Monday, January 27, 2014

Siamese cat photos 2014

Lovely and photogenic little critters, aren't they?

Both sides covered

Bookend cats

What's that noise?

There are two of you ...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Just in case you think you understand the Universe ...

Consider these theories, from BBC News:

So we now have tons of dark energy pushing the envelope, lesser amounts of dark matter holding the whole thing together, and the matter we know – that table you can rap your knuckles on – is a mere 2oth of all matter.

Good. That explains a lot.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Authors, Your 84% chance to ensure you write a Bestseller!

Hold your horses, and consider this, you aspiring best-selling author you:

Three computer scientists at Stony Brook University in New York think they found some rules through a computer program that might predict which books will be successful.

And they maintain that their algorithm has an 84% chance of success!

That’s better than the chance of success you get from tea leaves gazing, asking-friends-to-review-your-novel, copying the beats of Blake Snyder in Save the Cat! and countless other success-assured methods parlayed by countless experts.
Yechin Choi

Three scientists from Stony Brook University in New York - Vikas Ganjigunte Ashok, Song Feng, and Yejin Choi - have found some correlations of success (let’s call them the Ashok-Feng-Choi Success Styles) for best sellers after an in depth study of many books.

So what did the 3 Wise Scientists do? They used statistical stylometry (now there’s a phrase to casually drop into your next dozen or so discussions!) which is a statistical analysis of literary styles in different genres of books. This let them identify stylistic elements that are more common in successful books than in unsuccessful books. Here’s Wikipedia on stylometry.

So the lesson for aspiring authors is to Follow the Algorithm to worldwide best-selling success.

Song Feng

They found that successful books made great use of conjunctions to join sentences ("and" or "but") and prepositions than less successful books. They also found a high percentage of nouns and adjectives in the successful books; less successful books relied on more verbs and adverbs to describe what was happening.

More successful books relied on verbs describing thought processes rather than actions and emotions. The results varied by genre, but books that are less successful, the researchers reported, used words like "wanted," "took" or "promised." Successful authors employed "recognized" or "remembered."

"It has to do with showing versus caring," Choi said. "In order to really resonate with readers, instead of saying 'she was really really sad,' it might be better to describe her physical state, to give a literal description. You are speaking more like a journalist would."

Communications researchers believe journalists use more nouns, pronouns, and prepositions than other writers because those word forms give more information, Choi explained.

"Novelists who write more like journalists have literary success," she said.

This should come as no surprise since many great novelists--Dickens and Hemingway to name two--began their careers as journalists.

Choi emphasized that she was describing a correlation, not causation, but the results could be predictive.

And you can read their whole paper in the link in the above article, or by clicking this:

Here’s another gem from their study, about how to measure success of a book:

In this study, we do not attempt to separate out success based on literary quality (award winners) from success based on popularity (commercial hit, often in spite of bad literary quality), mainly because it is not practically easy to determine whether the high download counts are due to only one reason or the other. We expect that in many cases, the two different aspects of success are likely to coincide, however.

They also found that:

Also, more successful books use discourse connectives and prepositions more frequently, while less successful books rely more on topical words that could be almost cliche, e.g., “love”, typical locations, and involve more extreme (e.g., “breathless”) and negative words (e.g., “risk”).

And if you write Adventure novels, consider this finding:

Write Adventure novels? Then check the above list!

And perhaps you should steer clear of using foreign words:

It can be seen that prepositions, nouns, pronouns, determiners and adjectives are predictive of highly successful books whereas less successful books are characterized byhigher percentage of verbs, adverbs, and foreign words.

Best of luck!

Friday, January 3, 2014

From My Quotes Cupboard: Spain beats Rome in conquering territory

By 1600, Spain had conquered almost the whole of coastal South America except Brazil, and much of the interior as well, down to the River Plate ... No other conquest like this has there been in the annals of the human race. In one generation the Spaniards acquired more new territory than Rome conquered in five centuries.

The Oxford History of the American People by Samuel Eliot Morison
Prehistory to 1789 Publishers The New American Library 1972

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

From My Quotes Cupboard – Teddy Roosevelt’s White House guest

When a doorkeeper mistakenly refused admission to one leathery customer, the President was indignant. "The next time they don't let you in, Sylvane, you just shoot through the windows."

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris, New York: Ballantine 1979.

