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NYT: "E-Cigarettes Help Smokers Quit, but They Have Some Unlikely Critics"

“It boggles my mind why there is a bias against e-cigarettes among antismoking groups,” Dr. Siegel said. He added that it made no sense to fret about hypothetical risks from minuscule levels of several chemicals in e-cigarettes when the alternative is known to be deadly: cigarettes containing thousands of chemicals, including dozens of carcinogens and hundreds of toxins.

It really does boggle my mind as well, though Big Tobacco is... big, and these are distributed by lots of little companies outside of the usual corporate sphere. Anyone can extract nicotine and dissolve it in propylene glycol, or copy a fairly simple electronic blueprint. I've seen little general reaction to the things in this country apart from official support of them by various medical sources - for the sensible reason that smoking tobacco is very bad for you, e-cigarettes are not provably bad for you at all, and they encourage people to stop smoking tobacco. This is not a difficult public health decision surely? Hopefully anti-smoking groups in the UK don't decide to follow a US lead here.

I have had one for a couple of weeks now, and have not had a single cigarette during that time. It wasn't hard at all. I still get to flood my system with lovely nicotine, delivered through a fast-acting inhaler, just without the smoke aspect. The major disadvantage has been regaining a sense of smell and realising quite how much people on the Underground actually stink.

Yes, they obviously don't wean people off nicotine - that is not what they are meant for. They are not, in fact, smoking cessation products. They are alternative nicotine delivery products, a function that they perform very well. I'm not in fact bothered whether health charities and the government choose to support them or not (ideally they would not tax them into oblivion, but they could hardly get more expensive than actual fags) but I do expect them not to put any more bars on them than they do actual tobacco, for heaven's sake.

I am not even going to address the "but it teaches children to smoke!" argument because it is idiocy.
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When I started using OmniFocus, I thought "this looks like a really powerful program, but the interface is extremely confusing and a bit clumsy frankly". Conventional wisdom is that it takes a while of regular use to get accustomed to how it works, but after that it becomes practically effortless. So I stuck with it.

After daily use of it for a year or so my verdict is that it is still a pain to use. Read more... )
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You know what though - I got some terrific inks in the post today from Diamine. Denim, Eclipse, Graphite and Wild Strawberry. So it's not all depressing.
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On the one hand, I have no idea what I will be writing for NaNoWriMo, except that it might involve jellyfish. On the other hand, I have a big pack of blank index cards and have read lots of interesting things about forms of plot structure.
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I've been writing a little script to generate random asteroid/crystal sort of shapes for use in a Unity game. The basic idea is quite simple: there is a top vertex, and a bottom vertex, and then a ring of vertices around the middle, with triangles linking them to the top and bottom. (The whole thing is then wrapped in a sphere collider.)

Unity Diamond Failure

Now I am new to scripting meshes in Unity (i.e. I started doing this today) but it doesn't look very hard, and the code I have does work - apart from a maddening issue with some of the lower triangles, as you can see in the picture above. This has been annoying me severely. It looks like some are missing, but they aren't - they're just facing the other way. But only ever on the lower half of the

It's probably something extremely obvious but those are always the hardest things to spot. I have a feeling that it is something to do with the way I am adding triangles to the mesh.triangles array, but I have no idea what it is. I've tried setting normals for all vertices automatically, and manually, and neither makes any difference; I just can't see how the normals for the triangles themselves are set.

This is my code, by the way:

