Friday, July 29, 2005

Cor. Just had a flashback to a dream I had last night about a press trip to the moon. Really, really enjoyable. Had a faint onus to do well, but more a tremendous sense of excitement at the privilege; first thing I've been genuinely excited about for ages. Woke up at 5.30 (again) and refused to let the dream go. At which point, of course, it became really bizarre, though I can't remember why. Perhaps my brain was just testing out unused emotions...
Zap2it - TV news - Finding Wisdom in Steve Guttenberg's Bible: "Guttenberg on other reasons he may be been hidden from the public eye:
I don't not work because I'm rich. I don't work because I live In Czechoslovakia. It's just such a tough commute. It's the commute that kills you. To get here for a 6 a.m. call from Czechoslovakia, I have get up at around 3. I have to go to sleep at around 6. It's the traffic over the Bermuda Triangle that's really bad. Other than that it's pretty smooth. I take side streets."

Who'd have thunk that Officer Mahoney was such a wit? More gems in the link.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I Am A: Lawful Evil GnomeRanger Mage

Lawful Evil characters believe that a nice, orderly system of life is perfect for them to abuse for their own advancement. They will work within 'the system' to get the best that they can for themselves.

Gnomes are also short, like dwarves, but much skinnier. They have no beards, and are very inclined towards technology, although they have been known to dabble in magic, too. They tend to be fun-loving and fond of jokes and humor. Some gnomes live underground, and some live in cities and villages. They are very tolerant of other races, and are generally well-liked, though occasionally considered frivolous.

Primary Class:
Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.

Secondary Class:
Mages harness the magical energies for their own use. Spells, spell books, and long hours in the library are their loves. While often not physically strong, their mental talents can make up for this.

Urdlen is the Chaotic Evil gnomish god of greed, bloodlust, and hatred. It is also known as the Crawler Below. Urdlen is generally represented as a huge, furless mole with sharp claws. His followers have changed their love of pranks and jokes to a love of malicious schemes and general evildoing. Their favored weapon is the claw bracer.

Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy ofNeppyMan

Lawful Good ----- XXX (3)
Neutral Good ---- XX (2)
Chaotic Good ---- X (1)
Lawful Neutral -- XX (2)
True Neutral ---- (-3)
Chaotic Neutral - (-2)
Lawful Evil ----- XXXXX (5)
Neutral Evil ---- X (1)
Chaotic Evil ---- XXXX (4)

Human ---- XXXXX (5)
Half-Elf - (0)
Elf ------ X (1)
Halfling - (-1)
Dwarf ---- (-4)
Half-Orc - (0)
Gnome ---- XXXXXX (6)

Fighter - XXX (3)
Ranger -- XXXX (4)
Paladin - XX (2)
Cleric -- X (1)
Mage ---- XXXX (4)
Druid --- (0)
Thief --- XXX (3)
Bard ---- XXX (3)
Monk ---- (-1)

Courtesy of Iain (No Longer Mad)

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

So Qui-Gonn Jinn gets to voice Aslan. Whoop-de-doo.

Look, world, let me put it like this. I read books. I read comics. I listen to radio plays. My mind interprets the words and pictures, and fills in the gaps in interesting ways; often it glosses over bits I’m not interested in or don’t like to think about. I end up with my own picture of the novel.

When you make a movie out of something from my childhood, it feels like you’re /raping/ my imagination. Lord of the Rings, a great movie yes, but now I can no longer imagine Gandalf as anybody but Sir Ian McKellan. Before, he was another character (this I know) my own personal Gandalf, a great bag of skin and bones wrapped up in dirty rags, indistinct like smoke, not defined in my mind. Now he’s an adorably ageing queen with a thing for hobbits, who I’ve seen in close-up a thousand times. He’s perfectly defined, I’ve seen him and his ash-grey cloak from every direction, and it irritates me.

I know I don’t have to go and see these pictures and TV shows. I know I don’t have to watch the series, hire the DVD, download the illegal rip. But cultural and peer pressure (as well as the demands of my job) mean that I must. And every time I do, I lose a little of what the original gave me. I'd rather filmmakers left novels alone and just made original content, appropriate to the medium and original, like City of God, which richly conveys an real enviroment it's hard to imagine appropriately.

