Club Admiralty

v7.0 - moving along, a point increase at a time

Club Admiralty Blog

A blog about life in general, in as many languages as I can manage. Ενα ιστολόγιο περι ζωής, πολυγλωσσο - σε όσες γλωσσες εχω μεράκι να γράψω.

Εισαγωγή στην Επιστήμη!

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Ένα από τα μαθήματα που είχα την πρώτη μου χρονιά στο λύκειο, όταν επέστρεψα από την Ελλάδα, ήταν το μάθημα που λεγόταν “εισαγωγή στην επιστήμη” ή στα Αγγλικά Introduction to Physical Sciences (IPS), δηλαδή μια εισαγωγή στην φυσική και στην χημεία για μαθητές που δεν είχαν κάνει κάτι παρόμοιο στις σπουδές τους παλιότερα. Το μάθημα ήταν στο δεύτερο επίπεδο μαθημάτων. Το λύκειο αυτό είχε τρία επίπεδα, το ανώτατο ήταν σαν να κάνεις προπτυχιακά μαθήματα στο πανεπιστήμιο, τα λεγόμενα AP (advanced placement). Το δεύτερο ανώτατο ήταν τα level 1 μαθήματα που ήταν απλός προχωρημένα, τα “κανονικά” μαθήματα ήταν level 2, και τελικος τα level 3 μαθήματα ήταν μαθήματα για τους πολύ αρχάριους, δηλαδή developmental. Οι πιο πολλοί συμμαθητές μου είχαν αυτό το μάθημα που πολλοί το έλεγα, για πλάκα idiots practicing science επειδή τα αρχικά γράμματα ήταν το ίδιο με τα αρχικά γράμματα του τίτλου του μαθήματος.

Το μάθημα ήταν μια μίξη από φυσική και χημεία, και έχω την εντύπωση πώς ένας από τους σκοπούς του μαθήματος ήταν να μας κάνουν μια εισαγωγή όχι μόνο στην χημεία και στην φυσική αλλά να μάθουμε, και να προσαρμόζουμε, τους τρόπους και τις μεθόδους της επιστημονικής έρευνας. Σε αυτό το μάθημα είχαμε και εργαστήρια, κάτι που στην Ελλάδα δεν είχαμε - ή τουλάχιστον είχαν μερικοί στο λύκειο, σε κάποιο τρέιλερ που μπορούσες να πας μόνο για λίγο. Εδώ το εργαστήρι ήταν εντός της αίθουσας, με βρύσες, με φυσικό αέριο για μικρούς καυστήρες, με δοχεία, κύπελλα, και δοκιμαστικούς σωλήνες Φοβερό! Ένα από τα πειράματα που θυμάμαι ήταν να πάρουμε μακαρόνια, από δύο διαφορετικές μάρκες, να βράσουμε ένα ίσο ποσό (όταν είναι στεγνά) και μετά να δούμε στο αποτέλεσμα (αφού τα μαγειρέψει) πια η διαφορά στην μάζα, στο βάρος, και σε κάτι άλλα.

Αρκετά ενδιαφέρων μάθημα, και ήταν ένα από τα μαθήματα που ήμουν στο ίδιο επίπεδο με τους αγγλόφωνους συμμαθητές μου, οπότε δεν ήμουν ξεχωριστά. Αυτό που μου έκανε εντύπωση είναι πως ακόμα και στο γυμνάσιο, τότε, στην Ελλάδα είχα κάνει παραπάνω απ' ότι έκανα στην πρώτη λυκείου (τρίτη γυμνάσιου για την Ελλάδα - αφού το λύκειο είναι 4 χρόνια εδώ). Στην Ελλάδα είχα κάνει ήδη εισαγωγές στην βιολογία, χημεία, φυσική, φυτολογία, και ανθρωπολογία Ενώ εδώ φαίνεται πως τα παιδιά δεν έκαναν πολλά με τις επιστήμες. Κάπου έχω ακόμα τις αναφορές, που είχα γράψει με Claris Works, αναρωτιέμαι αν υπάρχει πρόγραμμα που διαβάζει τέτοια αρχεία, ή αν πρέπει να στίσω εξωμοιωτή.
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A few thoughts on Lexx

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A number of years back I was walking through a Tower Records or Virgin Megastore, or something like that and I noticed a series called Lexx, which was touted as Star Trek's evil twin. Being a fan of Star Trek I thought that it would be worthwhile to try this series out, and since I had some time I decided to give it a try.  The show is a space "exploration" based science fiction series with four main characters (at least in the first few seasons). The characters are brought together under bizarre circumstances and they really don't mix well together, which makes the series have a bit like an odd-couple in space type of dynamic.

