Tales from the Cultural Wilderness Weblog
      ( 15:22 )  
I spent last night playing with some PC Remote software that I purchased (yes, more shareware that I actually paid the license fee for - this paying job thing tends to go to ones head rather) - you see, it's designed to allow you to perform various PC functions with a remote control. As I had a RealMagic remote (purchased so I could control DVD's without having to hover over the keyboard), I wondered if there was a way of using it for anything else (WinAmp was the main target) - this bit of software however allows me to control anything I want (with single button presses, or multiple presses in sequence).

So I programmed a couple of basic programs to the number keys; then I programmed the play / pause / stop / skip track buttons for WinAmp; then I arranged all my winamp playlists and started loading them up with various number key combinations, so I've got myself a remote controlled jukebox at very little outlay - I've just got to remember which number each album is at...

Oh, and it disables itself when the dvd software is running so it doesn't interfere with control of that!
Archive link

      ( 14:55 )  
Friday afternoon and I'm pissed - well, not totally, but two beers (random lager actually) is definitely my limit for a lunchtime...

Ran into Tony in the pub - I spotted him about halfway through and eventually decided I'd have to talk to him. Now, to be fair, I have a hard time talking to him - always have - and I have no idea why. There are very few people who fall into my "I'm never going to get on with this person" category, and he isn't one of them; I just have trouble making conversation - maybe that he's a little overbearing, and I have trouble with strong personalities...

Anyway, I ran into him, we caught up. He agreed to mail me (which he's done), so I could include him in the reunion/get together piss up thing. See, I realized that we (being ex-school people) get together about once every blue moon, and as that is November 30th, it seems like a good idea for a piss-up (or at least vaguely amusing). So I've suggested an evening out in Reading - it's a Friday, so at least we've got a decent night for it. Now I'll just have to wait until after the holiday for responses. I'm guessing (based upon past performance), that there'll be about three of us... but we'll see.

And meanwhile, even though I'm alcoholically liberated, I'm still hellishly nervous about the holiday. Presumably the taxi ride will be hell, and checking in will be bad, and finding the rep at Rome airport will be really nervewracking. The worst bit though is almost certain to be tomorrow night's meet and greet - I'm praying that there'll be some chatty people of roughly the right age bracket (25-40 should be safe, and broad enough that someone will fall into it). And then onto touring...

Still need to sort out a camera though (and pack of course... always leave that until the last minute - then if you forget something you can blame it on not having enough time rather than being dense!).

And don't expect an entry for two weeks - I'm not planning to track down an internet cafe or some such in Italy just to post my progress. If I stumble across one, all well and good, but otherwise, no contact until I get back (and then a full exposition should follow) - I have notepad at the ready to take copious notes of what happens...
Archive link

      ( 14:04 )  
Any bets on percentage of o.a.p.'s on this trip?
Archive link

      ( 14:03 )  
Well, I've officially confirmed my holiday, and now I've got that nervous, queasy sensation - it's really going to happen. Two days and then thirteen of either easy holidaying or sheer hell.

Holiday companies really don't cater for single people going on holiday - except for specifically targeted "singles holidays" - hotels charge a ridiculous supplement for a single person (which basically means you pay as much as two people for the hotel room). So I've paid over the odds already.

Last year's holiday seems easy in comparison to this one - the Boston-New York-Washington (BosNYWash) one's only headache was getting from one city to another. It was entirely up to me as to whether I spent time with other people or not. However, in this instance, I'm stuck on a coach with people I don't know, forced to go on specific guided tours, and given very little time to wander around and absorb the atmosphere... plus it's Italy, so I've even got a language barrier to contend with. So, I'm feeling a little nervous at present...

Transport to the airport (and home on the return) has also been sorted - it's either exactly the same as the long term parking cost, or its significantly more expensive, but as they've given me two different prices for the taxi, I'm not sure how much I'll actually get charged. It is the less painful option though (as driving to the airport at 04:30 isn't my idea of fun).

Now the only outstanding jobs (other than packing, obviously) are tracking down a camera (or finding a free moment to buy one), and sorting out videos (for the small selection of shows I'm planning to tape while away).
Archive link

      ( 12:40 )  
Having done a followup on the Eric Close data at IMDB, I've found he's actually got 5 shows to his name.

Some background to this - I collect shows that are cancelled within the first year of airing - any show which only ran for one season (or one season plus a TV movie) is fair game. However, for the "most cancelled shows" award, I also give a point for anyone who joined a long running show for its final year - so if a show ran from say 1984 to 1993, and a new cast member joined it for its 1993 season, before seeing it cancelled on them, then they'd get a point.