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

Monday, December 30, 2013

From My Quotes Cupboard – How the discoverer of Troy learned Russian

In a miserable, unheated garret room [the young Heinrich Schliemann, discoverer of Troy] began his study of languages. Within two years, by an unusual method of self-teaching, he had mastered English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. “These exacting and strenuous studies,” he says, “within a year has so strengthened my memory that the effort of learning Dutch, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese seemed very easy. Six weeks spent on any one of these languages, and I could speak and write fluently.” ... he began to learn Russian. But no one in the city, he found, could speak this most difficult of European languages. The only teaching aids he could pick up were an old grammar, a dictionary, and a poor translation of Telemachus. He carried on an imaginary conversation so loudly that he disturbed his neighbors. The walls shook as he declaimed pieces he had learned by heart from Telemachus. Other tenants complained, and twice he was forced to seek new lodgings. Finally he hit on the idea of providing himself with a critical audience and for this purpose hired a poor man, whom he paid four francs a week. This unfortunate fellow was required to sit on a chair and hear out long passages from Telemachus, not a word of which he understood.

Gods, Graves, & Scholars, by C.W. Ceram, Alfred A. Knopf 1956

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Want to make your photo of your face more memorable?

Here’s how to do it: use an algorithm:

Lots of people wish that they were more attractive, but have you ever wanted to just look more ... memorable? Just a few tweaks here and there, to help keep your face from being forgotten? Well, software created by researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory can now make that happen – to photos of your face, that is.

Next time you read a resume, compare it to the person who sent it to you – did they alter their picture to make their face more memorable?

And is that cheating?

Merry Christmas from The Cat

... and a happy New Year to you, too!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

From My Quotes Cupboard: Why you should not tell your kids how great they are

Because it can cause immense problems later on:

A sense of entitlement goes hand in hand with over-empowerment. If one is continually told how great he or she is, he or she eventually begins to believe it and comes to expect that all good things should come to him or  her. For these young people, the American Dream is no longer thought of as a quest, but is regarded more as a right.

The European Dream by Jeremy Rifkin, Penguin 2005

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Quotes Cupboard: Teddy Roosevelt’s Energy

Staff and visitors alike were dazed by his energy, exuberance, and ruthless outmanoeuvring. "He is a wonderful man," said one caller. "When I went to see him, he got up, shook hands with me, and said, `So glad to see you. Delighted. Good day, sir, good day.' Then he ushered me to the door. I wonder what I wanted to see him about."

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris, New York: Ballantine 1979.

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

From My Quotes Cupboard: What Christopher Columbus Wanted

Not that much, really:

But [Christopher Columbus] also insisted on a proper reward. As a poor boy and a self-made mariner he had been pushed around all his life, and he intended to take no more of that. So he demanded three ships, the hereditary title of Admiral of the Ocean Sea, control of all trade between Spain and whatever Oriental port or island he discovered, and a cut on all precious metals that he brought home. Preposterous! said the princes to whom he applied. Columbus felt he could afford to wait. But he might have waited until death if the intuition of Queen Isabella had not flown out to meet his supreme self-confidence and irritating conceit. Early in 1492 it was settled between him and the joint Spanish sovereigns, Ferdinand and Isabella.

The Oxford History of the American People by Samuel Eliot Morison
Prehistory to 1789 Publishers The New American Library 1972

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

My Quotes Cupboard: Tony Blair on Question Period preparation

He learned how to handle questions in Parliament a bit better:

I got braver. I realized in the end I had to confront the demons. It was no use praying more the night before, wearing the same shoes (I wore the same pair of Church’s brogues every PMQ for ten years) or hoping I would get by. I decided to analyze it, and try to work out how to do it to the best of my ability... I took a melatonin pill the night before so that I got at least six hours’ sleep. I made sure I had a proper breakfast, and just before the ordeal began, I would eat a banana to give myself energy... I face up to what the fear was. The fear was being made to look like a fool, or simply being outwitted. The way to prevent it was not so much mastering the facts, but mastering the strategy of debate... I discovered the force of humour, of light and shade.

A Journey: My Political Life by Tony Blair Alfred A. Knopf 2010

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Architecture revolutionized by Swiss 3D printing

A breakthrough in the use of 3D printing has enabled architects to allow their creativity unlimited room to create, and to build building blocks that are strong and durable.

What this means for the rest of us is that our future towns and cities (not to mention homes) will look like nothing ever seen on earth before.

If you want to live in a house that resembles your own dreams of the palace of Versailles, this will be possible (for a price that you can afford, as the building process costs are reduced over time).

If you want your children’s playground for your local school to have buildings fashioned after their favorite nursery rhymes or movies, this can be done.

How did this happen?