function GenerateNewMesh () : boolean {
	var mesh : Mesh = GetComponent(MeshFilter).mesh;
	var vertexCount : int = Mathf.Ceil(Random.value * 10) + 8;
	var vertices = new Vector3[vertexCount];
	var normals = new Vector3[vertexCount];
	var uv = new Vector2[vertexCount];
	vertices[0] = Vector3.up + Random.insideUnitSphere * 0.25;
	uv[0] = Vector2(0.5, 0.5);
	vertices[1] = Vector3.down + Random.insideUnitSphere * 0.25;
	uv[1] = Vector2(0.5, 0.5);
	var triangles = new Array();
	var angleStep = 2 * Mathf.PI / (parseFloat(vertexCount) - 2);
	// Generate randomly placed edge
	for (var f = 2; f < vertexCount; f++) {
		var angle = (f-2) * angleStep + (angleStep * (Random.value * 0.4 - 0.2));
		uv[f] = Vector2(Mathf.Sin(angle), Mathf.Cos(angle)) * (Random.value * 0.2 + 0.8);
		vertices[f] = Vector3(uv[f].x, Random.value * 0.4 - 0.2, uv[f].y);
//		print("angle=" + angle + ", uv=" + uv[f] + ", vertex=" + vertices[f]);
		var neighbour = f + 1;
		if (neighbour == vertexCount) neighbour = 2;
		triangles = triangles.Concat(new Array(0, f, neighbour, 1, f, neighbour));
	for (f = 0; f < vertexCount; f++) {
		normals[f] = vertices[f].normalized;
	mesh.vertices = vertices;
	mesh.uv = uv;
	mesh.triangles = triangles.ToBuiltin(int);
	mesh.normals = normals;
//	mesh.RecalculateNormals();
	return true;

I suppose the next step is to use scripting to interrogate meshes that I've made in Blender with faces pointing in different directions, and see what the difference in the internal representation is.
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I have remembered the main thing that really put me off writing NaNoWriMo by hand the next time: _the word count_. It was absolute hell. Counting potentially fifty thousand words by the "one, two, three, four... thirty-one, thirty-two, wait, did I miss a line? dammit now I have to start again" method - even with pencil ticks on the page - is awful. It was bad enough for essays at school which were only a couple of thousand words at most.

But I suspect I may well still use paper and index cards, if only because it takes me away from everything that I do for the rest of the day.

(N.B. one does run out of index cards sometimes. And they are bulkier than you imagine.)
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Please don't do the "People's Mic" thing. I've just been watching some folk in Bristol doing it - I thought it wasn't going to go any further than NYC, given how Uncanny Valley it is. Megaphones aren't even banned on demos here either (sometimes I've wished they were).

the Filth

Associations it doesn't have:

* A group of thoughtful individuals united and supporting each other in a common endeavour.

Associations it has:

* Chanting the Lord's Prayer;
* Pledges of allegiance;
* "It's too late! The brain parasites have got them! Lock and load, fire at will!"

eta: the video I was talking about is here, from a bit over half way through.
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I’m wondering whether to write my NaNoWriMo this year in fountain pen, as I did last year, or actually type it.

Benefits of the fountain pen:

  1. I enjoy writing with fountain pens.
  2. It really removes the temptation to overly edit, writing by hand. Once it’s there, it’s there. So you just have to get on and write the next sentence, even if the last one was rubbish.
  3. I’m aware that the only NNWM I’ve finished has been the one that I wrote in pen. I’m such an appalling over-editor that, in the past, I’d just spent the whole time tweaking paragraphs and changing the plot.

On the other hand:

  1. If the novel turns out to be any good, it’s much harder to do anything with it if it’s in longhand. You have to then re-type it.
  2. If the novel doesn’t turn out to be any good, but has some good parts - which is far more likely - it becomes a pain to extract the good parts from. You can’t search for them, and you have to type the good parts up once you find them, with the result that you’re less likely to make use of any good parts, in the end.
  3. It’s not as securely archived/backed up as if I’d written it digitally.

I still have last year’s novel on the shelf in a binder, and while I very occasionally look at it when I half-remember an idea that I put in there and want to see what I ended up writing, it’s really not a convenient archiving format.

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I am not one for heroes, but the what I took from Apple under Steve Jobs was that one could be both an artist and a geek, creative and also technically skilled - not like I'd been taught at school, where you were a thinker or a doer and nothing in-between. Coding was just a medium like any other, and being good at it meant you could be a better artist in that medium.

And this taught me that there was a _point_ to all of this tinkering, and it wasn't just something that was supposed to help with getting a job or be fun for its own sake - it could produce something worthwhile and expressive and real.

