How to Win the World Cup: Step One: Dream on, Dreamer
Are you passionate about your football team? When I say passion I mean passion as in suffering, from the Latin verb patī meaning to suffer. World cups are passionate milestones for many people, they leave indelible marks on the psyche, you remember who you were with, where you were and how your team suffered.
Like many England supporters I’ve suffered as the english media whips up false hope about the prospects of the squad every four years. “This year could be our chance”, and “we’ve got some really good players”, “remember 1966?”, “thirty years of hurt never stopped me dreaming” bla bla bla….
Passionate English suffering at the World Cup (1982-2014)
All this hope, passionately flies in the face of reason, cold facts and history:
So if history [2,3] and mathematics (via predictwise) are anything to go by, there is (at the time of writing) a 96.5% chance that English suffering will continue and a 60% chance that the suffering will occur in the latter stages of the competition…
Wherever you are, whoever you support and whatever their chances, enjoy the inevitable suffering that comes with being passionate about zero-sum games like football. Life would be very boring without passion and suffering…
- Clemente FM, Couceiro MS, Martins FM, Ivanova MO, & Mendes R (2013). Activity profiles of soccer players during the 2010 World Cup. Journal of Human Kinetics, 38, 201-11 PMID: 24235995
- Graham McColl (2010) How to win the World Cup Bantam Press, ISBN: 0593066227
- Alex Bellos (2014) Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life Bloomsbury Paperback ISBN: 0747561796
Sunny intervals? Really?
According to the urban myth, the eskimos have hundreds of words for snow. But meteorologists, especially British weather forecasters, have just as many words for rain. Take this typical forecast for example:
TODAY: Showers will continue in the north and west, but become more lighter and more isolated as the night progresses. Remaining dry elsewhere with clear spells and light winds.
TOMORROW: Largely dry and bright with sunny spells, the best of the sunshine in the south. A few light showers are likely for Scotland and Northern Ireland. Warm with light winds.
Many people just want to know will it rain today and should I take a brolly? Deciphering the weasel words above can be frustrating, in case you find this confusing, here’s a quick (and incomplete) translation into plain words .
|Weasel Weather Words
||Will it rain? Actual meaning in plain english
|low pressure moving in from the west
|sunshine with showers
|becoming brighter later
||yes (where you are)
I hope this clears things up a bit.
- Ernest Gowers (1954) Plain Words: A Guide to the use of English revised and updated by Rebecca Gowers ISBN: 0141975539
The Church of Banksy
Whatever your religous preferences, the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr captures a certain wisdom about life in general. So it is good to see that physicist Jon Butterworth at UCL has adapted it  for scientists:
“Give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be understood,
Data to investigate the things which can be understood,
And the Wisdom to know the difference.”
- Jon Butterworth (2014) Giles Fraser says scientists are replacing theologians. Some thoughts on that The Gruaniad, 2014-03-31
A dojo (or a dōjō) is an event where people train to perform a given task. So for example, software engineers organise code dojos to hone their skills in making software. The term has become widely adopted, so much so, that you’ll often find many flavours of dojo in your local area. In Manchester, there are at least three variants and these often get confused, usually by me. So here’s a quick explanation of what the different dojos do and how they are different.
CoderDojo: @coderdojo & @mcrcoderdojo etc
CoderDojo.com is an open source, volunteer led, global movement of free coding clubs for young people. You’ll find Coder Dojos all over the world, the Manchester Coder Dojo meets once a month in The Sharp Project, and like many coder dojos is very popular and frequently over-subscribed.
CodingDojo: @uomcodingdojo & @codingdojodotco
A group of students at the University of Manchester organise a Coding Dojo @uomcodingdojo see fb.com/uomcodingdojo. They practise problems in TopCoder and other puzzles [1-5] in order to compete in the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. They do this because it’s fun, improves their skill and prepares them for the kind’s of problems that are commonly found in a Coding Interviews – a variant of the infamous Microsoft / Amazon / Google / Apple / Facebook / Twitter interviews. [6,7]
(The Manchester Coding Dojo are nothing to do with codingdojo.com an outfit in Seattle and Silly Valley who claim to “teach you programming in 2 weeks” see @codingdojodotco.)
