Friday, 24 December 2010

Janus Tendencies

So today I had a quick tidy up of the blog setup and I remembered that I had stopped recording, on board game geek, the games that I have been playing this year.  Shame really, I think there is a little Janus in all of us at this gateway to the new year and it would have been nice to examine the statistics like some latter-day sooth sayer and predict what it means about the changing nature of me and what may happen in 2011.

Note-to-self, must play (and record) more games.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

No Crib for a Bed

Last night we were lucky enough to be invited to stay for supper with some great friends following the annual Oakley Court carol service.  After eating we were casually invited to play some cards.  Fabulous.  The crib board was produced and the games began.  I took an absolute drubbing - not helped by playing against a Jedi Crib Master - "these are not the cards you're looking for".

Humiliated and dejected I decided to take on my iphone to claw back some self respect.  During this first game, I was taking the lead and feeling very confident and then I was presented with this hand.

So obviously I could sit and work out the mathematical possibilities and the appropriate probability distribution but I was taking a, ahem, 10 minute break and so I made a snap decision.  I would discard the 4 and the 3 since the resulting hand was worth 14 in its own right.

Blast, who'd've thought it, I should have kept the 4 and the 3.  This meant that my hand is now still only worth 14 but if I'd thrown the 10 and a 5 into my crib I'd have had a hand worth 18 and a stronger seeded crib.

Adding insult to injury my crib was only worth 4 points but had I have thrown in the 5 and 10, it would have been worth 8 making my total score 26, a full 10 points more than my actual score of 16.  I guess an implicit, Jedi like understanding of probability is what one must develop to make the more likely (to succeed) selection, repeatedly.  Still I beat the iPhone - scant satisfaction though, as I know deep down that Master Sandy would have punished the choice mercilessly.  I'll lay down my sweet head......

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

An Egregious Motor Car

The OED defines egregious as outstandingly bad as a modern definition and remarkably good as an archaic definition.  I think its safe to say the Bentley Packard in the link below fits this definition accurately.  We may indeed be at the end of the epoch of the internal combustion engine and we may or may not believe that exhaust fumes generated by consumption of oil and its derivatives has set the environment on a cycle of terminal decline; what we cannot do is fail to marvel at the engineering phenomenon that is Mavis, the Bentley Packard.

I received a link from my cousin-in-law Mike, a fellow petrol head, to the following video and article from the Telegraph.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading the article and watching the road test and wanted to share.  I only hope you can suppress your eco-guilt sufficiently to fully appreciate the inherent beauty of this gargantuan machine and the wonderful eccentricity of anyone wanting to build it.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Didactic or Polemic? You decide - PART I

Not being a student of history, its often difficult for me to locate important events on a timeline and to see their relative importance and why they may have an influence on our lives today.  The hypothesis that humans have a single origin was published by Darwin in 1859.  There is significantly more evidence to support this theory today,  apparently hominids diverged from chimpanzees 5-7 million years ago and a discovery within the last decade puts this nearer the earlier date.  Modern humans, Homo Sapiens evolved in Eastern Africa 200,000 to 140,000 years ago and using genetic testing a much more accurate map of human ancestry and migration to all inhabited parts of the world is now available.

Apparently there is still much academic debate, which occasionally spills over to mainstream media, regarding the Recent African Origin (RAO) model.  Around 60,000 years ago a group of 150-200 early humans made it out of Africa and proceeded to populate the rest of the planet.  Ultimately surviving all earlier hominids that had journeyed out of Africa previously.  Looking at the timeline at the top, in the last 800,000 years (80% of the last section of the 7) there were eight ice ages, each interspersed with warmer periods of around 10,000 years.  The impact of the extreme cold on the planet does not only have the obvious effect, that of the ice sheets advancing across the northern hemisphere cutting off vital resources for these hunter gatherer communities, but also the locking up of water in these sheets meant that lower rainfall turned half the land between the tropics into desert.  A torrid time then for the human race.  About 12,000 years ago the last ice age was drawing to an end - temperatures rose, vegetation returned and animals spread into the former wastelands.  The hunters followed.  By this time in the Near East and Central America these humans had begun to develop new ways of producing food, farming had started.  During the 150,000 years that preceded this time, modern humans numbered only in their millions and had migrated the globe foraging and hunting in small groups.  This fundamental change in human behaviour signalled the start of the transition to modern society.

The Levant is an imprecise word with sometimes emotive definitions but in general it can be thought of to cover the area shown in the picture.  I have chosen the picture that has a very arbitrary shading and uses ancient names for the regions comprising it, clearly modern day  Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories fall within this region.  It is believed that the origin of the word is from archaic French and refers to 'rising' as the Sun rises in the East.  This crucible of humanity is where 10,000 years ago these once migratory small groups of humans had advanced their agriculture sufficiently to allow them to remain in one location permanently.  This is worth absorbing.  After 7 million years from the split from chimpanzee, 200,000 years after modern Humans evolved, 60,000 years after migrating out of Africa, after beginning to domesticate animals and selecting genetically superior plants to farm, finally Humanity started to take root.  Small villages with partially subterranean dwellings were clustered together in a community.  Around 8000 BC then, during the Pre-Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA), the world's first known town, Jericho, appeared in the Levant and was surrounded by a stone wall and contained a population of 2000-3000 people and a massive stone tower.   It was a further thousand years before the inhabitants of modern day China would start cultivating rice and farming appeared in parts of the Aegean, it was not until c 4000BC before this reached the shores of Britain and maize was first cultivated in Modern Ecuador and Columbia around 3000BC.  Tune in for part II, where I will explore what these pioneers in the Levant, our ancestors,  did with all their spare time, now they were not hunting for food every waking moment.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

New Year's Revolution

As I have mentioned before the communication challenges that confront us all, with the advent of what is variously called social networking, Cyberspace, the Web, the Internet etc, are numerous and many people are struggling to come to terms with them.  From businesses to the media to private individuals the struggle is evident.  Some businesses can't cope with the onset of viral marketing the vast scale interconnectedness of their consumers.

The news media - in the 24hour constant reporting world - struggle to balance relevance and source verified factually correct reporting.

Finally the general public are swamped by the accelerating and rapid upgrading and introduction of new tools with which to communicate. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn are my current trio there are many more brands from which we can choose. 

In all of these sites I am finding an increasing discomfort. It has been clear to me for some time that we are someone's product but the escalation of the disdain with which our information security and privacy are being handled I find increasingly frustrating.  There must be a business model that supports a more safe, secure and open relationship with the provider.  If so many people desire this type of facility I'm sure it can be provided as a low-cost fee for service type deal.  I have started sketching out a business plan, not sure how to fund it? My New Years Resolution is to complete the plan and if it looks sensible to get it funded and build an alternative, who's with me? Comrade Jimbo, leader of the people's popular affront.