Saturday, April 29

16:18:00 - Idly wonder why the song 'Day & Night' by one Billie Piper seems to be downloaded from my computer via Napster so often. Must be some mp3 my brother put there.

16:20:00 - Begin to get seriously annoyed after third consecutive user downloads aforementioned song. Decide to take positive, proactive stance on Billie Piper issue.

16:20:30 - Find Billie Piper song and play it.

16:20:35 - Conclude that said song is yet another BritneyClone (tm)

16:20:40 - Said song is consigned to the Recycle Bin and permanently deleted with extreme prejudice.

In a stunning scoop for BBC News, it appears that Barbie will be running for President this year! Among her policies are methods for dealing with "world peace, animal kindness, equality." She's quoted to say that "Barbie believes in education. From music to arts and maths to science. From sport to computers. Barbie plans to make sure every school offers kids the best."

Stay tuned with Vavatch Orbital to receive an in-depth critique of this new contender to the position of the most powerful individual in the world...

7:33 PM | permalink | discuss

Here's an article written by the founder of Junkscience putting a touch of reality into Richard Branson's cancer-causing mobile phone fears.

Why is it that when I read the new PriceWaterhouseCoopers motto, I get distinctly worried: 'Join us. Together we can change the world.'

It's almost, but not quite, as worrying as a documentary I watched about another international management consultancy firm (McKinsey). They showed an in-house promo video where the presenter said quite seriously 'We deal with multinationals, world governments and the largest advocacy groups. We're the best.'

On the other end of the serious-ness spectrum appears this quote from an organiser of the fuzzily-defined 'direct action anarchist group' (my take) Mayday 2000 [here's the full article]:

"My Utopia would be a world without money, without borders and with free movement for all. A world where people have space to create for themselves, where if they want to sit in the park and chat with friends all morning, they can."

While you're going about creating your utopia, be sure to drop me off at Mars, mate.

This guy gives anarchists and libertarians a bad name. I would love to go up to these pseudo-anarchists and ask them exactly what do they want? No money, no borders? What are you going to do once you have that? Who's going to do all the work? Will you let everyone from India and China ship over to the US and Western Europe? In effect: do you have any solid, worked-out goals? If not, what credibility at all can you claim?

The phrase 'rebels without a cause' comes to mind. I doubt many of them even understand the workings of the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank, let alone talked to any people who oppose their views. I certainly don't understand it, and I'll withhold judgement until then.

2:30 PM | permalink | discuss

Friday, April 28

Before my obligatory rant, I think I'll post a few interesting links first. The Washington Times op-ed on gun-control claims that our problem isn't guns, rather, it's human nature, drawing comparisons with Britain's apparent (and I quote) 'reversion to savagery'. Apparently us savages are selling submachines on London street corners and teenagers are regularly knifing each other at discos. 'Spose that'll be the end of my going out to Liverpool on Saturday nights then; after all, it's a right bloodbath out there, all my friends carry knives when they go out.

Never mind the statistics that state that the USA has three times as many murders as the UK (source: DK World Reference Atlas 1995)

I've been keeping a close eye on the development of UK educational revision sites (I need a job this summer), and I've noticed several trends, namely:

[snip overlong rant about general incompetence of revision sites in general; summarised as lack of originality, lack of quality content, lack of change, lack of innovation]

Here's a good quote from the (ho ho) 17 year-old founder of Schoolsnet in an interview:

"How has the recent downturn in the Internet market affected you? Do you think that it will have a long- term impact?

Schoolsnet is confident that the volatile market conditions aren't going to affect us, as we possess good business fundamentals. I don't think that the fall in Microsoft share prices for example are going to have any long-term effects upon the industry."

How is it, I ask you, that a 17 year-old becomes such an expert in spouting meaningless shit? This guy quite clearly needs to visit Enormicom as soon as possible - I mean, he doesn't even have a good logo, let alone a dynamic 'slash'!

VC firms aren't going to pour money into Internet startups forever. The Internet ain't the future, kids. If you're just getting into the Internet now, and you don't have anything good or new to offer, don't bother. Frankly, I'm glad there's been so much fuss about it since it draws attention away from the real growth sectors of post-genomics and space.

Of course, you're all probably thinking that Adrian's just bitter and twisted over the fact that he doesn't have his own Internet startup company, and you'd like me to try and make a good educational site instead of slagging everyone else off.

Them's fightin' words, boy.

