Friday, June 9

Here's just some random interconnectedness I wrote a while ago that I've just unearthed...

Together with going out to hire a dinner jacket, and reading Cryptonomicon, it struck me - when will people start putting the 'etiquitte' business on the Internet? There are literally millions of people out there who don't know exactly what type of suit they should wear at which occassion, whether they should bring chocolates or wine to a dinner, that sort of thing.

It's true that in lifestyle magazines there are columns for etiquitte, but columns? I mean, how last millennium? What we need is a dedicated bank of etiquitte consultants sitting in front of computers 24 hours a day, answering the needs of the disaffected twenty-somethings who have to impress their future parents-in-law. Money would be generated via an ad-banner on the top of every page, and venture capitalists funding would be used to run a series of high-profile commercials for the service, to be named 'Search me'.

The consultants would have to be on a shift-based system or else they'd never get out and eventually would be subsumed into the Internet and have no idea what type of shoes were in this season.

After a while, using an AI program to analyse the questions and answers, the entire process could become automated. The only problems you'd then have would be finding these now-redundant lifestyle consultants jobs in the web-design business (shouldn't be too difficult) and preventing the AI from malevolently controlling the world's lifestyle trends (could be very difficult).

Unsurprisingly, someone has already taken the 'Search me' domain names. Unsurprisingly, they're not being used.

[snip long and protracted rant about domain name squatters and the various punishments they should, nay, must, endure]

11:50 PM | permalink | discuss

The Guardian is a great newspaper. Not only does it have a computing section that I can read without wincing, but it has the wonderful Notes & Queries section - probably the most fun you can have reading something. The webpage has pretty much all the Notes & Queries there have been in the last few years, including the most recent ones:

Q: How wrong can you be?
A: The last reported words of Union Army general John Sedgwick (1813-1864) before being shot by a sniper were "They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist-".

Of course, some of my loyalty to N & Q comes from the fact that I sent in two (published!) answers, thank you very much.

11:21 AM | permalink | discuss

Thursday, June 8

Huh. Star Wars, eh? They've made the first laser that shoots down missiles in the US (although I thought that the Airborne Laser guys had done that years ago). Makes you wonder what's the point of having two different systems - a laser based system, and a missile-interceptor based system.

Then again, it's been established for a long time that the US military is probably the most efficient money-waster on this planet.

7:45 PM | permalink | discuss

Wednesday, June 7

True to my word, here's one of the interviews I mentioned earlier. This one is with Dr. Yvan Dutil, an astrophysicist who composed a message broadcast by the Evpatoria radio transmitter to the stars. Makes interesting reading. It's actually very good - no, really.

11:45 PM | permalink | discuss

I don't know whether this will tell you something about me - probably. Here's an article about the stunningly bright kids my age in America who take part in the Intel (formerly Westinghouse) science competition. These are bright kids, doing graduate level science (if you believe what they say - I suppose it could be true).

And of course, my natural reaction is to become defensive. No-one likes being told that you're second best, or that there are people better than you at something you really care about (it's not as if I'd care if someone told me I was second best at making paper planes). So when I read about these kids who, in all probability, know far much more than me and have done far much more research, I get a little depressed. Only a little - but I get very defensive.

The thought processes running through my mind are something like: "Well, that's good for them, but you'll notice that there isn't an Intel competition in the UK, and there aren't any organisations that will cater for teenagers who want to do scientific research. True, they might be academically wonderful, but what about socially? An IQ of 170 will get you nowhere if you can't handle office politics and do some serious networking. It's easy enough to take the opportunities presented to you when people go and organise a line of research and a place at a university for you, but going out and finding these things for yourself is another thing entirely.

"In some way, I have more respect for people who try to achieve something original and new rather than working within an established framework. That doesn't mean being a rebel all the time - that's generally counterproductive. I'm talking about people who try to create new chances, do things that people say can't be done. Surprising people.

"In other words, I have more respect for people like me."

That's what I think. Horrible, isn't it? But it's true. I'm possibly the most competitive person in the world. If someone goes and beats me at my own game, I'll stay in and work for 30 hours straight if necessary to go and beat them back. Of course, the sensible thing to do would be to co-operate rather than compete (woo, game theory) and I'm trying to do that, honest! No, really, if I find someone who doesn't annoy me (too much), is intelligent and seems to be willing to do serious work, I have no problems in working together.

9:55 AM | permalink | discuss

Tuesday, June 6

The first interview I mentioned before should be online possibly tonight - future highlights include interviews with the SETI@Home chief scientist and the NASA Stardust comet-collection mission chief scientist. Who says I don't treat you guys?

I've just finished the first round of my A-Level exams. An interesting scene I experienced was of stumbling into the middle of the communal English Literature scholars. They'd studied three books for the exam and were allowed to take their own copies in, with a reasonably small amount of annotations. Of course, some people interpret 'reasonably small' in different ways (hey, these are English Lit guys we're talking about here) and as a result, complete essay plans, and in one circumstance, the entirety of a published set of notes on the book, had been copied out onto the margins, blank pages and on top of the text.

Chaos quickly ensued when it was pointed out that their books would be inspected beforehand, and much pencil rubbing and page ripping occurred. Some of the students going to take the exam drifted into a more contemplative mood.

A: "They should make these exams a group experience. You know, sit around in a circle and pass a pipe around - whoever gets the point has to start puffing and make a point." [A demonstrates this by holding an imaginary pipe and intoning "Well, I don't agree with your analysis of Iago. Personally..."]

B: "I can just imagine it now - they say "You can start the exam now," and everyone rips open their pipes from nicely sealed plastic bags..."

7:57 PM | permalink | discuss

Monday, June 5

There haven't been a lot of updates here recently, due to my A-Level exams, but I found time to correct the site for Netscape users.

Also, as a preview of the Thinkquest project I'm doing, I'm going to put up an interview I conducted as part of it with a guy who composed an 'active SETI' message that was broadcast by a radiotelescope in Russia (and I just know I'm going to get flak for this, but what the hell, it's not as if anyone else doing Thinkquest visits my weblog).

10:46 PM | permalink | discuss

Sunday, June 4

More original and high-quality free fiction at Bookpages. They've earned a loyal visitor from me for the fact that it has two unaired B5: Crusade scripts on its site as well as seemingly unending supplies of other good SF.

Can't say I like the reader interface, but then that'd be asking too much.

2:57 PM | permalink | discuss