So now, I think "it's a shame that he's dead - I wish that hadn't happened. So. Where was I with that code again?"
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Quick notes about the "Eyeball Massage" exhibition by Pipilotti Rist at the Hayward Gallery that I went to on its opening date today (I am such an up-to-the-minute arthound) because if I try to write anything long I will not end up posting it.

An observation that I came up with within seconds was that I liked this because of the interest in creating microcosms - some tiny, "straight" miniature representations of environments - as you enter, the first chamber of the Hayward is filled with a dollhouse-scale suburban home with surrounding fields and video installation - and also vignettes, pieces which are little scenes of a world, without any specific miniaturisation. A lot of the exhibition seemed designed to give an impression of and portray space and scenes. (This isn't just my interpretation by the way, it's mentioned in the artist's notes too.)

I have a great interest in this, which is one of my major drives in virtual worlds and games, and so I was fascinated. There's also a bit about microcosms in the human body, which means lots of close-ups of eyes and nipples and stuff which I was a bit bored by to be honest - I got over "don't people look weird in close-up, wow you lose all sense that it's actually a human being" a while ago. But that's not overwhelming.

One other thing that reminded me of virtual worlds was the use of video and audio on any available flat surface. Almost every item either has a projector and screens, or a tiny LCD video display hidden in it somewhere, and they all have accompanying audio via gallery sound or little speakers. There is one area that has a number of open objects on pedestals - handbags, seashells - each with a little A/V unit embedded somewhere with image and sound loops, so that you almost have to stick your face inside to see and hear what this means. Video and ambient sounds are common tools in virtual installations, particularly projected onto (well, loaded onto) planes, and some of the best ones contain tiny details that you have to zoom in to properly appreciate.

I would post some pictures and video here to illustrate what I mean, but unfortunately the whole thing has very low ambient light with a few very bright parts, which is fine for looking at when you are there but which cameraphones hate. So all of my pictures and video look awful. I should mention that, outside the gallery, the exhibition is advertised with extremely long washing lines that have pants on them. There is also a bubble-blowing machine on the top of the coffee shop connected to the Hayward, which rarely manages to get a full-sized bubble past its own rim and the guardrail just beyond it, but occasionally one does slip over and drift in the air for a while, entranced by its own wobbly bulbous shape, until it pops into a cloud of detergent.
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I was talking to a friend earlier on the subject.

me: You can't hang about waiting for things to get better. If it's not working, you have to do something else or die.
me: Once your natural reaction to ideas stops being "hey I wonder how that could be done in SL"... well.
them: its over
me: And it's very hard to go back.

It isn't really a choice. One needs a medium to create in. That has been Second Life, but when that stops, when SL stops feeling the right place to go, it isn't as if one just stops thinking. The instinct to express one's ideas in SL has to be - painfully - redirected towards something else... prose, watercolours, interactive fiction, HTML5 games, something. And dragging it back to SL is just as painful a process as moving it away. I don't want to put myself through that again.
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at 5x15 at the Tabernacle, yesterday

- Myths as central ordering aspects of a culture's imagination vs fragmentation of cultures into subcultures

- It is impossible to tell how loud eating crisps actually is for other people

It is impossible. The noise of eating them is so loud in your own ears that there's no way to tell how loud it sounds outside your own head.
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"What? What is it?"


"Yes. Yes, smoke detector, I know."

I wouldn't mind so much if it wasn't for the fact that, when I _would_ quite like to know when something has caught fire, it doesn't go off until the entire kitchen is full of smoke .
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bay leaves
An indigestible dried garnish, to be added to a stew or casserole to entertain diners by forcing them to find a way to remove the leaves from their mouths in a decorous manner. Do not affect the taste of a dish in any way.
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A quick few thoughts that I have been batting back and forward as I work on my HTML5/JS MMO-ish Roguelike client.