Case in pointis Eric Close - his points in total are:
Santa Barbara (joined for the 1993 season) - this was the one I didn't have.
McKenna (5 episodes aired out of a 13 episode season).
Sisters (joined for the 6th season in 1995, and saw it through its cancellation).
Dark Skies (20 episodes)
Now and Again (22 episodes)

The only show he's made which doesn't quite count is "The Magnificent Seven" which survived two seasons, albeit barely - a 10 episode first season, followed by a 13 episode second season (of which only 9 aired).

So Ms. Pratt has further to go that I thought...
Archive link

      ( 12:30 )  
Victoria Pratt seems to be aiming for the much coveted "Eric Close Most Cancelled Shows" award. This comes on the back of watching the first episode of "Mutant X" last night, which was, lets be fair, terrible. The cast aren't all that great (the villain is absolutely dreadful), Lexx Luthor is for no obvious reason a good guy, and the stunt work...

Well, the stunt work is laughable - as Buffy would say "What's powering that? Raw enthusiasm?" Victoria's character, Shalimar, is apparently extremely acrobatic (they haven't explained why as yet). She can backflip from a standing stop; she can leap off the top of a car, rotate horizontally in mid air through about 720 degrees, kick the bad guy, and then land on her feet. I was expecting to see the wires at any moment...

And as to the award - well, so far we've got Cleopatra 2525, which has the distinction of being cancelled twice (once as a half hour show, and once as an hour show), and now Mutant X (which, unless it improves markedly, is not long for this earth - especially if Fox's court case sees it cancelled). A quick check at IMDB gives us possible other TV appearances - John Woo's Once A Thief (where she appeared from episode 11 onwards in a 22 episode run), and Forbidden Island, which may be a made for TV movie and therefore shouldn't count.

Therefore, a count of 3 (Cleo x 2, Once a Thief) puts her short of Eric Close (who has 4), but Mutant X could see her up there. Only time will tell (and Eric Close may manage to make some other cancelled show in the meantime... how about JMS's Rangers series?).

Archive link

      ( 12:15 )  
Not only are we (really the US, as the UK seem to have avoided participating in the bombing since the first night) not stopping the bombing to allow humanitarian aid to get to the people of Afghanistan (who are currently the people of the refugee camps on the Pakistan border), but we're bombing the warehouses that contain the aid that's already there.

For some reason (Afghanistan having the military equivalent of a big rock), we've run out of legitimate targets and the pilots are now allowed to bomb anything they see that they think looks a bit like a target - warehouses that some troops have driven past some time in the past three weeks, villages (in case the caves nearby are being used to manufacture chemical weapons); and this from a force who claimed they weren't going to use a multi-thousand dollar weapon to destroy a 10 dollar tent...
Archive link

      ( 16:37 )  
No, I'm not dead. Just busy with work stuff. And I didn't really have anything to rant about, so took a day off.

However, last night there was a lot of fuss made over the spin doctor who was forced to apologise for a memo she sent on September 11th that basically said "Today is a good day to bury bad news" - now, I understand that this may come across as a bit insensitive, but why should she have to apologise for it?

From my point of view she did exactly the right thing in this apology - she apologised to the government for the trouble it's caused - she didn't apologise to the public. Why people should be forced into giving a public apology or even resigning/being fired over doing her job I'll never know. She's a spin doctor - her job is to give the government advice on how to give their information to the press and the public at large - and she was right - September 11th was the perfect day to release bad news. Lets face it, there couldn't have been anything worse than the trade towers attack, so the government would have got away with whatever it was.

But no, the media have to make a fuss of this memo, and the (alleged) opposition have a field day out of calling for resignations...
Archive link

      ( 16:07 )  
I really have to get new software. Blogger crashed again on a fairly short entry this time...

If you've been keeping track, you'll have guessed by now that I didn't in fact go to Cardiff - we made it until Friday morning this time before it was cancelled! However, it being called off gave me a chance to do other things including:
1 - install new hard disk (pull out all the cabling, unscrew the power supply, insert harddisk, put the power supply back, reattach cables, start machine, swap cables / jumpers around until PC recognizes it)
2 - re-install WinME on new harddisk (plus all the requisite applications)
3 - install Linux (Mandrake 8.0) and be amazed at the fact it managed to recognize at least a reasonable subset of hardware (I wasn't really expecting it to recognise any of the integrated motherboard components, but it got the network connection. Modem and sound are still out to lunch however).
4 - dump mp3s to harddisk (from multiple CDs) - now all I need is a decent cataloguing program (and some way other than manually of adding the relevant index data to the mp3 files - no CDDB connection makes this a painful job).
5 - install a few games (or, in fact, all of them, as my Games partition seems to be slightly larger than necessary - there I was thinking it'd be full halfway down the stack and I finished with it still half empty...)
6 - watch the Grand Prix - Alesi's last race ended ignominiously; Hakkinen's wasn't much better, and unsurprisingly Michael won. At least DC managed to hold onto his second place in the championship... better luck next year...
7 - watch American Pie 2 - not quite a funny as the first film, but still with some good moments (and vastly more screentime for the lovely Alyson). The end was a bit weak though...
8 - panic that the holiday shop had closed and I didn't have my tickets - it turned out they'd just moved premises and forgotten to tell me...
9 - console my sister after she turned up at 3am after a piss-up in Reading having lost her wallet / mobile.