That said, as C.S. Lewis’ books, while in part darker than , carry their veneer of Christianity well. As long as they don’t have fricking Jennifer Saunders doing the overly cutesy voice of Reepacheep (always a nasty little get in my reading of the book) I’ll be happy. They mostly have a strong plot and it’s only the figure of Aslan that’s a problem, simply because he’s unbelievable and boringly unfantasical. The only thing he does that’s fantastical is come back to life, and that’s completely inexplicable in the logic of the story up to that point; it makes everything /safe/, exactly what you don’t want in a series of children’s books. Give me the threatening, dark and sickly Children of Green Knowe any day.

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

A very gothic, slightly horrendous site where people post in their secrets on the backs of postcards; most entries seem to be truly shameful things that you'd have difficulty admitting to your nearest and dearest, and all are presented in their own unique ways.

God, without the internet at home I'm getting really twitchy. It's really doing my noggin in. Perhaps it's associated with this; "According to Dr Judith Reisman, pornography affects the physical structure of your brain turning you into a porno-zombie. Porn, she says, is an "erototoxin", producing an addictive "drug cocktail" of testosterone, oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin with a measurable organic effect on the brain." Perhaps I'm going cold turkey?

Or perhaps it's just the heat in here; I sit in the hottest spot in the office, with no fans or air-conditioning; perhaps I've just got a form of sunstroke? When I go and have a walk and a glass of water everything gets better; but the heat's so oppressive I just tend to sit here most of the time. Maybe I'm just hungry; someone's eating a cheesy croissant around here somewhere, and the smell's driving me crazy. Or perhaps it's the lack of sleep; I keep waking up in the night, maddened by heat or cold and have been waking up early all summer; it's the same endless insomnia I had as a kid. Or even it's this endless sniffling cold I seem to have picked up, which just seems to be exacerbated by everything else; my sense of smell seems to have increased in
sensitivity despite it (hence I can smell *everything* in this office.)

So maybe it's just heat, hunger, horniness, poor health, exhaustion, and the fear of being blown into bloody chunks at any point. Funny how, once you've identified a problem, it doesn't necessarily go away. And funny how, despite all that whingeing, I'm still enjoying myself and having a great time here…

Monday, July 25, 2005

Precrime Computer (Minus Precogs) Predicts Robbery: Science Fiction in the News: "Lt. James McLaughlin of the Yonkers, New York police department Technical Support unit used a computer to analyze patterns in robberies in southwest Yonkers. According to the computer's analysis, there would be a robbery between 8 p.m. and midnight on Wednesday on South Broadway.
'He predicted it and he was right,' Police Commissioner Robert Taggart said.
Anthony Jimenez, 17, of Gastonia, N.C., and Richard Pino, 20, of 108 Highland Ave., Yonkers, were arrested and two guns confiscated after a 25 year old woman was robbed of her cell phone at 8:44 p.m. Wednesday at South Broadway and Ludlow Street, police said. They were charged with first-degree robbery and first-degree criminal use of a firearm, both felonies.
In his 1956 short story Minority Report, Philip K. Dick wrote about the Precrime system. It used computers and precognitive human beings to predict murders before they happened:
"In the gloomy half-darkness the three idiots sat babbling. Every incoherent utterance, every random syllable, was analyzed, compared and reassembled in the form of visual symbols, transcribed on conventional punchcards, and ejected into various coded slots."
The Policeman's Blog

Fantastic! The Copper's Blog is the perfect balance between social comment, an insight into the bureacracy crippling our otherwise-promising police state and a good laugh too. (Proper blogging promised later, honest.)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Boing Boing: Four unusual neurological syndromes:
"People with 'Kluver-Bucy Syndrome' try to put anything they can get their hands on into their mouths and will 'typically attempt to have sexual intercourse with it.'

