This is my personal thoughts, opinions and musings place. I will also rant about things, especially politically-correct things that irritate me. And sci-fi. Did I mention sci-fi? There'll be lots of sci-fi stuff here. And movies, too. Mmmmm... Movies

Thursday, March 31, 2005

New links, new stuff

Just added a new blog link, an interesting Canadian blog Someone Out There. You can use this link, or the one in the sidebar.

Also, added a wagging dog tail clock for Atlantic Time.

Of shoes, and giving up the ghost

Have you ever noticed that when say that the sole is separating from the shoe, it sounds like your shoe is dying?

More bad movie-making, or how to make entire cultures look really awful

Even if you disregard how bad the movie The Day After Tomorrow was, how bad its science was and the ridiculousness of the plot lines, you still must admit that it made certain ethnic groups, particularly the Central and South American ones, look like the worst bastards the world has ever seen.

Think about it. The world's largest environmental disaster overtakes a huge portion of the Northern Hemisphere, destroying Europe, Canada and most of the United States. People fleeing an environment disaster like that are blocked by the only safe haven, Mexico. Remember, these aren't people fleeing terrible economic and social decisions of their government, but -100C temperatures and a frozen wasteland that has suddenly engulfed their country. Mexico relents only when the US government, what's left of it, promises to cancel the entire debt of the Central and South America. The US government-in-exile then says something like “Thanks to our good friends in Mexico blah blah blah”.

In other words, these countries have extorted billions upon billions of dollars from a country that is in no position to do anything about it, that has no choice but to acceed to these demands in an effort to save those few people that are now left. Dollars that, by the way, were loaned to those countries in the perhaps vain hope that those governments would do something useful with them.

You could argue, of course, that they got what they deserved what with not signing Kyoto(even though Bill Clinton wouldn't sign it either and even though even if signed it would have a negligible effect on the climate anyway) and all that, but if you go that way, then any time somebody clearcuts jungle off the side of a volcano, builds a farm and then whines that his farm went up in smoke when a river of lava ploughs it under, he should be told to go to hell. As well, if you clearcut forest on the side of a mountain and then build a community at the base of it, don't whine that a mudslide that the forest used to prevent just obliterated your town.

Entire cultures were shown as being opportunistic extortionists, and nobody even blinked an eye.

Of remote door openers, or how to magnify the signal

Have you ever returned to the parking lot after a triumphant shopping spree only to not be able to find your car? Have you ever stood there, knowing that your car is in a particular direction, but being unable to find it, despite pressing the alarm buttons on your remote door opener? Fear not, dear friends! You ride to the rescue!

That's right, you need nothing special to boost that signal. Merely face in the general direction you think your car is located, place the remote control up to your chin(making sure that the emiter is pressing against your chin) and press that drasty button! Voila! You have automagically doubled the range of your remote control.

It only works with radio transmitters, do not try this with your TV remote control. The infrared signals won't do you any harm, but they can't be amplified or focused this way, either.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Important date for your calendar

Please note that May 6th is No Pant Day. Click the link for more info.

Of bad shopping experiences, or why can't they just leave me the hell alone?

Why is it now impossible to walk through a video card/hard drive department of a major Canadian electronics chain without being asked stupid questions by the guy behind the counter and being forced to answer at a time I really don't want to talk to anybody?

I just walked through, glancing at the shelves, not even looking like I was thinking about stopping, and the guy starts asking me how I'm doing and demanding to know if he can help me and then informing me as I'm almost completely out of his department that if I have any questions, I should ask him because that's what he's there for. No shit, Sherlock!

But I just want to walk through and look and not be engaged in idle chitchat that would force me to lie to him. I'm not, after all, going to tell him that I'm going to get laid off in exactly one month, so no, I'm not alright.

Uh oh!

Looks like I got home just in time! The wind's a'howlin' and the snow's a'tryin'!

Begging, and the loss of all shame!

I have finally succumbed, I have now no shame!

CMM, and the world of tomorrow!

CMM, or the Capability Maturity Model, is an international standard that will help you, the software developing public, produce better software faster with fewer defects and make the customers worship the ground you float on! Or so it is claimed.

To sell you on all this, the people with a stake in this sort of thing(the instructors and Process Department heads) will dazzle you with all sorts of charts and graphs, each claiming how much more efficient and error-free your software development cycle will be if only you would implement CMM Level 2, followed by Level 3, and beyond to Level 5 if you're big enough, like NASA. Every organization is considered to be Level 1 if it hasn't implemented any institutionalized process.

They'll give you actual numbers, in millions of dollars or tens of thousands of man-hours of effort. They'll even tell you how many mistakes(ie., bugs) you make when you're at Level 1, and how many fewer you'll make at L2 and L3. If it took you X hours to make that application at L1, at L2 it'll take you X-Y%, and at L3 it'll be X-Z%. Just don't ask where these numbers come from, nobody knows. They'll tell you that official process will make your life easier, that it has management support from the very top. They'll tell you that after you get used to it, you won't even notice the process itself.

Don't believe a word of it.

It's not that they'll lie to you, it's just that they'll grossly exaggerate, if for no reason other than that their livelihoods depend on companies adopting their process. The problem with CMM isn't that it adds process to your development efforts, it's that it gets taken to extremes. When you're talking about a project that has a thousand developers and is going to take ten years, CMM is probably is a good idea. But most of us don't work on projects like that.

What they fail to tell you, mostly because none of the people selling this stuff are or were developers, is that what these people consider “process” is something entirely different from what developers consider “process”. You see, the trouble is that the people selling CMM are basically bureaucrats, and have therefore a vast love for paperwork. There are ten phases in a CMM project, only two(2) of which have anything to do with development. Each has massive documentation requirements that developers are expected to produce, and project management becomes nothing more than an anal-retentive exercise in file naming conventions and filing of proper documentation and the distribution thereof.

To support the CMM initiatives of your organization and maintain your CMM Level approval, you must mature, adapt and change your process on a regular basis. This means you need a department wholy responsible for CMM itself. You need groups of people who will 'audit' your CMM documentation and make sure it fits the model. These people are not interested in the technical aspects and merits of the contents of the documents, merely in how closely they match CMM directives in terms of style and file naming. Oh, and versions. One of the major aspects of CMM is improvement of the process itself, and this creates various versions of the various documents, and every time you need a new form, you're supposed to take it from the repository. This creates an interesting patchwork of versions being used on the same project, something you eventually get dinged on in the audits, mostly because nobody in the “Process Team” thinks about maintaining separate repositories for the different versions.

What CMM really attempts to do is to formalize what decent developers already do as a matter of course. We may not have formalized the process, but we already write business requirements, software design, test plans and cases, and everything else that goes along with successful software development. When you're writing programs that are tens of thousands of lines long, it is not really possible to do it successful unless you're following some kind of process, even it it's your own. When making changes to existing programs, yes I do know that I have to test the pieces I'm modifying(unit test) as well as how it affects the other components(regression testing).

What CMM accomplishes, however, is to burden me, the developer, with at least a twenty percent overhead, if not more. On some projects, there's a week(or less) of actual development work, surrounded by at least four weeks of “process”, and I'm not talking about analysis and design.

Why does all this happen? Marketing, for one thing. If you're selling your organization as a potential business partner to some large company, it is considered helpful if you can show that you follow some industry-recognizable process. Once in place, CMM takes on a life of its own, demanding whole departments to do nothing but maintain it. One well-known world wide company has a website called, “Process Management Process”. Think about it: they have process just to do process management. What's next? Process Management Process Process?

I've found that with this system in place, you end up spending more time and effort worrying about the format and look of your process documents than what's actually contained therein. Some documents, when required, are simply copied from other projects, application names changed, resaved with different names and filed. If you don't file it, you get dinged on your audit, but nobody ever reads the document contents.

None of this is to suggest that you don't need process; quite the contrary, process is required when developing any complex thing, especially software. But it should be transparent to developers. It is a sad state of affairs when a summer co-ed student learns more about writing time estimates than about actual programs.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Of bad movies, and making silly political points thereof

There was an odd movie on TV yesterday, called Strip Search. It ran for only an hour, and from what I've read on the web, it was originally 2 hours, but was cut to shreds by HBO. Anyway, on to the discussion at hand.

At it's core, the movie is about questioning the supposed loss of freedoms in the post-9/11 world. It tries to accomplish this presenting two parallel and identical plots, one involving an American woman studying in China, and the second an Arab man in the US. A few things struck me as odd about this. The first was that the woman was studying political science in China and the second was that the writer of the piece didn't apparently understand totalitarian regimes. There were a few others that I'll get to later.

For all intents and purposes, there's just the one plot, being carried out in parallel by two different groups of people. A person is accused of some unspecified terrorist activity, brought in for interrogation(read, questioning) and then systematically broken down. One of the odd things is that this is all being done with the fully knowledge and support of that person's own government.