Thinking big is apparently no challenge for architects Michael Hansmeyer and Benjamin Dillenburger. They've created a 3D printed room using algorithms to design its intricate cathedral-like interior. Assembled from 64 massive separate sandstone parts printed out with a huge 3D printer, the room contains 260 million surfaces printed at a resolution of a tenth of a millimeter. The 11-ton room took a month to print but only a day to assemble. The fabrication methods the duo used to print the room will, they believe, open the door to printing architecture, freeing architects to create new unimaginable buildings and also restore old ones.

What  was the breakthrough?

They made the process move from nice to know, to actually possible, through their production methods:

Hansmeyer and Dillenburger, both computational architects at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's architecture department in Zurich, wrote algorithms to completely design the complex geometry of the 16 square meter (170 sq ft) room . Dubbed "Digital Grotesque," their modern take on a medieval grotto was made with a new type of 3D printed sandstone, infused with a hardening resin to increase its structural stability. To print out the sandstone parts that made the room, the duo used a massive Voxeljet 3D printer, about the size of a large room. "It can print a single piece that weighs 12 tons, yet at a layer resolution of 0.13 millimeters," says Hansmeyer. "This combination of scale and resolution seemed unreal to us at first."

The scale of machines, high material costs and the structural weakness of 3D printed materials is the reason why architects have up to now used 3D printing technology only to make prototypes or small scale models. The sand-printing technology the duo employed finds use in industrial applications, but with the addition of their innovative methods, it can now be used to create huge prefabricated sandstone bricks strong enough to build with.

What is coming to you because of the Swiss breakthrough:

One day, soon, you will be able to have architects and builders design buildings for you that defy conventional shapes, sizes and looks.

If  you want swooping curves, with little Michelangelo Davids hidden in a forest of tropical palms, you will be able to demand this, and get it done for you.

Say Goodbye to conventional suburbs, and Hello to downtown high density apartment buildings like nothing seen on earth today.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My new thriller: Terrorists, kidnappings & assorted mayhem

... with an epilogue showing a small terrorist-hunting Dane placing five red roses on a grave while he says: “We got them, Marc. All of them.”

This is what Cupid’s Crescent (now available as softcover print on demand on Amazon at $9.99 and as a Kindle eBook for only 99 cents) is about:

In his office in the City in London, banker Keith Lawton picks up the telephone.

"Listen to your son, banker."
Another voice spoke into the phone, a young voice, trembling a bit.
"Hello, Daddy. This is me, Henry."
Keith Lawton felt a surge of hope. They were still alive ...
"Daddy, you must do what they want. They say they will hurt me if you ..." the voice ended in a gasp and then there was a long scream, rising up and up and the telephone clicked in his hand and he stood, his body rigid with shock, the screams of his little son echoing in his ears.
He had spoken so clearly, without the trace of a lisp.

When Lawton looks at the photograph of his two children, naked in a plywood box, with targets painted on their little bodies, a fierce determination takes root in him: he will do anything to get his children back safely, and then he will hunt down those who did this and kill them.

Three separate kidnappings by a terrorist group plunge banker Keith Lawton and terrorist hunter Ankar Vanske into a whirlwind that takes them to London, Paris, Italy, Germany, Canada and the USA in a desperate race to free Lawton's children and bring the deadly terrorists to justice.

When it is over, Ankar Vanske  visits the grave of one of his fellow-hunters, and lays one red rose on it for every hunter killed.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

From My Quotes Cupboard: The Plundering of Rome’s Forum

In the sixteenth century lime-kilns were operated in the Forum Romanum, the Roman place of assembly and the site of the most splendid buildings grouped about the Capitol. The Roman temples were razed to provide stone for building-material. Pieces of marble were  used indiscriminately by the popes to decorate their fountains. The Serapeum was blown to apart with gunpowder to get stone for embellishing the stables housing the stud-horses of an Innocent.
For four centuries the Colosseum was used as a stone quarry. Even as late as 1860 Pius IX continued this work of destruction to obtain cheap decorative material for Christian building project.

Gods, Graves, & Scholars, by C.W. Ceram, Alfred A. Knopf 1956

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

Roman forum, by Giovani Panini

Saturday, September 21, 2013

From My Quotes Cupboard: Tomfoolery at the Professor’s Digs

In the category of dubious finds falls the sort of tomfoolery that victimized Professor Beringer of Wurzburg. In 1726 the professor published a book [that] tells about the fossils Beringer and his students found in the vicinity of Wurzburg. The text describes petrified flowers, frogs, a spider in the act of catching a fly (spider and fly petrified simultaneously); also a petrified star, a half-moon, tables with Hebraic characters, and other curious objects... It was widely read and came in for much praise – until the horrid truth was revealed. Schoolboys had been playing an elaborate practical joke on the innocent Beringer. Working at home, they had carefully manufactured “fossils,” and these they had planted where the professor was sure to dig.

