All posts by wankongyew

Sunless Sea

This is a companion game to Fallen London, a browser game that was pretty popular for a while on QT3 and Broken Forum. I’d tried it for a while but I couldn’t really get into it due to how these games always gate your progress by limiting you to a fixed number of actions per day. Sunless Sea is a standalone game that is set in the same world and uses many similar user interface elements but since it’s a real game that runs on your device, you’re free to spend as much time as you want on it and boy did it end up eating up a lot of time.

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Recent Interesting Science Articles (March 2017)

I haven’t updated my blog in a few days due to travel but I’m back just in time for this monthly feature. Just four of them this month and they’re all about biology.

  • First up, here’s this bit about the first known use of gene therapy to cure a patient of sickle cell anemia. The doctors harvested stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow, altered the DNA so that they would produce normal hemoglobin, used chemotherapy to kill off the remaining stem cells and then inserted the new ones. This makes it a case of genetic engineering on a human patient in vivo, instead of altering an embryo so that it would develop differently.
  • This next article is also about DNA engineering. In this case, scientists have created wholly artificial chromosomes for yeast cells. The chromosomes are not only synthetic but edited to remove what is believed to be rubbish code in the original DNA and to alter the code’s punctuation to eliminate one letter from the usual stop code. The hope is that the yeast cells can still live normally after these modifications and the freed letters can open up more space for more extensive changes in the future.
  • Dinosaur aficionados were up in arms earlier this month as a new paper proposes a radical redrawing of the family tree. Historically, dinosaurs have been classified according to whether they are “bird-hipped” or “reptile-hipped”. But as more data has been gathered, this classification system has become ridden with inconsistencies so a new paper now proposes that it be thrown away entirely. It may not seem like much to many people but it does matter to children who grew up memorizing names of their favorite dinosaurs and some of them may no longer be properly recognized as being dinosaurs at all!
  • Finally here’s a cool bit about a couple of researchers who tried to put hard numbers on how many spiders there are around the world and how much they eat. They conclude that there are around 25 million tonnes of spiders on Earth, a number that is hard to put in context. But a more comprehensible figure is the 400 million tonnes of other animals that they consume a year because that is also the approximate mass of the total number of human beings living on the planet.

2 Filhos de Francisco (2006)

A while back my wife dumped a whole bunch of South American films onto our shared watch list. This one, a Brazilian film by director Breno Silveira, should be the last of them. To be truthful, I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about watching this after a string of films that focused on the poverty of the peasants in South America. They may be great, but it gets a bit much sometimes. As it turned out I needn’t have worried for while this film has its share of misery, its really all about the music.

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Janissaries

So I promised after reading What Makes This Book So Great that I would slowly work my way through some of the picks in it that I found most interesting. I’ve read some of Jerry Pournelle’s work before, notably his collaborations with the better known Larry Niven, but this was quite recent and I somehow I missed out on reading any of his stuff back when I was first discovering the genre. I picked this one because it has a premise that turns up often in crack fiction or fan-fiction and shows what can be done in the hands of a professional writer.

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Rebel Without a Cause (1955)

This is another famous classic that we had yet to watch and naturally we were reminded of its existence by La La Land. It’s another case in which many of the individual elements are familiar, such as James Dean’s iconic look, the knife duel and the car chickie run, yet have never added up to a coherent whole. As it turned out, this is indeed an eminently watchable film but I’m not certain that it would have become the huge cultural icon that it is if Dean had not died one month before its release.

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