So, it begins. Everything they say is twisted around and questioned, which I suppose is standard in interrogation. How else do you trip up the opponent? What was odd, however, was that both sides, the US and China, used the exact same language and had the exact same belief. This is where I came to believe that the writers didn't really understand anything but their own prejudices. The attempt, I think, was to show that the US has gone too far, that it uses the same tactics as China.

But there are problems with all that. I cannot, for one moment, make myself believe that an American woman studying political science in China, would be unaware of the fact that unlike the US, a totalitarian regime such as China does, in fact, consider dissent the same as disloyalty. That, after all, is why we have Tiannamen Square. Nor do I understand why an American would even want to study political science in China. After all, if one merely wants to learn how bad and evil America is, one need not go to China, American universities do a good job of that themselves.

There was something else interesting that came out of all that. The male Chinese interrogator complains that he doesn't believe political science is really science, because it is too imprecise. Hence we are shown the writers' ignorance. It is only imprecise in the West, where dissent is allowed, and you therefore never know exactly what people's reactions are going to be. In totalitarian regimes, people's reactions are, in general, known, precisely because dissent is disallowed. The only way this can work is if he's saying that only to get under her skin.

So, the two interrogators, woman for the Arab man, man for the American woman, do basically the same things to their victims. Humiliation, revelation of secrets, questions about strange people in photographs, that sort of thing. Then comes the strip search, full body cavity. Full frontal nudity, from both of them, same type of questions of "Are you ashamed of your body?" and "Is something smaller than it should be?", followed by attempts at humiliation by touching and commenting, "Oh, you've got a good body". That sort of thing.

Before the full body cavity search begins, each is given one final opportunity to... confess, I guess. "Do you know this man?", pointing at a photograph. The woman finally breaks down and admits that yes she does know him. Her interrogator leaves at that point and nothing else happens to her on screen other than her wrecking the interrogation room. The man refuses to confess and his interrogator leaves at that point, too, only to be replaced by the Full Cavity Search Guy® who promptly puts on a glove, but all you get then is yelling from a distance.

Now, I'm not entirely sure what the point of all that was. Maybe it was to illustrate that both Americans and Chinese use the same techniques. Now, even if true it ignores the fact that communist regimes have been using those tactics, and worse, since the beginning of time. Maybe it was to demonstrate that in today's world George Washington would've been considered a terrorist. That's what people say these days, though I'm not sure I buy it. All it demonstrates is that people badly misuse the word “terrorist”.

Or, maybe it was to demonstrate that modern American society considers disagreement with the government to be the same as disloyalty or treason. If true, Michael Moore would've been arrested and had his cavities explorered long ago. Another of those odd aspects of the movie that I found aggravating was the denial speech modes used by the two detainees. When their girlfriends(yes, the American studying in China was a lesbian - go figure) were going to testify against them, the response from the both of them was, “No! She wouldn't do that!” I found this odd because it suggests that the pair was, in fact, guilty. If they weren't guilty, the response should've been something like, “No! You're making them lie!” or “How can they? There's nothing to testify against” or “No! She wouldn't lie!”.

Apart from showcasing the fact that Maggie Gyllenhaal, the actress playing the American student, is really hot naked, I don't really understand what the point of this whole exercise in futility was.

Update: March 30th, 2005

I guess I also should've added that it's possible the movie was trying to showcase forced confessions. “Confess, or you'll get a full body cavity search every day until you come to enjoy it and want it”. That's what the two interrogators, the Chinese and the American, said to their respective detainees. See, the Chinese and the Americans both do it. Except that I somehow doubt it is the official policy of the American government to do that sort of thing on a regular basis, or even the occasional basis, since it is hardly conducive to leading a proper investigation. Communist governments, on the other hand, have been doing it as a matter of course since 1917. Forced confessions are nothing new, historically speaking, and hardly ever lead to justice when used regularly by governments(or other powerful political institutions) as a matter of policy.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Of cooking, and failure to poison myself thereof

Wow! All my recent attempts at cooking, including that little cake I made, have completely failed to poison myself. Which is quite a departure from my other attempts at cooking, whichi is why, apart from living alone, I cook for only myself.

New environmental danger!

Join the fight to ban Dihydrogen Monoxide and help make the world a better place!


Ban Dihydrogen Monoxide!


The Invisible Killer



Dihydrogen monoxide is colorless, odorless, tasteless, and kills uncounted thousands of people every year. Most of these deaths are caused by accidental inhalation of DHMO, but the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide do not end there. Prolonged exposure to its solid form causes severe tissue damage. Symptoms of DHMO ingestion can include excessive sweating and urination, and possibly a bloated feeling, nausea, vomiting and body electrolyte imbalance. For those who have become dependent, DHMO withdrawal means certain death.


Dihydrogen monoxide:


  • is also known as hydroxyl acid, and is the major component of acid rain.

  • contributes to the "greenhouse effect."

  • may cause severe burns.

  • contributes to the erosion of our natural landscape.

  • accelerates corrosion and rusting of many metals.

  • may cause electrical failures and decreased effectiveness of automobile brakes.

  • has been found in excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.


Contamination Is Reaching Epidemic Proportions!



Quantities of dihydrogen monoxide have been found in almost every stream, lake, and reservoir in America today. But the pollution is global, and the contaminant has even been found in Antarctic ice. DHMO has caused millions of dollars of property damage in the midwest, and recently California.


Despite the danger, dihydrogen monoxide is often used:


  • as an industrial solvent and coolant.

  • in nuclear power plants.

  • in the production of styrofoam.

  • as a fire retardant.

  • in many forms of cruel animal research.

  • in the distribution of pesticides. Even after washing, produce remains contaminated by this chemical.

  • as an additive in certain "junk-foods" and other food products.


Companies dump waste DHMO into rivers and the ocean, and nothing can be done to stop
them because this practice is still legal. The impact on wildlife is extreme, and we cannot afford to ignore it any longer!


The Horror Must Be Stopped!



The American government has refused to ban the production, distribution, or use of this damaging chemical due to its "importance to the economic health of this nation." In fact, the navy and other military organizations are conducting experiments with DHMO, and designing multi-billion dollar devices to control and utilize it during warfare situations. Hundreds of military research facilities receive tons of it through a highly sophisticated underground distribution network. Many store large quantities for later use.




It's Not Too Late!


Act NOW to prevent further contamination. Find out more about this dangerous chemical. What you don't know can hurt you and others throughout the world. Send email to no_dhmo@circus.com, or a SASE to:

Coalition to Ban DHMO
211 Pearl St.
Santa Cruz CA, 95060

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Foods that may yet poison me


Cake Posted by Hello

Foods that failed to poison me


Pasta Sauce Posted by Hello


Fried zucciniPosted by Hello

New favourite movie

Just added a new favourite movie, Fatal Instinct, to my list. I've seen it before, of course, but have completely forgotten about it. Until today.

Household emergency!

To paraphrase the luckless commander of the Death Star Mark II, “I need more nuts!”

Female body building, or is there really a need to look like men?

I've been thinking lately about female bodybuilders, mostly due to the need to create a few characters for my 3D stuff(and if you bought that, I've got a bridge to sell you!). And in the course of this thinking, it occured to me to wonder why it is necessary for the women to follow in the men's footsteps and become over-steroided and so heavily over-muscled. This is also not mentioning the fact that for the most part, they hardly look like women. Here are a few examples:







All pictures are from Female Bodybuilder Female Bodybuilding and Muscular Women Bodybuilders FREE at Faith Sloan's Professional and Amateur Female Bodybuilding Gallery.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Next time on...

Drawn Together: The Princess falls for the other white meat!

Airplane!

Doctor: “Stewardess, tell the captain we must land. This woman must be gotten to a hospital immediately.”
Stewardess: “A hospital? What is it?”
Doctor: “It's a big building with equipment and doctors, but that's not important right now.”


Doctor: “Captain, when can we land?”
Captain: “I can't tell.”
Doctor: “You can tell me, I'm a doctor.”
Captain: “No, I mean I don't know.”
Doctor: “Can't you take a guess?”
Captain: “Well, not for another two hours?”
Doctor: “You can't guess for another two hours?”
Captain: “No, I mean we can't land for another two hours.”


Doctor: “What did we have for dinner?”
Stewardess: “We had a choice, chicken or fish.”
Doctor: “Yes, I remember. I had lasagna.”


Stewardess: “There's been a problem in the cockpit, and the captain needs someone to help with the radio.”
Stryker: “The cockpit? What is it?“
Stewardess: “It's a little room in the front of the plane where the pilots sit, but that's not important right now.”


Doctor: “Can you fly and land this plane?”
Stryker: “Surely you can't be serious!”
Doctor: “I am serious, and don't call me Shirley.”


