Archive | May, 2007

Introducing… virtual vampire !

28 May

Recently I have been unsettled in my work and much of this was due to not having indulged in some good quality coding for quite a while. So I am intending to join the open source on line community with my own application – virtual vampire !

This tool will be primarily an exercise in building a complete system, with a decent front end and expandable modules, for running one of the sides in a board game – Fury of Dracula. The idea stemmed for another effort by someone where he had written an AI to randomly move for the hidden moves of Dracula in the game, and the player could then ask the system if Dracula was in the areas he was exploring or not.

It almost might be harder to play against a random opponent than a human who you can second guess. However, I intend to initially write a random movement AI for the game, then expand it into a more logical style opponent, looking 2-3 moves ahead like a rudimentary chess computer might. In this case, assigning probabilities to various choices and acting on that information, but still slightly randomly, to prevent an opponent second guessing the computers reactions. It may be possible to take this one step further and assign the AI various attributes (such as cowardly, aggressive or overly bold) to create a different flavour of play style each game – allowing a human player to pick up on this play style and counter play accordingly.

In any case, it’s a work in (slow) progress, and all current hosted on the google code website

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Mad cults and the Englishman

14 May

Given my usual boredom with much of TV today, I was surprised to find something on tonight that made my blood boil. It was the 30 minute Panorama episode on Scientology, which attempts to offer an insight into this “secretive” religion, but instead can only showcase summaries of interviews that have been withdrawn due to legal pressure and hostile verbal assaults from leading figures of the cult. This culminated after seven days with John Sweeney losing his temper and shouting at the interviewer, arming the church for a publicity campaign against the show. By airing this clip on YouTube, I think they underestimated the effect of there media campaign, which instead created more interest for a show exposing them as a creepy and sinister cult which destroys and threatens lives.

The show can be viewed on-line now here and there is also a BBC news article about the show and the shouting incident.

Alongside the footage shown in the show of some scary Scientology practices, there is also a large amount of effort going into there on-line spin campaign to discredit the reporter. For instance, compare the above you tube clip, which accepts comments without moderation and has been rated highly, with another posting of the clip which moderates all comments and has therefore been voted quite low by general users of the internet. At least the population of the internet has been hardened by advertisers efforts in viral marketing already, and can see through this poor attempt by the CoS to discredit the work of John Sweeney and the BBC.

Below is a copy of a comment I sent the BBC Panorama team. Given the strength of my reaction to this show, I thought it would be good to share these comments with any interested audience.

“After the recent showing of the Panorama special on Scientology, I found myself outraged and annoyed. Not at the presentation by John Sweeney which was an impressive attempt to gain a measured impression of Scientology, but by the verbal diarrhoea offered by the top member of the church in place of any discussion.

Praise to the BBC for managing to attempt to show all sides of this organisation both good and bad in the face of such hostility to any form of dialogue. And whilst it was disappointing that the verbal assaults of Tommy Davis finally broke down John’s professional front, it was incredible that he had endured the intimidation and abuse for so long with such recourse.

Given this is a cult who appear to be able to break down people’s minds within days of first contact with them, credit must go to John for his patient attempts to have what could be regarded as an effective interview for this documentary, and it was greatly disappointing he could not manage to achieve the cooperation from the senior members of this church to accomplish this.

I am now much more concerned about the spread of Scientology into the UK, and appreciate the BBC’s report on this organisation and furthermore would value more programming on aspects of it’s work and activity.

My thanks to Panorama and John Sweeney.”

Time to calm down and get some sleep – it’s times like this that a classic episode of South Park can ease a troubled mind 🙂