That's probably everything... parents are back, but I've only got to put up with them for a week. I now just have to work out how I'm getting to/from the airport...
Archive link

      ( 15:51 )  
I purchased a new harddisk last night from PC World - 60Gb western digital - the theory being that with 7 times the storage space I can a) install Linux, b) keep some mp3s on the disk rather than having to swap CDs all the time. Once I worked out how to burn ISO images with Nero, we were on our way.

I'm off tomorrow - as I'm planning to go to Cardiff - however, as I've been unable to confirm it, or get directions, I don't actually know what's happening. Not that this is anything at all surprising - piss ups and breweries have been on the cards for this trip since whenever it was first organized.

Browsed through Amazon's e-book selection again - why are they so expensive? They cost about the same as a real paper book, and yet there's no tangible product (and the most ridiculous thing - one of them was unavailable as they'd run out - is this a database error I wonder?). I know early adopters of a technology pay a premium, but in a large number of cases I'd rather buy the real thing - the only advantage with the e-books is they don't take up huge amounts of shelf space which I don't have. Hopefully they'll come down in price as more people take up buying them this way - there must be a reasonable number by now, and it's not as if the initial outlay is huge - reformatting the proofed copy, or rescanning and proofing the actual paper product isn't a vast investment of time and money - however, I suspect that, unless things change substantially, they'll work like CDs do - start out expensive, realise people are willing to swallow this price, and never drop it. We'll see.

If you're wondering, the ones I have purchased have been in the Adobe format - I disagree completely with any format that removes the fair use rights (which, technically, all of them do), but having an easy way around them means pdf is the best format (see the links page for further details).
Archive link

      ( 15:11 )  
In the words of Mutley, "Russa-fussin russa-fuss" - Blogger has eaten my entry again... this is what comes of relying on someone else to provide simple web functionality... looks like I'm going to have to learn Perl (or similar... I could do it in ML I guess) and write my own...

Searching their discussion boards it looks like it eats entries that are too long - that'll teach me to be verbose... I guess I'm trying to use it for things it wasn't designed for... I guess mine'll be more Journal-ly, with proper calendar based archive accessing... or at least that should be the intent. The Blogger based weblog may actually end up being used as a weblog (that'd be a shock).

Meanwhile, go see Columbine's new game - Alan's Tour - It should keep you occupied for a while at least...
Archive link

      ( 16:02 )  
For personal edification, I'd better clarify who I'm talking about here - I may (heaven forbid) forget my cryptic naming convention at some later date. The only two of note that may cause confusion are "Dubya" who is obviously George Bush Junior, or George W. Bush, as opposed to Shrub Senior; and "Fozzie" our current glorious leader, Tony Blair - a not particularly amusing pun on Fozzie Bear, which I've used to refer to him for quite a while now...
Archive link

      ( 15:54 )  
The car is running much more smoothly - no noise - yay! I didn't have to show it off to my sister yesterday as she got a lift home.

Farscape and Andromeda plus pizza - tv dinner - both were fairly watchable. Followed it up with "Lake Placid" which was funnier than expected. Lets face it, any film with a thirty foot crocodile in it has to be entertaining... although I did expect one of the lead four to die...

Today brought another Phone Company reorganization - what is it with reshuffles here? At least it confirms that I should be doing nothing (which, hey, I'd already sorta figured).

I still can't work up the enthusiasm to criticise the bombings of Afghanistan - it's not as if my opinion could change what Dubya and Fozzie have planned. It's amusing that we've got a "War Council" now, rather than just a cabinet - if this isn't New Labour spin I don't know what is.

Apparently, with parliament on recess, Fozzie is allowed to declare we're going to go to war without a vote or anything - perhaps I missed it (on one of the two days MPs were recalled to discuss the matter), and they actually allowed him to embroil us in this mess.

