purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
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.
purplecat: (dinosaur)
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.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
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? )

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.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
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.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Sunday: Usual Sunday routine (minus B). Went for a run (hard work after two weeks of no running!), did some washing, some tidying (or rather unpacking, given our various adventures), wrote a drabble, put something in a [community profile] fandomgiftbox.

Monday: Discovered the boiler was broken when I attempted to shower after my run. Some negotiation with G followed in which she insisted that one could turn up at school on the first day of a new school year without having showered for four days. We were rescued by Pimm and Ilvirin who fed us and let us use their shower.

Tuesday: I had intended to go to work, but instead stayed home to wait for the boiler repair man who, fortunately, fixed the boiler. G. had a good first day of school.

Wednesday: Had my annual Professional Development Review (boss is happy, but encouraged me to apply for fellowship grant some time in the not too distant future). Went to a staff meeting since I probably ought to start attending these again now I'm at least half a permanent member of staff.

Thursday: Worked from home - mostly debugging the Lego Rovers.

Friday: Had a useful meeting with the man in charge of Outreach in Computer Science in which we agreed some things we'd like to do this year. Otherwise worked on implementing a planning algorithm in our framework for which I think we will have various uses.

Saturday: Parkrun - very pleased with a time of 24:53 (my goal, going in, was to finish under 26 minutes). It's a way off my personal best but, again, I had that two week gap in running practice and hadn't attended a park run (as a runner) in over a month. B. returned from Japan to much rejoicing.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
The recording of "Doctor in Distress" (from the back of DWM 101) because, obviously, if an idea is appropriate for raising money for the starving in Ethiopia it is equally appropriate for protesting BBC decisions about which shows it wants to make.

purplecat: (dinosaur)

Graptolithina were a sort of worm that lived in the Cambrian and Carboniferous. You can find their fossils all over the place apparently, including in the Lake District. They have often been mistaken for pictures of some kind.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
We decided to spend our final day in the Lake District doing some regular sight-seeing. We gave G. a choice of locations and a rough idea of geography so we didn't zig-zag about too much. She picked the waterfall at Aira Force, the Lego Exhibition at the Rheged Centre, a stone circle (Long Meg), and Acorn Bank (a National Trust country house with a herb garden).

Photos under the Cut )


Sep. 7th, 2016 08:47 pm
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)

The view from our holiday cottage window

We'd picked a cottage by Ullswater that advertised having a view, but hadn't quite realised how spectacular that view would actually prove to be.

My boss once again offered advice on walks and suggested a walk round the lake combined with a ride on a steamer boat. After some thought we opted to do the walk in the opposite direction to the one suggested, since this let us start at Glenridding (where we had parked the day before to climb Hellvellyn), do the walk, and then get the steamer back at the end. It also gave us the option of two possibly places to catch the steamer allowing us to vary the length of the walk based on stamina. This was just as well since the walk proved fairly undulating and it was hot, both of which features G. objected to. We caught the steamer back to Glenridding at around the halfway point.

Pictures under the Cut )


Sep. 6th, 2016 07:05 pm
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Last year we managed to get G up a couple of smaller fells in the Lake district, and failed to get her up Stoney Cove Pike. This year we were determined to get up a more ambitious mountain. Having determined that G could manage quite a lot of along, but was less keen on up, we thought the appropriate plan of attack was probably a mountain with most of the significant "up" occurring early on when she was fresh and then possibly some kind of ridge walk to the summit. Ordnance Survey maps were consulted and we found we were staying close to Helvellyn which both of us had heard of but neither attempted. Scrutiny of the contour lines suggested that the first 700m of up all occurred pretty quickly, followed by a walk along Striding Edge with a final 200m of fairly steep up to a long flat summit. There was then a slightly longer route down along Swirral Edge which, after the first couple of hundred metres was a fairly gentle slope.

Those of you who know Helvellyn may have already spotted the flaw in the plan and, in retrospect, it might have served us well to consult the Internet as well as the Ordnance Survey maps before attempting the climb.