The Manchester Codejo is monthly coding meetup in Manchester, where developers improve their skills by performing Katas – exercises designed to improve coding ability through repetition. So at their last meeting for example, Gemma Cameron @ruby_gem recently ran a Codejo session on the Class-responsibility-collaboration card at manchester.techhub.com.
In other words…
So @coderdojo ≠ @uomcodingdojo ≠ @manc_codejo ≠ @McrCoderDojo etc. Hope this clears up some confusion…
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dining Philosophers
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight queens puzzle
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower of Hanoi
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Travelling salesman problem
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two Generals’ problem
- McDowell, Gayle Laakman (2011) Cracking the Coding Interview: 150 Programming Questions and Solutions Career Cup ISBN:098478280X
- Poundstone, William (2013) Are You Smart Enough to Work at Google? Fiendish Puzzles And Impossible Interview Questions From The World’s Top Companies Oneworld Publications ISBN:1851689559
I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue, also unavailable on Samsung Android devices.
I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue (ISIHAC) is a superbly funny comedy show broadcast by the BBC since 1972 and currently airing it’s sixtieth (yes 60th!) series. Unlike many other BBC programmes, ISIHAC is mysteriously unavailable as a podcast, which makes it difficult to listen to offline. Why is this? Professor Google doesn’t give a definitive answer and the BBC aren’t saying much about it either. So in the spirit of public broadcasting, this post poses the question, where’s the podcast? Currently there are a two theories floating around on the interwebs:
- The podcast was destroyed by the lovely Samantha when she exceeded her bandwidth after … [insert smutty innuendo here]
- There is no podcast because Random Entertainment Ltd, the company behind ISIHAC, make a tidy profit from ISIHAC merchandise (mostly CDs, audiobooks, Uxbridge English Dictionary etc). This makes enough money for Graeme Garden and Jon Naismith to have a lifetime supply of Swanee whistles and Kazoos funded by tax-payers money. Consequently, the BBC don’t have the rights to podcast it or something, probably…
If all you want is an ISIHAC MP3 of the broadcast that can be listened to offline at your leisure, then the lack of a podcast is frustrating. Of course, there various workarounds and hacks to roll your own using using get_iplayer, a digital recorder, XBMC or similar but this will be a lot of unnecessary hassle for most listeners. None of this seems to be in the spirit of public broadcasting and there’s a bigger (unanswered?) question about how the BBC decides what to podcast (and what not to).
So Jon Naismith, Graeme Garden and anyone at the BBC, if you’re reading this, please can ISIHAC be made available as an MP3 via a podcast? Much obliged.
[Update July 2015: the BBC iPlayer Radio app now supports downloads – the next best thing in the absence of podcasts. Hooray!]
Manchester Town Hall by Richard Hopkins, creative commons licensed picture via Flickr
The term Manchester is a misnomer, mutated from it’s original form. The name Mamchester might be more appropriate, but only if the pedants get their way.
The Man in Manchester is misleading and has little to do with Manhood or Masculinity. Instead, the word is thought to come from the name given to city by the romans of “Mamucium”, meaning breast-shaped hill. Somewhere down the line Mamucium morphed into Manchester and the Mam became a Man. That’s mam, not man, as in Mammary or as the Miserable Mancunian Morrissey put it,
“Let me get my hands on your mammary glands.”
So don’t be a boob, remember the Man in Manchester is a Mam. Mamchester, you talk so hip, you’re twistin my melon man…
Tweeting down Twitter Lane, Waddington, Lancashire
While passing through the beautiful Forest of Bowland the other day, I chanced upon a remarkable place known as Twitter Lane in the village of Waddington, Lancashire. Twitter Lane is an interesting place because of the people you find there and they way they behave . For example, the residents of Twitter Lane are characterised by:
- Open-ness: residents share all sorts of information without anyone who will listen, from the banal to the profound, from the libellous to the incriminating, from the funny to the informative. All humanity is there, the good, the bad and the ugly.
