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Topics - Glaurung

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This is something that I first saw on the 'Net some years ago; I was reminded of it today, and was rewarded handsomely when I sought it out. It's described as "mechanical sculpture": a quarter-ton machine composed of 382 pieces, for opening a bottle of wine and pouring out a glass. Here it is in action:
There's another recording here (same event, different run) and here (different event + different operator = different explanation).

Its inventor is Rob Higgs - his YouTube channel has more videos of this and his other exuberantly engineered creations. I also found a potted biography for those who'd like to know a little more about him.

Questions and Suggestions - The High Court / How To Donate to Exilian
« on: April 06, 2018, 04:20:53 PM »
As we've said elsewhere, Exilian is a non-profit organisation, supported entirely by donations. Running the forum and other parts of the website costs us real money (at the time of writing, about GBP 5.50 / EUR 6.30 / USD 7.70 per month). In addition, we aim to support creative projects, by our own members and others, and this often involves advertising or other real-world expenses. So we would very much appreciate more donations.

Here are the ways you can donate to us:

UK bank transfers
mainly for people with UK bank accounts
- For one-off donations, you can transfer money from your bank account to Exilian's - see details below.
- For regular donations (e.g. so much at the start of each month), you can set up a "standing order" with your bank - a bit like a direct debit, this is an instruction to them to transfer a fixed amount at the same time every month. You can usually do this online, again using the bank details below.

Exilian's bank details are:
- bank name: HSBC
- sort code: 40-16-08
- account number: 64236033
- account name: Exilian

If you want to go old-school, you can also write a cheque, payable to "Exilian", and send it to Exilian, 6 Ainsworth Court, Cambridge, CB1 2PA.

People outside the UK can also send money to UK bank accounts, using various reference numbers to identify them. However, there will almost always be currency conversion charges, and often other transfer charges too. For international transfers from other EU countries, these should be quite reasonable; from outside the EU they're often prohibitively expensive.

We have a PayPal account, linked to e-mail address - you can search for this from your own PayPal account and send us money that way. We can't currently add a PayPal donation button to the forum, but we're working on it.

One thing to watch out for: the currency on that PayPal account is UK pounds (a.k.a. sterling) - if you send an amount in another currency, there will be a conversion charge, deducted from the amount we receive. As far as I know, you can specify an amount in UK pounds, in which case PayPal will charge you for the conversion.

This is another payment website, intended specifically for recurring donations to individuals and organisations. If you want to donate this way, please go to our Liberapay donation page, and follow the instructions. If you don't already have an account with them, you will need to transfer some money to them first, which might then be quarantined for a period as an anti-laundering measure. We have now verified that their system works as expected, and we can get donations out of Liberapay, so feel free to use it.

16 July 2018: please do NOT use Liberapay for the time being: their payment processing company is kicking them out, and they can't handle payments until they have a new payment company in place.

A random lingustics thought, brought on by the last couple of posts in the Word Association thread - all the following words rhyme in English, or at least my personal version of it:

beer, bier, cheer, dear, deer, ear, fear, gear, hear, here, jeer, leer, mere (both meanings), near, peer, pier, queer, rear, sear, seer, tear (from the eye), tier, veer, weir, year

Meanwhile, these other ones also rhyme, but not with the previous batch, despite the sometimes shared 'ear' or 'ere' spelling:

air, bare, bear, care, chair, dare, fair, fare, hair, lair, mare, pare, pear, rare, tare, tear (fabric or paper), there, wear

Today, the BBC published a news article about the International Cloud Atlas, which I didn't previously know of. It's described thus: "The atlas, which dates back to the 19th Century, is the global reference book for observing and identifying clouds." It's been updated for the first time since 1987, with some additional cloud types, and it's now online, with lots of pictures to help identification.

So, here's the website: - many of the pictures are in the pages under Definitions of Clouds.

For those particularly enthused by all this, there is also the Cloud Appreciation Society, whose efforts have led to some of the cloud features now included in the new Atlas.

Edited 22/05/2018: the Cloud Atlas website URL had been changed since the original posting.

The Boozer / Now We Are Nine
« on: March 17, 2017, 01:52:59 PM »
Exilian was founded on 18 March 2008, so we are nine years old, and I have put up the birthday version of the banner to mark the occasion. Happy Exilian Day!

Affiliates - The Ambassadors' Residences / Affiliates forum
« on: February 03, 2017, 09:21:26 PM »
This forum has been archived. Sub-forums and threads previously here have been moved to the Computer Game Design board.

Commas, full stops, question marks, even spaces between words: these features haven't always existed in written language. The classical Romans and Greeks didn't have them, for example. A BBC article explains where they came from and how they developed.

Roman Law Project / Resources elsewhere
« on: November 15, 2016, 03:22:15 PM »
This is a collection of links and potentially other material, partly as a set of bookmarks for things I or others might want to find again.

01-Jul-2017: Grenoble University URLs updated

This is a so-called "brine pool" - an area of very concentrated (hence very dense) seawater, at the bottom of the ocean. It also contains methane and hydrogen sulphide, amongst other things, so it's toxic to most forms of life, hence the nickname. This one is at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, about a day's sail from New Orleans.

Further reading and viewing, for those interested:
- an informative article on
- some pictures on the Nautilus website (the exploration submarine that discovered the pool)
- a YouTube video of the Nautilus crew exploring the pool

The Boozer / The Beer Thread
« on: October 08, 2016, 12:51:22 PM »
I've been meaning to start this for a while. Beer is a drink that a lot of like; it's been around for millennia, and it comes in a very wide range of styles and flavours.

