Back at Warwick! First blog of the year; not much to say except "Aaargh, I have too much work to...

Back at Warwick! First blog of the year; not much to say except "Aaargh, I have too much work to do!"
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We should definitely bring the word quidnunc into popular usage: One who is curious to know...

We should definitely bring the word quidnunc into popular usage: One who is curious to know everything that passes; one who knows or pretends to know all that is going on; a gossip; a busybody. It describes basically everyone I know. I can see it now: 'Don't be such a nunc!' 'You're really nuncking today.' etc. I love the word of the day, but I'm embarrassed to admit that. On a completely unrelated note, I don't usually harp on about the trains being bloody awful (though they are), but this excuse given by Network Rail really amazed me:"We've had heaters on thousands of points but snow and low temperatures have meant that some have not functioned and this has led to a number of points failures," So your excuse for the failure of heaters designed to keep the track from freezing is that they froze?What?
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This could be big. A company called There Inc. has just launched a new online world. As the article...

This could be big. A company called There Inc. has just launched a new online world. As the article explains, it's pretty amazing. Walking around a fairly detailed 3D world, you get to be a human-like avatar, with a reasonably high level of customization possible in your appearance. Your 3D face can show a variety of emotions, and your body has a range of body language too.You can: Chat in real-time with people walking around you (your chat appears like speech balloons) Bandwidth permitting, have real-time voice chats with others around you. You can hear music and other sounds in the world surrounding you, too. Buy things like clothes to wear, toys to play with, and vehicles (like a dune buggy and a hoverboard) that you can actually ride. This, it seems, is how There Inc. makes money -- items are purchased using unimaginatively-named ThereBucks, and you must buy Therebucks using actual money (the exchange rate is pretty generous though). Program (using an open API) your own worlds and items, allowing you...
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Why I love this university, and never ever want to leave: Last night, I went to Top B. Top B is a...

Why I love this university, and never ever want to leave: Last night, I went to Top B. Top B is a free-entry night at the students' union, 5 minutes' walk from my house. It plays cheesy pop, my favourite music to dance to, and the venue features half a dozen easily-accessible vending machines, so my drinks cost 60p each and there's no waiting. And all of that is fabulous, but that's not the reason I never want to leave. Last night, as I was walking home from top B, a car full of girls obviously also just leaving Top B was emerging from one of the car parks. As the car drove past me, the girls inside noticed, and slowed down. And, with every sign of sincerity, burst into applause. I'm never going to leave. You can't make me.
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President Bush today jumped into the affirmative-action debate in the US by challenging Michigan...

President Bush today jumped into the affirmative-action debate in the US by challenging Michigan University's "quota" system. His stance, or the stance of whoever happens to be pulling his strings at the moment, is that all people should be treated equally in the eyes of the law. That's interesting firstly because I wasn't aware that university admissions policies amounted to law, and secondly in the context of this article from two days earlier, about a study which reveals that having a "black-sounding" name in the state of California makes it 33% less likely that an employer will respond to your CV. Which of these two situations is more deserving of Presidential attention? You'll have to forgive me: having just recently watched Bowling for Columbine, I am now strongly convinced that all of America's problems spring from its deep-rooted and institutional racism. Some people don't agree with that take and the rest of Michael Moore's extremely subjective (but very entertaining) documentary. Interestingly,...
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All Your TV Presenter Are Belong To Us Britain has a paedophilia problem, and it's time it was...

All Your TV Presenter Are Belong To Us Britain has a paedophilia problem, and it's time it was dealt with. And that problem is Britain's attitude to paedophiles, which is that we should incarcerate them all. Well wake up, Britain: there are anywhere from 250,000 to 1.1 million paedophiles living in Britain, of whom it is estimated that only 10% have been convicted, and only 2% of those are in jail. You can't lock up paedophiles, there are too many of them. They are your rock stars, your TV presenters, doctors, teachers, business men and of course your priests, over and over again. Even some of the police officers investigating paedophiles are themselves paedophiles. This is not a situation Britain can continue to ignore as long as public reaction is so violent to the discovery of "paedophiles in the neighbourhood". The issue is being forced, thanks to 1,300 arrests out of 6000 suspects provided to Operation Ore in the UK by the much larger Operation Candyman in the US, which found the names and addresses...
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I got in touch with Amy Phillips of the excellent 50 Minute Hour and asked for her opinion on the...

