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Stone Age boardgame

We recently got our hands on Stone Age – this was a birthday present for me off my wife (yes my birthday is not till January but with a baby on the way we thought best get it now so we can learn and actually enjoy it).

I have to say I really enjoyed playing it… not just because I have now won twice but because its a bit different to our other games. There is a nice constant competition going on throughout but then there is the anticipation as you add your scores up at the end, a lead that happens in the game can quickly be destroyed at the end.

Stone Age

The concept is quite simple, gather resources and build things but there is the randomness introduced by the dice role – so do you go for broke and put all your little people in one area or take a chance and role for a win! With the collection of food and increasing population it feels like Agricola. This game has won many different rewards and I can understand why… its so much fun and I reckon it will be played many times in my house. I’m now looking forward to playing it as 4 players as the rules change!


Ankh-Morpork boardgame

I’ve decided, given I now spend quite a bit of time (and since we have a decent group getting together often) playing board games to try and write a bit about some here… so here is my first attempt..

Ankh Morpork

Ankh-Morpork is set in the largest city-state in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. The concept basically is that Lord Vetinari has disappeared and the different factions are trying to take control. The thing that makes it so much fun is you don’t know how everyone else is trying to win. There are lots of different characters and there are many different victory conditions – for example Command Vimes wants you to get all the way through the deck of cards then that player wins. You don’t need to know any thing about Discworld, but I’m told it helps with the jokes on the cards etc.

We have played this many time as a 4 player game and quite a few times just 2 players. It works best with 4 but works pretty well with just the two of you too.  Its a pretty simple game to get your head around – you play a card and do what it says, of course with your goal in mind. I’ve been given the game on a plate by Joe at least once. Not that I’m minding. I’m sure many of the other games I could write about will have that statement.

This game is also nice cause it doesn’t go on and on, requiring at most an hour or so and at times less than 20 minutes – depends how things go etc, definitely has lots of replay-ability too, so you’ll get your money’s worth.

