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Online Highlights 5

It’s time for another round of Online Highlights. Since all things on the internet are found through linking or references by others (such as this post), thanks to those who, passively and actively, helped me out this time.

Card Crusher – This Japanese gentleman is, at least for the moment, my idol. In these two short video clips, he demostrates how to make people angry. Even though the conversation is in Japanese, that shouldn’t be a problem (all the information necessary is contained in the introduction). The second clip is the card crushing, although the first one is quite nice, too.

Genie Game Server – This is a server set up to run games such as Race for the Galaxy by Rio Grande Games online. It was down for a while due to legal issues, but is now up and running again. This game is pretty good and it suits me perfectly to play online. The client is all server-based and works fine with no serious bugs and an adequate interface.

Rubik’s Cube Blindfolded – This is a guide to a 3OP (3 Cycle Orientation Permutation) method of solving Rubik’s Cube blindfolded (see my post from last week about Rubik’s Cube in general, which is my latest craze). I started yesterday and I can sort of solve the cube using this method if I can watch the cube. The next step is to do it only using pen and paper for notes and the last step is to be able to memorise instead of jotting down the seuences on a paper. Give me a week or two and I’ll write something about it.

Worlds Without End – I stumbled upon this nice-looking portal for science ficiton literature more or less by accident (my review of Connie Willis’ Bellwether was automatically referred to). I haven’t had time to explore this site, but it seems to be a very good way of keeping track of what’s going on in the genre.

Toyota Robot Running – It seems I’m far from up to date when it comes to recent developments in the humanoid robot industry. This robot designed by Toyta can run at 7 km/h (and it looks rather elegant, too!) and withstand pushes. Here is another robot climbing stairs (it isn’t graceful; I almost feel sorry for the poor bugger).

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Online Highlights 4

I haven’t spent much time browsing the internet lately, but I’ve still managed to collect a few nice links to share with you (see other Online Highlights. Thanks to those who recommended these sites.

The Onion – It’s amazing that I haven’t noticed the onion before. It seems to be a well established phenomenon by now and one I’ve come to appreciate a lot. In short, it’s a news service focused on delivering sarcasm and humour instead of accurate news. Here are three of my favourites (please share yours!):Supreme Court: Death Penalty Is ‘Totally Badass’, Trekkies Bash New Star Trek Film As ‘Fun, Watchable’, Apple Introduces Revolutionary New Laptop With No Keyboard.

The Game of Miscommunication – A wonderful little game in which people alternately draw or write what the previous person drew or wrote.

Heavy Boots –  If you believe that astronauts were able to walk on the moon because they wore heavy boots, perhaps you should read this. And if you don’t think so, this will probably give you a good laugh, tainted with the sad reminder of how ignorant some people are who should know better.

Expats at work: Living abroad gives you an edge -This article in the Economist brings up a study on how living abroad affects creativity. Even though “creativity” is probably the wrong word here, “resourcefulness” or “creativity in problem solving2 would have been more suitable, the study is still interesting. If nothing else, it’s self-gratifying for people like me who live abroad.

Ball stunt – This is an amazing ball stunt of unknown origin. It’s rather short and it has to be watched, so I’ll leave you to it.

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Online Highlights 2

I haven’t spent much time browsing the Internet lately, mostly because I’ve been too busy with applications for next year, as well as normal studying. However, I have come across a few websites I feel are worth sharing (see other Online Highlights). Below, I’ve tried to explain why.

5 Real Life Soldiers Who Make Rambo Look Like a Pussy –  I think the title is sefl-explanatory, this is an article about five soldiers with exceptional performance records, some of them so outstanding that Hollywood decided to reduce them because the audience would think it uneralistic if the true story was told. This is a good read.

Open Yale Courses, Game Theory –  This is also what it sounds like. Yale University has started a series of free courses that can be downloaded from the web. I haven’t finished this one about game theory yet, but it’s very good so far and I can recommend it if you’re interested. Even though it’s possible to listen to most of it, I suggest downloading video.

Internet Archive: Wayback Machine – I learnt about this project in the most recent edition of the Economist. Basically, it’s an archive for the web, storing old versions of website. For instance, you can have a look at what your own website looked like five years ago. This might also be useful for retrieving lost data.