The main characters are Stan - a demoted courier from a large intergalactic empire, which I would describe as having all the attributes of public servants that the general public thinks of as bad. On top of that he is a stereotypical letcher.  Zev is a woman who was genetically mutated to be unresistable, and has certain insatiable needs.  790 is a robot (or rather a robot head) which used to be mindless but now has imprinted on someone from the cast and acts like a lovesick puppy.  Kai is the re-animated corpse of a Brunnen-G warrior who was an assassin for the Divine Shadow (the series stars off with a cult leader and cult society), and finally for sometime you have Lyekka, a carnivorous plant who befriends Stan and takes on the form of a human woman.  The name of the show comes from the bug ship that they fly in, the Lexx, that was built as a weapon against the Divine Shadow's enemies (the unbelievers).  The ship itself has an interesting personality.

To some extent the way that the Lexx was constructed reminds me a lot of Moya from Farscape, both being ships that have some sort of biological component to them.  That said, I was a little disappointed by the series.  I wasn't quite sure what I was expecting, but that wasn't it.  The entire four seasons seemed to have a lot to do with sex, and getting sex.  It seemed rather sophomoric. The fourth season was actually quite good, once I acclimated to the campy factor of the series.  The series, by that time really made fun of everything that it was to be human, so if you were looking for that it was pretty enjoyable.  Near the end it seemed to me that the entire series was (almost) about things that one couldn't have.  For instance:

790 loves Kai - however as a dead person Kai has no emotions.  Furthermore 790 has no body with which to satisfy his early "needs".  Xev has the hots for Kai, but again, since Kai is dead he can't feel back for her what she feels for him.  Stan has the hots for anything that is female and human, however he can't realistically get with anyone because he will lose the key to the Lexx - which he got by fluke but which he nevertheless possesses and thus makes him powerful whereas before he was just a "loser" in a dead-end job. Thus, the entire series turns out to be about celibacy in one way or another.   At the end Kai actually does get to be mortal again, and thus dies, so I guess someone got something out of this.

I think that the series had some really interesting philosophical points to ponder, but it really went through this in a bizarre way, which really lost me for most of the series.  It was almost like the series was written by a bunch of teenage boys.  I think the only thing that I consistently enjoyed was Kai's "I am dead I don't ______" replies when Stan, Xev, and 790 asked him if he did/felt/needed certain very human things. This was really pointing back to both Kai as the analog for Mr. Spock, and Dr. McCoy in the catch phrases that he used.

Overall I'd love to see a reboot of this series but done better. I'd only give it a 60% as it currently stands.
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Dishonored | Done!

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Just in time!  Right before my semester starts next week, and my gaming tanks until the summer, I was able to start playing, and finished, Dishonored.  This is one of those games that was a hand-me-down from a friend that moved away.  I tried playing it right after I had completed Bioshock Infinite, however the game styles were too similar and I wanted something else to buffer these two games.  Now that the Hitman Trilogy was done, it seemed like a good time to take on this game, and see if I could beat it before the semester started.

In the game you play the role of Corvo Attano.  You come back from some mission to meet the Empress, and your Princess, only to see the Empress killed, and the Princess abducted by what I would describe as paranormal ninjas (in the game they are called assassins).  Of course you are framed for the murder and thus your are dishonored.  This debut trailer does a good job at framing the story:



The game play in this trailer makes it look a little like it might be like Assassin's Creed, but it is not - it's more like Bioshock, which is fine by me.  Throughout the game you pick up bone charms which allow you to have some passive powers (like silent assassinations giving a chance to replenish your mana), and some active powers which drain mana, like stopping time and teleportation.  The game takes place in a Victorian, steampunk, world that is infested by something resembling the Plague.  The only difference is that those infected with the plague, after some level of exposure become like zombies.  That aspect of the story telling I could have taken or left it, I don't think it added much to the story.

