Thursday, 13 March 2014

Fonts for Conscripts on FrathWiki

FrathWiki is a MediaWiki-based site for conlangers. I use it to host the documentation for Khangaþyagon and iljena. One drawback, however, is that it was difficult to use a conlang's native script, as this requires a custom font. My friend David Peterson created a font for Bukhstav runes before he was famous, but short of uploading a lot of .png files, it would have been very difficult to make use of it on the wiki.

But no more! I've looked up how to use web fonts in CSS, and created a couple of templates that should allow the use of any conscript you have a font for on FrathWiki. Behold!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

One of my Fantastical Devices is on PyPI

I've mentioned in previous posts that I've been working on a Python library for Hidden Markov Models. I've been encouraged to put this up on the Python Package Index, so, after a little while getting the hang of registering and uploading a project here it is. It's alpha, or course, so there are probably plenty of bugs to be found in it, but if you want to play with something I've made, all you have to do is type
sudo pip install Markov
, and try it out. If you feel you can help me improve it, contact me and I can add you to the Google Code project.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Lego Movie

My children had been wanting to go to The Lego Movie for ages, so this afternoon we finally gave in and took them. I wasn't expecting to enjoy it much myself, but I did. Good children's stuff is just as enjoyable for grown ups. Without giving too much away, it's a bit like a U-rated parody of The Matrix. However, if it's a parody, it's better than the original. And the moral of the story, "Don't just follow the instructions, be creative" is pretty much the point of Lego. One of my proudest moments as a dad was when my son took his Millenium Falcon to bits so that he could build other things with it. Talking of which, I was amused by the Star Wars minifigs being voiced by the original actors.

A bonus is that it may have got my daughter interested in Lego, in a way that Lego Friends never could.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Ranking Doctor Who stories and writers