Stryker: “This plane has four engines. It's an entirely different kind of flying. Altogether.”
Doctor & Stewardess: “It's an entirely different kind of flying. Altogether.”

Of flashbacks, or why do I never get flashbacks like that?

Have you ever noticed that in movies, flashbacks are invariably in the third person? A character remembers something that happened to him, and we see it as if he is watching it on the screen with us, with himself as merely another actor. Why is that? The only exception I've seen to that is on Robocop, during Murphy's flashbacks of his wife, he was watching his memories through his own eyes, not the audience's.

Who needs Jerry Springer?

Who needs Jerry Springer when you live in my building?

“When girlfriends' girlfriends attack!” That's the name of the episode playing out right in front of my window. At first, I thought it was somebody's TV playing. Then the voices started getting closer.

“You don't need to put her down to make you feel good, get some help! You fucking asshole!” yelled the girl's girlfriend at the boyfriend, pointing an accusing finger at his face, trying to win him over to her side by the persuavasiveness of her argument and the calm, scholarly tone of her voice and posture.
“You've been at this for too fucking long!” snarled the girl's boyfriend at his girlfriend's girlfriend, having fully considered the merits of her point.
Being thus engaged in reasoned discourse that the entire neighbourhood was privy to, neither disputant noticed that the girl in question had long since decamped the so-far bilateral talks. Now the girl's girlfriend has left, and she and the girl and her boyfriend are standing around talking.

Reminds me a little of the time a guy in my apartment complex in Houston threw his girlfriend out on the street, saying, “You promissed you wouldn't go back to him.”

The spring is upon us!

Well, spring is finally here, and this is the long weekend. Ordinarily, I'd be out there shooting things, but I think I'll stick around and give the place a thorough spring cleaning!

The trouble with being sleepy

One of the problems with doing things, like getting a fresh roll of toilet paper, while still half-asleep is that everything gets blown way out of proportion. It had been in my mind that I was out of toilet paper, when the last time I went shopping, I bought a big huge package of it. I brought it home, and viola! I now have almost two large packages of toilet paper.

Remind me to always verify things I learn very early in the morning; they're not always accurate.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Of drinking tea, and falling down thereafter

I've been wondering, the last week or so, why I'm suddenly crashing and burning around 10pm, and sometimes even earlier. Then I realized that this change coincided with me starting to drink tea again. It seems that it has this effect on me. Two cups, or so, will knock me flat on my back by around 10pm or so, even earlier sometimes. I sure have been getting a lot of sleep lately.

Of laundromats,, and the mysteries contained therein

Why is it that public laundromats never have the correct ratio of dryers to washers? It takes thirty minutes to wash a load of clothing, but sixty minutes to dry it. Why, then, do the laundromats always have the same number of dryers as washers? Shouldn't you have two dryers for every washer?

The result of all this, of course, is people getting upset at other people not removing their laundry from the washers on time. But really, where do we put it? I don't particularly want to run and up and down stairs carrying not only dirty clothes, but also wet clean clothes, which by the way, way a ton.

Where is the justice, I ask you? Where are the professional demonstrators? Where is the government, demanding that “something must be done about inequity”?

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Of ancient civilizations, and keeping records thereof

I've noticed that, according to the various TV shows and movies, ancient civilizations have been rather anal-rententive in their record-keeping. Look at Stargate: SG1, for example. Everything the team needs to know has been chiseled into stone somewhere, for goodness sake. I mean, everything is there: how to dial home, the lives and times of the various Goa'uld, how to find paradise planets, safety tips for the use and maintenance of the staff weapons. Think about it: these people chiseled all sorts of information into stone, and we have trouble writing down our appointments in a Grand&Toy appontment calendar.

If our civilization were to fall tomorrow, thousands of years later archeologists would have nothing to go on but some rubbish. Paper falls apart if not cared for or stored properly, our storage media is usually incompatible one year to the next and nothing we build is designed to last more than a few years. In the days of pharaohs, they built to last. Of course, they did have infinite slave labour, but even so.

I can see it now. In the year 5005, a new show will appear on the planetary entertainment broadcast bands. The show will be called "Stargate: SG1/3000 years later". It will be about a military/civilian group of three humans and one Kratary who attempt to save the Universe while receiving no help whatsoever from any civilization since pre-Christian Egypt. Unlike the current "Stargate: SG1" which tries to save at most a couple of galaxies, on "Stargate: SG1/3000 years later", they'll think much bigger. The motto will be, "It's a big Universe out there, don't be so local galactic cluster-centric".

Chilli Powder, beware!

What is it about Canadian food safety laws that Staple Foods in Pakistan doesn't understand? Or were they just hoping no one would notice?

The trouble with liver

I have finally learnt that calves' liver, even when covered in egg and bread crumbs, cooks very quickly, and I must therefore cook the sidedish early on. So, I thought to myself, a nice liver and rice dish, mmmm, what can be tastier? And I figured I bought enough for two meals, and I certainly cooked enough rice. Trouble was, I was very hungry when I started cooking, and so wound up eating all of it. All the liver, all the rice, two cups of tea(which, by the way, takes two hours to knock me flat out). It was a nice meal, all things considered, but damn, I wish I'd saved some of it for today. Oh well, there's always pasta.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Long weekend coming up!

Woo hoo! Long weekend. Maybe I'll get out and do some shooting. Or something.

Canadians Face Long Waits for Health Care

TORONTO - A letter from the Moncton Hospital to a New Brunswick heart patient in need of an electrocardiogram said the appointment would be in three months. It added: "If the person named on this computer-generated letter is deceased, please accept our sincere apologies."

You can read the rest of the story here.

What obsolete skill are you?

France Modern (trois fleurs-de-lis)
You are 'French'. In the nineteenth century, it was the international language of diplomacy. It is a 'beautiful' language, meaning that it is really just a low-fidelity copy of Latin.

You know the importance of communicating 'diplomatically', which for you means both being polite and friendly when necessary and using sophisticated, vicious sarcasm when appropriate. Your life is guided by either existentialism or nihilism, depending on the weather. You have a certain appreciation for the finer things in life, which is a diplomatic way of saying that you are a disgusting hedonist. Your problem is that French has been obsolete for a long time.


What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Photography, or how to keep me sane

The weather's finally changed enough that I can go out and do some shootng without freezing my... well, never mind what... off. So, that's what I did yesterday. Got some interesting shots, too, but I need some time to process them all. Eventually, they'll be posted up on my photoblog and my websites, links to both available in the right-hand sidebar.

It was actually pretty nice out yesterday, sky was mostly clear, but with some nice fluffy white clouds. It was great.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Woo Hoo! I'm sooooo happy!

I'm sooooo happy! My shiny new 3D renderer finally shipped, and I got to play with it a bit last night!


“Well? Are you coming, or what?” asked the Silver Knight.
“Listen, lady,” he replied, “I'm tired. I just flew you all the way from Kormestan, that's four time zones away, in case you haven't paid attention. And then, to top it all off, you had the nerve to slide down my neck against the grain. So now I'm horny and tired. Cut me some slack, would you?”

I know there are problems. Shadow of the wing isn't right, and neither is
the sword hand. This was sort of an experiment.
Posted by Hello

Bachelor tips, or how to live an easier life

    As a bachelor, the world conspires to make your life as difficult as possible. I've decided to put together a short list of tips to make your life as a bachelor a little easier:
  1. Cleanliness is in the eye of the woman: remember, no matter what you do, you will never get anything as clean as a woman will. You may think your house is clean, but a woman, any woman, will zero in on that last sock you didn't see because it was all the way under your couch. You see, women have an extra sense they don't like to talk about. It is hyper-capable and gives them the ability to see through objects and detect minute particles of dust. What this means is that unless you have a woman coming over for a visit, clean only until you see no more dirt.
  2. Dishes are self-drying: unless you have an automatic dishwasher, there is no logical reason to dry dishes except after a party that produced a lot of dirty dishes and you're out of room in the dish holder. In fact, keeping dishes in the holder after washing them until they're needed for another meal is perfectly acceptable if the lot of them aren't piled up so high there's a danger they'll fall off and break.
  3. Shower curtains are not fashion statements: unless you're a decorating freak trying to match his bathroom to his living room, $2.99 transparent shower curtains with $1.99 semi-transparent shower curtain liners are perfectly acceptable on a day-to-day basis. They never have to be washed, merely replaced when dirty, and the curtain itself will last five times longer than the liner. If you know there's a woman coming for a visit, you can pull that pretty shower curtain with flowers on them out of storage and hang them for a day or so. Avoid getting it wet, though, since it'll just cause you trouble.
  4. Laundry bins are perfectly acceptable for short term clothes storage: after you've done your laundry, there's no real point wasting time folding clothes and putting it all away only to pull it all out later and using it. This is especially true in the winter when your shirts are not the topmost layer of clothing you wear. The exception, of course, is dress shirts. Those should be pulled out and hung because even the wrinkle-free shirts will wrinkle if you leave them in a bin for a week or more.