People with 'Capgras' Syndrome' think everyone around them is an impostor. They feel like they are living in a real life version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

People with 'Cotard's Syndrome' believe they are dead -- walking corpses. 'The French physician Charles Bonnet described a lady who insisted of dressing in a death shroud and being put in a coffin. She demanded to be buried and when refused, remained in her coffin until she died several weeks later.'

People with 'Fregoli Syndrome' see everyone around them as the same person. It must be like seeing the Oompa Loompas in Burton's Willy Wonka Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which were all played by the same actor."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Google Moon - Lunar Landing Sites

Fan-bloody-tastic. See the lunar landing sites - possibly the furthest mankind will ever go from his planet?

EDIT - zoom right in for the best easter egg ever. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

Smashing picture of the embattled Mr Brown on the Beeb.
Hobbit (Denham) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
"'What a happiness this must have been seventy or eighty years ago and upwards, to those chosen few who had the good luck to be born on the eve of this festival of all festivals; when the whole earth was so overrun with ghosts, boggles, bloody-bones, spirits, demons, ignis fatui, brownies, bugbears, black dogs, specters, shellycoats, scarecrows, witches, wizards, barguests, Robin-Goodfellows, hags, night-bats, scrags, breaknecks, fantasms, hobgoblins, hobhoulards, boggy-boes, dobbies, hob-thrusts, fetches, kelpies, warlocks, mock-beggars, mum-pokers, Jemmy-burties, urchins, satyrs, pans, fauns, sirens, tritons, centaurs, calcars, nymphs, imps, incubuses, spoorns, men-in-the-oak, hell-wains, fire-drakes, kit-a-can-sticks, Tom-tumblers, melch-dicks, larrs, kitty-witches, hobby-lanthorns, Dick-a-Tuesdays, Elf-fires, Gyl-burnt-tales, knockers, elves, rawheads, Meg-with-the-wads, old-shocks, ouphs, pad-foots, pixies, pictrees, giants, dwarfs, Tom-pokers, tutgots, snapdragons, sprets, spunks, conjurers, thurses, spurns, tantarrabobs, swaithes, tints, tod-lowries, Jack-in-the-Wads, mormos, changelings, redcaps, yeth-hounds, colt-pixies, Tom-thumbs, black-bugs, boggarts, scar-bugs, shag-foals, hodge-pochers, hob-thrushes, bugs, bull-beggars, bygorns, bolls, caddies, bomen, brags, wraiths, waffs, flay-boggarts, fiends, gallytrots, imps, gytrashes, patches, hob-and-lanthorns, gringes, boguests, bonelesses, Peg-powlers, pucks, fays, kidnappers, gallybeggars, hudskins, nickers, madcaps, trolls, robinets, friars' lanthorns, silkies, cauld-lads, death-hearses, goblins, hob-headlesses, bugaboos, kows, or cowes, nickies, nacks [necks], waiths, miffies, buckies, ghouls, sylphs, guests, swarths, freiths, freits, gy-carlins [Gyre-carling], pigmies, chittifaces, nixies, Jinny-burnt-tails, dudmen, hell-hounds, dopple-gangers, boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies, wirrikows, alholdes, mannikins, follets, korreds, lubberkins, cluricauns, kobolds, leprechauns, kors, mares, korreds, puckles korigans, sylvans, succubuses, blackmen, shadows, banshees, lian-hanshees, clabbernappers, Gabriel-hounds, mawkins, doubles, corpse lights or candles, scrats, mahounds, trows, gnomes, sprites, fates, fiends, sibyls, nicknevins, whitewomen, fairies, thrummy-caps, cutties, and nisses, and apparitions of every shape, make, form, fashion, kind and description, that there was not a village in England that had not its own peculiar ghost. Nay, every lone tenement, castle, or mansion-house, which could boast of any antiquity had its bogle, its specter, or its knocker. The churches, churchyards, and crossroads were all haunted. Every green lane had its boulder-stone on which an apparition kept watch at night. Every common had its circle of fairies belonging to it. And there was scarcely a shepherd to be met with who had not seen a spirit!'"

