Recent Content

The Monday Challenge

posted on 2019-03-19

Yesterday, a friend of mine impressed upon me the importance of “showing up regularly”. We were just discussing another friend's plan to launch a podcast and were talking about how to become visible on the web. “You have to show up”, he said, “no matter how rubbish you may feel that day – your audience has to know you will be there. It's not important whether your schedule is daily, weekly, or monthly, but you have to stick to it.” Pretty challenging words, I thought, but perhaps just the advice I needed to hear. So here is the Monday Challenge.

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Die Freuden der Vogelbeobachtung

posted on 2019-03-16

In meinem Bachelorstudium habe ich einen Freund kennengelernt, der begeisterter Ornithologe ist. Nach Vorlesungen brach er oft mit seinem Fernglas und einem Notizbuch zu Vogelspaziergängen auf und war bald im ganzen Lehrstuhl als unser Vogelexperte bekannt. Ich fand das immer ziemlich cool, konnte es aber nie so ganz verstehen – was fand er nur an den Vögeln? Nun, vor ein paar Monaten hat mich der “Orni-Virus” auch infiziert. Und mittlerweile verstehe ich etwas besser, warum Vögel zu beobachten so viel Spaß macht.

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Review: Becoming Michelle Obama

posted on 2019-03-04

Becoming is Michelle Obama's autobiography, begun soon after she and her family left the White House and proving an instant international bestseller after being published last year. The popularity is deserved: although her story is long, it is told with a warmth and openness that makes it an engaging and thought-provoking read. And that is before she even reaches the White House.

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The National Park Game

posted on 2019-02-20

Last year the school I was teaching at organised a field trip to the Kafue National Park for our grade 9 students. It was a fantastic opportunity to have fun camping, enjoy time together as a class, and of course to marvel at the astounding nature and wildlife we have in Zambia. Accompanying the trip as the class' biology teacher, I thought about how to bring across the importance and challenges of conservation work in a park like this. In the end, I hit on the idea of a role-playing game: let the students step into the shoes of a (fictional) park's stake holders, and argue it out for themselves. Fourteen students in charge of developing a national park – what would they do?

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Discworld MUD

posted on 2019-02-05

Imagine a game that lets you earn your way by writing poetry. A game in which you can go on hunting expeditions against fearsome monsters or campaign to be elected magistrate. A game where players run shops and newspapers, and organise tea parties and capture-the-flag tournaments. A game that has been online and in continuous development for almost three decades. Welcome to Discworld MUD.

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Review: God's Philosophers

posted on 2019-01-28

For the past two years, I've been on the lookout for a good book on medieval scholarship. For one, I find the Middle Ages a strange and intriguing period; for another, I always enjoy reading about the history of science. “Standing on the shoulders of giants” is what we do as scientists – but who were these giants? And who were their giants? How did they think, argue, communicate? Well, I finally found what I was looking for. The book in question is James Hannam's “God's Philosophers – How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science”. Here is a summary of the volume, with a few of my own thoughts attached.

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Silicon Valley Syndrome

posted on 2019-01-14

“Silicon Valley Syndrome” is the name I give to a wide-spread myth that is frequently found in affluent, tech-savvy circles. It is the belief that “Every social problem can be solved if you just throw enough technology at it”. This belief lies at the heart of many, many attempts to make the world a better place. Their proponents will say things like: “We can save democracy by combating fake news with algorithms”, or “We can solve Third World hunger using satellite imagery”, or “We can improve education in poor areas by giving every kid an iPad”. These are all laudable attempts, and yet their fundamental assumption is all too often sadly misguided. Why is that?

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ASCII Art Animations in Lisp

posted on 2019-01-07

ASCII art may have fallen out of popular favour a couple of decades ago with the rise of “proper” computer graphics, but they are still fun to create. Having made a few myself, I always had the itch to not just create a static ASCII image, but to try my hand at an ASCII animation. Well, I finally did it. In this post I will show you how to create a very simple animation using Common Lisp and the classic Unix text-user-interface library, ncurses.

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"Die einzig wahre Religion?!"

posted on 2018-12-24

Ist es vermessen, zu meinen, man habe den “einzig wahren Glauben”? Diesem Vorwurf sehen sich Christen oft ausgesetzt. Jüngst wieder in einem Streitgespräch über Glaube und Vernunft, das Spektrum der Wissenschaft im Oktober veröffentlichte: Gleich zweimal brachte ihn Volker Sommer, ein agnostischer Primatologe, gegen die gläubige Physikerin Barbara Drossel vor. Dabei ist es eine Anklage, die auf logisch sehr wackligen Beinen steht.

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Mapping with QGIS

posted on 2018-12-19

In our modern lives, we take readily available maps for granted. The likes of Google Earth, Apple Maps or Open Street Map mean that high quality, high resolution maps are usually just a mouse click or finger swipe away. But sometimes you may find yourself in a place where the existing maps are just not good enough. Or you require a specialised map for a specific purpose. In such cases, you might end up having to create your own. This post shows you how to do that, using the open source software QGIS.

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Unless otherwise credited all material Creative Commons License by Daniel Vedder.
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