I got in touch with Amy Phillips of the excellent 50 Minute Hour and asked for her opinion on the paedophilia issue (for no more sensible reason than she generally has clever things to say). She responded with this: Interesting piece. My main comment would be that I think you need to draw a stronger distinction between pedophiles who have in the past hurt children and those who merely have fantasies or sexual thoughts about children. I think that the best way to deal with pedophilia is a combination of intensive therapy for the latter group and jail time for the former (criminal) group as a punishment/deterrent for acting on perfectly legal, if "deviant" thoughts. There needs to be a punishment for hurting another person, especially a child unable to defend her/himself. On the other hand, you're right, locking people up isn't the answer, and we need intensive medical and theraputic treatment for both child molesters and people who think it might be fun to someday molest a child. It's a tough issue....
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You know the old chestnut about what would happen if Microsoft made cars? Well, now they do. And...

You know the old chestnut about what would happen if Microsoft made cars? Well, now they do. And it's almost exactly the same as the jokes. Remind me not to buy a BMW, okay?
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The poetry section is a bit broken. When it's fixed, I'll put this there. Until...

The poetry section is a bit broken. When it's fixed, I'll put this there. Until then: Happy Happy, that's what I am now Happy, but why does it never last Happy, everytime that you feel great Some shit, comes and take it away Life is so fleeting Sometimes, I just wish I could die Right now, when I know that I'm up I've got, friends who care what I do I've got, a life that I can be proud of I know, that at my funeral They'd be, able to say nice things I haven't, had a chance to screw up Haven't blown all of my chances But I, can see those things coming Disappointment, is it all downhill from here? Less friends, as we all move away Less fun, as my body gives way Less thought, as my brain loses juice Death now, before misery claims my youth I don't, ever want to be old And I, refuse to be told That the best is yet to come Can't see it, the way I could before Things could, go anywhere from here Up or down, and it's all up to me I hope, but will fate still smile on me? One...
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Although I am well-known for my self-effacing and humble nature (ahem) I feel it necessary to point...

Although I am well-known for my self-effacing and humble nature (ahem) I feel it necessary to point out this article and its accompanying story, published in this week's edition of the Economist. They're about Britain's stupid legal position on paedophilia, and the police's inability to deal with the situation created by that position, respectively. I first read them today, four days after my rant (see below) on exactly the same topic. Muwahahaha! I can predict the Economist's position on issues! They should have given me that freaking internship. Seriously, this proves nothing more than it's currently a topic of interest. But I'm glad to see that it broadly agrees with my position. It makes several interesting points, including "...in 1994, the law was revised to include computer-generated images as well as real photographs" and "Some of the images ... are computer-generated, so that making them has harmed nobody". I discussed this with Kim and Dan on Sunday, and this is very important: criminalizing...
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Okay, so I've finally come up with a proper ending and finished polishing off Spree. Now tell me...

Okay, so I've finally come up with a proper ending and finished polishing off Spree. Now tell me what you think, okay? It's available in multiple formats: PDF (requires Acrobat Reader, free download) MS Word 95 (requires Microsoft Office, very definitely illegal download) text only (you got notepad, right?) And even OpenOffice.Org Writer format, which is what I used to make everything else. Hope you like it! Update: Okay, so apparently the ending still sucks. Bah.
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Hoo boy, is the US military dumb. You know .mil domain, used for sites like Pentagon.mil? Well,...

Hoo boy, is the US military dumb. You know .mil domain, used for sites like Pentagon.mil? Well, officially, no one but the US military is allowed to register .mil domains. That is, unless they use this page or this one, in which case absolutely anybody can register one, without even having to know a password. The news was broken by those clever people at the Register, who had the pages pointed out to them by a reader first (the pages are in the GoogleCache, for crying out loud...) but said "We are, of course, straining against every natural, journalistic impulse in our beings by neglecting to mention any useful search strings with which to find" the relevant pages. Fortunately, the kind-hearted denizens of Slashdot have absolutely no qualms about doing so. And neither do I. So have fun, and before they shut it down, register pentagon.mil to point at your home page. Ah, go onnnnn.... you know you want to....
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AI text

Having pointed out what he sees as flaws in current methods of developing AI, Brooks goes on to explain how he thinks it should be done. He calls this concept "incremental intelligence". When attempting to develop artificial intelligence, it's a good idea to look at natural intelligence, and see how it developed. And the important thing to note about the way natural intelligence developed is the timescales involved. It took evolution three billion years to go from single-celled organisms to the first fish: that's a significant increase in complexity, including movement, vision, and a whole bunch of survival instincts. It took only a quarter of a billion years -- one sixth of that time -- to go from the first fish to the first beings who were biologically human. That involved refinement of all our senses as well as more advanced limbs including our hands, bipedal movement and steroscopic vision or depth perception. From there, it took us 2 million years to invent agriculture, and once we'd done that it...
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