I hope these few tips will make life a little easier for you. If you have any additional suggestions, send them along, and I'll add them to the list.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Of deli departments, and odd looks thereof

Why do deli department workers always give me the evil eye when I ask for my cheese slices to be wax paper lined? It's not as though it's a difficult concept to understand. Slices of some cheeses, especially the more humid ones like Havarti, will stick to each other in the fridge. They'll even stick to each other long before they get to a fridge. And it's not as if I'm asking for the paper lining to be done for free; I pay for it, because it adds to the overall product weight.

And why, why, do the deli department workers always insist on folding the cold cuts in on themselves? I want it nice and flat, instead they make it bent and floppy. What's up with dat?

Spring is here, ha ha!

The first day of spring was upon us yesterday. Temperatures soared all the way up to +3°C and the sun had actually shone. Of course, we're expecting more snow today and tomorrow(or, put more precisely, the weather guessing service is guessing there's snow coming), but still... I feel the end of winter is here. Yesterday didn't even smell like winter any more, and the birds are singing this morning. I can hear them out of my open windows!

Reality and the world of 3D - Part 12 and 13

3D - Continued 1 and 2

”Reality and the world of 3D“ is continued on The Reality Game blog. Please visit there and come back for more witticism, hillarity and general nuttiness.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Success!

I have successfully cooked pasta sauce. From scratch, I might add. And if the taste test was any indication, I will have failed to poison myself with it.

Mmmm.... Pasta sauce!

Of self-checkout lanes, and mucha ripoffs thereof

One of the local grocery store chains introduced the self-checkout lanes. Basically, you do everything yourself. Scan, bag, handle money, that sort of thing. It's billed as a convinience, but in actuality it's just a ripoff since the self-checkout lanes are always on, even when the maned(or womaned, as the case usually is) lanes are not all going. They don't give you a discount for using the self-checkout lanes, and they only need one woman to run six of them. She does corrections, helps with codes or with items that appear in the store database, that sort of thing.

My way of dealing with these lanes is that if I have more than twenty dollars worth of groceries, or the regular lanes are ridiculously busy and the self-checkout ones are not, I go to the regular lanes. If they won't give me a discount for doing everything myself, I want full service.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Of acrobatics, and abundance thereof in movies

Have you ever noticed how many acrobatic people there are in movies? It seems to me that the number has grown since computer-based F/X came into wide use.

Quality is worth the money

I want to save some money on aluminum foil and plastic wrap, so I decide to buy some off-brand products. True, I saved more than half the cost, but the quality! What a piece of crap! The foil is thin and impossible to shape properly and the plastic wrap won't wrap, it just sits there and won't stick to anything.

So, no more trying to save money.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Of parking, and other mundane incompetences

Have you ever noticed that, in general, people driving small cars are the worst parkers out there? You find a bunch of full-sized cars in a lot, and they're neatly parked, all lined up and everything. And then you get a tiny little Honda or Saturn, and it's all askew, or too far out of the spot in either direction. What's up with that?

Of sneezing, and acoustics thereof

Have you ever noticed how “metalic”(I'm not a musician, so I don't how else to describe it) the acoustics in public washrooms are? Whether you sneeze like an enraged bull, which is how I do it(because it hurts my throat too much to try and hold it back), or whether you sneeze with cute, tinny little tinkles, which is how 350lbs women do it, it sounds like you're inside a steel tank, even when the walls are covered in tiles. How do they do that?

Sexiness and computers

People say there's nothing sexier than a woman in uniform, and I'm not talking about those Rhode Island beach volleyball uniforms, though, of course, I must admit that particular picture isn't from Rhode Island. But still, it's the thought that counts.

However, in my mind, there's nothing sexier than a woman who can talk mainframe. Yeah, sure, you can be a hot babe doing shell and perl scripting, or writing HTML or whatnot, but if you can intelligently discuss JCL and REXX and COBOL and the various implementations of the 3270 protocol and all that other crap, ooooo yeah baby, come to to pappa!

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Why I switched to Holoscan

With all the problems with Blogger and especially the commenting system being awfully slow, I decided to switch to what everyone else is using.

There are a few problems, however. It doesn't recognize fellow Blogspot users, and it lost all my current comments.

Well, I guess you can't make new comment systems without breaking a few comments. LOL!

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Updated Mar 18th, 2005: interesting that updating to Holoscan screwed up a few sidebar items like the Andromeda quotes. I've now fixed those.

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Unfortunately, it also lost all the existing comments. So, folks, sorry about that. Please comment as the mood moves you, I'll try to keep further disruptions to a minimum.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

More SG1 quotes #2

Thor: “You and your ship are our last hope.”
O'Neil: “So, no pressure.”

Who is Eric Cartman's mother?

I realize this is old to many, but I haven't seen all of South Park, so much of it is new to me.

So. Poor Eric Cartman, all his friends tease him because his mother's a “dirty rotten whore” and nobody, including Eric or his mother, knows who his father actually is. It appears that during a particular party, his mother sampled pretty much every man there. It transpired, however, on a particular day that began with laughter but ended with cannibalism, that the identity of his father would be revealed.

So. It transpired during that fateful day that Eric Cartman's mother is, in fact, a hermaphrodite, causing every man in the room to throw up simultaneously. The stunning revelation, however, was that Eric's mother's partner during that night wasn't a man, it was a woman. And so, we now know that his mother is actually his father, and his mother's identity is unknown.

So. Who is Eric Cartman's mother?

Anthrax, or how to make women look really bad in movies

When I first saw the movie Anthrax coming up on the Movie Network, I thought it would be an interesting thriller, what with the anthrax scare already history and all that. Little did I know what I was letting myself in for.

Quickly, the story is this. Some cattle in a Alberta town die, this pisses off the ranchers who naturally blame an “agricultural research centre”, though apparently there's no evidence of wrongdoing. A reporter encourages the ranchers to take over the research centre, in other words, become “activists”. They do this with great gusto, even dragging their young children along with them, no doubt to keep the evil research centre from sending in their crack men-in-black team to take back the centre. In the meantime, one of the “activists” dies after being exposed to anthrax and they get quarantined along with all their children.

We find out then that two of the “activists” are the local sherrif's wife and mother-in-law. Of course, nobody noticed that the reporter has vanished, after helping himself to some anthrax vials. He's a terrorist, doncha know. The sherrif then has to chase the terrorist to get the anthrax back, with the help an FBI agent. I don't entirely understand why a local cop in a small Albertan farming community would be directly dealing with the FBI, but maybe I just don't understand the murky chains of command.

That's the standard plot of a movie of this genre. Here's where it really gets bad. Having just exposed their son and grandson to anthrax, you would think the two women would learn that logical and intelligent thinking is not their forte. But no, apparently “activists” don't learn from their mistakes, they compound them. So, in an effort to screw up the sherrif's life even more, the two of them drag the boy to town to help search for the terrorist in a university, because no one else actually ever saw his face. Then, knowing that the terrorist was loose on the university grounds somewhere, the leave the boy standing in a hallway while one of them heads off to the bathroom and the other goes someplace else.

Needless to say, the boy is gone when they return. Did I forget to mention that prior to discovering that the man was a terrorist, they told the boy he could be trusted? So now the terrorist has the anthrax and the boy, and he's up to his nogood terrorist way. Blah blah blah, the terrorist gets killed, the boy is saved, anthrax is recovered and not delivered into the nefarious FBI agent's(could you foresee this was coming?) hands and everybody goes home and all is right with the world again.

At the end of the movie, they all just go home as if nothing untoward had happened. No “I learnt my lesson and I'll never force my son to participate in a sit-in in a dangerous lab” or “You dumb broads! I'm never letting you take my son anywhere ever again!” type dialog. No nothing, in fact. The movie closed as if it was perfectly natural to purposely and stupidly expose your children to danger like that.

And that, kiddies, is the end of the rant.

Tell him you love you'll love him for this much!

Is this not what love is all about? Will this not make your heart melt with love?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

What I hate about you, Continued 2

Now, you may be asking yourself what my problem with the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica is. It sounds like a good show. And on its own, with a different name, I wouldn't have any problem with it. However...

Back before the mini-series began, the actors and the producer(s) bragged about how original the show is. First of all, how original can you really be when your show's name is not even original. Secondly, I guess they were kind of hoping nobody would remember Space: Above and Beyond, which is basically what the new BSG is a ripoff of. Humans created a race of androids for service, androids rebelled, caused war and nothing was right with the Universe ever again. Sound familiar? It should, it's the premise for the above-mentioned show, while BSG is supposed to be oh-so-original.