- Serfdom: most of the residents on twitter lane are serfs who rent their property much like tenant farmers or sharecroppers. The rent they pay to their landlords is not a financial one, but an informational one. Residents volunteer numerous personal details: IP addresses, mobile phone numbers and address books in return for a place to stay. Some people are calling it digital serfdom.
- Short attention-span: although a friendly and open bunch, the residents of Twitter Lane have very short … where was I … ah yes, short attention spans and communicate in even shorter messages. Residents are typically obsessed with news, celebrities and sport. They are well supplied with the very latest real-time information on all of these things and more. However, sometimes the cacophony on Twitter Lane means it feels like everyone is talking, but few are listening.
So, Twitter Lane is an extraordinary place, with a large and a burgeoning population. Two important questions currently hang over it, how much is it worth and how many more people are going to want to live there on a long-term basis?
- Rappa M., Jones P., Freire J., Chakrabarti S., Kwak H., Lee C., Park H. & Moon S. (2010). What is Twitter, a social network or a news media?, WWW ’10 Proceedings of the 19th international conference on World Wide Web conference, 591-600. DOI: 10.1145/1772690.1772751
Writing good code is often harder than it looks via Randall Munroe at xkcd.com
Manchester Digital is the independent trade association for the thriving digital sector in the North West of England. Last night they held their AGM and elections for new members of their council. I was encouraged to stand for election, and alongside 19 other candidates, had to give a two-minute “manifesto” in a husting / lightning-talk format. Here’s roughly what I said, from the perspective of software, hardware and developers, with some added links and a bit more polish:
The success of Manchester’s Digital economy is dependent on educating, recruiting and training a pool of talented developers to work in the region. As identified in the Manchester Digital skills audit, developers are often the hardest roles to fill, as many graduates and potential employees are drawn to other high-tech hubs like London, Silicon Fen and Silicon Valley, California for employment.
Addressing this issue is an important for Manchester Digital and requires closer collaboration between Higher education, Secondary education and employers. As a tutor at the University of Manchester, with responsibility for managing internships for students in Computer Science I am in a strong position to enable more collaboration between educators and employers. As a council member I would do this in four ways:
- Encouraging students to consider employment in Manchester as their first job, by promoting internships and graduate vacancies with local organisations alongside traditional graduate programmes at larger multinational companies
- Listening to what employers in Manchester want so that students can be better prepared for the workplace, while balancing the competing needs of training and education.
- Challenging local employers to raise their game to compete with larger employers and attract graduates to work for their organisations
- Inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers by extending current work with schools and supporting undergraduate students doing outreach work involving Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). For example: through the STEMnet ambassador programme, Code Club, Animation Festival, TeenTech and related work.
These are key activities that will enable the continued success of Manchester’s Digital Economy and I ask Manchester Digital members to vote for me if they agree. Thank you!
Whatever the outcome, the AGM & hustings were great fun and it was good to catchup with old friends and meet some new people too. Hope to see some of you again the Manchester Digital BBQ on 11th July…
John Peel comtemplating Drum & Bass via bhikku on Flickr.
If you’ve filled your boots with the wall-to-wall glastonbury festival coverage, you might find it curious that many people have little or no interest in new music, choosing instead to listen to the artists they liked in their formative years and loyally sticking with them for life. John Peel put it another way:
People do find it curious that a chap of my age* likes the things that I like but I do honestly feel that it’s one of those situations where everyone’s out of step except our John, because in any other area of human activity – theatre, literature or something like that, you’re not supposed to live eternally in the past, you know, you’re supposed to take an interest in what’s happening now and what’s going happening next and this really all that I do, it seems to be a perfectly normal and natural thing to do.
*John Peel was a spritely 50 years of age at the time of the interview where he said that in 1990 . Isn’t it curious that, as Peel said, new music is largely considered to be the exclusive domain of “younger people”, while new theatre, new technology, new art, new science and new anything-else is not? Wonder why that is?
- Desert Island Discs Archive, Find a castaway (1940 – date)