Thomson Memorial Park

Hiking the GTA

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Thomson Memorial Park sits on one of the first plots of land to be deeded in Scarborough Township and the first one to be settled.  Arhibald Thomson emigrated from Dumfriesshire in the Scottish Lowlands during the late 18th century when the English were clearing out the poor and disenfranchised that the Uprising of 1743 had left behind.  After spending some time in New York State he moved to Upper Canada when the American Revolution was raging.  Achibald had been displaced by King George III but was still loyal to the crown and so he came to Upper Canada as a United Empire Loyalist.  Even so he wasn’t keen on living too close to the Family Compact that had taken firm control of York following the Battle of York.   In 1795 he managed to convince his two younger brothers, David and Andrew, to join him in…

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Putting the “crow” in necrophilia

It’s early April 2015, and John Marzluff and I are standing with a film crew attempting to capture some footage of a crow funeral to compliment a story they are working on about Gabi Mann. I’ve already set the dead crow on the ground, it’s placed just out from a cherry tree resplendent in springtime blossoms. After only a few moments of waiting, the first crow arrives and alights on the tree, its head cocking around to get a better look at the lifeless black feathers beneath it. I hold my breath for the first alarm call, ready for the explosion of sound and the swarm of birds that will follow it. But it doesn’t come. Instead, the bird descends to the ground and approaches the dead body. My brow knits together in surprise but, ah well, I think, the shots of it getting so close and then alarm…

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The Giant 200-Foot Wave at Trinidad, California

Dr Abalone

Trinidad-WaveOne hundred years ago, on Dec. 31, 1914, the lighthouse at Trinidad Head was assaulted by a wave of monstrous proportions. Although the details are unclear, we know that the storm that produced the waves was unusual and that the wave was greater than 100 feet and perhaps much more. The only eyewitness was the keeper of the lighthouse at Trinidad Head at that time, Captain Fred Harrington, and here is his account of the notorious wave:

“The storm commenced on December 28, 1914, blowing a gale that night. The gale continued for a whole week and was accompanied by a very heavy sea from the southwest.  On the 30th and 31st, the sea increased and at 3 p.m. on the 31st seemed to have reached its height, when it washed a number of times over (93-foot-high) Pilot Rock, a half mile south of the head. At 4:40 p.m., I was in…

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Deep code search

the morning paper

Deep code search Gu et al., ICSE’18

The problem with searching for code is that the query, e.g. “read an object from xml,” doesn’t look very much like the source code snippets that are the intended results, e.g.:

*

That’s why we have Stack Overflow! Stack Overflow can help with ‘how to’ style queries, but it can’t help with searches inside codebases you care about. For example, “where in this codebase are events queued on a thread?”

…an effective code search engine should be able to understand the semantic meanings of natural language queries and source code in order to improve the accuracy of code search.

DeepCS is just such a search engine for code, based on the CODEnn (Code-Description Embedding Neural Network) network model. During training, it takes code snippets (methods) and corresponding natural language descriptions (from the method comments) and learns a joint-embedding. I.e., it learns embeddings…

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The Transistor, Part 3: Endless Reinvention

Creatures of Thought

For over a hundred years the analog dog wagged the digital tail. The effort to extend the reach of our senses – sight, hearing, even (after a manner of speaking) touch, drove engineers and scientists to search for better components for telegraph, telephone, radio and radar equipment. It was a happy accident that this also opened the door to new kinds of digital machines.1 I set out to tell the story of this repeated exaptation, whereby telecommunications engineers supplied the raw materials of the first digital computers, and sometimes even designed and built such computers themselves.

By the 1960s, however, this fruitful relationship came to a close, and so too does my story. The makers of digital equipment no longer had any need to look outward to the world of the telegraph, telephone, and radio for new and improved switches, because the transistor itself provided a seemingly inexhaustible vein of…

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Leaf-Node weakness in Bitcoin Merkle Tree Design

Bitslog

This document describes a weakness in Bitcoin Design that reduces the security of SPV proofs and therefore SPV Wallets.  The weakness was discovered by me on August 2017, but during the responsable disclosure process I learnt it was previously known by some prominent members of the Bitcoin Core team. Using this weakness an attacker can create a valid SPV proof for a fake payment to a victim that is using a SPV wallet, the payment amount being an arbitrary number of bitcoins, and trick the victim into accepting this payment as valid.  Happily, exploiting this bug requires brute-forcing between 69 and 73 bits (depending on initial investment), each operation being a double SHA2, and there are very simple probabilistic protections that SPV wallets can implement easily. For example, an attack can be carried on with an investment of 3M USD (*). It is assumed that most SPV wallets will be…

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Organicity in abstract strategy games

Nick Bentley Games

Note: This post wasn’t written by me (Nick Bentley), but rather by one of my game design mentors, Christian Freeling:

freeling-1 …who is probably insane

Christian is an éminence grise in the world of combinatorial games and I wouldn’t be the designer I am without him. He’s designed some of the best games in the world, imo, but deep combinatorial games are rarely published, so his accomplishments aren’t widely known. This situation is, if not tragic, at least deeply silly.

In any case, it’s an honor to present the essay below. It’s about a quality Christian prizes in games (as do I), which he calls organicity. It’s a quality he speaks of often, but it’s not an easy concept to understand and discussions of the subject can spiral into confusion. This essay can be seen as an attempt to remedy that. 

You can read more by Christian at his website, Mindsports

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All watched over by machines – a review of Yasha Levine’s “Surveillance Valley”

LibrarianShipwreck

There is something rather precious about Google employees, and Internet users, who earnestly believe the “don’t be evil” line. Though those three words have often been taken to represent a sort of ethos, their primary function is as a steam vent – providing a useful way to allow building pressure to escape before it can become explosive. While “don’t be evil” is associated with Google, most of the giants of Silicon Valley have their own variations of this comforting ideological façade: Apple’s “think different,” Facebook’s talk of “connecting the world,” the smiles on the side of Amazon boxes. And when a revelation troubles this carefully constructed exterior – when it turns out Google is involved in building military drones, when it turns out that Amazon is making facial recognition software for the police – people react in shock and outrage. How could this company do this?!?

What these revelations challenge…

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After a long road, I’ve finally launched my first game!

Kneeling Bean Studio

Currently, I am a 40 year old husband, father of 4.5 gremlins, and full-time software developer.

I started working on this project ~2.5 years ago at the beginning of 2016. I had been a software developer for about 13 years prior to deciding to start working on this game. I had also done countless hobby game projects on the side for years so I wasn’t a total n00b at getting a game project off the ground.

In the time since I started on this game, a lot has happened in life. Our 4th child was born a few months into the project. I changed jobs a while after that. My father died from cancer last June, which was absolutely devastating. And we are expecting gremlin #5 this August. With all that going on, sometimes weeks would pass where I wasn’t able to touch the game. But that’s okay, because this…

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