Lars Petrus on Rubik’s Cube – My interest for Rubik’s Cube has ben revived lately and this is the best site I’ve found so far. His method is intuitive and pretty good, and it does not require you to memorise a whole lot of sequences. Admittedly, Petrus’ method has declined in popularity among the world’s fastest speedcubers, but it’s still perfect for beginners and intermediates.

Chinese Language and Culture for International Students – I provide this link not so much because I think somebody else will apply, but rather because somebody might be interested in what I’m doing. Right now, that’s trying to apply for this program at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei, a four year Bachelor’s Degree program. Nothing is decided yet, though, because I need to aquire a scholarship as well. I will post something specifically about this as soon as I have more information.

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Online Highlights 1

This is the first post about Online Highlights, which is simply a convenient way for me to share things I find awesome in some way. Click here to view other posts like this.

Cthulhu and Christ – A highly interesting comparison between the Cthulhu mythos as created by H.P. Lovecraft and Christianity.

The Call of Cthubuntu – An article about computing and Lovecraft, highly entertaining.

Spiders on Drugs – Pictures of spiderwebs spun under the influence of various drugs.

VNV Nation – Illusion – An unofficial video accompanying VNV Nation’s “Illusion”, nice both to listen to and watch.

Raphael Lacoste – I don’t fancy this artist’s motive, but some pictures are really, really good.

Gymnastic Bodies – A repository and web forum concerning gymnastics and associated body-weight exercises; very nice indeed.

One hand handstand demo – One of the best one-handed handstand demonstrations I’ve seen (it changes about halfway, so if you’re not interested in the beginning, please skip it rather than missing the other half).

More handbalancing – Another one-handed handstand show, this time from Golden Circus.

How to construct your own workout routine – an in-depth article about creating work-out routines, highly interesting.

Neural mechanisms are the most important determinants of strength adaptations – An interesting article about neurology and strength gains when exercising, fairly academic.

CrossFit Exercises – A long list of various kinds of exercises, pretty useful if you want to know what a certain execrise looks like.

Surreal Art Update – Some surreal art from Dark Roasted Blend, some of it extremely inspiring.

Dark Roasted Blend – Just in case you’ve missed it, this is one of the best picture blogs out there, and I visit it frequently

The Natural History of Unicorns – A review in the January 29th edition of the Economist of Christopher Laver’s book “The Natural History of Unicorns”, not only a nice review, but also an interesting book.

Base jumping more crazy than usual – I have seen base jumping before, but this was by far the most freaked out so far, a must-see!

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I am now back in business after a couple of days downtime. I do not feel like writing something ambitious about this, so I will merely state that something went wrong when I installed Windows. I had to remove Ubuntu, which was a bit scary because if everything failed I would not be able to study (I rely on many online resources). However, I knew I could reinstall Ubuntu without trouble. The problem was that even though Ubuntu worked properly, my connection to the internet did not. As you can see, I have been able to resolve this issue and can now access the internet from my room.

There are certain problems associated with running Windows on this computer, because some of the hardware is not supported in the default setup of the operating system. It was stupid of me to format and reinstall my computer without having thoroughly researched this problem and downloaded the necessary drivers. The effect was that I could not use Windows for anything that counted. I still cannot do that, but at least I have both operating systems installed and they both function properly. As soon as I have downloaded the correct drivers, I hope I will be able to use Windows smoothly as well. Anyhow, I am now back in business, and even though my attention have been otherwise engaged during the downtime, I still have a few articles to write, so stay tuned.

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I have recently completed a number of tasks on my 101-in-1001 list that I feel are too insignificant to merit posts of their own. It is not the case that the tasks are pointless, but rather that I do not feel that I have anything interesting to write about them. Therefore, I have gathered five of them into one post and wrapped things up with an assessment of the list as it stands today. First five accomplished tasks.

Change and organise passwords and logins
This task is on the list to make sure that I change passwords that matter. I have some sort of ad hoc encryption for my passwords that allow me to write them down without any risk of anyone stealing my logins. However, I have been to lazy to uphold this system and a restart was required. I simply went through all my logins and changed passwords for all the site that matters to me and made sure that they now have unique passwords. Task done.