We decided to make the attempt on the third day of our stay. The weather forecast was changing pretty much hourly the whole week, so it was pretty much impossible to work out when might be a good day, and it wasn't actively raining when we set out. In fact, apart from the first horrible day, this was probably the worst weather we had all week. However G. actively dislikes the heat so it may have been the best day to make her do a lot of walking up hill.

Photos under the Cut )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
So about three weeks back now, we went to the Lake District for a week. This year we headed for the northern lakes and stayed in a holiday cottage with a stunning view over Ullswater. There was a pub within walking distance but not much else (and even if you stretched "not much else" to include the 40 minute walk to the nearest village there was only a minimalist convenience store there*). There will be several posts of pictures.

Starting with the Cockpit, Cap Stone, and Long Meg and her Daughters )

*well a minimalist convenience store, an outdoor clothing shop, a souvenir shop, and more pubs and cafes than you could shake a stick at. So overall, not too bad, but inconvenient if you were looking for fresh vegetables that weren't onions.
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Readers may recall I felt deprived of a visit to White Horse Hill and Wayland's Smithy during the Denial Trip to Stonehenge. To make up for this we went there while visiting my mother. B. had caught up with us by that point (having come via Newfoundland). My mother is no longer very mobile and so left us to get on with it since it would involve a fair bit of walking. It was a beautiful day, though G. found it too hot.

Pictures Under the Cut )


Sep. 3rd, 2016 04:16 pm
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
At the beginning of August G and I went to visit my mother. My father was away on a respite holiday, allowing us to treat the visit more like a holiday for ourselves than support work/crisis management. I have very found memories of Rousham gardens as a child, particularly rolling down the truly magnificent slope to the river, and playing pooh sticks in the artificial rills connecting the various ponds. Unfortunately children under 15 are no longer allowed in the grounds. After some consultation G., consented to pretending to being over 15 and promised not to run wildly about the place screaming. So on the first day the three of us set out to visit the gardens.

I've never been inside the house at Rousham but it looks very pretty from the outside.

Lots of photos, including some from my childhood, under the cut )
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
B. is currently in Japan and I've just spent a week at the European Conference on Artificial Intelligence. G, therefore has spent a few days with Valkyrie and family in Stoke-on-Trent. On my way to collect her, and stuck in a traffic jam, I did a double-take when I saw what appeared to be RTD in the rearview mirror. Closer inspection revealed it was not RTD so much as a large photo of RTD in the passenger seat of the vehicle behind. Once I'd convinced myself that, yes, indeed, there really was a life-size photo of RTD in the car behind me and given the traffic was stationary, I recorded the moment for posterity.


There was a dimly visible figure in the back seat of the car and I persuaded myself that it was just about plausible that was the man himself (the only vaguely logical reason I could think of for transporting a life-size photo of RTD would be that you were actually RTD and were off to do some publicity of some kind). Since the traffic jam was located on the main route between Manchester and the southbound M6 it wasn't beyond possibility he might be in a car in the general vicinity.

Social Media shenanigans under the cut )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
My collection of crocheted neckwear continues to multiply.

purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
I've always confused Meglos and The Creature from the Pit which, it must be said, I've always assumed was just me. But halfway through Meglos tame layman noted it was "very like" Creature from the Pit as well. While John Nathan-Turner attempted to put a very different stamp on the show, Meglos feels very much like a leftover from the Graham Williams era, and in particular one of the less loved stories.

It's not just similar to Creature from the Pit in general tone, it has a jungle planet, a high profile female semi-antagonist, comedy ruffians (whose humour is more hit than miss) and a fourth episode that goes off on a bit of a tangent (though not as much of one).

Its production is better than that of Creature from the Pit, but that sadly isn't saying a great deal and it has a joyless feel to it (possibly because Tom Baker was ill (if I recall events correctly) and possibly because it is a Graham Williams' style story being produced by JNT). Tom Baker should be unstoppable in the double role of the Doctor and Meglos but instead is strangely muted. It doesn't help that the Doctor doesn't actually manage to get out of the Tardis until episode 2, making the whole of episode 1 feel like set-up.