Just a beautiful bit of English I came across while randoming Wikipedia. Tolkien fans (the deplorable cultus) apparently are avid that he invented the word 'Hobbit'. He wasn't sure, but thought he probably had, from the Olde Englishe root "hobbe-", as in "hobbe-hoss" (hobby-horse). However, it crops up a couple of times before, notably in this list of haunters by Denham.
we make money not art: "Fabian Seibert at Suelzkotlett designs rather dangerous accessories.

His Lugosi 20 Suicide Bracelet comes with a sharp blade and is easy to use: wear slit on pulse, break off blade, insert blade, cut wrist. Here you go: a stylish suicide for just 160 euros.

And if you did use it as prescribed, you might be happy to buy another of Suelzkotlett's items: Healer for the modern suicide addict."
RecordBrother: What Have You Been Tolkien

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The evolution of intelligence | Natural genius?:
"people with a single copy of the gene for Tay-Sachs, or that for Gaucher's, or that for Niemann-Pick should be more intelligent than average. Dr Cochran and his colleagues predict they will be so by about five IQ points. If that turns out to be the case, it will strengthen the idea that, albeit unwillingly, Ashkenazi Jews have been part of an accidental experiment in eugenics. It has brought them some advantages. But, like the deliberate eugenics experiments of the 20th century, it has also exacted a terrible price."

Being half-Ashkenazi myself, this is a little worrying, though obviously my head (and the sphingolipid storage cells in my nerves) swelled a little when reading this. The problem with this story is obviously that it's a eugenic theory, and they're mostly out of fashion due to the whole Nazi death-camp thing (though the whole Aryan ideal was initially inspired by American eugenics efforts).

My problem with eugenic theories is that they are so plausible; there are physical differences between different strands of humanity, so it seems logical to assume that there will be mental differences (especially if you avoid dualism, and believe that the human mind is entirely a product of the human body.) Of course, the problem is in the perception of those differences, and the social value placed on those differences; if Ashkenazim have higher I.Q.s, that could mean some other minority has lower IQs - but to claim that would instantly attract cries of racism, whereas we only feel a mild quibble of disquiet at this thesis.

So should scientists participate in this sort of research? Can it help in any way? In every field of life we're encouraged to treat each individual anew, not judging them on the basis of previous bias; but we also behave entirely according to personal biases, according to rules of action we create so that we do not have to cope with each stimuli from absolutely basic principles. Call these rules of action moral codes, call them character, they're there and they're part of who we are. When we meet a person for the first time, we judge them according to our knowledge of other types we've met before like them, and some of those similarities may well have a racial base, though we've just derived them from our experiences. Does the lack of intent towards a racist action, make the action racist? And a similar rule, that judges according to a person being a public schoolboy, or knowing a certain town, is that a form of prejudice too? Yes, most likely, but it's useful prejudice, whether it's fair or not.
That's right, free...
Cost of signing up: Free
Cost of creating a profile so others can find you: Free
Cost of searching for your next love: Free
Cost of sending a message: Free
Finding a guy/girl who actually wants to play that game with you: Priceless."

Dating for massively multiplayer geeks. The site currently features two pages of girl gamers (mostly jokes, video game characters or hideous trolls; sorry ladies) and innumerable pages of turkey-necked blokes. Gamers really should have a higher prevalence of homosexuality, it would make life so much easier on them, as well alleviating other problems. A friend was telling me that in his school there were girls in all the other years but his; this lead to massive violence, anger, and terrible behaviour on the part of the kids. Perhaps the over-prevalence of violence in games is related to this as well; the proximity of the opposite sex combined with an unbridgeable gap between them.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Damn-Them DotCom: "100% free, fast, and customisable hexes!"

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Newgrounds presents: Super Mario Physics

Oh my. Truly astounding basic level phsyics explained through the medium of Mario. It'sa Me=MC2!
Belgian Beer Ad

I saw this as a trailer to something; The Edukators I think (an excellent movie). Its a very Bunuel advert involving period Jacques Tati types sat around staring at a fatal bottle of beer. Who'll break first? Compelling.
crates and barrels: "This is about crates and barrels in videogames. Compared to the enormous dimensions of this topic, the collection is still rather small, but - thanks to the restless contributors - it constantly grows. If you can, go find some crates or barrels in a game yourself and upload your own screenshots."