And, on pointless conspiracy thoughts, my taxi driver yesterday thought that the dates were significant - 11th September in US date convention would be 911, so by bad reasoning, the European attack would be 9th November - now firstly you can play this sort of numbers game with anything, so the date isn't at all meaningful, secondly the number 911 has no significance whatsoever to the European psyche, and thirdly, if you're trying to destroy America, destroying a few buildings in London (or wherever) isn't really going to help your cause greatly...
Archive link

      ( 16:03 )  
The Phone Company want me to commit until April, before they move me to the USofA. This is slightly longer than I was hoping for, especially if they're not going to give me anything challenging to do. Being bored with the triviality of the day to day work is not conducive to happy employee status - give me something new to learn, or something meaty to get my teeth into and I'd be fine... we'll see.

Plus it seems Dallas is their destination of choice, which I'm not entirely enamoured of - for someone who hates hot weather, Texas isn't really a state I should be spending much time in... but you go where you're needed...

The car repairs are now complete - they had to replace an extra bit as they couldn't get it apart... fortunately it wasn't all that expensive... A repaired car probably also means I'll have to pick up my darling sister from work (again!).

The south of England is under flood warnings again - it's not as if the water had time to subside since the last bout of heavy rain, and we've had two days of it (at this precise moment, it's reasonably sunny out, but a couple of hours ago it was raining). So presumably the same people who were flooded out last time will be flooded out again... don't live in a flood plain people (however tempting it is to developers)... of course, I wouldn't actually know where to go to get maps of floodplains... could you just do a soil sample or something - check the water table, and see how much of the soil is alluvium... how do you detect that anyway?

I'm sure this is something to do with global warming (damned Americans)... lots of rain, really bizarre summers (either really short with a couple of blisteringly hot days, or water shortages for months), London being submerged as sea level rises... okay, the last one isn't (yet) a reality...

Oh and we've bombed some innocent Afghans... there's a surprise... the less said about this the better... I'm against it, nuff said.
Archive link

      ( 13:10 )  
As an aside, registration with diarist.net went through over the weekend, so I've got a new icon on the page; and Blogger has decided it wants to eat September posts unless they're archived monthly, so the archive has now been changed to "by month" pages - which will presumably make a whole month frankly huge, but we'll see how it goes - it's not as if I'm overloaded with visitors at the moment...
Archive link

      ( 12:50 )  
Okay, weekend details:

Friday night wasn't actually too bad - presumably on account of helping with a PC issue that the stepmonster was having, she decided not to moan at me. I was actually intending to watch "Band of Brothers" but didn't - not sure why that was... I saw about ten minutes, but didn't get particularly engrossed.

Saturday - parents and brother went to York. Sister spent day in London - house to myself for the whole day - heaven. I managed to accomplish absolutely nothing (well, okay, I shopped for food, but that's not exactly earth shattering news) - trip out concluded that Wokingham has possibly the most useless shopping center on earth (for a town that alledges you can shop there - Crowthorne doesn't count), not that I was actually desperate to get anything, but you can't even browse...

I managed to demolish a bottle of (rather nice) red wine on Saturday evening, and subsequently fell asleep trying to watch "Blade" - it was on BBC2, but after two minutes I decided I might as well watch the full, uncut, widescreen version and put the DVD on. Two minutes later I decided I was willing to sacrifice the big picture for decent sound, and moved upstairs, whereupon I tested out my speakers on the dance scene at the start... very nice.

Sunday, involved three trips to Reading - the first trip was to take my sister to work (far too early on a Sunday for my liking) - it was at this point that I realised what a horrendous racket my car was making - get it up to 60 mph, and the windscreen vibration becomes so loud that you cannot hear the stereo, however loud that is...

Second trip was general shopping - I was trying to track down "Farscape" series two on DVD (as I spontaneously decided that actually, it was quite a good show, and I'd like to know what happened before the bit that's now on BBC2 - series 3). I'd bought all of series 1 about three weeks ago, and went to track down the second. Much tramping around Reading ensued, as nowhere had the first box - two, three, and four were easy, but one? Finally found it in Virgin, and had to wait while they dug the disks out of the back of a drawer.

Other purchases? Bridge on the River Kwai Collectors Edition - it was in the HMV sale, and I'd been looking at it for months as a possible purchase, so that was a definite buy - I'm a sucker for a good sale if you haven't guessed.

A CD by Train - having heard "Drops of Jupiter" on one of the Sky music channels, I thought I'd risk the album - I don't usually buy new artists based on this little exposure (which is why I hardly ever buy any CDs), but it turned out to be a good purchase... even if I've only got the one CD player (the PC) I can listen to it on.

A nightdress - pale blue, satin, ankle length number.