A review of my time in Canada

This coming Friday I leave Canada after almost 2 years working in Calgary at the [Institute for Space Imagining Science], University of Calgary. Apart from missing t’other one and family I’ve had a pretty good time here in [Alberta]. Canada is an interesting place, full of lots of different things todo. Not sure I could do it permanently though, there is just something missing. It could be described as culture or history but I don’t think that’s it. There is culture and though I don’t really fit into the culture of Calgary (oil/cowboy town) its really grown on me. I do like lots about the place and the people. Heck, its not many places were cars stop for you when you are 20 metres from the road. I just can’t quite place what makes me feel odd here at times, there is something but I don’t know what. At times I feel that this is simply missing my family (and that has been very very hard throughout this) but I don’t think its just this. Maybe its that feeling of missing home. Though I don’t think it can just be that. Then again though I moved out of home when I was 18 for University I never did leave Birmingham. Could I just be missing Birmingham? That’s definitely true, but I think something I got over after about 6 months. I’ve never gotten over missing my family but I think that’s expected. I talk to t’other one everyday and my folks every Saturday and Sunday. This has made life bearable, because without Skype I’d have probably never come nevermind lasted this long. Anyway, I really just can’t place what it is about Calgary that just doesn’t feel right. I think I’d probably have the same feeling in any North American city though, the roads are just to darn big. Having 3 lanes going one way outside of my place just says that. Well there is a bit of a rant. Its not a rant I had planned though. I was just going to write about my time here in Calgary and some of the more fun things I’ve done, I don’t want to bore you with the sad times and the anguish of missing people. So then… onto the highlights! These really don’t fully span the fun I’ve had here… but a taste – my blog over the last couple of years is testimate to my time in Calgary. Oh I’m not even including the epic trip back at Christmas to the UK that went via Paris and I got back home from Canada on a boat.. or my time in Puerto Rico.
I’ve actually put together [50 highlights of Canada in a flickr album]… for the purpose of this post I’m just gonna cover 10 topics – and I think what I’ll write about will embrace quite a few of the pics. These aren’t in any particular order…
1. Snow and using it for fun.
Calgary is definitely an excellent place to live if you enjoy outdoor winter sports. It has its own ski hill within the city and is not far from tons of what I’m told are excellent ski hills. There is the problem, I can’t ski at all. But when in Rome…
me Snowboarding at COP
.. yep that’s me get ready to try to snowboard. When my mate Christian decided he wanted to learn to snowboard and well I went along for the ride. For me it wasn’t much of a ride and more simply FAIL. Yes I fell over, yes I couldn’t get up on the board – apart from once when I feel down straight on me face. [I actually wrote a blog post about this]. I even gave ski’s a go… and well that was more FAIL. Yes I completely wiped out getting on and off the ski lift – and when I got back down to the bottom and I fell off the magic carpet (a flat escalator to help newbies) I decided it was time to go for a beer. Oh a couple of months later a my mate Steve came over to visit me from England [we saw how its properly done]
Snowboarding World Cup @ COP
2. Mountains.
Calgary is wonderfully placed right next to the rocky mountains. Of course in the winter this helps the previous fun… but in the summer it means lovely hiking. I wouldn’t say I took that too seriously, I’ve been for a couple of fun day hikes and been on a bunch of tours with [Brewsters] and saw/did some cool things. Including bears:
Brown Bear in Jasper National Park
partially frozen lakes:
Bow Lake
[Places with funny names] (yes this is called lake Minnewanka – pronounce it like a Brit and you will chuckle):
Me and sign for Lake Minnewanka
Lunch on a beach @ Lake Minnewanka
oh lots of mountains..
Mountain Pan
walking on a glacier:
us on the Athabasca Glacier
oh and more snow / [freezing my face off on top of a mountain at -20C or something like that]:
me on top of Sulphur mountain
3. Hockey.
During my time in Calgary I’ve become a fan of Ice Hockey (aka Hockey in Canada). Its a great game, full of excitement. Much better than playing Brett Hull hockey which absorbed a large portion of my time playing SNES. Of course the Canadians are as passionate about hockey as we are football. I think my interest really peaked when I was watching the Olympic coverage and Canada got to the final. Great afternoon watching it in Melrose on 17th Ave. Since then I’ve been to a bunch of [WHL and NHL games]. All I will say is GO FLAMES GO!
Flames vs Boston Bruins - Kipper
4. The Calgary Tower.
[I’ve been up the Calgary Tower on 3 occasions], I think spanning most of the day. Its always been fun, bit pricey but worth doing. The Calgary tower, though not the largest building, really dominates the downtown skyline. You can basically use it to find your way home too. I think it looks pretty nice at night and phenomenal when the giant flame is on.
me at Olympic Celebration
Calgary Tower @ Night (bw) from 1st St station
5. A city full of nature.
Calgary might be ranked as one of the world’s top eco cities but I don’t think people give it the credit it deserves. I mean everyone laughed about that title and well given the size of the roads/cars its quite funny. Then you think about the fact that there is one giant provincial park inside the city and many lovely nature sites.. I’ve seen quite a bit of wildlife in the city.. include [deer] and [coyotes down at Fish Creek]..
Up close with a coyote @ Fish Creek
Deer @ Fish Creek
6. The Cold
I’ve never been so cold in my life. I’m not quite sure how cold it has gotten to during my time here but I’m sure there was one day when it hit -40C. Now that’s cold. I remember the first winter and every day blasted my new record for the coldest temperature I’d ever experienced. The second winter it was… “oh it’s only -20C”. I still thinks its odd thinking -6C is a nice warm day and having the urge to wear shorts. biggrin.gif The cold weather does give some cool sites though.. and weird sensations when your nose freezes and your trousers (pants in Canada) go stiff within a minute of walking. Watching the [Simple Plan gig for the Olympics] outside was probably the coldest I’d ever bin. This was almost matched by the [outdoor Heritage hockey game at McMahon Stadium].
7. Stampede
I don’t think I really could have a discussion of my time living in Calgary and not mention the world famous [Calgary Stampede could I]? One giant rodeo with people partying for a week.. not a bad thing really. Still I was bemused by most of the activities that took place but I feel that I might have experienced something culturally significant.
8. Beer and Bars.
Who serves a pint like this?
Orange beer
Is what I thought the first time I had it. But yes having an orange in my beer has grown on me. I’ll miss some of the excellent beers of Wild Rose and Big Rock. I’ve had some epic nights drinking their products.. so a big thank you to them! Oh and a big thank you to all the bars I’ve been to… special mentions probably have to go to the epic Blink Monk on 12th Ave (right by were I live) for the many many fun nights, Melrose (on 17th Ave) for the hockey nights, Kilkenny (up at Brentwood) for its epic happy hours and to the Yardhouse (on 17th Ave) for its epic veggie burgers and friendly staff.
9. Tim Hortons.
I didn’t think I would be saying this… but Timmy’s I’ll miss you! Not many places were you can get an excellent donut and a coffee for around $2. I’ve spent many hours waiting in line-up for you. I hate to think how many hours are lost over the whole country waiting for Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons… open a few in England – I’ll come!
outside of Tim Hortons in Claresholm
10. Simply Calgary.
As I said before times have been hard in Calgary but I think I’ll miss it. I’ll miss my friends and I’ll miss the city.. there is something about this place that has made a place in my heart. [Go Stamps], [Go Flames], [Go Hitmen], [Go Roughknecks], [Go Vipers]! There might not be much todo for tourists but if you ever go to Western Canada don’t miss out on Calgary as you will be missing something.. I’m not quite sure what but you’ll be missing something. Something tells me this city really hasn’t blossomed yet – I can see myself coming back in 20 years and it being very different and well I can see this place being fantastic.
Calgary Downtown and clouds
Oh and to all my friends here… thanks for making my time in Calgary the dogs bollocks. You lot rock!
Thank you Calgary.
oh and …. hello Cambridge…..