Some people can be *really* boring.
Done Deal: Script and Pitch Sales - Updated Daily: "Title: Cat's Cradle
Log Line: A large number of people, scientists and regular citizens included, are caught up in a game that involves them chasing each other around in search of the world's most important and dangerous substance, a new form of ice that freezes at room temperature.
Writer: James V. Hart and Jake Hart
Agent: Jon Levin of CAA and atty. Stuart Rosenthal of Bloom Hergott Deimer Rosenthal La Violette (James V Hart)
Buyer: Appian Way & Elkins Entertainment
Price: n/a
Genre: Science Fiction Drama
Logged: 7/6/05
More: To be adapted from Kurt Vonnegut’s novel. Appian Way's Leonardo DiCaprio and Elkins Entertainment's Hillard Elkins will produce."

For all you Vonne-nuts out there...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

God. I need to play Ultima 7. My brain's gradually frying in my cranium in the oppressive heat of this office, and a bit of sweet Iolo loving is necessary. Perhaps I'm pregnant, hence the craving. I know it's years old, I know it was a bit derivative; but for me it, and its semi-sequel Serpent Isle, are the two best realised most gloriously built RPGs of all time.

Goddamn it! It's SO HOT. That said, the team I'm working with are great and feeling really motivated to get work done. It doesn't feel like a chore any more. I don't get told off for playing games in the office, I don't have to play an interminable MMO. Perhaps it's just the feeling of no pressure while we work on the first issue, but I'm keen, psyched and raving to make this a success. It's curious as hell... when will the cynicism kick back in?

Gotterdammerung! Moreover, there seems a lot to do outside of work. There's more of London to explore than any game, and it's all chock-full of colour and vibrancy, and surprisingly easy to get around. Friends around, stuff to do (more than I can possibly do), films to see... it's just plain nice. My whole life dynamic has changed and at the moment it feels much for the better.

Johnny Depp's Michael Jackson impersonation in Willy Wonka is freaky; give us back our drug-addled Gene Wilder any day!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

DARPA Advanced Technology Office - Unique Signatures Detection

This is bloody fantastic and, also, terrifying. Was browsing the DARPA website (as you do) and found that the U.S. government is researching how to detect people uniquely in large areas or large crowds. This is of course designed for tactical strikes against enemy combatants, whereever they might be using a "unique and exploitable chemosignal" which presumably can be detected over large areas.

Imagine a system of chemotype-detectable satellites that use their cross-referential data to locate individuals globally - Al Quaeda should be scared, but so should everyone once the government changes the laws - imagine such a technology in the hands of a totalitarian regime.

(I also had a look at the "Special Projects Office" which perversely seems the least special part of the centre. Pretty useless, generic information.)

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Angler Fish........................................: "Another unusual adaptation in anglerfish is their sexual dimorphism. The males are very small in comparison with the females, and live as permanent parasites on the female. The male attaches himself, by biting, to the body of the female. His mouth fuses with her skin, and the bloodstreams of the two fishes become connected. The male is now totally dependent on the female for nourishment. In fact, the male begins to degenerate. His eyes grow smaller and he eventually loses them. His internal organs disappear.The male becomes simply a source of sperm. "

(Sigh) We all know people like that.
What's Special About This Number?

Think of a four-digit number. Now find out why it's special.
Language of Prairie Dogs Includes Words for Humans

Via Jim. Fascinating that we can decode the Prairie dog language, but we still can't decode Linear A, the Minoan (possibly) language from before the birth of Christ or Rongorongo (the fantastically named Easter Island language.) That's because the Prairie dogs speak in a language that has specific referents; green hooded man, yellow hooded man, black elipse and so on. We have no idea what the referents are for Linear A as there are no present day speakers and no dual-language inscriptions (e.g. the Rosetta stone which helped decipher the Egyptian hieroglyphics.) We can work out the counting structure, but little else.

