Thursday, 25 September 2008

Tropic Thunder

I saw this on Monday, and it really made me laugh a lot. It wasn't quite as funny as I had hoped it was going to be, and most of the things that really made me laugh stemmed from Robert Downey Jr's brilliant performance as a white Method actor playing a black army sergeant. None of the other actors' characters could really hold a candle to it, and none of their lines seemed to be quite up at his level.

The only other thing in the film which came close to being as good or funny as Downey Jr was Tom Cruise cameoing as a deranged studio boss; it's a great visual gag to see Tom Cruise in a fat suit, bald and bearded and swearing with every other word, and he uses some real choice phrases. The plot is crazy but cool, although it's obvious from the start what is going to have happened by the resolution. It is a bit by the numbers in terms of the tropes that are used, but the specifics (and the heavyweight nature of many of the cast) do elevate it above what could have been just another comedy.

Well worth a watch then, but you could wait 'til DVD in my opinion.

V For Vendetta

Just a short review of V For Vendetta: I absolutely loved this book. I'd been meaning to read it for years, and when I spotted it at the library a few weeks ago I decided that the time had finally arrived for me to give it a try.

It's around twenty years old now, but still reads as though it were written yesterday. The thought of living in a fascist dystopia seems oddly close (will that ever go away I wonder?) The artwork is great, very simple in places, quite haunting actually. I'd seen the film previously, and while I can understand some of the changes that were made it doesn't stand up to the depth of the book or the expression of the themes within it.

While I think Hugo Weaving is a fantastic actor, the character of V in the graphic novel is a much more intriguing person and his goals seem much grander than the character in the film. The supporting characters also have much more to do in the graphic novel, you really get a feel that you are looking at a real world, a terrifying vision of the kind of world that could be.

Project Euler

So I've made a good start so far on thing number 82, solving 25 problems on Project Euler. From the site:

Project Euler is a series of challenging mathematical/computer programming problems that will require more than just mathematical insights to solve. Although mathematics will help you arrive at elegant and efficient methods, the use of a computer and programming skills will be required to solve most problems.

I've solved six of the problems so far, and while I'm not going to go into huge detail on how I did them, I thought I would list the ones I've solved and say a few words on how I did it.

(you know, so you know I'm not just cheating or anything)

Problem 1: Add all the natural numbers below one thousand that are multiples of 3 or 5.
This was quite straight forward, there are simple formulas for adding sums of numbers. We simply take add the formulas for sums of multiples of 3 or 5 and subtract the sum of numbers which are multiples of 15.

Problem 2: Find the sum of all the even-valued terms in the Fibonacci sequence which do not exceed four million.
I did this with a simple program I wrote. It's easy to write out the steps by hand, the problem here is in the number of steps involved. A simple C++ program solved it.

Problem 5: What is the smallest number divisible by each of the numbers 1 to 20?
This just took a little bit of thought, no computing involved.

Problem 6: What is the difference between the sum of the squares and the square of the sums, for the numbers from 1 to 100?
Again, there are formulas for these, I just had to look them up.

Problem 8: Discover the largest product of five consecutive digits in the 1000-digit number.
For this one the site gives you a 1000 digit number; I did think about trying to test the basic C++ skills I have to read through it and find the requisite place, but in the end it was easier to do it by observation than mess around with C++. (note: this is not a good idea in general, the "by inspection" approach does not scale well!)

Problem 20: Find the sum of digits in 100!
This was simple, although I will talk about how I would do it differently now that I've thought about it. I found a website which would calculate 1 times 2 times 3 times...times 100, and then just summed the digits.

Now, C++ only allows operations on integers up to a certain amount (around four billion). 100! has a lot more digits than that; I've thought about it since, and figured out how I can create a "big number calculator" for C++. I'm sure someone else must have done it before, and I only have it in principle in my head so far, but I'm reasonably confident that I can create it soon.

Six down, nineteen to go!

Thing 22 - Day 25

Day 23 - Worst Case Scenarios
In which I link to a taxonomy of the end of the world.

Day 24 - Wordless Wednesday: Yummy!
In which I show off my cooking efforts.

Day 25 - DO NOT WANT
In which I am annoyed about recent news regarding a prequel for I Am Legend.

Almost there...

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Thing 22 - Day 23

Well, not quite. I've not written my post for today, but I will soon. I'm really pleased that I've stuck to this, although I am concerned that this weekend I will be going to London and am just hoping that I can find time to write (the good thing is I can always send something from my phone).

So what have I been writing about on Cognitive Blindspot? Well, since you asked:

Day 13 - Overclocked
In which I get a bit excited! (don't worry, it won't last long)

Day 14 - Robinson Crusoe in our circumstances were beyond the operation of fear.

Day 15 - Halfway There
In which I am shocked at a credit card offer.

Day 16 - Changing Traditions
In which I talk about my ambitions and my family's history.

Day 17 - Wordless Wednesday
The empty desk in my former office.

Day 18 - Tired!
In which I expound on the statement that working for a living is tiring.

Day 19 - Curious Symmetry
In which I link to a maths related thing.

Day 20 - Fun and Games
In which I'm rejoicing about the arrival of the weekend.

Day 21 - Iron Chef
In which I announce my culinary ambitions.

Day 22 - Another Way to Die
In which I link to the new Bond theme.

Is it really that long since I wrote about thing 22? Wow. I hadn't realised. That's a lot of formatting to do. Sigh.

Coming soon on Racing Entropy (seriously folks, I promise):
Reviews of Robinson Crusoe, V For Vendetta, and Content, as well as my thoughts on Tropic Thunder, some solutions to Project Euler challenges (or at least how I went about the problems) and some flash fiction. In fact, in the absence of anyone in the office, I think I'm going to start on the latter now.