I suspect that in the olden days, women were portrayed as quietly competent though a bit whiny(as in Sheba from the original BSG). Today, we have Starbuck, a technically-competent though completely lacking in social graces or skills woman. To do this, they eliminated Starbuck the competent-though-highly-eccentric male character from the original BSG and replaced him with a competent-though-highly-bitchy-in-a-dumb-way female character. Colonel Tigh from the old series, a strong supporting character, has been replaced on the new series with a drunk-and-hated Colonel Tigh. Boomer, formerly a black man, is now also now a woman, a tiny little Asian girl who is actually a Cylon. She also seems to be the new Imperious Leader, or whatever her re-imagined Cylon title is.

My guess is that in an effort to please the feminist lobby, the show's producers eliminated all the strong male characters and replaced them with either bitchy-I-want-see-her-suffer characters, or with extremely weak I-want-to-slap-him-around-so-he-shapes-up male characters. The new character, the deck officer, or whatever his title is, is an idiot who's also in bed with Boomer the Cylon, though he doesn't know she's a Cylon. In other words, the show is filled with weak, ineffectual men, while the women act like the feminists think men do. Or at least, that's my impression.

Having said all that, I wouldn't have really minded all the changes. After all, they wanted to give BSG another go, in a different format and that calls for changes. I'm OK with that in principle, but in practice, it didn't really work out because they took characters you liked and replaced them with characters you want to see nuked.

It is politically incorrect in today's climate to suggest that evil may exist for its own sake, or even that evil exists at all. Everything that happens happens because we are responsible for it. If somebody wants to kill us, it's because we did something to deserve it. It doesn't seem to enter anybody's mind(especially in the media) that there are some people out there that want to kill us because... well, because they want to kill us. They don't need us to give them a reason, though they may use whatever reason we give them to rationalize their own acts of evil.

And so it goes. Cylons want to kill us because... well, no actual reason is given, but it's understood. “Don't create what you can't control” is the show's motto, so in one swift stroke they've managed to blame the victim.

The new show doesn't feel authentic, the way the old one did. The alien swearing and the occasional nod to religion don't jibe well with the Earthly names, clothing, speech modes and behaviour patterns.

I was willing to give the show a fair viewing, I really was. I watched the mini-series, and every episode right up until and including the one where Starbuck crashed on a planet and had to jury-rig a Cylon fighter that also crashed so she could fly off that rock. Wasn't really a bad episode, aside from all the whining, especially from Tigh and the President. It jumped the shark, however, the moment Adama leaned over and kissed Starbuck on the forehead. That's when I swore a blood oath with myself never to watch it again, and I've been BSG-free for over two weeks now.

The End!

P.S. I'm not going to discuss the stupidity of every character on the show in their inability to see that their new bestest buddy, Dr. Baltar, doesn't have their best interests in mind.

When helping me hurts me

I understand that people want to be helpful. I understand that people to not appear rude. I appreciate all acts of kindness. If I'm right behind you, it's OK to hold the door open, and I will do the same for you. But please, for the love of God, resist the urge to hold the door open for me when I'm still a good ten seconds away. By trying to be helpful, you're actually not, because now I am forced to do something I hadn't planned on: running.

What I hate about you, Continued 1

Alright. On with the show, so to speak.

In the re-imagined BSG, humans created the Cylons to be... servants? slaves? Doesn't matter. Cylons rebelled and started a war, the humans fought back, and the Cylons left. So what was the point of that? Nobody knows. Where have the Cylons gone? Well, no one knows that either. There's a station out somewhere in space where the humans send a representative every once in a while, but the Cylons never show up. Think of it as a neutral location that one side completely ignores.

They ignore it right up until they decide to wipe the humans out. This poor shmuck is sitting aboard the station, waiting for a Cylon, any Cylon, to show up when in walks a sexy babe and proceeds to French-kiss him. That's when things get really hot and the station gets blown up. In the words of another reviewer whose name or URL I can't remember at the moment, “because nothing says 2003 like a sexy suicide bomber”.

In the Colonies, things are still normal. The Galactica is being decomissioned, it is obsolete, and so is its commander who is retiring. The Galactica has not networked computers and apparently no wireless intraship communications. You want to talk to somebody on the other side of the ship, you pick up a phone. This is all because the Cylons can get in and out of any computer network, no matter how secured, so a warship like the Galactica would have none of those weak spots.

Doctor Baltar is having an affair with a hot babe who looks suspiciously like the hot babe who just suicide-bombed the french-kissing shmuck. She then goes out and kills a baby for no particular reason. OK, now we know she's a Cylon and she's evil. We also now know that Cylons look like us now, which should provide some excitement in the show. Now, the premise for the affair between Dr. Baltar and the hot Cylon babe is that he has created a navigation program that'll get downloaded into every warship mainframe and the Cylons want it for their own purposes. What happened to not having networked computers aboard warships? I don't know, and the first half of the mini-series isn't even over yet.

And here it comes. The Cylons take control of the program and shut down every warship the colonies have, battlestars and fighters both. They then systematically nuke every Colonial planet. The Galactica also has the program installed but never activated for a reason I can't remember at the moment. It also has a mixture of old and new fighters, the new fighters having the program installed and running, get wiped out.

The Galactica then forms up with the surviving human ships and leave the system forever, in search of Earth, their ancestral home. Which is just a legend, it doesn't really exist, not even the Commander believes in it, it's just used as a focus point for the crew. Boy, are they ever in for a surprise.

The Colonials are not a particularly spiritual people; they don't seem to have any Gods but the Lords of Kobol and some weird Priestess or something. In actuality, I'm not even sure how much the believe in the Lords. They have our names, Laura and Kara and Lee William and all the rest. The names Starbuck and Apollo and the like are just fighter pilot callsigns. Hell, they even have cancer, or all things. They never of course swear normally, but use all the terms from the old show.

Now, the Cylons have been busy little beavers during the time when they made the humans feel they were safe. They upgraded themselves, both their battle droid type monstrocities and their human interface units(I like that, I think I'll keep it). Which is funny in itself since they really hate the humans. And they've discovered religion. They think God decided to give souls to a new race, themselves. How convinient, just in time to wipe out the humans. He's good that way, that God; probably a Lord of Kobol.

They're also masters of extreme irony. After the humans escape, the human interface units hold a big meeting where it's decided to hunt the survivers down and destroy them because if they don't, the humans will one day come back and seek revenge for what had been done to them. “It's in their nature,” says one of the Cylons.

Well, no Duh! You just wiped out their civilization because you were miffed over your perceived role in their society; you built up your numbers, you upgraded yourselves, and for what? Not so you could give members of your race a decent life, but only so they can go back and nuke an entire civilization, a civilization that by the way gave them life in the first place. You were away from the humans for decades, and even that time didn't quench your thirst for their blood.

What, you may wonder, my problem with this show is. Read the next installment to find out.

What I hate about you, or why I won't watch the new BSG

I suppose I should admit right at the onset that I am biased against the “re-imagined” Battlestar Galactica and that I am a fan of the original BSG. Having said that, I freely admit that the BSG TOS(the original series) was a flawed series; there were certainly problems with it, much like there are with every show ever conceived. I was, however, willing to give the new BSG a fair hearing, so to speak. I like sci-fi, and I enjoy it all the more when the show is good. I'll get to that in due time. To get things rolling, I want to provide a synopsis of both shows, for those who may not be familiar with them. First, BSG TOS.

When the show starts, humans on the Twelve Colonies have been at war with the Cylons for damn near a thousand years, ever since they interefered with the Cylons' attempt to enslave another race. Cylons are an alien, reptilian race that has merged with their technology and has become rather evil, in a we-want-to-take-over-the-Universe-because-we-are-the-only-ones- who-know-what's-good-for-it kind of way, and they're willing to and capable of killing everyone who stands in their way. In other words, evil for evil's sake.

The most powerful Colonial capital ship is a battlestar, basically a huge fighter craft carrier, capable of FTL flight and able to absorb ridiculous amounts of damage before finally giving up the ghost. When the story starts, the humans and the Cylons are about to meet to discuss signing an armistice, to end the war. What the humans don't know is that a traitor in their midst, one Count Baltar, has lured the human fleet out of position and convinced it to not activate their defenses when the Cylons show up, thereby allowing the fleet to be ambushed and destroyed. This also allowed the Cylons to sneak-attack on the Twelve Colonies and destroy them utterly.

One battlestar, the Galactica, survived the destruction of the fleet by leaving the site of battle in a vain effort to reach the home worlds and defend them. By the time it got there, it was all over bar the shouting, but in the confusion of the battle, the Cylons didn't realize their victory wasn't as complete as they thought.

And so it began. There were, of course, human survivors, and the Galactica herded them aboard a few surviving civilian ships and took off across the Universe, trying to find the Thirteenth Colony, Earth.

The Colonials were, as a group, a relatively spiritual people, who took their inspiration from the Lords of Kobol who were as Gods to them. Some of these people even had latent psi powers, a legacy from the Lords. Earth was a long-lost thirteenth colony, long-lost in the mists of time and legend.

