quite a non-event. On the other hand, it was fairly early morning then.

The first Olympic Games I remember is the 1980’s one, hosted by the city of Moscow. This was at the height of the Cold War and for some reason, that year, was also the first time countries were calling for a boycott of the games, mainly to protest the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet army. Countries that boycotted the games organized their own games, which became known as the ‘Liberty Bell games’. The Dutch did send a delegation to Moscow and while I don’t think they won any gold medals, I do remember the silver medal of the marathon athlete Nijboer. Vaguely though.

I haven’t decided if I’ll be following some of the games: Most likely not. The only interesting sport would be speed skating, I guess. There was a time that only Dutch and Norwegian speed skaters took the major prizes. Hopefully that has changed.

Wave

I suspect that Google Wave is going public really soon now. I signed up for Wave a couple of months ago but got an invitation via Alfons. Just a couple of hours ago, I received my official invitation. How about getting two invitations within 2 days?

My initial thoughts are mixed: Like other social media forms, Wave would work perfectly if you have hundreds of friends and relatives and participants. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have its usage. I guess, you could use it as a personal notes keeper for your sources.

When I have time, I’ll have to take a closer look at this.

S.

So, with Autumn slowly taking care of the leafs of the trees on our property, the spiders disappearing one by one, a couple of thoughts from computers to the personal stuff:

I like Autumn. In our younger years, our teachers always insisted that Spring marked the start of a new year. I always thought they were wrong and that the actual start of a new year starts around this month. Time to rake up the dead and the forgotten.

Alfons forwarded me a youtube video of the (old) DDR national anthem, ‘Auferstanden aus Ruinen’, which was composed by Hanns Eisler, a protégées and student of the great composer Arnold Schoenberg. Complex and intricate music: Obviously there’s a link between this composition and his ‘Dr Faustus’ Goethe Rhapsodie work. I’ve been planning to add Eisler to my ‘Past the Bridge’ collection of sound fragments. I would not be surprised if a lot of Germans get nostalgic if they hear that anthem.

I worked a bit on my Ubuntu box: I have no idea why the ‘graying’ part was added to Ubuntu (or if this is actually part of X), but I cannot tolerate it (basically, if a program is busy or has 100% CPU, it will temporarily ‘gray out’. It makes it appear that Ubuntu is bad at multi-tasking, which it definitely isn’t.

Update 1: A kind of hilarious: Google translates ‘Auferstanden aus Ruinen’ to ‘The Train Station’. No really.

Update 2: Some call ‘Auferstanden…’ the most beautiful national anthem ever written.

In Full Force

A couple of days ago I ran into a blog post called ‘Soviet Global Invasion Routes’, which has a collection of 80s maps showing the expected Soviet attack routes over the various continents (hyperlinks: West Europe, East Asia, and the Middle East). These were apparently maps made by American analysts and the number of comments at Reddit seem to either suggest that nobody knew about this or everybody knew this is ‘old hat’.

It is ‘old hat': like other people who served in Western European conscription armies we were thoroughly drilled and taught about the ‘German plains tank battle’ in case of a showdown between the Red Army and NATO. We were totally aware of the armour odds (I think it was 5 to 1 or so) but our main goal was simply to delay the Red Army by targeting their supply lines.

At the end, I believe that NATO’s typical military structure (smaller semi-independent and decentralized units) would make the difference on the battlefield: that is, if no tactical nuclear missiles were going to be deployed.

Lost

We lost our faithful companion last Wednesday: Katy the Wunderdog was put down and life got a lot quieter around the house. If she had lasted a couple of weeks, she would have been 18 which is an excellent age for a dog her size. It’s a kind of surprising how fast it went downhill with her: last year’s photos of her tell a different story than the dog we knew for the last couple of weeks.

The other thing of note was that Air France plane disaster, last Sunday or Monday. Flight 447 was lost during a transatlantic flight from Brazil to France. The rescue efforts (or should I say, the search efforts) finally seem to have found the first bodies but there’s no word yet on the black boxes, which may have ended up in the depths of the Atlantic.

Curious: shouldn’t these boxes go with floaters for transatlantic flights? I mean, finding out what happened is crucial in these kind of disasters, instead of relying on best guesses by your local airplane and weather expert.

Update 1: Christian Science Monitor on ‘floating’ black boxes (06/03/09).

Update 2: Air France plane crashed ‘intact’ (07/02/09).

Update 3: Air France boxes search to wind down (07/10/09).

Now.

