Friday, August 28, 2015

What kind of person does Watson think I am?

I just heard about a new demo site for showing the capabilities of IBM Watson running on BlueMix. The demo at claims to be able to tell your personality from a sample of what you have written. I was initially very skeptical about the chance of this working well, but I decided to give it a try anyway, using some text from this blog.

What it said was:
You are skeptical and shrewd.
You are independent: you have a strong desire to have time to yourself. You are authority-challenging: you prefer to challenge authority and traditional values to help bring about positive changes. And you are unconcerned with art: you are less concerned with artistic or creative activities than most people who participated in our surveys.
You are motivated to seek out experiences that provide a strong feeling of prestige.
You consider achieving success to guide a large part of what you do: you seek out opportunities to improve yourself and demonstrate that you are a capable person. You are relatively unconcerned with tradition: you care more about making your own path than following what others have done.
Amazingly this is a very good summary of how I see myself (which of course could be very different from how other people see me). I was especially impressed with the part where they say that I have very little time for art. This is actually true, but there was no mention of anything to do with art or what I thought about it in the sample text I gave it.

Why not try it to see what your personality is really like. It only takes a few seconds. If you really want to know what is happening under the covers you can read this article which describes the internals, but it is quite complicated.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Monopoly Challenge (Dublin Edition)

A colleague of mine who lives near London, recently posted to Facebook that he was planning to complete the Monopoly Challenge. This is an informal game whereby people try to see how many of the streets mentioned on the Monopoly board they can visit on a single day (proving it by a picture of them standing beside the street sign). This sounds like a really fun activity and so I have decided to see if I could do the same with the Dublin edition of Monopoly.

Initially I thought it would be easy, because as far as I remembered most of the streets were quite close to Dublin city centre. However, when I dug out my old Monopoly board I was reminded that three of the streets included are actually in Cork (over 250km away). Luckily a quick search online told me that in more recent versions of the board the Cork streets have been replaced by Dublin ones. I decided to be kind to myself and use this newer Dublin only version.

There is now an even newer electronic version of the game where players pay for their properties and rents with a swipe card rather than using the quaint old bank notes. Apparently the street list was updated again for this version, but I decided not to use this version since it is too far away from the Monopoly game I remember fondly.

Looking at various stuff written online about the challenge, it seems that the rules are not well defined. So I decided I would make up my own set of rules - I know this sounds like cheating but at least I am defining the rules before I start rather than changing them as I go along.
  • Time limit - people seem to set the time limit anywhere between an hour and 24 hours. I decided to pick 3 hours as a limit that will allow me a chance to get a good proportion of the streets and at the same time stops me getting bored.
  • Transport methods - some people specify that the challenge has to be done by foot, while others say that anything goes. I personally intend doing it on a bike which is probably the fastest way to do it in crowded city centre traffic.
  • Order - some people say that you can do the streets in any order while others insist that the streets need to be visited in the order they appear on the board. I decided it would be fun to use the stricter version of the rule.
  • Non-street spaces are a little bit tricky to locate, but with some imagination a suitable proxy location can be found:
    • Crumlin and Kimmage are not streets as such, but I intend using Crumlin Rd and Kimmage Rd as proxies for the relevant area.
    • Transport hubs can be dealt with by taking a picture with the name of the relevant hub. I might get to BusAras and maybe Heuston station, but there isn't any realistic chance that I will be visiting Dublin Airport never mind Shannon Airport.
    • Community Chest - this is normally defined as any charity shop.
    • Income Tax - a picture outside the local PAYE office should meet this one.
    • Chance - I will treat these spaces as wild cards with any street counting as a match
    • In Jail - people in London use the Tower of London for this space, but I will use Mountjoy Prison instead.
    • Electric Company - there are electrical distribution cabinets scattered through the city. However. I am sure I will find it hard to locate one when its turn comes.
    • Free Parking - in principle this is easy, find any place where you can legally park for free. However, I don't think it will be easy to find one near the city centre - especially if you are strict and say that the parking space in question has to be currently unoccupied.
    • Water works - supposedly Irish Water have been busy recently installing water meters all over the country. Lets see if I can find one to take a picture of. 
    • Super Tax - apparently the revenue commissioners have a special unit based in Dublin Castle who look after the tax affairs of high net worth individuals. I think this would be ideal for the Super Tax space, but I am not sure if the unit has a sign outside.
  • Use of technology - most people don't mention any restrictions here, but since part of the challenge is to see how well I know the city, I will ban the use of google maps or any other navigation aid on my phone. When/if I get lost it might be fun to try out that old fashioned method of navigation by asking random strangers for directions.
    Of course this doesn't mean I can't use Google maps to help plan the journey in advance. In fact I produced a handy personalised google map with all of the locations.
  • Scoring - some people use complex algorithms involving the price of the streets on the board, but I think I will use a simpler scheme where one point is awarded for each street/space and a bonus point is awarded for getting all streets of a particular colour.
My daughter has agreed to help me with the challenge and we will do it on Saturday if the weather permits. Watch this space for a report on how we get on.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Triathlon time is getting better as I am getting older

I did my first Triathlon in roughly 1 hour and 35 minutes in my 50th year. This year I returned to Loughrea to complete it 3.5 minutes faster in 1 hour 31.5 minutes. The main improvement was in my swim time which improved from over 20 minutes to under 17 minutes. This surprised me since I had only swam twice in the last year (both in the week leading up to the Triathlon). Maybe I am just getting better with age :-)

What was truly inspirational about the Triathlon was watching the athletes with various disabilities taking part in the national para-triathlon championship which was hosted in Loughrea this year.