Gods, Graves, & Scholars, by C.W. Ceram, Alfred A. Knopf 1956

 For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

From My Quotes Cupboard: Japanese Turning Away and its results - Niall Ferguson's Civilization

While the English aggressively turned outwards, laying the foundations of what can justly be called ‘Anglobalization’, the Japanese took the opposite path, with the Tokugawa shogunate’s policy of strict seclusion (sakoku) after 1640. All forms of contact with the outside world were prescribed. As a result Japan missed out entirely on the benefits associated with a rapidly rising level of global trade and migration... In other words, long before the Industrial Revolution, little England was pulling ahead of the great civilizations of the Orient because of the material advantages of commerce and colonization. The Chinese and Japanese route – turning away from foreign trade and intensifying rice cultivation – meant that with population growth, incomes fell, and so did nutrition, height and productivity... Not all European commentators recognized, as Adam Smith did, China’s ‘stationary state.’

Civilization: The West and the Rest, by Niall Ferguson, The Penguin Press, 2011

Niall Ferguson

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

People Power versus Global Warming: Power to the People, By the People

The sands are shifting beneath the feet of the monster entities that traditionally have provided electricity to our economies. The new threat to their stranglehold comes from a new paradigm known as distributed generation, or DG. Germany is in the forefront of this revolution in energy production, while the US lags far, far behind:

The program reflects some utilities' changing relationship with distributed generation, or DG, the name for small-scale energy generators like solar systems and micro wind turbines that produce electricity close to where the power is used.

Many of the nation's 3,200 utilities have resisted distributed generation, partly because they believe the small projects would cut into their profits. Private utilities make their money by investing in infrastructure - mainly massive centralized power plants and high-voltage transmission lines - and then charging customers enough to earn that money back with a guaranteed return. Distributed generation shakes up this century-old model by shifting control of electricity from utilities to smaller developers, communities or individuals, who produce power onsite and rely less on traditional grid infrastructure to keep the lights on. This, in turn, reduces the returns that utilities collect.

In Germany, distributed generation has been the backbone of a national clean energy overhaul that has turned that nation into the world's largest solar market. Nearly half of Germany's renewable power is owned by private individuals or farmers, while in the United States customer-owned generation is still less than 5 percent of the clean energy market.

The Edison Electric Institute, the U.S. utility sector's main trade group, wrote in a recent report that locally produced clean energy is a "disruptive challenge" to utilities that is likely here to stay.

Keep your eye on the DG development: it ain’t gonna go away!

And ask your city councillor if there’s any chance something similar can be offered to your city by your traditional energy suppliers.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Church on the chasm

Small church clinging to the top of a mighty Swiss Alp's mountain, with mist wreathing the chasm below, and a steep path leading up to the entrance.

Believers to the left, sinners to the right, perhaps?

Friday, September 13, 2013

From My Quotes Cupboard – the 14th Century and one noble

In this favored land of the Western land [France], the Coucy inheritance in 1335 was as rich as it was ancient ... Everything that had formed the fief ... was symbolized in the great lion platform in stone in front of the castle gate where vassals came to present rents and homage ...
Three times a year ... the Abbot of Nogen or his agent came to pay homage for the land originally granted to the monks by Aubry de Coucy ...
Mounted on a bay horse (or, according to some accounts, a palomino) with clipped tail and ears and plow-horse’s harness, the abbot’s representative carried a whip, a seed bag of wheat, and a basket filled wih 120 rissoles. These were crescent-shaped pastries made of rye flour, stuffed with minced veal cooked in oil. A dog followed, also with clipped ears and tail, and with a rissole tied around its neck.
The agent circled the stone cross at the entrance to the court three times, cracking his whip on each tour, dismounted and knelt at the lion platform, and, if each detail of equipment and performance was exactly right so far, was allowed to proceed. He then mounted the platform, kissed the lion, and deposited the rissoles plus twelve loaves of bread and three portions of wine as his homage.
The Sire de Coucy took a third of the offerings, distributed the rest among the assembled bailiffs and town magistrates, and stamped the document of homage with a seal representing a mitered abbot with the feet of a goat.

A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century by Barbara W. Tuchman, Alfred A. Knopf Inc. 1978

For more Quotes, please CLICK HERE and for even more, CLICK HERE.