Things 51: Beatles Rock Band, Google Squared, Ingenious Comics

(Originally sent June 2009)

Things now returns after a brief hiatus during which I revised for and took my IDM Diploma exams. They seemed to go okay.

I saw Terminator Salvation, which I can’t particularly recommend, and Blue Velvet (on DVD), which I can.

The intro to the Beatles specific Rock Band game is a wonderfully conceived and animated potted history of the band.

High quality video on the dedicated site:

YouTube quality if your PC isn’t up to it:

Link Google Squared is like Google’s approach to what Wolfram Alpha does. For example, if you search for planets, it tries to understand what you are looking for and what useful things you might like to know about instances of that thing, using Google algorithmic magic.

When Wolfram Alpha has an answer, it’s right – when it doesn’t have an answer, it has nothing. Google Squared lives in the fuzzy space in between.

As a side effect, this means you can use Google Squared as a kind of I-Ching / astrology / random fortune generator.

Try the following:

1) Go here
2) Put in your surname
3) If you get results, use ‘add items’ at the bottom to add the first names of your family – if you don’t get any results you will be given some blank fields in which you can enter the first names directly
4) In the top right you can add additional columns. Type in ‘awards’ and press ‘add’
5) Find out how much your family members have won according to the Google Squared lottery!

Personally I was found to have won HK$0.00, whereas my mum got $517,115.00.

You can see what it thinks about you in other ways – for example, add a column titled ‘orbital period’. Turns out my sister has an orbital period of 1,975.4045670 days!

‘Newsarse’ [Now NewsThump – T.M. 1/7/11] is like a less polished, UK version of The Onion, providing a satirical take on current events from a UK perspective.

I quite liked their take on YouTube comments:

YouTube’s spokesman states “we are pleased to offer not only graphic images of canine dismemberment, but also a platform for viewers’ irrelevant comments and violent outbursts of racism.”

In the past couple of weeks I saw two fascinating ways of doing something different with comics.

Choose-your-own-adventure comic based on reading speed:

One character going left to right, one top to bottom:

This week’s puzzle – paper
Why do people generally prefer to read writing on paper than on a screen?

Last puzzle – buttons
The puzzle regarding why buttons do up the way they do (one way for male and the other for female) is a difficult one, since answers cannot be proved, and as such it is all too easy to come up with one theory and feel the matter to have been resolved.

Here’s how I broke it down in reply to some suggestions on the CC list:

There are actually two questions bundled up – why is buttoning consistent, and why is it the way it is for the two genders.

– Buttoning requires both hands to perform a fairly dextrous action and has no particular handedness bias
– Being familiar with buttoning one way will tend to make clothes that button the other way less desirable
– People will tend to wear clothing items for their gender, not so often clothing of the opposite gender

Under these assumptions, we can expect consistency of buttoning to emerge for each sex (but not necessarily opposite to one another) from random starting conditions, and a slight bias one way or the other at the start is likely to have a strong effect on the final outcome.

Arguments could be made in each direction, as it would only take a small effect to tip things one way or the other.

I found an interesting viewpoint on why it should be the opposite way for males vs females in a seemingly well-informed article on a period costume site.

From the last paragraph:

“Since female clothing took on more and more features of male clothing in order to express emancipation […], it became necessary to establish a feature that signalled that an item of clothing was, despite its male appearance, nevertheless female.”


Things 33: Fast Zombies, Eyeballing, Hallowe’en Pets

(Originally sent November 2008)

I’ve cancelled my Cineworld card because there’s a lot of stuff I need to do in the next couple of months.

I did see Quantum of Solace, which I found to be surprisingly poorly scripted, directed and edited. Mark Kermode expressed my thoughts precisely, and also has some insight as to why it ended up this way:


Puzzle Answers
I forgot to answer the car light mystery from Things 31. It turned out that the back lights were not actually on, and only came on when braking (which is why they were on when I parked to check) – I proved this by nudging the brakes and looking at the cats-eyes on the motorway light up in my rear view mirror. After fixing this by finding out that the light-controlling dial also had to be ‘popped out’ to engage the rear lights (crazy design idea), cars continued to flash at me, which I eventually discovered was in fact due to me using fog-lights, which was because instead of being controlled by the dial that did everything else to do with lights, these were controlled from another, unlabelled part of the dashboard.

As for the Busaba Toilets, I went into the other room marked with the curving lines, only to be confronted by some unimpressed women. I went back to the room with the kinked line and it was only on closer inspection that I realised there were cubicles, but they were designed so their doors blended completely into the wall. So watch out for that.

This week’s puzzle
Simon Pegg has written an insightful article about why the modern trend for fast rather than shambling zombies completely misses the point.

I think he’s missed something himself though, as the question that naturally arises is this:

If shambling zombies represent our fear of the inevitable slow approach of death, what do fast screaming attacking zombies represent?

A quote
I used to do parkour/free-running with a small gang of similarly mad individuals on my university’s campus. Being the most cautious of the group, I never sustained an injury, whereas at one time or another everyone else did. The least cautious was a crazy second-year called Andy. One particular February night had left our playground icy and treacherous, but Andy was still ready to go ahead.

He reassured us by explaining:

“There’s more grip, because of the ice.”

A video
If you’re familiar with Pinky and the Brain, then you’ll be happy to know that it was dubbed into several different languages, including the excellent intro music, in German:


A link
Last week, Bex reported an unbeatable score of 0 for the colour-matching game. Here is your next challenge: eyeballing.

A picture
An amazing collection of pet Hallowe’en costume photos.