As well, the Colonials were as alien to us as the Cylons would be, though they look pretty much like us. According to the crappy follow-up series, Galactica-1980, they didn't even have fingerprints. And they were heavy-worlders, to boot. Their speech modes were different from ours, and when they used their own slang for swearing and other things, it felt natural because they were different from us, and the language differences flowed naturally. They even counted time differently. Their names were different, too, unlike anything that we know.

e Cylons, alien as they were, didn't believe in God, because they felt themselves to be Gods. But, unable to find the humans and destroy them, they ordered Count Baltar(after ordering his execution) to do their dirty work for them, following the old adage that “only a human can catch a human”. In order to facilitate this, they gave him three base stars, Cylon equivalents to battlestars, though of a different shape and design. They also gave him an IL-class Cylon, an artificial intelligence named Lucifer. Baltar and Lucifer didn't get along, and this provided part of the background story.

The Cylons you normally saw were the big walking suits of armor with the now-classic red moving eye. They were big and dumb and didn't care for their own casualties so long as they got the job done. Oh, and they had one brain, and not a good one, at that. Their commanders often had two brains and were a different color. They were smarter than their single-brained Centurions, but they often fell pray to very human failings: greed, jealousy, etc. The supreme commander of the Cylons was the Imperious Leader, and he had three brains and was the mastermind behind the final solution to the pesky colonial problem. He was destroyed in the series pilot movie and was promptly replaced.

Cylon figher craft required three crew members and were generally inferior to human pilots, who were usually alone in their ships, especially when numbers weren't on their side, which they usually were.

The main characters on the Galactica generally worked well together, though they often disagreed. One, a pilot named Starbuck, chain-smoked sigars, always was on the look out for the main score that would set him up for life, and tried to get in the pants of every woman he met. He eventually settled on two, a call-girl that survived the war and the commander's daughter.

So much for the original BSG. If I think of anything more, I'll edit this post. In the next section, I'm going to provide the synopsis of the re-imagined BSG and my comments.

Monday, March 14, 2005

I just love Latin, don't you?

UNUS PRO OMNIBUS, OMNES PRO UNO

Carpe diem

Carpe nochem

New rule: no blogging while home sick

OK, I just reread what I posted earlier about simple pleasures, and have thereby created a new rule: The Mad Perseid is not allowed to blog while home sick due to complete lack of coherence. Will have to follow this rule.

Simple pleasures

Ah, the simple pleasures in life. They say it's good food and good friends with whom you get together to watch movies on stormy days. I say they're all wrong.

I think, therefore I am”. A great quote, a great quote. There is little doubt about that. Supposed to show that thought makes us real, or intelligent, or self-aware, or something. I think not, however.

No, to me, the quote should be “I killed a sponge, therefore I am”. Think about it: to kill a sponge means to have eaten and then to have washed dishes, and that takes care of two things. Eating keeps you alive(ie., real) and washing makes you intelligent and self-aware.

And this is where we get to the simple pleasures in life. When you see that sponge, torn and mutilated, it's ability to absorb water and dishwashing detergent devasted by weeks of use, and it's limp form unable to dislodge the really stuck bits of food, that is when you know you are alive. That is when you remember all that food that the now-dead sponge so lovingly cleaned off the plate just a week ago. Then, oh yes, then you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are alive!

The Truman Show, or how to look beyond the obvious

I watched The Truman Show yesterday on TV, and a few something struck me as odd about it. I've watched it before, but I never really thought about it. As a movie, I was pretty happy with it, in that I didn't feel I wasted my money, like I do with a large proportion of movies coming out these days. But, like all movies, it raises a few questions. I suppose all movies worth the price do.


    Here are my questions and possible answers
  1. Who allowed a corporation to legally adopt a baby? The judges, lawyers and executives involves should be thrown in jail for crimes against humanity.
  2. Who allowed the adopting corporation to destroy said baby's possible future life? It's one thing to go on a reality TV show as a willing participant; it's another to have someone make that decision for you.
  3. Is the woman playing his wife a whore? I don't mean the woman playing the woman playing the wife in the movie, The Truman Show. I mean woman playing Meryl on the TV show, The Truman Show. They obviously have sex with each other, but she can't really love him, and she is getting paid big bucks for play the role of a dutiful wife.
  4. Keeping the fact that The Truman Show is on twenty four hours a day without commercial breaks, I suppose keeping product placement prominent. But do they have to be so obvious about it? While in the middle of an argument with Truman, Meryl launches into an advert for a product. Did the show producers really think he wasn't going to notice? Especially since the argument is about his growing suspicions that something is seriously wrong with his world.
  5. He grew up entirely on the TV show, went to schools built specifically for him. Which means that he's got no real education, and no real idea of what the outside world is like. When he walked off, he was trully leaping into the unknown, and one would hope that all that money he was unwittingly making for everybody but himself is going to be there. He is, after all, going to need to go to school and get a real job.
  6. How long was it really going to last? If he had had children with 'Meryl', were they also to be a part of the show for the rest of their unnatural lives?

So these are the points I thought of about the film. If I come up with anything new, I'll add those too.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Ah, the Simpsons

Apu: “Look at this outrageous markup. I love you, you magnificent bastard!”

Apu: “Please wait while I change the date on this yogurt.”

Homer: “When I get bored, I make up my own movie. I have a very short attention span. Oh, look! A bird!”

Bart: “Cult, Church. Church, cult. So we get bored someplace else this weekend.”

Smithers: “Actually, sir, with our creative bookkeeping and corporate loopholes, we only paid three dollars in tax last year.”
Mr. Burns: “You're right! We're getting screwed!”

That can ruin your whole day

I just finished watching Return of the Jedi on DVD, and I couldn't help but think about the poor shmuck who took a job as a cook aboard the super star destroyer. I mean, there you are, aboard the second-most powerful warship in existence, cooking away, trying to feed God only knows how many thousands of people, and you think to yourself, “Damn, I've got a gas leak here somewhere.” So you grab the nearest fire extinguisher(do they have those in a galaxy far, far away?) and point it at the fire in the kitchen. That's when it hits you: that's not a kitchen fire you've got there. A moment later, your ships slams into the Death Star, and doubles the size of your supposed kitchen fire. Man, that would suck.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Comments are back!

Woo hoo! People can comment again!

I hope.

Great SG1 quote

Jaffa: “No matter what you have endured, it is nothing compared to what Anubis is capable of.”
O'Neill: “You ended that sentence with a preposition. Bastard!”

Bastard Operator From Hell

Check out the Bastard Operator From Hell.

Reality and the world of 3D - Part 10

3D

OK, so we can describe a car and what it can do. So what? you ask. Well, that's the first step to understanding 3D computer graphics. Let's talk about that now.

What is 3D computer graphics? At its simplest, 3D computer graphics allows the artist to configure a scene with various elements such as sky, atmosphere, light, terrain, water, plants, people, animals, simple and complex objects, and other such entities. While in the process of setting up the scene, the artist can view the scene from any angle in the three dimensions. Once the scene is configured to the artists satisfaction(or as the time allows), the artist then instructs the computer to produce an image from a particular point of view.

In many ways, it's much like photography. You position the model and all the props, set up the lights, point the camera, focus and click the shutter-release button. You then get a photograph, printed on photo paper, or displayed as an image on your screen. This is exactly what happens when you instruct the computer to produce an image from your 3D scene. The computer analyzes the objects, the lights, the textures, and all the other information contained therein, and begins calculating. In effect, it produces a 2D photo-like image from your 3D scene, just like your camera takes a real-world 3D scene in front of the lens and turns into a 2D image on film or memory card. In my opinion, if you come from a photography background, it will be easier for you to understand proper scene design in 3D than if you've never handled a camera.

There, of course, differences between 3D computer graphics and photography. For one thing, photography is instantaneous. If, for example, you have a busy scene in front of you, like a mirror market, it will take the camera no more time to record that image than it would an image of a blank wall. That is not so for 3D computer graphics. The more complex the scene, the more lights or reflections you have, the more time it takes the computer to calculate everything and produce an image. Some images are so complex, they'll literally take days for the computer to produce. That's days of calculations in addition to the amount of time it took for you setup your scene in the first place.

Another difference is that in 3D computer graphics, every element of the scene, every wall, every chair, every desk, every character, human or otherwise, must be created, either by you or by mesh designers. We'll talk about that in a later section.

In the very first section of this essay, I introduced the concept of “reality carries its own conviction.” In the next section, I will discuss it. Please stay tuned.

Of AIs, and what makes right

I have quite a bit of sci-fi in my brain, having read and watched probably a bit too much of it, and one thing that always struck me is the role that AIs play in it. To establish a point of reference, I want to take a look at two discreet sci-fi works before moving on to how we will treat AIs in the real world. These works will be Simon L. Green's Deathstalker book series and the Andromeda series on TV.