Similarly, Rongorongo, a language which may have been developed in relatively modern times as a reaction to the white man's language is completely lost to us, despite its hieroglyphic-like symbols, because a) there aren't enough texts b) these texts indicate that the language used the icons as components of words, rather than words themselves, further shortening the available vocabulary c) these represent a text we have no conception of, though we might guess it to be a history or poem from the small historical record we have.

Languages where there are no recognisable elements, where the symbols signify something other than the thing itself (whether that be concepts, syllables or whatever) are nigh-on impossible to decipher without either dual language texts, known phrases, or a logical brain like that of Craig Ventris (who deciphered Linear B by guessing that it matched ancient Greek, recognising the syllabary forms of certain ancient Cretan town names, and using those syllables to work out other words.) So if we encountered an alien civilisation, as long as they take a recognisable physical form and have a language which refers to individual referents, we probably have a better chance of understanding them than we do Linear A. If we encountered only their text, we would have no chance.

Friday, July 08, 2005

So London got hit. A while ago I wrote a little memoir of what happened when Manchester got blown up by the IRA, it’s here. It's not very good, but it was heartfelt at the time.

Our perception of this bomb’s a little different; it’s been a while since we’ve been got. The last major Provisional IRA bomb was Omagh, and the last one on the mainland was, ooh, Birmingham? Liverpool? Canary Wharf? Actually, it was Manchester back in 1996. It’s been so long, we’ve forgotten that Blitz mentality of the 1980s, when there’d be a report every week about a terrorist capture and we were completely inured to the bombing. The IRA have held their ceasefire since early 1997.

Is there any way to stop terrorist bombing? Well, we could change the structure of society. We’re all wired up now, we’ve few manual workers or plants of any scale so we don’t strictly speaking need to be in one location; we could all retreat to well-connected country villages, and never move except for necessity, holidays and the like. Let weeds grow over the motorways, and when we move jobs, stay in our location and just change our tasks.

1) It’ll be even harder to police; terrorists could descend on a village, wipe it out and move on before the police get there. Solution: Accept this as acceptable losses; we’ll capture the villains soon, especially if everyone’s so dispersed over the country.
2) Food needs transporting. Large utilities like power and water will still be easy targets (though easy to defend as they are now.)
3) This a form of giving into the terrorist. Perhaps a better system would be a literal sectioning of the cities into separate blocks with large, well-monitored thoroughfares – but then these links become targets.

The only conclusion we can draw is that any area we can protect becomes a target because of the impression of safety. Moreover, suicide bombers don’t have to worry about threats to their security so any security in any area becomes redundant.

The big point is, though, that assaults at this frequency and intensity are entirely sustainable. Al Quaeda have killed, what, 3,500 people tops over the years – despite the yearly horror, that’s copeable with. That’s the sort of casualties the British generals lost in a few hours of the first day of the Battle of the Somme – spread over four years. If our leaders of a hundred years ago were willing to throw that many of their own people against an enemy’s guns (on the basis of economic fears) in an hour, why should we worry about an equivalent impact over four years? Mad Iain seems to agree:

The media coverage is totally disproportionate to the severity of the attacks - it's 9/11 coverage for 0.0009/0.0011 events. There were bombings in Northern Ireland with casualty counts bigger than this. If there's anything the conflict in Northern Ireland tells us, it's that there's no point living in fear. You *could* get wiped out by a terrorist bomb at any time. Then again, you *could* get debrained by a meteorite in your back garden. The odds of either event happening are so extremely remote, they're not worth peering fearfully through the curtains about. That doesn't make either event happening any less tragic, but you can be blotted out of existence by nature at any time, so worrying about everything that *could* happen to you would be so paralysing you'd never get out of bed.

Moreover, as soon as Al Quaeda put themselves on the terrorism map, they started getting watched – After four years of chasing, I wouldn’t be surprised if the U.S. has a very good idea where a large proportion of the organisation is, but they’re waiting for a way to get at the leaders. The problem won't stop when they're caught, but the casualty rate will be kept acceptable.