As a basic introduction or recap, the client obtains current map data and basic information via AJAX, and then lets the player move around looking at things without needing to talk to the server, until either

(a) the PC moves out of the current map region and so needs a new map;
(b) the PC hits a "hotspot", which is a square that requires a server update. The client isn't told _why_ the hotspot is hot;
(c) the player performs an action that needs a server update, such as using an object;
(d) or an idle time limit is reached of a few seconds, and every minute or so of idleness after that.

(I quite quickly abandoned the idea of light and vision masks - that means that every step the player makes means having to ask for an update, and on a phone, that is a bit catastrophic; it's even annoying on the desktop with broadband.)

Whenever the client syncs with the server, it sends a list of all of the moves the player has made. The server calculates the outcomes and sends back an entirely new game environment (a very small amount of data) - so it is practically impossible to cheat. If you send impossible moves, the server will ignore them and send back a game state on that basis, and anything involving random factors is calculated server-side.

Yes, it gets worse. )

On the other hand, there have been lots of diverting games in the past which had pretty limited NPC movement on the map. Some had none at all (e.g. The Bard's Tale just had random encounters and some ones fixed to map points).
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What I would like to do would be to create little "stealth" games that can fit inside other sites.

For instance, with 8px sprites, you could fit an entire game into a 100x100px space. That's nothing in the modern browser world. That's a tiny area in a sidebar, and the Javascript required is not huge, either. Zoom in if you'd like to see it in detail, or just move around and explore a world.
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I have something to confess. I have become obsessed with making 8x8 pixel sprites.

It started when I began writing HTML5 games, concentrating on the Roguelike style, which requires sprites, really. (I did start off with character-based displays but did not find this very satisfying.) If I had not had Sprite Something for my iPad, I probably would have given up at this stage, but I do, so I didn't.

At first, 16px tiles and sprites were fine. I even flirted briefly with 32px ones, or such oddities as 24px isometric tiles. But gradually the size reduced. It is so much quicker to create an 8x8 pixel sprite, and also, in practice, more of a challenge - the colour of every pixel counts.

Of course, an 8px sprite is basically invisible on a modern computer screen, and to be visible, these images have to be enlarged to 32px or more. Here is the current state of my primary 8px character/monster tileset, enlarged to four times normal size:

All images full copyright - these are things I may use.

Tile 101 is me:

Quite a few of those are to be moved to other sheets. The system I have worked out allows for dynamic tilesets, anyway, which don't give away details of tiles the player hasn't seen, and this is not designed to be a generic fantasy game - the demons and elementals were for practice. But I have hundred more of the things - objects, map tiles, icons. Late at night, in bed, I take out my iPad and stylus and shift pixels about. It's worrying and probably, in practice, unproductive.

p.s.: I am aware of the "oryx" sprites, and they're very good work, but not quite what I'm looking for. In any case I would like to do things myself.
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On the other hand, I know very few people here at all, though that has never stopped me waffling on. Thus, please say "hello" if you see this post and know who I am.
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I did like the recent Who episode ( The Girl Who Waited ) but it also pointed out to me quite how far Who has gone in terms of absolute nonsense about time paradoxes and, particularly, "if we do X, Y will never have happened!" - something which was being subtly attacked in the plot. Whenever you hear this phrase in a Who episode you can be sure that it Does Not Mean What You Think It Means.

Obviously, spoilers, but say that in a River Song way and I will remove your face )

Now, time-travel-wise, what is really being happening is moving between different timelines; in that case, yes, you can have people who remember things from one whereas everyone in the new timeline doesn't, you're moving between similar universes. But you know what happens if you "collapse a timeline"? You destroy everyone in it. They did exist, and now they don't. The "universe reset button" in the last series basically killed everyone apart from our three protagonists.

There is an alternative to this, of course. Perhaps these paradoxical events really did "never happen". What we are doing in watching Who, in this case, is following the delusions of a series of people who are having acausal experiences not connected to external reality. Everything they remember having happened never actually happened and was all in their heads. Perhaps they are brains in jars, too. (This level of philosophy of mind also makes bad drama, as well, I admit.)

December 2014

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