BeenNo Contents fairly busy and still am, which means that I’ve only got a bunch of left-over links I ran into the last couple weeks:

The June 2009 SA has a story about the evolution of the Housecattus Domesticus Abnormalis, or rather, the common house cat. The cat as we know it in Western Europe, did indeed originate from the Middle East. Additionally it appears that the cats/human bond started about 10,000 years ago, when humans started to establish themselves in homes, which attracted the cute little mice your cat will throw up in front of your shoes. Or in scientific lingo (if you’re religious, you may want to close your eyes):

Both these food sources [houses and trash heaps] would have encouraged cats to adapt to living with people: natural selection favored those cats that were able to cohabitate with humans and thereby gain access to the trash and mice.

Silly Europeans, the moment they start banning stuff, Canada gets in an uproar. It’s the seal hunt, again; which is when Canadian seal hunters club seals to death. While I don’t particularly care about the seal hunt, it takes some guts to eat a raw seal heart, that requires guts. Or maybe you need to be out of your mind to do that.

And last and definitely least: The malaria bugs have been slowly getting resistant to artemesinin: researchers in Cambodia have issued warnings that the drugs are taking longer to clear the blood of the parasites, which is an early warning sign of emerging resistance. The irony (a cynical one at that) is that if it wasn’t for our use of medication, there wouldn’t have been this resistance.

The light

A couple of days ago, I was thinking of mankind’s efforts to make an invisible cloak: I’m not sure why I came up to that subject, but, at one time, I remember trying to explain someone what light is and the duality of matter and energy (I guess I should link to the double-slit experiment as well). Anyway, to stay on topic, I read that researchers are getting closer to making such a cloak, and this time it doesn’t require heavy use of metals: by manipulating the optical density of an object (the ‘amount of refraction of an object’) they were able to transform the path of light.

I also read that researches have drawn up a genetic map of Africa, which shows that continent (besides being the origin of humans) is more genetic diverse than initially expected. Additionally, the study seems to confirm the location of the origin of human migration, which is in south-west Africa.

A week ago (or so, according the news sources), astronomers watched the explosion of the oldest object (for now) in the universe. The best estimations are that it exploded 13 billion years ago, which makes the object approximately ‘only’ 600 million years old or so. The gamma ray burst, detected by SWIFT (which some news sources fail to mention), confirms what most astronomers already suspected: that stars can form within 600 million years.

The Fighting Windmills Squadron

News Find the 10 differences outlet AFP reported that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard has accused the Netherlands of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.

The Dutch [project] aimed to encourage sexual and moral deviation in society

I’d like to hear what kind of moral and sexual deviation they are talking about.

Alfons linked to a piece I’ve never heard of (not that I claim to be an expert in Spanish/Mexican style music..), the ‘Huapango’. Full orchestral work linked here (Berlin Philharmonic, YouTube, 9 minutes). Excellent material.

Via, uh, MetaFilter, I listened to Bonnie Bassler’s TED presentation (18 minutes) about how bacteria communicate. The thing that struck me the most was how she explained how we ended up with resistant bacteria:

“We’re running out of anti-biotics. Bacteria are getting increasingly multi-drug resistant, and that’s basically because all the anti-biotics we use kill bacteria… […] and that selects the resistant mutants.”

They have a name for that: it’s called evolution.

Update 1: Bassler’s name corrected (was ‘Bartlett’, who was actually an actress in St. Elsewhere). My bad.

Green as grass

Grass has this amazing ability to survive the most bizarre weather conditions: the yellow (but slowly turning green) grass patches on the (still) frozen ground in our yard are a testament of the species’ resilience. I find it a kind of funny that despite it being one of the longest surviving plants, Wikipedia’s entry on grass is a bit dull:

Many types of animals eat grass as their main source of food. These animals are usually called “herbivores”, although certain herbivores are more inclined to eat leafy plants, and some omnivorous or even primarily carnivorous animals have been observed eating grass on occasion. Some of the most familiar grass eaters include cows, sheep, horses and rabbits.

Oh. No really? Zzzzzzz.

I was reminded of a silly Dutch tradition: The ‘Palm pasen’ parade. I think only the first two grades (primary school) do this (@Flickr) and I can’t remember exactly what this is all about (Dutch Wikipedia to the rescue) but kids are supposed to make and decorate a cross, nail a piece of bread (the shape of a chicken, I believe) to it and then parade around the neighbourhood or school. Thinking of it, I can’t imagine why public schools would do this to their kids.

Then, somehow, I got here, “Almost Perfect”, which is a personal witness account of the rise and fall of WordPerfect. What can I say about WordPerfect? It went from de-facto standard to obscure word processor. Sure, one can blame Microsoft for aggressively throwing Word at OEMs.

And last but not least, via this (“Neither have you tasted my Jesus”), I ended up looking at this excellent series (“From Big Bang to us – Made Easy”) about the universe, evolution and mankind. If you’re scientifically inclined (and I assume you are), you may just as well subscribe to the creator’s the Youtube channel.