(that's right blogosphere, I'm sticking it to the Man)

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Just a Castaway

Apologies, as usual, I promise and don't deliver. I said at the end of my last post that I would write later in the day, but of course I didn't. Oh well. I'll try to be better in future...

I finished Robinson Crusoe a few days ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's said to be the first novel in the English language, nearly 300 years old, and seems really fresh even today. Reading about Crusoe's exploits - how he becomes self-sufficient, how he finds faith - is really engaging, and there was something about the self-sufficiency and what he does in order to fend for himself that really engaged me.

As I noted on Cognitive Blindspot, there were passages that just jumped out at me. One in particular towards the end of the book really stuck in my mind. Crusoe looks within reach of leaving the island, having found some allies (after nearly thirty years of solitude) but the course that they are about to take is dangerous, confronting many armed men. Someone points out that they are in a terrible situation, and that they might be injured or killed in the attempt.

I smiled at him and told him that men in our circumstances were past the operation of fear.

I really, really love that line, ...past the operation of fear... There's a tremendous thought behind it.

So what else has been going on? I had a meeting on Thursday last week which was going to be just about getting some experience in the area that I am trying to get into. Following a meeting on Friday morning I now have two or three weeks of covering some admin, then a couple of workshops where I will be working as a tutor lined up. It seems to be growing all the time! So that's quite interesting. Once this two or three week engagement being on call to cover whatever arises is done I'll be registering myself as self-employed, which is a whole other exciting adventure.

It just feels crazy that I went from a week ago with nothing in particular planned but an idea of a general direction that I wanted to go in, to today where I have a job that's paying the bills at the moment with promises of work in the next two months which are going to pay well and be invaluable in establishing myself in an area that I want to get into.

More soon, I promise. I still need to talk about Project Euler and how I've been getting on with that!

Just a castaway, an island lost at sea...

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Thing 22 - Twelve Days In

So what have I been talking about over on Cognitive Blindspot? This and that really. I originally started it with noisms to be somewhere that we could just talk about whatever we wanted, and I think the last week has really given some posts that are in that vein, a real variety pack.

Day 5 - Lull
In which I say a few things about a few things, and show a picture of La Princesse.

Day 6 - A Saturday of This and That
In which I tell you about my Saturday. (that was a bit obvious!)

Day 7 - Free Reading
In which I talk about how awesome the library is.

Day 8 - Busy Busy
In which the writer posts a video and asks a question about Bond songs.

Day 9 - Split
In which the writer has a headache. (actually, this has been an issue for the last few days...)

Day 10 - Wordless Wednesday
In which we see my travelling companion freezing.

Day 11 - Several Links
In which I tell you all about some cool things I've found on the internet.

Day 12 - Serendipity
In which a plan comes together.

Life isn't too bad, and I have a very good feeling about the next few months. Will post more later today, have a few book review related things to do, and also want to talk about Project Euler as well, which I've already made a start on.

Take it easy.

Friday, 12 September 2008

I'm Alive!

This has been a manic, manic week. Writing every day over on Cognitive Blindspot along with the other things going on in my life has meant that writing reviews and keeping things up to date over here has fallen by the wayside a little. Now the weekend is nearly here, and in order to take a little break before the next phase in my life begins I think I'll try to get a few posts under my belt on here over the weekend.

Hope all is well in your neck of the woods, wherever that may be!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Thing 22 - Regular Blogging

I've made a start of thing 22 on my list: writing every day for a month on Cognitive Blindspot. When me and my friend noisms started the blog over a year ago we planned to both update it at least three times a week. That's kind of fallen by the wayside of late (and noisms hasn't written on there for a long time - although he does keep an interesting RPG-related blog at Monsters and Manuals), and I thought that now was the time to work on getting back on track with that more general blog. Trying to accomplish thing 22 seemed like a good way to get back into blogging regularly, and we'll see how it goes...

So, a quick summary of what I've done this week!

Day 1 - The Bad Beginning
In which our writer tells of tutoring, and sets out his stall for September.

Day 2 - Ugh
In which we see snails on a girl's face. Ugh.

Day 3 - Wordless Wednesday
In which the writer shows a painting that he owns.

Day 4 - Thursday Thirteen
In which the writer considers thirteen things he will miss now that his PhD is over.

Will update on this as it progresses; book reviews and possibly flash fiction at the weekend!

Monday, 1 September 2008

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier

Without going to check, I think I'm right in saying that "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier" is the first graphic novel that I've read as part of thing 68. It's very good, but very different from the preceding volumes in the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen series. Whereas the earlier works are comics collected in to graphic novels, this is more of a hybrid of various things, a story about a dossier collecting certain information from down the years; the dossier is reproduced and interwoven with that is a graphic novel relating the adventures of Mina Harker and Allan Quatermain, two of the surviving members of the League.

The hook for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen was showing further fantastical adventures of characters from late 19th century literature - Harker and Quatermain, Henry Jekyll/Edward Hyde, Captain Nemo and the Invisible Man - and placing all of these fascinating characters in a Victorian England where many of the characters and situations from 19th century literature are real. So in Volume 1 we see the League battling Fu Manchu and Moriarty, and Volume 2 has the arrival of Martian tripods.

Black Dossier is different in that the time moves forward to the late 1950s, and shows an England drastically different from the one which actually happened. The recent overthrow of the "Ingsoc" government (from 1984) as well as the contents of the Black Dossier gives a very different reality - and an utterly compelling one. A familiar British secret agent, the story of the earlier Leagues (with members including Gulliver, Prospero and the immortal Orlando) and the fascinating alternate world of 1950s England made this a real treat, totally unlike anything else I've read in a very long time (graphic novel or otherwise).

One should read the previous volumes first probably to get a handle on a few of the events referenced, but it does stand alone very well I think. Track it down and treat yourself!