The casting of Jacqueline Hill (who had played Barbara back in the original Tardis crew) is the kind of stunt casting JNT was keen on but this case seems oddly ill-conceived in retrospect - not famous enough to bring in casual viewers and fandom and general geek culture wasn't anything like as high profile in the 1980s (though JNT was an early show-runner to recognise the value of playing to the fans) - and, for whatever reason, she doesn't really dominate in the way you would expect as the celebrity cast member.

All in all, it's not terribly good. It's not out-right bad in the way that The Creature in the Pit is in places, but it fails to be particularly good in an retrospect.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
We went to Forbidden Corner for Valkyrie's birthday. It wasn't 100% successful since G had a meltdown in the tunnels (as discussed elsewhere) but it ended with smiles. It's a very odd place - a weird combination of wild imagination and twee. I'd have liked to explore it more thoroughly but that was not to be.

Pictures under the Cut )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
Twenty-five years ago, give or take, the Oxford Arthurian Society used to hire out the Yellow Minibus of Doom and tour the country admiring miscellaneous castles, stone circles and anything that seemed vaguely related to King Arthur. We did this for a day in Michelmas Term, a weekend in Hilary and then a full week at the end of Trinity. The day trip was always the same itinery - White Horse Hill and Wayland's Smithy, West Kennet Longbarrow, Silbury Hill, Avebury Stone Circle, Winchester (if we could squeeze it in) and then ending up at Stonehenge around dusk because some bright spark had discovered, at some point, that if you wrote to Stonehenge and claimed to be a terribly serious student society, they would would let you in after hours and you would be free to wander among the stones.

I'm not sure quite when and how the idea arose to re-create this experience for the [livejournal.com profile] primeval_denial crowd. The Yellow Minibus of Doom has long gone to the great Yellow Minibus in the Sky but we had enough drivers that it was feasible to attempt the trip in cars. Being rather wealthier we also opted to book ourselves in to the Amesbury Travelodge and make a weekend of it.

Investigation revealed that one can no longer write to Stonehenge and claim to be some kind of earnest society (we were going to go with "writers' group" which excuse has served us well in the past) but instead there is now procedure and anyone can get in for the coughing up of £35 per head. We also discovered that if you want to wander freely among the stones at about 5.30pm on a Saturday in July you need to book your slot considerably earlier than January. After a certain amount of emailing back and forth it was decided that 6.30am on a Saturday morning was the lesser of the various evils on offer.

So we started the day at Stonehenge under the watchful eye of two security guards who had instructions to expel us from the site if we had the temerity to touch (or lick - they were very specific about the no licking rule) the stones. [livejournal.com profile] fredbassett and [livejournal.com profile] bigtitch are currently on a quest to collect as much ancient graffitti as possible and so spent a lot of time peering closely at the stones and consulting with the security guards (who might not have been historians or archeologists but who had heard an awful lot of historians and archeologists go around the site) who were obviously only too happy to give up on the lurking and staring and instead talk about graffitti. [livejournal.com profile] fredbassett and [livejournal.com profile] bigtitch found a cock and balls on a fallen menhir and pronounced themselves thoroughly satisfied with the trip. Apparently there is an ancient graffitti facebook group and they were looking forward to posting their up close pictures from Stonehenge.

We then went to the Little Chef next to the hotel for breakfast and returned to Stonehenge after it had opened in order to check out the new exhibition and extensive gift shop.

We then went on to Avebury, where [livejournal.com profile] fredbassett and [livejournal.com profile] bigtitch found more graffitti and the sun rather unexpectedly came out and shone fiercely, revealing how woefully unprepared we all were in terms of sun hats and sun cream.

After lunch at Avebury we headed for West Kennet at which point it became clear I had broken some of the party (too tired to look for graffitti) and wasn't going to be allowed to do more than look wistfully in the direction of White Horse Hill and Wayland's Smithy.

On the Sunday we headed in the opposite direction towards Old Sarum which would bring various people closer to their trains, had lunch in the pub by the castle and then went our separate ways.

Photos under the Cut )


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