The last item wasn't actually going to get a mention here, but I decided I might as well start being honest and go from there. So yes, it was for me. I've described myself in the past as transsexual, but this may do a dis-service to those who definitely are. Yes, if I had the choice, I'd prefer to be female. The condition is really "Is this just a medical approximation, or would I really be female?" No, I'm not sure where the dividing line is in there, but current state of the art doesn't cut it.

I guess the desire isn't quite strong enough to overcome the rational objections I keep managing to put in the way... I'm not sure if it ever will be or not... only time will tell.

Until that day comes though, I have to settle for occasional cross-dressing, and, my living conditions being what they are, lingerie is the easiest way around this; I did spend most of Saturday (barring the shopping trip) in a skirt, but as there are generally family members in occupance, underwear is easier to conceal - and before you ask, yes, they know about my state of mind, but I'd prefer not to flaunt it in front of them. My father at least has tended to avoid the subject completely, and my stepmonster hedges around it whenever she comes to discuss it.

I'll be fair, shopping for women's clothing is hell, and even when you could potentially claim that the lingerie is a gift (as I probably could have on Sunday), I was still a nervous wreck by the time I came to pay. I've been able to brazen it out in the past, but nervousness got the better of me on this occasion.

Oh, and the third trip to Reading was to pick up my sister after work. She really needs a car...

And speaking of cars, mine is currently in for repair - I decided it was just too noisy to keep driving, so booked it in this morning, and took it in for them to look at - annoyingly, it was running reasonably smoothly on the way there, but the mechanic spotted the problem after thirty seconds of driving - off-side front wheel bearing, and unfortunately, some other bracket / bearing thing on that wheel (which might be the cause of the understeer I was getting, as he was able to rock the wheel on its mounting - I'm fairly certain this was bad) - unfortunate as this is the expensive bit, so 150 GBP all told (plus the round trip in the taxi for 30 GBP).
Archive link

      ( 12:18 )  
I must have been half asleep or something, but I didn't have to rant at the stupid politicians on Question Time last night... it can't possibly have been because they were making sense... that never happens...

Meanwhile, people keep finding errors in software that works damnit... leave it alone people...

And finally, the graveyard has something in it... not much admittedly, but transcribing an entire episode is slow going and I'm not really certain what else I want to put there yet... episode guides would make sense, and at least a statement of intent I guess (so people have at least got an idea of what I intend to cover), but we'll see...

For some insane reason, I was invited to a Cricket Club piss-up/curry tonight - can't see that happening - I stopped playing as I couldn't stand half the people there, and although I could bat a bit, I couldn't field worth a damn and I was (perfectly rationally it seems to me) a little afraid of the ball... Dad and brother should be attending, and sister is out tonight, so just myself and the stepmonster at home - oh joy! Presumably this'll lead to another "You must go out" speech... when what I really need is to get away from this place... so there are fewer morons I don't want to meet and fewer painful memories... but can they see that... no...

And I didn't really mean the stepmonster bit, but I'm allowed to steal from Schumacher's only good film aren't I? He did destroy the Batman franchise, but "St. Elmo's Fire" is just too good not to steal something from. And apparently I'm Emilio Estevez from the film...

So my "and finally" wasn't the final item, so sue me. I'm not trying to hold myself to any sort of consistency here...
Archive link

      ( 11:43 )  
Amazingly, I would have won a bet against my sister last night - usually she wins - I didn't take it because I didn't have a clue (at least in the other cases I had an answer in mind). She pointed out the guy who plays Mel's best friend / work colleague in "What Women Want" and declared he was the guy who did the voice of Tarzan (in the Disney film of that name).

Well, after the "David Arquette isn't in Friends" and the "How Many States in the USA" debacles, I turned her down... fool...

For historical purposes - David Arquette plays Ursula's stalker in Friends (and I didn't recognize him); and for some unknown reason, I thought there were 52 states ("Book him Danno"). Mark Feuerstein plays the colleague in "What Women Want" and Tony Goldwyn plays adult Tarzan.
Archive link

      ( 08:50 )  
I managed to avoid the second half of the Mel film last night, so now that's over with, normal programming can resume...

I've now seen the last episode of "The Net" which just finished a run on Sci-Fi - the last episode is absolutely terrible - it doesn't tie up any plots (but then, they tied most of them up four episodes earlier, which was a little stupid), and it doesn't really leave any threads open for a second series... and this show didn't get renewed why, exactly?

