Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Meiosis and Writing

meiosis diagram
Meiosis Diagram
courtesy of
As an A-Level Biology student, I strive to understand the world around me. From learning how water gets from the ground to the leaves of a giant Oak Tree to how insects survive without blood, I am fascinated by nature.

One day, whilst learning about how meiosis causes variation I had a brainwave. What if I could cross my love of writing with my knowledge of meiosis? At first, I struggled to think of the connections, but I think I’ve managed to work it out.

I will be using three key ways that meiosis causes variation to think about how we, as writers, can vary our writing. This article will form the final part in my three-part series on being unique in writing.

Please note that I have simplified the biology in this article and missed processes out to make it more approachable for those without a scientific background.

Independent Assortment (of chromosomes on the spindle)

In biological terms, this means that chromosome pairs will align along thread (the spindle). This means that it doesn’t matter where the other pairs go on the thread, each pair will go wherever it pleases.

So, how can writers apply this principle?

It doesn’t matter what Stephen King is writing, or what Tolkien did – you are you. Put your characters in the situations you want to put them in. Sure, the Lord of the Rings is a successful series, but that doesn’t mean you need to copy it.

Be your own writer. You know what you want to write better than anybody else does, and the chances are somebody, somewhere will want to read what you have written. You shouldn’t ignore other writers, but you should remember that the best writing often comes when the author writes their piece in the way they wanted.

There is every chance somebody will suggest a change to the plot and by all means embrace the opportunity to make your piece more appealing, but if it goes against everything your piece stands for … well, don’t do it.

Crossing-over (of alleles)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ghost in the Wires


I recently finished Ghost in the Wires by Kevin Mitnick.

Ghost in the Wires Cover Image
Ghost in the Wires cover

The book is an autobiographical account of Mitnick's 'adventures as the world's most wanted hacker'. He starts out by explaining his love for magic and deception as a young child, including a description of how he managed to get free bus rides around town.

Mitnick then describes his rise to notoriety in a thrilling, and suspenseful, tone that leads to numerous close shaves and hair-raising near encounters with the FBI.

Throughout the book Mitnick (and co-author, William Simon) uses an engaging writing style that never fails to keep you on the edge of your seat. I'm not normally a reader of any form of biography, but this is most definitely the exception. I mean, it has a helicopter chase in it. How many autobiographies have helicopter chases in?

I got this book for Christmas and started reading it, but a load of stuff happened that prevented me from being able to read it and it found its way to the bottom of the pile. After I found it again, I managed to finish reading it in less than 2 weeks (and I'm not the fastest reader).

The book contains details of many of the people he met in his hacking career (and all of their aliases) and how he worked with them, against them or how he was betrayed by them. Along with these people, he also showed how a strong family was vital for him. His mum and gram proved to be his backbone - his constant throughout his adventures.

As a computer geek myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the sections where the technical aspects of his exploits were explained and some of the codes shown. This really added a sense of wonder to his abilities and made the section about Novell NetWare even more enjoyable. This section was of extra interest as it is the system my college uses.

The book starts drawing to an end with his arrest and the Free Kevin protests that kept him going whilst inside. The end isn't quite as engaging as the middle, but that is to be expected with any book. The final chapter briefly details his change from the world's most wanted hacker to the world's best hacker with his own (legal) security firm, Mitnick Security.

Overall, it is the best non-fiction book I have ever read, and pretty close to my favourite book of all time.

Below is an interview (50 minutes) with Kevin Mitnick from Authors@Google:

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Warning this post contains some strong language.

One thing that really irks me is when people say things like 'that's Windows for you.' If anyone says that to you they are one of the following:

1. A liar
2. A mac user
3. A Linux/ubuntu user
4. Really bad with computers
5. All/Combination of the above

I use Windows 7, I used to use Vista and still use XP at school. The majority of issues I encounter are my own (or the school's) fault. For example I had a blue-screen last year. Now, I look online for solutions to this problem and encounter post after post of window-hating, mac-loving idiots.

Every single one of them said that I should by a Mac, or windows is for losers. Piss off!

In the end I realised that sometimes shit happens. And sometimes it is me who did the shit (could be worded better). I had opened too many application and was doing too much at a time. I was downloading a large file of the internet, watching a HD video on YouTube, rendering a film and burning it to DVD and installing 2 applications. I had iTunes playing music and Tweet deck overloaded with tweets about the riots. It was not Microsoft's sole fault that my computer blue-screened. It was my fault for not considering what my machine could handle.

Another issue people have is with networking Windows machines. I can do it with little hassle. Why? Because I know how and took the time to learn. Sometimes the moment something goes wrong they look for someone to blame rather than a solution. Why? Because they're idiots. Don't try and connect an XP machine to a windows 7 machine with a home-group and then blame Microsoft for not allowing compatibility.

If every new feature had to be compatible with every other old feature nothing new would ever be made. Stop being a dick and accept you've got an out-dated OS and if you want to use modern features you need to upgrade.

Then there are those people who claim Apple makes the best hardware, the best software and sun shines out of its bloody backside. They are wrong. Case in point: iTunes. When I run iTunes, almost 60% of my processing power is used and I am limited to browsing the web or typing stuff. I claimed at the start of this rant that people shouldn't blame companies for every fault, but I am aware that sometimes the blame does lie in shoddy coding. Apple prioritised Apple customers (as you would expect, nothing wrong there) and allowed Windows users to suffer. I don't blame them, they are right with there priorities, but they aren't Gods. They don't get everything right.


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