I've been producing a good (free!) educational site for the past few months that will truly knock the stuffing out of the current offerings. I would conjecture that all of last year's Thinkquest finalists are more original, more interactive, more entertaining and of a higher quality than any educational revision site out there. And they were all developed by high school students for free.

Perhaps these revision startups should go and correct their business plans and scrub out any mention of the words 'original', 'innovative' and 'dynamic' (which would pretty much render their business plans unreadable).

8:03 PM | permalink | discuss

Thursday, April 27

There've been a few major developments in biotech today; a major breakthrough in gene therapy curing children who have severely limited immune systems, and evidence that cloning extends the life of organisms.

It's great to see a conclusive success in gene therapy, and I can't say how good it is to hear that those kids won't have to live in sterile bubbles any more. If anyone criticises the dangers of advanced technology, I need only point to cases like these. Contrary to popular belief, scientists are here to discover and understand the world, and to help people.

Wow - the New York Times does have a sense of humour. This article on an Internet startup company run by a billionaire 17 year-old is, in fact, pretty funny.

11:14 PM | permalink | discuss

Wednesday, April 26

That's decided it; BBC News has become a fully fledged humour site now that its published a story on a school giving away a free vascetomy.

What is it with cartoons these days? I'm the first to criticise those who yearn for the 'good old days' back in the mythical sixties where there was no unemployment and everyone had a piece of bread on their jam, but this is different.

Admittedly, I'm not that old so I have a narrow frame of reference. But I remember the cartoons I watched; such educational productions as 'Dogtanian and the Three Muskerhounds' and Around the World with Willy Fogg (incidentally produced by the same Spanish company). Now those were cartoons. Along with 'Dungeons and Dragons' (that bloody goat - why didn't those kids ever eat it?) and that weird Dream thing, the eighties were a great time for animation.

Instead, nowadays we have travesties of cartoons. Only the other day did I turn on the TV to see a trailer for some excuse of a children's programme called 'Squarebob Spongepants' (or Spongebob Squarepants, I forget). Apart from being utterly foul and looking terrible, it wasn't even mildly entertaining. There was another programme called 'Mega Babies' and frankly, I wouldn't want my kids watching it.

Note that I am not attacking Pokemon here. That's not to say that I approve of their mass-market cheap sentiment, but you've got to admit it's pretty funny to watch; the level of animation is laughingly poor.

I don't think that cartoons have to nice and fuzzy just because they're for kids, but there's no call for gratuitous (my new favourite word) insults, sexist comments and swearing, along with barely veiled (and more often than not unveiled) references to bodily functions. Lowest common denominator? Even that would be a stretch for these new cartoons.

8:50 PM | permalink | discuss

Tuesday, April 25

We've already passed the watershed; there will be no population explosion and no global ecological catastrophe.

I find it ironic that Limp Bizkit is backing Napster, when I downloaded his MI:2 song via Napster and have absolutely no intention of going out and buying it. It'd be interesting to find out exactly how many people download songs on mp3 and then decide to go and out buy the CD.

I couldn't help but remember the fact told to me by my Biology teacher that most elephant zoo-keepers die by, well, being sat on (no joke), when I read this article about another elephant killing.

I was checking through some of the Thinkquest entries from last year and decided to look at the winner; Electricity Online (I took the liberty of linking to the main index. However, if you have time to burn, here's the proper entrance). It's got a shedload of technical wizardry, but unfortunately falls down on a few minor (and one not-so-minor) faults.

1) It's a nice looking site, but my god, the text is so boring I couldn't bring myself to read more than the first sentence of each page. Not even the nice (and gratuitous) Flash animations made up for this fatal error. Obviously the automatic content-checkers (?) were terminally out of whack.

2) Nice DHTML sidebar guys, but poor execution in the way that it gets hidden behind the Flash animations. Something to do with layers?

3) So. Many. Clicks. There must have been at least 3 or 4 clicks before you got to the main index; a cardinal sin in the world of professional web design.

4) You have to register to get to several important parts of the site. I can the rationalisation flitting through the designer's heads:

"Well, all they have to do is to type in their name and email, and reply to their email. Only take a few minutes - surely they'll realise it's worth it because of the wonderful content we have behind it?"

Sorry, it don't work that way lads. Registration in any shape or form is a major put-off; it doesn't matter if you have free porn behind it, people just can't be bothered. Why do you think nearly all commercial sites have given up on mandatory registration.

