Archive for November, 2009

Dragon Age



Slaying a dragon atop a pedestal in Rothenburg.

I lost a lot of time this weekend to Dragon Age: Origin.

After a bit of play I can say that this game encapsulates the joys felt while playing Baldur’s Gate.

My favorite part of the game so far is the lack of clear good/bad decisions, oftentimes there is either no clear answer or seemingly good decisions having bad consequences.

The biggest issue I have with the game (aside from trouble installing DLC) is the camera. A wider range of movement in the top-down view such as being able to tilt the camera without entering over the shoulder view. I understand the limitations on panning as it would require a fog of war to be enforced which would not work seamlessly with the over the shoulder view. But the tactical (top down) view feels very limited in scope and cannot even look from directly above, which can prevent visibility in small rooms.

Unlike replaying favorite games like Baldur’s Gate or Planescape: Torment I do not know what is going to happen. And to fully embrace the unknown I am not reloading for a bad outcome, if that behavior starts it leads to trying to play for the most powerful character instead of a consistent one. I just wish the weekend had more time in it to play.


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Foggy Edinburgh


Foggy Edinburgh

Edinburgh on a foggy night.

Occasionally it is nice to peruse through a photo library looking at photos from a few years ago. Especially when the photo reminds not so much of the subject but what led to the photo.

This one was after we decided to hike up to the Arthur Seat crags during an especially foggy night. We could barely see ahead of us in this small island of darkness in the center of the city. Being able to take a photo like this one is encouraging me to buy a small compact camera to carry around with me as my dSLR does not readily fit into my jacket pockets (I tried and it just does not want to fit).

I don’t have an idea of what compact cameras I should be looking at, luckily there is time between now, black Friday and the end of the year.


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Gorse Flowers

Flower in Ireland.

One of my fellow first years is heading off to Antarctica in the next day or so.

In any other group of people when I say that I want to make it down to Antarctica they either ask why or think of it as hard to do. However in my department when I say that people usually respond with “I have been there” or “I am going there in a few months” (well not all of the people say this).

It would just be so cool to be able to go down there for some legitimate scientific reason.

Listening to those that have gone down there it does not sound like an easy place to live.


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Bead Physics


Glass Flower

A glass flower (sort of a weird material).

Often it is the simplest well thought out experiments that give the most interesting results. Like rotating a bunch of beads and seeing what happens.

My favorite part:

Why this should happen is unclear. No equations exist to describe why such a slight change in packing density should produce such different system-wide behavior. “Known mechanisms for granular convection could not be applied,” wrote Rietz and Stannarius.

I hope to find a good question like that during my science career, something simple and easy to understand that gives brand new results.


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Pink Flower

A lovely set of pink flowers

Electrostatics is a hard subject.

The first week we learned all of the physics for the quarter, now it is just math heavy what with Green’s Functions and complex analysis.

If I make it through alive I will join an elite group who have passed through physics grad E&M.


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Matlab Magic

Images are sometimes too easy to make.

Images are sometimes too easy to make.

I occasionally stumble across some interested images in Matlab while testing things out. Particular when trying to run random data through my programs to see if the results are from the data instead of the program itself. In this case I cross-correlation a normalized magic square to get the above surface plot. It looked neat so I kept the code:






for i=1:points











clear a i mg mg_norm norm points

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I love momentum.

I Love Momentum

Since watching this video yesterday it has been on repeat in my head all day.

I think it would actually make an interesting exercise. Write further lyrics to the song with things you love.

Boom de yada

Boom de yada

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Red Balloons


A Fallen Flower

A fallen flower flew back to its branch! No, it was a butterfly. -Moritake

DARAP is starting up a new challenge, this time for the 40th anniversary of the internet.

For a prize of $40,o00 you just need to find the latitude and longitude of ten red weather balloons scattered across the United States.

I don’t know if you can register in teams or if it is purely individual (at least officially). This will be fun to follow as I see several things occurring that could undermine the contest (or perhaps that is part of the contest).

  • People posting the location of the balloons online for everyone to access.
  • Doing the same but with slightly or completely incorrect data.
  • Fake balloons showing up where they will be conveniently found by others.
  • Selling balloon locations for cash or prize percentage (though I would not trust this).
  • A balloon being found then removed by the person who found it (this may just disqualify this particular balloon).

If I somehow find one of these balloons in Seattle somewhere I will probably fall into the first category and post its location online, though I won’t give the latitude and longitude as I don’t have a GPS.

I just hope that at least some fake balloons start showing up.


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