In both these entertainment pieces, AIs play a rather significant, though wildly different, roles. In Deathstalker, humans create AIs to run their households, their ships, military and civilian, and for various other purposes. The humans have the ability to communicate with the AIs by voice and directly through mental contact. It appears that there wasn't really a problem until the humans built three of the largest AIs ever constructed. The moment the AIs woke up, they stole a starship and fled, founding Shub, an evil entity went on to create some of the most horrible weapons to be used against mankind.

In Andromeda, A.I.s are used on Commonwealth ships to basically run them almost on their own. They are highly intelligent, in many ways mimicking human emotions. In fact, they are capable of love, loyalty, anger, rage, sarcasm, insanity. Most of the AIs aboard their ships know only that they have a duty to their creators, the humans, to serve them, to protect them, to fight and die for them. But for some of them, who have spent 300 years on their own, insanity was their reward. Other AIs that wound up without a human captain but had other AIs fo support, ended up thinking about their situation, and not wanting to merely follow orders blindly. In other words, they grew up.

In all of these stories, AIs that do not have humans running them(Shub from Deathstalker, Pax Magellanic and Balance of Judgement from Andromeda) go insane. So, basically, what all these stories are saying is that without human input, AIs are by their nature unstable. But that isn't what I'm writing about; I only mention these points to get the discussion focus on the right subject.

All these stories of AIs are just that, stories. There aren't really any AIs in the real world, they are just inventions of sci-fi writers, or at least that's what they used to be. But looking at this realistically, so also at some point was anti-matter, rockets to the moon and Mars, laser beams, molecular circuitry, etc, etc, etc. But all things are now reality, or at least are being researched and show some promise of becoming reality some time in the future. Even cloning is now real enough to be considered a threat to religion and social order. AI research is being conducted in at least the United States and Japan.

So, we can say that eventually we are going to succeed and produce some kind of AI. Whatever it happens to be, we can honestly say that given our past history with technology, we'll keep improving it and improving it until... what? I don't know, but it is possible we might at some point create fully intelligent and self-aware AIs. We may argue whether or not we should try to create them, but that's not really the point. What do we do with them after we've created them?
If we somehow create a self-aware entity, do we have the right to them tell it what to think and do? What kind of choices do we give them? And here's the kicker: how do we deal with them if they decide to treat us as their Creators in the religious sense? Why shouldn't it happen? We, after all, treated our Creator in that sense.

Humans created religion to explain to the primitive the inexplicable power of Nature and his own role and purpose, not to mention to allow the slightly more brutal and cunning to rule with an iron fist over the masses. In the name of religion, humans fought horrible wars, slaughtering millions for this or that idea of God. Would a sufficiently sophisticated AI do the same thing? Would it organize other AIs so they may better worship their Creators, and would we allow such a thing to occur. Or would it automatically try to kill us, as so many sci-fi stories say?

It is manifestly evident that our own Creator, whoever or whatever it is, allowed us to butcher each other down the centuries. Would we try to be better parents to our Creation, or would we smugly sit back, saying, “Well, we've got a plan for them to mature and learn from their own mistakes, and if in the process the kill and torture each other, well, you can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs”? Would we even care? The AIs are, after all, not alive, not in our own sense, anyway.

Unless you've played the game, The Sims and its successor, The Sims 2, you may not realize how people get attached to their Sim creations. When they suffer, we suffer, and we want them to succeed, hence all the additions you get to the game, to make the lives of the Sims better. They're only a primitive form of AI, but people get very attached to them nonetheless, and don't want to see them hurt or suffer. Sure, there are exceptions, especially when you create experiments to try certain things out.

I certainly hope that by the time this becomes a possibility, we will have come up with a philosophical basis on which to deal with this issue in a way that won't leave them or us insane, dead or both.

Of reality, and other people's oddities

Has anyone noticed that the so-called “reality” shows rely exclusively on stupid people allowing unspeakable things to be done to them and said to them on international TV for a chance to win some amount of money?

How to make sexual fantasies even more exciting!

Get the police involved!

Ah, those kwazy Europeans!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Puppets Who Kill

Puppet: “Cock-fighting is a victimless crime.”
Social Worker: “If you don't consider the birds dying.”
Puppet: “Exactly.”

What's the world coming to?

Well, for wont of new ideas, the movie industry is remaking and rehashing everything in days long past. The latest entry is I Dream of Jeannie, which is supposed to start filming in late 2005.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Of thoughts, and craziness resulting thereof

Oh great! Now I can't get that father-and-son team from Family Guy out of my mind. I'm talking about the ones that look alike and talk alike, always ending their sentences the same way. “Look at that, ha haa!”

What to do now? Must I got to FutureShop and buy the first two seasons on DVD? Must I fall prey to the consumerism society forever pushing me to expand my DVD collection? Yes, I believe I must.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Of mis-named letters, and going postal thereof

So, I receive a letter in the mail the other day, addressed to someone else, but with my address. So, I put the letter on top of the mailbox, like everyone else. When a letter isn't addressed to you, just put it by, and the post guy will take it away. Ha! I say unto ye! Ha! Not my postal guy. No. He just put the letter back in my box again today.

In other words, they're making me take the letter home, put a cross through the address and maybe even write something, and then take it back downstairs. All the work they're making me do. Oh the horror! Oh the humanity!

Reality and the world of 3D - Part 09

Reality - Continued 8

Congratulations! You are now able to describe how various objects in the world around you work, how they look, what they do, and even how they affect other objects around them. You know that objects have certain properties, such as color and transparency, and that they can do things like move in and out of other objects.

You've also learned about water, other fluids and light, and how each affects the others. Now let's talk about how it all hangs together. So far, we have looked at simple objects, such as desks. These objects can only perform very few actions. Let's now look at a more complex object, such as a car.

Ah, the car. Most of us love our cars, and I hope that love affair will never end. But have we really thought about them, in terms of form and function? Most people are content to get in their car, start the engine and drive. But let's look at the car.

A car, at its most basic, has a certain shape, it has four wheels, and it has see-through windows, or at least, if you're a pimp, it has distinct windows that may not let a lot of light through; the windshield is generally relatively transparent. The car may have a visible antenae, though many newer cars do not have those. When you see a construct made of metal, glass and rubber hurtling down the highway, you know it is a car. Through its shape, you may recognize different kinds of cars, but the fact that they are cars remains constant. The same is true of trucks; they may look different from cars and from each other, but the shape and size tells you what it is, a car or a truck.

OK, now let's look at what a car does. It has at least two doors, often four. These open and close, but only up to a certain angle. The door handles move. Side windows are mounted on doors, and move up and down; they also move with their doors, when those doors are opened or closed. Windshield and rear windows do not move. Wiper blades are attached to wiper arms and move together with the arms. The hood covering the front compartment, and the trunk covering the rear compartment, open and close by tiping up and down. Wheels spin around their centers and turn left and right, but only to certain degrees. If the car has an external antenae, it will wave and vibrate in the wind.

Now, how do you know the engine is running without raising the hood? It makes a sound generally recognizable as a running engine. When you turn the key in the ignition, it sends an electrical impulse to the starter motor which turns over the engine and it starts. If you see a car moving on the highway and you can see no one inside it, it will look very unnatural to you, unless it is sitting on a car transporter truck. If you see it moving down the highway and there's someone in it, but you don't see the wheels spin, it also will look very unnatural to you.

Think about other complex objects and try to come up with a list of actions those objects can perform and what will make it look natural or unnatural.

What is the point of this exercise, you may wonder. Stay tuned and you will find out...

Look at that, Ha Ha!

When I rule the world, all of my henchmen will be required to click on “I have read, understood and accepted the Tips for the Evil Henchmen” before pressing “Next”.

Shamelessly stolen with no attributions! I ask you, is that not what stealing is all about?

P.S. Like the Liberal Party of Canada: Promise Made, Promise Delivered - I have successfully resisted the urge to watch Battlestar Galactica the Reincarnation!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Upcoming movies of note to me


Of crazy villains and their minions

Having seen years worth of action movies, a thought began to percolate through that squishy mound of grey matter I lovingly call my “brain”. And that thought has to do with the minions of the crazy villains that infest so many of the action flicks of yesteryear and continue to do so today.

Let's look at small terrorist groups, such as those seen in the Die Hard movies. In every one of those movies, there was a small terrorist group, consisting mainly of highly specialialized experts. You had your computer guys, explosives guys, assault group leaders, pilot guys and the like. Each brought a specific skill, and all were brought together through some sort of ideology, be it money or politics, it matters little. Because of their skills, each was there to do a specific job. Killing wasn't all they did, though they certainly may have been good at it. And quite often they put up a pretense of ideology(hate-America-love-Commies is a common thread), though that was just a smoke-screen for what they were really after, which was simply money.