Go through and sort all personal files
I think you all know how it is, heaps of information scattered all over the computer. Yes, there is a search function, but keeping personal files in order is nice anyway. To accomplish this task, I remade my file structure and sorted all files into it. Most of it went pretty smoothly, although it required quite some time.

Submit myself to a health examination
I do not remember why I entered this item on the list in the first place, but it feels like a good idea to check one’s health now and then. I have been to the dentist, as well as checked myself for various diseases. I also passed a general health examination I needed to apply for the scholarship.

Build and fly a kite
This was done with various degrees of success. One of the kites we built did not fly at all, but the other one worked alright. Even though there was scarcely any wind, I held it in the air for some five minutes. This was great fun and something I will try to do more when the wind is stronger. Trying new designs will also be interesting, eventually aiming for combat kites.

Write five serious articles in English
Blogging is one thing, writing with more serious intent is another. I have written more than five serious articles, but I have chosen not to count those that qualify for other items on the list (such as the article on Carcassonne strategy) . Here are the five:

1. Listening to audio books
2. Why I dislike long novels
3. The illusory choice of postponement
4. Relieving a burdened mind
5. Quo vadis, Taiwan?

The list and the future
This means that I presently have 45 items left on the list! That is a lot. First, I have five tasks that will complete themselves or will not be hard to achieve (I know that I will manage the rest of the year without borrowing any money, for instance).

Apart from that, I have a couple of tasks requiring watching a lot of films. A whole lot of films. Probably more than I have watched the last two years put together, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. I put the items on the list because I wanted to watch more films, right?

Then there are a bunch of items (around twenty, perhaps) that will require effort, but not more than I now I can cope with. These I will try to clear before the end of August.

Lastly, we have the really difficult ones. First, I have to write a novel. I know what I am going to write and I have planned it thoroughly, but I have a lot of text to write. This will be challenging but fun. This is perhaps the most difficult task left on the list.

Second, I have a hundred metres to walk on my hands. This is extremely tough, much tougher than I can explain or than I understood when I decided that a hundred metres was suitable. Also, it is not as many peolpe believe a question of balance (I could easily walk a kilometre balance-wise, I hardly ever fall). Instead, it requires an extraordinare strength and endurance in shoulders and back. I might be able to pull this off, but it is far from certain. This is probably the most difficult task on the entire list.

Third, I have the films mentioned above. They will be challenging, but I think that I will cope once I get into the habit of watching films more often. Also, I can bring films to Taiwan without feeling that they hamper my activities there.

Fourth, I have to get 2.0 on the Swedish Scholastic Aptitude Test. I do not know how hard this is, but I am not counting on that it will be easy. This might be among the more difficult items left, but, alas, I do not know.

Fifth, I have a role-playing game to finish. I am currently working on it, but there is a lot left to do. It is only the text that needs to be finished, illustrations, layout and things like that comes later. I will manage this, but it will require many, many hours.

Sixth, I have to spend a week away from civilisation. This is not inherently difficult, but it requires a lot of time. Fortunately for the lists sake, I can clear some tasks while away. I am looking forward to this week. I planned it for a reason and I intend to do it sometime in August, after I have moved to my parents (temporarily in between this apartment and my leaving for Taiwan).

Conclusively, this looks pretty tough. I would lie if I said I felt certain I would make it. I would even lie if I said it was probable. Still, I am not known for giving up very easily and I think that I will come a long way if I just try. After, all it is said that it was by perseverence the snail reached the ark (Charles Haddon Spurgeon quote). Also, I realise that the tasks themselves are worthwhile, so each step on the way is a goal in itself. Finishing ten tasks is twice as good as finishing five, so let us see how far that will take me, shall we?

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I think it is difficult for outsiders to understand how highly I value Antioch (website in Swedish) and my participation and running of the game. Often when involved in role-playing projects, the tendency is to put in a lot of effort and receive mostly frustration and pent-up creativity. Not so with Antioch. Sure, I have invested a lot of time in Antioch, but if I compare administrative and boring time (including transportation etcetera) with actual, enjoyable playtime, playing Antioch online is probably the all-time winner.