I like all sorts of different beers, from different countries: dark, malty stouts and porters (Britain), Belgian sour ales and lambics, German wheat beers, Czech lagers. Which beers have you tried? Which do you like?

This is another "Glaurung introduces someone else's poem" post, like Clancy of "The Overflow". It's another of the very small number of poems that have stuck with me after I've encountered them.

It's out of copyright, so I can quote it in full, and as I think it will resonate with a lot of people here, I'm going to do so.

We are the music makers,
  And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
  And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
  On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
  Of the world for ever, it seems.

With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world's great cities,
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire's glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
  Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song's measure
  Can trample a kingdom down.

We, in the ages lying
  In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
  And Babel itself in our mirth;
And o'erthrew them with prophesying
  To the old of the new world's worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
  Or one that is coming to birth.

A breath of our inspiration
Is the life of each generation;
A wondrous thing of our dreaming
Unearthly, impossible seeming—
The soldier, the king, and the peasant
  Are working together in one,
Till our dream shall become their present,
  And their work in the world be done.

They had no vision amazing
Of the goodly house they are raising;
They had no divine foreshowing
Of the land to which they are going:
But on one man's soul it hath broken,
  A light that doth not depart;
And his look, or a word he hath spoken,
  Wrought flame in another man's heart.

And therefore to-day is thrilling
With a past day's late fulfilling;
And the multitudes are enlisted
In the faith that their fathers resisted,
And, scorning the dream of to-morrow,
  Are bringing to pass, as they may,
In the world, for its joy or its sorrow,
  The dream that was scorned yesterday.

But we, with our dreaming and singing,
  Ceaseless and sorrowless we!
The glory about us clinging
  Of the glorious futures we see,
Our souls with high music ringing:
  O men! it must ever be
That we dwell, in our dreaming and singing,
  A little apart from ye.

For we are afar with the dawning
  And the suns that are not yet high,
And out of the infinite morning
  Intrepid you hear us cry—
How, spite of your human scorning,
  Once more God's future draws nigh,
And already goes forth the warning
  That ye of the past must die.

Great hail! we cry to the comers
  From the dazzling unknown shore;
Bring us hither your sun and your summers;
  And renew our world as of yore;
You shall teach us your song's new numbers,
  And things that we dreamed not before:
Yea, in spite of a dreamer who slumbers,
  And a singer who sings no more.

If you'd like a more official source to link to, it's on Wikisource. There is a brief biography of O'Shaughnessy on Wikipedia.

Fandom Discussion - The Secret Garden / Digger
« on: September 29, 2016, 12:49:03 AM »
In a lucky 10,000 moment a few days ago, Jubal and some other friends pointed me at a webcomic called Digger. It features a lost but very pragmatic and hopeful wombat named Digger, a statue of the Hindu god Ganesh, various hyenas, a strange and very curious shadow creature, vampire pumpkins, an exuberant mish-mash of mythologies, and lots of other fun stuff. I highly recommend it. Even the comments are good!

I'm also still reading it (just about to start chapter 8 of I don't know how many), so I'd appreciate not having spoilers.

Non-game Programs - The Tinkers' Workshop / Roman numeral converter
« on: August 07, 2016, 01:00:49 AM »
I thought this might be of interest: it's code to parse a number written in Roman numerals and convert it to conventional Arabic numerals. It's written in a Microsoft proprietary language called C/AL, based on Pascal - I appreciate that most readers won't be familiar with it, but hopefully it's still readable as pseudo-code.

There are a few quirks:
- C/AL provides a textual data type called Code, which forces any text input into upper case. This neatly enabled me to avoid explicit case conversions or making the code handle both cases.
- C/AL also provides a data type called Option, which I've used for the character types (Unit or Five). It's used for small, fixed lists of values.
- The code provided assumes that the first element in arrays has index 0, as this makes things neater and is true of many common languages.
- I've assumed that the largest valid number to be handled is 3,999 (MMMDCCCLXXXVIII) as I'm not aware of a Roman numeral for 5,000 and I didn't want to handle a special case of MMMM for 4,000.
- I've also assumed that numbers such as 99 and 999 are only validly represented as XCIX and CMXCIX respectively, rather than the possibly valid IC and IM.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Readers are welcome to pick this code up and use it, translating to other languages as they wish. Credit and/or a post here to say so would be appreciated but aren't required. I'm reasonably confident that the code correctly handles all valid inputs, and rejects all invalid ones, but I can't guarantee this, and people using it should carry out their own testing.

As usual for me, a BBC News article.

According to the article, the continent of Australia (and presumably Tasmania too) is moving northwards at about 7cm per year, and this is causing problems with GPS systems. The GPS device reports the true position (latitude and longitude) - but the map data that it uses to work out where it is and what's around it uses latitudes and longitudes that were calculated in 1994 and have been fixed since then. Consequently the device thinks it's about 1.5 metres north of where it actually is. This is not a problem in most cases, but if the GPS is used in controlling automatic vehicles (e.g. farm tractors mentioned in the article) then there's potential for significant problems.

As a short-term fix, the Australian national mapping system will be shifted north by 1.8 metres on 1 January 2017 - this is a bit further than it needs to be, but will give a few years while the map and the actual co-ordinates are getting closer together. The long-term intention is to introduce a more flexible mapping system that can keep up with the movement continuously.

I remembered this Youtube video from about 5 years - another way to get something into space. Fewer rockets than the XMA approach, but higher altitude and more video.

The idea has become so popular that the people involved now have their own small business selling the kits: Sent Into Space. One thing to bear in mind: a launch of this sort generally requires permission from the relevant civil aviation authority.

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