You see, the thing is, I don't actually think that the Thinkquest judges actually care about any of this; they are, after all, minor niggles. But to me, Thinkquest isn't about making an educational site for the sake of it and loading in as many gimmicky features as possible. It's about making a site that people will want to visit, and revisit. It's about making a site that will have content that doesn't put you to see. And most importantly, it's about usability.

So, in conclusion: Gimme the prize. Now.

6:53 PM | permalink | discuss

Monday, April 24

There I was, at a loss to post anything of substance today, when something pops up in my mailbox. I just received an email from a web crawler bot informing me that one of my links isn't working. Huh. Needless to say, I was surprised at this act of generosity on the part of the bot operator in question (seventwentyfour).

Speaking of the Internet (could there be a worse link? I think not), there's a new service called 123NC.com, which has made available online for searching the criminal records of everyone in the state of New Carolina. The commercial for the service goes "Before you go on a date, check 123NC.com. Before your daughter goes on a date, check 123NC.com. Worried about a new employee? 123NC.com."

Privacy advocates are going to go crazy about this, but I'm not as concerned as I might be; it's been pointed out by several people that while your father might discover your date has had a minor conviction for smoking pot, you could look your father up as well for the crime of hypocrisy. So: transparency, basically (which I like). A nice idea, but I can't say it won't have its predictable teething problems.

Discovered a new online SF magazine today; Emerald City. I've yet to look through it properly (it could be set out a little better), but it seems promising. Even their hugely negative review of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars Trilogy failed to put me off.

Tangent: Does it say something about me that I'm the only person I know who has read and enjoyed every part of the Mars Trilogy? And I know a lot of people who've read the Mars Trilogy (most of whom are in the Mars Society, at that).

11:26 PM | permalink | discuss

Sunday, April 23

(apologies for those who've read about this for the nth time, but it's just one of those things. For those who are truly tired of it, check out the Channel 4 Futurecast website; they've made a laudable effort at producing dramas set in roughly 15 years into the future. On today was The King of Chaos, possibly the best scientific drama I've ever seen on TV. Not for nothing did it win this long, strange unreadable praise from German website)

Wow! Look Ma, there's my name!

It's, to say the least, weird to see my name finally on the speaker's list. Almost embarrassing, in fact; I see the Nobelists and CEOs and scientists, and then there's me with a paltry 'Adrian Hon: Member of Mars Society.' Huh. There's the A-list speakers, and then there's the B-list speakers, and then, far, far below them, there's me, wondering what the hell I'm doing there.

11:45 PM | permalink | discuss

More about Earth Day - I heartily agree with the sentiments in this article, that sometimes big hefty organisations can get in the way of actually getting anything done. Fine, pay your conscience-salve to Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, because 5 will help build a well for x, y and z in Africa. Wow, you've just donated one whole hour of your time and effort. Amazing.

If you want to get anything worthwhile done, it's going to invariably involve a lot of hard work, and you're probably going to have to do it yourself.

And while I'm on the subject of charities, has anyone wondered why they don't make their financial accounts completely transparent? As a charity, surely by definition they should have transparency on every level (and by that I do not mean having to spend money and time and effort getting a copy of some photocopied, out-of-date accounts sheet)? So we'd actually find out how much of the donations gets spent on what we think we we're paying them for, instead of the twin demons of Admin and Bureaucracy?

Dave's Web of Lies is a little like Snopes.com in trying to debunk urban myths and legends, except the latter has a much more polished execution.

11:34 PM | permalink | discuss

Would anyone mind telling me exactly what a dot.com society is supposed to be? In the space of 30 minutes I managed to read two articles about this 'dot.com' society without making any special effort. The first described a new social class called the 'Virties' in the UK, who invariably had no social graces and worked in dot.com companies. The second was about how our 'dot.com' society is basically a Bad Thing in the eyes of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Some points. I would estimate that there can't be much more than 100,000 people in the UK working directly with the Internet. Probably less than half that, in fact. So much for dot.com society. Another thing; what is wrong with it anyway? We know that only a vanishingly small fraction of internet startups actually make any money. I just pity the poor sods when the bottom drops out (again).

Ah, Leonardo DiCaprio is this year's Spokesman for Earth Day, that well known intelligent and informed actor who believes that he 'shouldn't be eating hamburgers because the methane gas cows release [from their digestive systems] is the No. 1 contributor to the destruction of the ozone layer.' Count the mistakes, count 'em all.

1:47 PM | permalink | discuss