Some years ago, when I with a friend developed the basic setting of Antioch with its grand plot, I incorporated some ideas and concepts which I thought absolutely brilliant (I still like most of them, actually, which is quite remarkable since brilliance is something ephemeral). I included the item to participate in 250 sessions of Antioch on my 101-in-1001 list in order to be sure to actually develop this story.

Since Antioch is mostly in Swedish, I feel I ought to explain what it is here, in English. Antioch is an online role-playing game that is played over IRC (entry on Wikipedia), which implies text only conversations. It might be regarded as a highly interactive way of co-authoring fiction, with the added element of improvisation. Long ago, I wrote why I enjoy online role-playing (in Swedish), but it mainly fulfills a need of outputting a certain amount of creativity, preferably daily. Antioch was started in 2005, which means that my accumulated 280 sessions (roughly) amounts to about two sessions a week. This is not particularly accurate, because the urge to play and the availability of decent players to play with have varied of the years. At the moment, I play far more than twice a week.

There are many reasons I like Antioch in particular, but I will discuss two of the briefly. First and foremost, the interchange of creativity between players is sometimes marvellous. It is simply astonishing and wonderful to be part of experiencing the seed of an idea grow, first into a small plant, then, over the years, to a vast tree with many branches. A heavy focus on continuity means that many events that took place literally years ago, still influence play and continue to be developed.

Second, the same can be said about characters. I have two characters who have been in play more than one hundred sessions each and they might be said to be vast trees by this time as well. They have so many relationships to other player’s characters and each other that they feel more alive than anything fictional I have encountered before. I have lived with them for three years (in one case, much longer, but that is outside of Antioch) and I still have not grown bored, and they have not stagnated and died as is usually the fate reserved for fictional characters.

Even though it might not be apparent, Antioch has also honed my writing skills. I do not put much effort into what I write when I play, but still, the habit of producing text is with me. Also, Antioch is an abundant source of inspiration, and in fact I have decided to write a novel which will be based on what has transpired from our playing. I cannot yet say what will happen to Antioch in the end, but at the moment, an injection of three new players make the game same more alive than ever and I look forward to many more enjoyable sessions.

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For some time now, I have been a part of the small group of people behind the Swedish role-playing site Rollspel.nu. For as long (or perhaps longer), there has been a wish to redesign the site and restructure its contents, but for various reasons that has not been done yet. My responsibility has been to keep an eye on contents (news, articles, information of various kinds) and I decided that before I consider stepping down from my position, I ought at least to formalise the responsibilities I have in order to facilitate for whoever will replace me.

I have now done so (in Swedish) and I have also decided to resign (also in Swedish) for reasons that are many and various. Though there are more, I will present the three most prominent here. Firstly, I feel that spending time on Rollspel.nu is not in alignment with what I want at the moment, which makes it a boring task I get almost nothing from doing. I felt some satisfaction in writing the final version of the policy which governs the content section of the site, but since then I have not done much (that was in December last year).

Secondly, most influence from Rollspel.nu is bad for me personally. I am seldom engaged in constructive discussions, but rather in infected debates concerning the management of the site. I know that most users are satisfied with our management, but those who are not have still managed to drain any desire to work for Rollspel.nu that possibly might have been left after the first item I described above.

Thirdly, as if two major reasons would not be enough, there has been some allegations concerning the composition of the editorial staff which runs the site. I shall now make an attempt to explain why this is also a major reason for my resignation, although it might not be very easy. During last year, we were hampered by the fact that we had no active person who had responsibility for the forums (which comprise some eight thousand users, albeit most of them not active). Even though I had sworn not to take responsibility for something that big, I was persuaded by a fiend of mine to join him and shoulder the burden together. I would simply assist him in realising some plans and ideas we had had for a long time.

I shall not bother you with details, but the thing most controversial here is that we choose to replace the incumbent moderators with people whose judgment we trusted. Moderators are there to enforce the rules of the forums and it seems obvious to me that we wanted people who we knew well and who shared our vision. The change lead to the fact that out of five persons in my gaming group, three were part of the editorial staff running the site (two of us had been for a long time) and the other two were moderators (one of them had been for a while, also). It should also be mentioned that we publish games under the umbrella trademark Kaleidoskop, even though I think it is in such a small scale that it is not germane in any way.

