Weeknote 09/04/2021

Standard

So I’m actually typing this up on Monday 12th – I got a bit sidetracked last week, and my plan for a Friday weeknote was the casualty.

Gaming

This week I was both happy with and disappointed with the new season of Rocket League. The new season brought in a change I really liked, and one I really didn’t.

The good change is that the Trade-Up feature, where you hand in 5 items of a particular rarity to receive one item of the next rarity, is more user-friendly and more widely-usable. Previously, the 5 items had to be from the same rarity and the same batch of released items. Now, they only have to be the same rarity. I ‘m glad about this change, because I like being able to refine my inventories in games so that they contain only the items I wanted them to have. Now, I can hand in the items that I don’t care about that were just cluttering up my inventory.

As for the bad change, I wrote a whole post about that one!

I also returned to The Gardens Between, a time-travel puzzle game with a really charming graphic style, that I first tried out a few weeks ago. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to, I did get over half-way through the short story when I first played it, so I’d like to see how the puzzles develop during the rest of the story.

Reading

I returned to Homo Deus, and ended up writing possibly the first negative book review I’ve ever written. Normally I only write about books when I’ve enjoyed reading them and I think I can recommend them to people. But when I realised that the book relies upon misrepresenting and mischaracterising the view that its discussing, I felt like I needed to write out a review. Misinformation, especially when its deliberate, is an instant beserk button for me.

https://getpocket.com/read/3302608391

This article is a summary of a recent study that correlates the success of academic articles (measured by the number of other papers that cite them) against how much jargon is in the Abstract section of each paper. This research focused on cave science, which picks up jargon terms easily because of how many different types of scientist work together in cave research. In this study, the papers which contained more jargon terms in their abstracts were cited less often by other research; the most highly-cited papers contained 1% jargon words or fewer.

Overall this suggests that fewer people read and build upon papers that are harder to intuitively understand, which is a conclusion that makes sense logically. The interesting part however, is that academia itself works differently; similar studies have found that when researchers use more jargon in grant proposals, they tend to get more grant funding. So what is best for individual researchers and studies is the opposite of what’s best for the wider research community and for science communication.

https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/9/22375136/airplane-flight-takes-off-heavier-than-expected-miss-ms-children

This situation might be a case where the explanation is almost more worrying than the incident! The official explanation here is that flight operator Tui upgraded their IT systems and software during a lockdown. The software was programmed in an unnamed foreign country that uses the title “Miss” for children as “Ms” for adult women. As a result, the software assumed that every passenger with the title “Miss” was a child. This meant the calculations about how much weight the plane was carrying were wrong, because over 30 adults were assumed to be child-size. Although the incident did not end up causing any harm during the flight, this is still a questionable defence. For me, one part of that is knowing the quality-control has lapsed somewhere to let this happen on a live flight, which makes me wonder what else hasn’t been spotted. The other part is that its really weird to think that something as mechanical as a flight can be jeopardised by the social rules about honorifics are different across countries. Its one of those moments that reminds me just how much human preferences, as well as human error, affect our wider-scale tech.

Work

I have some assorted days off over the next couple of weeks, and I went down an Excel rabbit hole and spent time this afternoon writing up a few Excel tips for the team I work in. (A couple of people have joked about asking me and another colleague for an Excel crash-course, but I don’t think I was supposed to take them literally).

I’m not an expert in Excel (especially not in Excel 2010, which my work laptop has), but I know some things that I assumed were fairly basic but that others I work with have never been taught. So for now the tips include; using the custom sort to sort by cell colour (as my team use a fair bit of colour-coding); using the fill handle to complete sequences such as lists of dates; and making a drop-down list inside a cell.

Misc

Pokemon or Big Data? – Guess whether each word is the name of a Pokemon, or of a Big Data technology. It even makes comments about the similarity of their names e.g. after correctly clicking that Jirachi is a Pokemon, it reminded me not to mix it up with tech tool JIRA. So it’s technically an educational tool… maybe….

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