Flames vs Oilers video…

and here is the video…

(video might be slightly truncated to the right / in case link does work: take a look at the actual youtube page)

More convolutions

So a friend of mine asked if I could produce the same animation I did the other day of the [convolution of two top hats] but this time of two Gaussians. Pretty straight forward really:
Annimation of Gaussian Convolution
If you want to take a look at the code, see [].

What’s up with the UoB clocktower…

I was playing around on Google maps the other day, well I was showing off glorious Birmingham while ranting on about the general election to some North Americans, and I came across this rather odd looking “halo” on top of old Joe! It’s obviously just some image processing artefact but still looks rather odd… (so I did a screenshot!):

Moon Dust by Andrew Smith

Moon Dust -Andrew Smith
Moon Dust by Andrew Smith

Well I’ve finally gotten around to finishing off this book… and its not because it wasn’t interesting its more because I’m easily distracted from reading. I have to say this was a great book. I very much enjoyed reading about the Apollo missions from a reflective viewpoint. I wish I had seen the Moon landings – shame they happened before my time. I’m not sure I see the point in going back, but I’d like to watch that kind of fascinating endeavour. Anyway, the book is a really good read and it was nice to find out what the eclectic bunch of astronauts are up to now – quite surprising really. There are some very interesting stories in this book and its all nicely put together and you can tell a lot of hearth and effort went into it. Its not a new book, but not old either… and I’d hugely recommend it to anyone who is interested in space travel and general science.

This is cool: 1 Billionth Scale Ion Model Of Enterprise-D

This is probably one of the coolest uses of physics ever… [1 Billionth Scale Ion Model Of Enterprise-D] … well maybe not very practical though.

The best piece of maths in a while – modelling zombies attacks

Some crazy Canadians have come up with a mathematical model for surviving a zombie attack. I fully support this kind-of research as we all know this is going to happen at some point wink.gif. My preferred model is grab a big stick, nick a van and ram raid tesco… job done, maybe…. oh [here is the link to the research]

Lower Johnston Canyon

A video of the lower Johnston Canyon falls…