In some users’ eyes, this is a big problem, and I can understand that. What one has to realise is that Rollspel.nu is not a commercial enterprise; we do things simply because we like it and thinks it worth the time to make the site function properly. There is no financial gain involved. Therefore, I think the fear of concentrating “power” to a small group is largely an overreaction and not relevant. It is very difficult to find suitable people and if we would have disqualified people we knew already, we would never have had an editorial staff at all. What would have happened if we did not step in to fill the vacant space, I am not sure, but I am positively convinced that it would have been much, much worse than what the most critical users think the situation is now.

Finally, I think this is a problem because the energy I invest in Rollspel.nu is not met with much enthusiasm; its effects are even negative because it might stain Kaleidoskop’s reputation. It seems to me stupid to go on investing time in something that has mainly negative results (possibly hampering my creative side of the role-playing hobby, which is very bad indeed), so from here on out, someone else will have to worry about how Rollspel.nu is run. It would be nice with some sort of éminence grise conspiracy theory (which would on account of credibility be on par with some other assumptions made by certain people) , because naturally I will still be involved with the management of the site, since I will continue meeting with my friends and having the pizza.

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Om communities

Några av er känner nog till att jag inte är den mest communityälskande människan i världen och då kommer det kanske som en liten överraskning att jag registrerat mig på Helgon (användarnamn Snigel, förstås). Jag har dock kommit på åtminstone två saker som kanske (vi får se) väger upp de nackdelar jag ser med communities (farmförallt att de stjäl tid och inte tillför så mycket). Det första handlar om kommunikationsintensitet och det andra om intressen.

Communities befinner sig mellan e-post och chatt när det gäller intensitet. Ibland blir det alltför påfrestande att chatta, kanske för att man inte har så mycket att säga eller för att man inte har tid att koncentrera sig ordentligt. Oftast känns e-post alldeles för formellt och används bara som en sista utväg eller om man vill skriva något verkligt seriöst. Här finns en liten lucka som jag tror att communites kan fylla. Via gästböcker och liknande kan man föra konversationer på en rätt regelbunden basis och behålla kontakten, utan att det blir för hög intensitet.

En annan fördel har de communites som är centrerade kring intressen av olika slag. Jag vet ännu inte om Helgon är ett vettigt ställe att diskutera saker jag är intresserad av, men eftersom jag ibland har saknat allmänna diskussionsfora tänker jag försöka. När det gäller till exempel musik känns det givet att det fungerar på just Helgon, eftersom det känns så grundläggande för den webbplatsen.

Den stora nackdelen är förstås att jag sprider mig själv över nätet och tunnas ut mer och mer. Jag har hemsidan och uppdaterar den så ofta jag kan och har lust, vilket verkar vara ganska ofta. Därför använder jag inte stora delar av Helgon annat än för att länka vidare till Snigel.nu, vilket på sätt och vis känns B, om än nödvändigt. Om det här är något som tar överhanden och får mig att lägga ner återstår att se, men nu är jag i alla fall registrerad och gör ett försök.

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Under utbildningen finns praktik utspridd över hela året, där det är tänkt att man ska praktisera läraryrkets ädla konst. För att hjälpa oss att fokusera, har vi fått ett antal uppgifter vi ska genomföra på praktiken. Den första av dessa handlar om IKT och källkritik. IKT är ungefär samma sak som IT, förutom att man lagt till ordet kommunikation mellan information och teknik.

Texten består av mina funderingar kring källor och källkritik och hur man ska få eleverna att första poängen. Jag har också i korthet beskrivit hur jag genomförde min uppgift i praktiken och hur det avlöpte. Texten är författad på det engelska språket och uppgår till tre sidor. Uppgiften gick ut på att:

1) Redogöra för för och nackdelar med IKT
2) Resonera kring hur källkritiskt tänkande kan överföras till elever
3) Redogöra för de sidor man använt för uppgiften

Dokumentet kan laddas ned i RTF-format här och bör gå att läsa i de flesta ordbehandlare ni kan hitta.

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