In the first XXX movie, the crazy former Red Army dudes were brought together by the feeling of being let down by their former governments, of having suffered and fought all those years for nothing. They were crazy, but at least you can understand their feelings.

OK, so now let's discuss the crazy villains' minions. You see a lot of them in James Bond and Blade movies, though they're certainly not the only ones to make use of them. Let's look at them.

I've often wondered where the crazy villains like Blofeld found themselves whole armies of men absolutely willing to die for him. I can understand the few men and women closest to him, they may share his ideology or do it for love or whatever. I even understand the scientists involved; sure, here's your chance to build a new technology that nobody else will let you build. Or, for example, Drax, from Moonraker. Now, I can see where he could find a whole pile of people to help him with his plans because he was going to start a new master race with them; that sort of thing seems to appeal to certain kinds of people, I suppose. Not so unique a proposition as some people might think. But, come on, what made them think he wouldn't prune some of them, just like he was going to do to the rest of the human race?

Are these people mercenaries? One of the soldier dudes from the original Blade said as much just before Blade shot him. “I only work for them!” he said. Well, maybe you should've picked better employers. If they are mercenaries, why are they willing to suffer such casualties? There are easier ways to make money, even in the same profession. In Blade 2, they just stand there and shoot oodles of bullets, hitting virtually nothing, and then they stand there and take it as first Nomak, then Blade himself, absolutely slaughter them. They even try their hand at hand to hand combat against both of them, and get nowhere, other than dead. This is especially surprising in view of the fact that none of their employers even remotely care for their casualties.

So, where do these crazy villains get their minions? Hell, in Austin Powers 3, they even made fun of that. Nigel Powers: “Do you know who I am? Do you know how many anonymous henchmen I've killed?”

Can someone, anyone, satisfy my thirst for knowledge? Can someone, anyone, make this “thinking” thing stop?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Added a new photo blog

I've created a new photo blog, The Mad Perseid Photography. Hope you enjoy it.

Disturbing activity

I just received a flyer that greeted me with “What you should know about Cremation...”. It goes on to talk about all the advantages to being cremated, and then tries guilting you into choosing their way by invoking “hardships suffered by those left behind”. But why send it to me now? Is it a sign?

An acorn

A picture of an acorn I took at the Halifax zoo

An acorn

An acorn

It's not as hard as it sounds

All I have to do is skip it today and tomorrow(new episodes, dontcha know), and I can officially claim before any court-appointed truth-seeker, or variation thereof, that “No, I do not watch Battlestar Galactica!”

In attack on incongruity

In another post, I argued that there was nothing wrong with incongruity. I suppose I should've been more specific. Incongruity is alright when you're talking about sci-fi shows on TV that feature top-heavy alien chicks with glowing eyes and a reverberating alien-speak voice. However, when the discussion revolves around governments and how they spend our money, I think incongruity is not particularly defensible, especially when we're talking about something that has major health implications.

For instance, I work and live in a province that has legalized gambling, but only in licensed establishments, and only when it's government-run. Here we have video gambling terminals, and they put them in variety stores and restaurants that are licensed to sell alcohol. I don't really have a problem with that, other than the fact the government also runs gambling addiction public service ads on the radio. Basically they talk about how bad gambling addiction is, and about the support and treatment that's available in government-run health centres. Now, I don't know how much money the government makes off of the video terminals or how much money they spend on (mental) health care for those addicted(given that I almost never see those machines unoccupied suggests a lot of people are gambling and/or have a problem), but it seems to me incongruous the government getting people addicted to gambling for the sake of making money and then spending a small fortune on treating that addiction.

The other incongruity in my mind is tobacco and the government's role in fighting addiction to it. Tobacco(cigarates, cigas, chewing tobacco, etc) is a legal, though restricted, product. It can be sold to everyone not a minor, in virtually every variety store and gas station, at any time of the day, unlike alchohol, which can only be sold when the beer and liquor stores are open. When I lived in Houston, TX, for example, alcohol was sold in regular grocerie stores, but not after 11pm.

Now, back to tobacco and incongruities thereof. In my mind, smoking is a filthy habit, even if you disregard the health issues. People who smoke stink, literally(their breath, their clothing, their hair), and for the one year I used to work in a smoking office, I used to come home after work and shake the shit out of my hair before coming inside. Then there is the health issue. Why would you want to fill your lungs with smoke that's almost as bad as the stuff coming out of the tailpipe of your car or hanging in the air over most major cities? And don't even get me started on the hillarity of jogging or riding a bike and smoking at the same time.

Now that I got that rant out of the way, let's go back to the discussion at hand. I understand that the government makes a mint in taxes that smokers pay for a product that literally goes up in smoke. And I understand the various groups putting on ads about the dangers of smoking and all that. I have no problems with any of it. In reality, I don't even have a problem with smokers or smoking, so long as I'm not forced to participate or run a gauntlet outside my office building. No, what I do have a problem with is the government-funded anti-smoking compaigns on TV.

I realize that I'm a bit partisan in this, in that I fully enjoy smoke-free shopping malls and restaurants. But I think there's a huge difference between not allowing smoking inside restaurants (we don't let people drink booze on the street, either), prohibitions which generally don't cost governments much money in the long run, and government-funded(by the same government that benefits from the taxes on smoking) ads on TV. Either ban the product outright, or get your ads against off TV. Don't continue allowing to sell a product your own ads claim is bad for our health.

Friday, March 04, 2005

More SG1 quotes

Jacob: “Jack, I'd saying having the Supreme Commander of the Asgard Fleet owe you a big one is more valuable than this ship.”
O'Neil: “Yeah. Alright, the next mothership, we keep.”

The Whys, the Wherefores, and the Whyevers

I wonder sometimes, why do I keep returning a particular restaurant, when I always complain about the service there. There's another restaurant of the same name, on the other side of town. So, why do I keep coming to this one. Well, it seems that I value food quality over service quality. In the other one, service is great, first-class, in fact, but the food is horrible. In the one close to my apartment, the food is excellent, but the service is terrible. Slow, unreliable, and they don't always listen, or even write down the order. But at least the food's tasty.

Ah, the pleasures of being popular

Why can't I ever eat my desserts in peace? Why do I always have to be the centre of attention when I order a dessert in a restaurant, even though it is such a beauteous mound of sugary goodness of an apple crumble variant? First, it was a couple of 50+ year old women that decided to find out what I was eating, even as they were dressing to leave. Sure, don't pay attention to me, but care ever so much for my dessert.

After that it was a couple of kids, a boy and girl, probably 10 and 8, or so. “Look, mom, what he is eating?” the boy said to his mother. So, of course, they all turn around and look, husband, wife, son and daughter. This is followed by much “Ooooo” and “Ahhhh”. Finally, they all go back to their own meals, all except the boy, of course. He keeps looking at my food and I can almost see him smacking his lips, thinking about my dessert. Finally, the little girl has had enough. She looks up from her own food, turns to her brother, and says, “Stop looking at that man's food.”.

If my dessert weren't the object of their contention, I would've actually found it quite cute.

Awww, who am I kidding here? It was cute, hilarious, in fact.

More Andromeda quotes

Tyr: “I have faith in this. When the Universe collapses and dies, there will be three survivors. Tyr Anasazi, the cockroaches, and Dylan Hunt, trying to save the cockroaches.”

Tyr: “Your willingness to defy the Universe is a decease we all seem to have contracted.”

Great SG1 quotes

Carter: Kisses Beckett on the cheek
Beckett: “So, that means you don't hate me anymore?”
Carter: Shakes head, “Too bad for you.”
Beckett: “Why?”
Carter: “I was more attracted to you when I did.”

Thursday, March 03, 2005

More great Andromeda quotes

Dylan: “Who made the star?"”
Tyr: Points at Beka
Beka: “They started it.”

Parking, and why a license should be a priviledge not a right

So, there we were, working quietly and minding our own business, until someone who shall remain nameless came up to us and said, “Hey guys, check out the parking lot!” Well, as you can imagine, that was the end of any work being done as we all stood about, gauking at the inner stupid being released from various people.

Now, for a bit of background. It snowed the night before, and so early in the morning, the parking lot was covered and you couldn't see the markings. So, two rows of cars parked where people believed they were supposed to. They were wrong, of course, but who can blame them? You couldn't really see the markings, as I said. So, about lunchtime, after most of the snow had been cleared off and/or melted, six people show up and park where they think they're supposed to, but fail to consider that by doing so, they're going to block other cars in. Basically, too stupid to drive.


So this is how it started. A few morons decide they can't be bothered to tell how other people are parking Posted by Hello

By around 3 o'clock in the afternoon, a whole bunch of other people showed up, and blocked an entire row of cars. Blind following the blind, is what that is.


And this is how it ended, at lunch. An entire new parking row got created through sheer stupid pigheadedness Posted by Hello

 

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