It's not a bad reworking of a film into a television series. The lead doesn't quite have Sandra Bullock's screen presence, but does a reasonably competent job. The villains are suitably evil but incompetent that she can get away with meeting them every week and staying alive. The annoying sidekick is fortunatly not that annoying for the first half of the series (as it's just Tim Curry's voice) - he gets more annoying once he actually gets screen time.

The show as a whole looks like it was interfered with repeatedly - management (of whatever variety) didn't know what they wanted the show to be, so it changes rather too frequently. Firstly she's on the run alone; then she's on the run, but helping this Sorceror guy; then she's stopped the bunch bent on taking over the world and has joined some FBI task force... erm... hello? Where do you go for a second series guys?

The only other show I can think of where the interference is this obvious is "The Burning Zone," which changes from spiritual / metaphysical storylines with intelligent viruses and faith healers to political storylines and general corruption. They could possibly have kept both tracks if they'd tried, but there's a clear break between the two (mainly due to the change of actors - the two main leads leave the show, and some other guy gets brought in) - the only way a second series of this would have worked would be to bring back Marcase and Shiroma, and intersperse episodes of them chasing demons and superbugs with episodes of Taft discovering corporate poisoning and illegal testing. But, perhaps it's better it died quietly.
Archive link

      ( 16:26 )  
Two days of head-banging, and I've finally located what I was being dense over - if you want an application to run, you've got to actually tell the system about it... which obviously, as its taken me two days to realize, I thought I had...

If I keep working at this pace, the Phone Company will have to put me back on products I understand rather than the messy global ones, whose processes seem to change from product to product...

I wouldn't mind too much if there was a process I could learn and stick to (I have no real problem picking new things up) - it's just that once I've learnt the process, I'd prefer they didn't change it every week.

Although, to be fair, this is how process and quality people keep their jobs - you have to keep improving the process so it works better / gives better feedback / allows them to draw pretty flow-charts. If a process were static someone (usually in upper management) would decide to introduce a whole new tool to solve a problem which doesn't exist as far as the developer is concerned. And in the case of this company, that tool would be a Lotus Notes database - not entirely sure why, but they use it for everything - error logging, test cases, test results, requirements, holidays, training - you name it, there's probably a Lotus Notes database for it (or, more likely, many databases for a single job - sometimes based on date, sometimes based on some arbitrary distinction which only those who regularly use it understand).

I wouldn't mind so much if Lotus Notes was actually any good - it's slow, it doesn't provide particularly good search / sort facilities, and the databases are of fixed size (so stuff has to be archived frequently, and they take forever to open / browse / edit).

But enough work rants. I have to go home (presumably to end up watching the end of "What Women Want").
Archive link

      ( 12:41 )  
After trying to pry a date out of the Phone Company to send me to the USofA, I'm still no closer to learning when I can escape the parental nest. They're (allegedly) moving as fast as they can, but a broad "it'll be about then" would be nice... at least then I could start planning...

Meanwhile, I'm stuck at home with parents complaining I don't go out enough (as at least one of them expects me out until all hours every single night!), and siblings, when they're home, who demand to watch films on my equipment so I can't watch whatever I was planning to.

Case in point, last night's half viewing of "What Women Want" - once I'd managed to persuade my PC that it really did want to play a Region 4 disk - an hour and ten minutes of Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt... now, okay, the film does have the lovely Marisa Tomei in it, but starting at 21:30 and going on from there would mean an 23:40 finish (we stopped at 22:40-ish)... of course, I shouldn't really be complaining - she did have to start work an hour before me today...

What I'd have preferred to be doing is watching Codename: Eternity, which I taped ages ago and never really watched - I've just about got around to it and people keep making absurd demands upon my time - next thing you know, I'll be required to rebuild the parents' computer from scratch!
Archive link

      ( 08:50 )  
Why do America (and by extension, Britain) want a war? What good does it serve? It may make Dubya look more statesman-like, and it might stop Fozzie having to explain why private investment in public services isn't the most stupid idea in the existence of stupid ideas, but a war costs money. Money that the western world doesn't really have available at the moment...

See, the problem I have is that the Taliban (who are currently being talked up as the latest monster in this "crusade") have said they'd review the evidence against Bin Laden and hand him over if it's compelling. Well, either it isn't, or the US government don't want to endanger intelligence sources. Lets be fair, they haven't even disclosed the full evidence to Pakistan - they haven't even shown them enough to persuade them of guilt yet. This is due to a judgement call that says "some governments can't keep secret information secret." Firstly, this judgement is made by Americans, who are under great pressure from their people to get revenge - to bomb something or someone (as this is the most visible form of revenge possible, and therefore the easiest to sell). Secondly, they seem to think that in a country where the press has almost complete freedom, their government is more secure than in countries where the press are under strict controls... huh?! Americans are better at keeping secrets because they are?! All of the NATO countries have been shown this evidence... a secret is only a secret while only one person knows it guys... there's going to be a leak somewhere at some point...