What with the 50th Anniversary last year, I thought it would be fun to sort the Doctor Who stories of the 21st Century into my personal order of preference. I wrote a Python script that repeatedly asked me Is Story A better than Story B? and used my answers as the basis of a binary sort that put the stories in order. The following is completely subjective, and I probably wouldn't even get the same result if I did it again, but here it is anyway.
  1. Blink by Steven Moffat
  2. The Empty Child / The Doctor Dances by Steven Moffat
  3. The Girl in the Fireplace by Steven Moffat
  4. Silence in the Library / Forest of the Dead by Steven Moffat
  5. The Impossible Astronaut / Day of the Moon by Steven Moffat
  6. The Time of Angels / Flesh and Stone by Steven Moffat
  7. The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People by Matthew Graham
  8. The Crimson Horror by Mark Gatiss
  9. The Doctor's Wife by Neil Gaiman
  10. The Day of the Doctor by Steven Moffat
  11. Cold War by Mark Gatiss
  12. Midnight by Russell T Davies
  13. The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood by Chris Chibnall
  14. A Town Called Mercy by Toby Whithouse
  15. Human Nature / The Family of Blood by Paul Cornell
  16. Night Terrors by Mark Gatiss
  17. Asylum of the Daleks by Steven Moffat
  18. The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit by Matt Jones
  19. Hide by Neil Cross
  20. The Name of the Doctor by Steven Moffat
  21. Nightmare in Silver by Neil Gaiman
  22. The Time of the Doctor by Steven Moffat
  23. The Bells of Saint John by Steven Moffat
  24. The Angels Take Manhattan by Steven Moffat
  25. The Wedding of River Song by Steven Moffat
  26. The Eleventh Hour by Steven Moffat
  27. The Girl Who Waited by Tom MacRae
  28. A Good Man Goes to War by Steven Moffat
  29. Let's Kill Hitler by Steven Moffat
  30. The Pandorica Opens / The Big Bang by Steven Moffat
  31. The Unquiet Dead by Mark Gatiss
  32. 42 by Chris Chibnall
  33. The Power of Three by Chris Chibnall
  34. Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS by Steven Thompson
  35. Dinosaurs on a Spaceship by Chris Chibnall
  36. The God Complex by Toby Whithouse
  37. The Doctor's Daughter by Stephen Greenhorn
  38. Planet of the Ood by Keith Temple
  39. The Vampires of Venice by Toby Whithouse
  40. The End of Time by Russell T Davies
  41. The Waters of Mars by Russell T Davies and Phil Ford
  42. The Stolen Earth / Journey's End by Russell T Davies
  43. The Fires of Pompeii by James Moran
  44. Utopia / The Sound of Drums / Last of the Time Lords by Russell T Davies
  45. Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel by Tom MacRae
  46. Amy's Choice by Simon Nye
  47. The Snowmen by Steven Moffat
  48. The Curse of the Black Spot by Stephen Thompson
  49. Victory of the Daleks by Mark Gatiss
  50. The Rings of Akhaten by Neil Cross
  51. The Unicorn and the Wasp by Gareth Roberts
  52. The Sontaran Strategem / The Poison Sky by Helen Raynor
  53. The Beast Below by Steven Moffat
  54. School Reunion by Toby Whithouse
  55. Vincent and the Doctor by Richard Curtiss
  56. The Lodger by Gareth Roberts
  57. Tooth and Claw by Russell T Davies
  58. Dalek by Robert Shearman
  59. Closing Time by Gareth Roberts
  60. The Shakespeare Code by Gareth Roberts
  61. Planet of the Dead by Russell T Davies and Gareth Roberts
  62. Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks by Helen Raynor
  63. Rose by Russell T Davies
  64. Smith and Jones by Russell T Davies
  65. Army of Ghosts / Doomsday by Russell T Davies
  66. Partners in Crime by Russell T Davies
  67. A Christmas Carol by Steven Moffat
  68. The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe by Steven Moffat
  69. Turn Left by Russell T Davies
  70. The Lazarus Experiment by Stephen Greenhorn
  71. New Earth by Russell T Davies
  72. The Next Doctor by Russell T Davies
  73. Bad Wolf / The Parting of the Ways by Russell T Davies
  74. The Idiot's Lantern by Mark Gatiss
  75. Gridlock by Russell T Davies
  76. Father's Day by Paul Cornell
  77. The Runaway Bride by Russell T Davies
  78. The Christmas Invasion by Russell T Davies
  79. Fear Her by Matthew Graham
  80. Aliens of London / World War Three by Russell T Davies
  81. The Long Game by Russell T Davies
  82. Voyage of the Damned by Russell T Davies
  83. The End of the World by Russell T Davies
  84. Boom Town by Russell T Davies
  85. Love & Monsters by Russell T Davies
As you can see, there's a lot of Steven Moffat stories at the top, and a lot of Russel T Davies at the bottom. Also, many of Steven Moffat's best stories were written before he was showrunner - a showrunner has to write more episodes, so they're not always going to be his absolute best. I also sorted the writers in order or the median rank of their stories, and got the following results.
  1. Neil Gaiman
    Stories written
    The Doctor's Wife (9)
    Nightmare in Silver (21)
  2. Matt Jones
    Stories written
    The Impossible Planet / The Satan Pit (18)
  3. Steven Moffat
    Stories written
    Blink (1)
    The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (68)
    The Bells of Saint John (23)
  4. Mark Gatiss
    Stories written
    The Crimson Horror (8)
    The Idiot's Lantern (74)
    Night Terrors (16)
    The Unquiet Dead (31)
  5. Chris Chibnall
    Stories written
    The Hungry Earth / Cold Blood (13)
    Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (35)
    42 (32)
    The Power of Three (33)
  6. Steven Thompson
    Stories written
    Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS (34)
  7. Neil Cross
    Stories written
    Hide (19)
    The Rings of Akhaten (50)
  8. Tom MacRae
    Stories written
    The Girl Who Waited (27)
    Rise of the Cybermen / The Age of Steel (45)
  9. Toby Whithouse
    Stories written
    A Town Called Mercy (14)
    School Reunion (54)
    The God Complex (36)
    The Vampires of Venice (39)
  10. Keith Temple
    Stories written
    Planet of the Ood (38)
  11. Phil Ford
    Stories written
    The Waters of Mars (41)
  12. James Moran
    Stories written
    The Fires of Pompeii (43)
  13. Matthew Graham
    Stories written
    The Rebel Flesh / The Almost People (7)
    Fear Her (79)
  14. Paul Cornell
    Stories written
    Human Nature / The Family of Blood (15)
    Father's Day (76)
  15. Simon Nye
    Stories written
    Amy's Choice (46)
  16. Stephen Thompson
    Stories written
    The Curse of the Black Spot (48)
  17. Stephen Greenhorn
    Stories written
    The Doctor's Daughter (37)
    The Lazarus Experiment (70)
  18. Richard Curtiss
    Stories written
    Vincent and the Doctor (55)
  19. Helen Raynor
    Stories written
    The Sontaran Strategem / The Poison Sky (52)
    Daleks in Manhattan / Evolution of the Daleks (62)
  20. Robert Shearman
    Stories written
    Dalek (58)
  21. Gareth Roberts
    Stories written
    The Unicorn and the Wasp (51)
    Planet of the Dead (61)
    Closing Time (59)
  22. Russell T Davies
    Stories written
    Midnight (12)
    Love & Monsters (85)
    Turn Left (69)
    New Earth (71)
A surprise at the top of the list - despite having written 7 of the top 10 episodes on my list, Steven Moffat only comes third on the writers' list. This is because his season opener and finale episodes from his time as showrunner tend to rank a bit lower (although still respectable). It also shows how difficult it is to make the comparison when the number of episodes written varies so much. RTD fans will no doubt be howling with rage that he comes bottom of the list of writers, but despite everything he did for the show, he just so happens to have written more of the episodes I find weak than anybody else. Midnight was very good though, and narrowly missed out on getting into the top 10. One thing that's not surprising is that Steven Moffat's weakest episode was a Christmas Special - Christmas Specials are generally weak. You're free to debate these lists as much as you like. However, please don't try to convince me that Love & Monsters has any redeeming features at all.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Speculative Grammarian