At the heart of it, this game is really about a political coup d'etat, first perpetrated by the Lord Protector who stepped in after the Empress was assassinated, and then by your "friends" after you ended up taking the other Lord Protector out of the picture. When your friends betray you and take over the land, you need to go take out that trash too.   At the beginning of the game you are warned not take lives needlessly  otherwise it will impact the ending of the game.  Well, what can I say, I tried to keep the game in "low chaos", not get detected, not kill, but when all is said and done this was too much work.  I felt sorry for the red shirts that Corvo killed, but at the end of the day, gotta save the Princess!

The three different endings are covered in this YouTube video. The order is: "worst" ending, middle of the road ending, and best ending":



I ended up getting the middle of the road ending, which is still considered a "bad" ending.  This got me thinking about the subjective nature of what we consider good and bad endings.  I honestly thought that  the ending was fairly realistic:  History is written by the victors, through a specific lens, and while Corvo dies in the end, he is still Lord Protector to the new Empress.  The fact that Corvo dies at the end of this, instead of living, is in a sense giving him Kleos Afthiton, the never ending glory that the Ancient Greek Hero was all about.  He accomplished great deeds and people would be talking about him for days to come.  When living to old age he doesn't die in a glorious way.

All things considered the game play for this game was quite fun!  While I won't be going back to it right away, I think this is one of those games that I will be revisiting in the future. From an achievement perspective I only go 17/80 achievements (21%) but the game was a lot of fun - so I will probably go back in subsequent plays to rack up some more ;-)
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Adieu Library Books!

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I can't believe I missed this bit of news last February!  I was checking to see if there are any updates to one of my favorite applications - library books - when I saw a note from the author that the software would not longer be updated.  Too bad, because this was quite a useful application, both on the Mac originally, and then on iOS.  This app allowed you to log into your local academic of public library with your account and it would let you know when books were due back and when they were ready for pickup.

Maybe for most people this isn't generally an issue, but for a student, who tends to check out a lot of library books at the same time, this little utility was indispensable!  I will still keep it on my iPad, and I will download the app from the appstore now that it is free, and I will keep using it as long as it works.  I guess one of my claims to fame is that when I worked at the Healey Library, in my role as manager in the IT department, I contacted Harold to see what sort of info he needed to make his app interoperable with our system (Voyager).  Within a week there was a beta out with support for our library - pretty cool!  Since Harold is no longer updating the app (hard to believe it's been 10 years!) I really wish that some industrious librarian would take over this project and keep updating it.  This app is a must for any heavy user (or forgetful user) of any library :)
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Hitman: Blood Money | Done

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Just before 2014 is done I managed to make my way through Hitman: Blood Money, the last game in the Hitman HD Trilogy that I bought at the end of 2013. I think part of the reason that I really got through this game quickly was because I played it on Normal (7 saves, regular AI), but still I was mostly playing for the storyline and not the achievements which makes this sort of a speedrun for me.  Despite the speed at which I played this game it was actually pretty good, and much better than the previous two I played.  The story is a continuation from Hitman: Contracts where the Agency is being targeted and all agents are, except for 47, are actually dead.

If you are paying attention, the load-screens at the beginning of each stage do foreshadow that the FBI has actually killed Agent 47. The story unwraps in flashback mode.  Some FBI director is detailing a particular scoop about how the FBI has finally caught up with the Agency and 47. As the director details specific hits, you play as Agent 47 and relive the mission.  The underlying plot, with which the story culminates, is that the Vice President of the US is looking to kill off the President to take over the country and Agent 47 needs to infiltrate the White House to kill off the assassins and the VP. In the end, after that final mission, it appears that Dianne has double crossed 47 by bringing the FBI to his location, but has she?  She gives him the same drug that 47 gave to that Agent he rescued from a previous mission (btw, am I supposed to recall who this guy is?), and at the mortuary she administers the revival counter-agent to the drug she gave him, along with placing two ballers in you hands.

The story in this game seemed much better than both the previous games combined.  The game play was also pretty nice. It seemed less linear than before, and it encouraged me, as a player, to see alternate routes and experiment more.  At the end of the day I attempted to really get as many Silent Assassin ratings as possible.  It didn't always happen, but this game actually made me want to care about more stealth ratings.  I did see Hitman: Absolution - the next game in the series - at a GameStop a few weeks ago, used, for $7. Maybe this is something to try out before school starts!

Overall, I would give this game an 8/10.  Not bad at all!
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