The decision not to talk means the Americans value their intelligence sources over innocent Afghanis - the ones who are fleeing their homes for Pakistan just over the possibility of bombing. These people did nothing to American. A group of terrorists did - a group that Bin Laden may or may not have helped via financing and intelligence - I've seen no evidence of his involvement so far, so currently he's not guilty. And don't think for a minute he hasn't got the wherewithall to remove himself from the command chain of this organisation, institute someone else who the Americans have never even heard of - someone who currently has complete freedom to set up his own network of terrorists and fanatics (and greedy westerners) - and quietly disappear. So the Americans (or our SAS) may manage to "take him out." That won't really solve anything...

The Americans may have another problem with the Taliban - they put them there in the first place. They supported them in their fight with the Soviet Union (when the Communist threat was still a threat), and supplied them with most of the arms they currently have. Suddenly, they find that their lap-dogs don't want to listen to them - "we put you in power, you've got to do what we say" mentality - which works in a democracy, but doesn't necessarily work when the US have done nothing for the country since putting the Taliban in power (and weren't particularly liked by the Taliban when they did help them out). The most ridiculous notion I've seen so far is removing the Taliban and putting the Northern Alliance in power (or even the former King, who's supported by the Northern Alliance) - they're the ones that were removed to put the Taliban in place...

And the money issue? Why can't we finance a war? Well, we've put our financial controls in the hands of shareholders - the solvency of our countries (or at least their financial institutions and industrial base) are dependent upon people putting money into stocks and shares. Well, as can be seen from any number of examples, when these shareholders panic, the market falls and companies go out of business. And nothing's going to panic shareholders like a long drawn out war against an unknown target.
Archive link

      ( 14:23 )  
I picked up "When The Wind Blows" by James Patterson last night - I've read it before, and enjoyed it... I was going through a James Patterson phase and reading all of his books... started with the Alex Cross ones and worked on... his stand alone books are actually better than the ones in the series... and this one is probably the best I've read...

Anyway, I picked it up to read a couple of chapters - I was trying to find one particular scene - and of course, an hour and a half later I managed to put it down again...

As a quick synopsis its about genetic engineering - some wacko scientists experiment on human embryos and keep them in this secure "school," but obviously, a number of the students escape and are hunted down by the usual bunch of black-ops guys.

Now, to be fair, I hadn't realized the parallels before, but reading back through the book, I realized how close to the plot of Dark Angel some of this is - genetically engineered super-children, kept in a secure facility, until a bunch of them escape. The lead character is even called Max (although in the case of the book that's short for Maximum... not sure if Max is short for anything in the TV show)...

Alright, so the similarities end there - the genetic engineering in the book is to give the children wings (and, therefore, the ability to fly), which obviously entails major structural rework, making them faster, stronger, and more intelligent than the average.

The disturbing thing is that with the progress in genetic engineering of late, these "super soldier" projects may be just around the corner... which'd be all we need - flying kids, or a bunch of Khan Noonien Singhs wandering around...

Okay, so I'm not against genetic engineering per se. But as with most technologies, what its possible to do with it leads to a large number of ethical questions which scientists may not want to answer - there are always the unscrupulous few who'd do it for the money. We've had a cloned sheep - it can't be very long before we have cloned people (regardless of the outrage / laws against it). And then its only a small step to trying to "improve" those people... which is such a flawed concept it doesn't bear thinking about...
Archive link

      ( 08:58 )  
This morning sees good weather for ships and duckbuilders... it's positively throwing it down... my stupid windscreen wipers made for a fun drive in this morning - you can set them to either clear a strip in the middle (at about eye level), or top and bottom, with a narrow strip at eye level which is all wet and smeary... so I settled for reduced visibility and had nice clear vision in the middle bit - with this much rain it's the safer option, but it does require me to remember to adjust it (and not to put the wipers on high speed for too long, as it changes back to the other one over time).

Played Dopey's Wild Mine Ride last night (just to check the disc worked, honest)... I'm not convinced games on DVD work very well, but this one seems to be fine for the kids - it's basically a quiz about the film with animated "mine cart running through mine" sections between the questions. I didn't do too badly considering I haven't seen the film in years, but didn't finish due to Andromeda...

Series two started on Sky One last night. They did everything right - basically stick with the same premise, but give it a bit of urgency - Dylan's "lets restore the Commonwealth" ideal now needs to be hurried along so they can stop some evil force; and of course, they've got to save Harper from a fate worse than death - well, okay, they've got to save him from death, but being killed by creatures eating their way out from inside you can't be particularly pleasant... someone should ask John Hurt...