Speculative Grammarian is the premier scholarly journal in the neglected field of satirical linguistics. I first heard about it from a friend on the Conlang Mailing List, and thought it would be fun to get involved. Eventually, I came up with an idea and sent it in.  A year ago today, it was published. Since then, I've contributed another article, some letters to the editor, a couple of answers for the Specgram Linguistic Advice Collective, and set the ball rolling on Linguimericks (Linguistic Limericks).

I've got a couple more things in the pipeline. If you think jokes about linguistics would appeal to you, take a look. Try to see if you can spot my articles (they're mainly written under pseudonyms).

Historical Trivia -Speculative Grammarian is named after a school of Mediaeval philosophers who believed that language held a mirror (Latin speculum) to nature.

Monday, 24 June 2013

A Couple of my Fantastical Devices

with the recent news about the Voynich Manuscript, as mentioned in my last post, I thought it opportune to share a couple of pieces of code I'd written. First off, as I mentioned earlier, a couple of years ago I wrote a Python implementation of Montemurro and Zanette's algorithm for calculating the entropy of words in documents. If you're interested in using the technique yourself, you may want to have a look. Secondly, my own attempts to uncover the syntax use a Python library for Hidden Markov Models that I created. It probably still has a few bugs in it, but it's attracted a bit of interest online, and I'm hoping to develop it further. So, if you're at all interested in AI, computational linguistics, or analytics, please have a look at these. Feedback is welcome, as is anybody who wishes to contribute further to these projects.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Exciting Voynich Manuscript News

A couple of years ago, I came across a new technique for analysing documents, developed by Marcello Montemurro and Damian Zanette.  It identifies the most significant words in a document by the entropy of their distribution in the text. I tried it out on subtitles at the BBC, and got promissing early results.

Now Dr Montemurro has applied the technique to the infamous Voynich Manuscript, and discovered that it appears to contain a meaningful language, rather than gibberish. No news yet as to what any of it might mean, but hopefully my own efforts to uncover the syntax with a Hidden Markov Model might eventually bear fruit. I'm convinced it's a conlang.