Oh, and Andromeda has a new title sequence - a voice over that makes it sound even more like Hercules in space... so much so that I broke into the wrong theme tune when it finished...
Archive link

      ( 16:00 )  
What's the plural of dwarf anyway?

The f at the end tends to indicate it should be dwarves, but I've seen dwarfs used on more than one occasion.

I think my personal preference is towards the fs spelling over the ves, just for uniqueness - I vaguely recall that this was Tolkein's spelling as well, which'd be nice... English is all about contradictions to rules so there must be a good one for f pluralisation rule, why not this one.

Then again, it might be a British/US english issue in which case it doesn't really matter and I'll use the one I remember most easily (or whichever one I happen to type first... I interchange grey and gray frequently).

This reminds me of a piece of coursework at uni, where we had to write a prolog program to pluralize a list of words (not known in advance)... I was forced to argue with the lecturer that the correct pluralisation of pegasus is either pegasi, or doesn't exist as Pegasus was a unique entity (and it'd be like having a plural of "Tony Blair") - he was insistant that pegasuses was right... which just looks stupid.

Of course, we're not going to get onto octopus (octopi, octopodes, octopoda).
Archive link

      ( 15:27 )  
As an addendum to the previous item, I should note that Universal have been morons with the Xena boxed sets - the first series comes in two sets, three disks apiece. The first set is out now, and the second is out in November (or thereabouts).

They're really nice boxed foldout packages, but the contents are all wrong.

The first set has the following content:
Disk 1 - Episodes 1, 10, 11, 12
Disk 2 - Episodes 13, 14, 15, 16
Disk 3 - Episodes 17, 18, 19, 2

Anyone see anything wrong with these?! Especially when episode 12 (or thereabouts), Athens College of Performing Bards (which is close enough to the title, for a corrected one see epguides.com) is a clip show with clips of the preceding episodes... which aren't in this set...

Hello... quality control?!
Archive link

      ( 15:22 )  
Today brought the arrival of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on Disney DVD. My first question is why Disney feel the need to use a standard different to everyone else's for movies on a disc. What's wrong with straight DVDs? Based on my previous problems with Fantasia, Toy Story and Tarzan collectors editions, I don't hold out much hope that the R2 version will work with my system... I may end up buying the R1 version from Play yet...

Of course, if I do that, it'll mean giving up the plush dwarf backback that came with it... I'm not sure if this is a gift with the collectors set, or a gift Blackstar threw in for good measure, but it's currently stuffed in my glove compartment along with the DVD...

I was also expecting the second Knight Rider dvd, but that seems to be late (late today or late in the week I don't know...) - it won't have the right episodes on it, but some is better than none I guess...

Xena is going back - Hooves and Harlots breaks up towards the end - I'm guessing it's a layer change problem, but a) why is the layer change in the middle of an episode, when with four on a disc, it'd make sense to put it between eps 2 and 3; and b) why this one, when my machine doesn't have too many problems with other layer changes (except for Mystery Men, where I eventually found a version that worked)...

I see Robin of Sherwood has been delayed until next year - so no Herne the Hunter for a while then... and with Kult releasing Andromeda (presumably in glossy two disk boxed sets like Lexx and Farscape), the future of TV on DVD looks rosy (if painful to my bank balance). Now where's the next Champions disk Carlton?
Archive link

      ( 08:59 )  
Day off Friday allowed me to check my car - okay, rear tyre pressure was a little low, and the oil level is still in the black, so I left that alone. Car still sounds ugly, but hey, as long as it goes, right?

Also managed to change money for Italy trip... the Italians need to knock three zeros off their currency - the smallest note the bank can change is 5000 Lira (or llira, or liira, or something...), which at current exchange rates is about 1.60 GBP... As long as I remember to treat it as a 5 pound note, and remember to divide by three to get the UK equivalent, I should be okay.

Grandparents visited Saturday / Sunday - I was forced to drink far too much but this was expected, so no harm befell me... I even felt almost human on Sunday (although I was not amused that dinner clashed with the Grand Prix kick off). Otherwise the weekend was a write off.

The highlight of this morning - the 2001 IF competition games are out. IF (Interactive Fiction) is the artsy term for text adventures (and their ilk), such as the Infocom game Zork. There's a competition every year with the only requirement being games must be winnable in two hours (so they're a reasonable size - could be played in a lunch hour at a push...) - there's one month to vote, and there are 50 odd games at the following address:

Archive link


Powered by Blogger

[ Registered! ]