Saturday, August 11

Dr. Seuss Explains Why Computers Sometimes Crash

If a packet hits a pocket on a socket on a port, and the bus is interrupted at a very last resort, and the access of the memory makes your floppy disk abort, then the socket packet pocket has an error to report.

/ forum / 11:23 am GMT

Friday, August 10

Feeling a bit listless this morning, I flicked through the pages of a local chinese magazine to find the latest instalment of The Adventures of Sidekick Shang, the introductory paragraph of which follows:

The story so far: Our hero Jared "Kicking" Shang was born with remarkable physical abilities. Unfortunately at 8 years of age, his head exploded. Finding himself reborn in a laboratory attached to a new cloned body, Jared is surrounded by scientists, led by Harrison Lee. In the last chapter, the scientists attempted to link Jared's brain to his new body. Meanwhile The White Devil, The Black Devil and Angela are all involved in events that will bring them into Jared's life...
And here's me wondering why I hadn't spotted this serial in the past...

Also amusing, for a different reason, was this letter to the Radio Times about the Space documentary I've mentioned here before:

The computer graphics of the first episode of Space were marvellous. The logic of the step-by-step progression of the physics and laws of matter and order, from the Big Bang to the formation of the Earth, and ourselves, convinces me of the existence of the creator of all this - God - but the Almighty didn't get a mention.

The programme is asking us to believe that great artists from Michelangelo to John Constable didn't create their masterpieces; an explosion took place in their paint boxes and the results were works of art!

Before I start, I should point out that I've long since become resigned to the fact that in any argument with a Creationist or psuedo-Creationist, it always boils down to their faith in the Bible, and some dodgy definition of the word 'proof'. So while my opinions as to the validity and intelligence of this guy's argument are probably made clear now, I do find it a bit rich that he wants this science documentary to mention God. Apart from the fact that it's only a 30 minutes long documentary and there was little enough time for science, let alone religion, why don't I reverse the argument and complain that religious programmes don't have enough science in them? I won't, because it's a patently silly thing to do.

Finally, to round off the day's reading, I read an article in the Times 2 supplement about the hideously expensive camps that America's richest are sending their kids off to (they get taught how to make their own beds, share bathrooms and do without video games - okay, okay, they do other stuff as well, but still...). The idea is that with these kids' jam packed schedules (they are 12 years old, after all) they don't have the time to deal with insignificant little things such as basic life skills, e.g. cooking, cleaning, living without TV; thus, they require attendance at summer camps that cost four figures to give them these life skills.

I quote:

"All [of the kids] are veterans of one camp or another. "I've been to swimming camp, academic development camp and dynamic earth renaissance camp," rattles off one. "I went to Astro camp and we built a satellite in the water," says Jessica. They are all aware that Kennolyn [the camp] is part of a carefully structured programme for character enhancement.
Swimming camp? Academic development camp? (what are schools for?) Dynamic Earth Renaissance camp? I don't even know what that means!

I'm aware that I might be taking a bit of a 'when I were a lad we had ice on the inside of our windows' tone here (as I usually do when it comes to kids getting expensive stuff), and I'm also aware of the media's abilities to sensationalise events. However. Building character is a fine thing, as we have all learned from the seminal Calvin and Hobbes books - but paying several thousand dollars to build it is getting a bit out of proportion.

And, y'know, I just can't get over that Dynamic Earth Renaissance thing...

/ forum / 07:43 pm GMT

Thursday, August 9

I tend not to watch children's TV these days, not simply because I passed out of their target market about half a decade ago but because I've found that the quality of cartoons has pretty imploded. So it was a pleasant surprise to find a decent documentary on CBBC today called Trading Places based on the 'grown up' version, where three young gymnasts from Southampton swapped places with a similar number in Moscow.

The programme basically consisted of the British gymnasts having the shit beaten out of them (metaphorically, of course) in the Russian gym - my favourite quote was when the gym director made a curt remark about them simply not being up to the standard. Mind you, they did work pretty hard. The Russian gymnasts, in comparison, had a fairly easy time of it in Southampton and didn't seem to be doing that much gymnastics anyway, eschewing it for the delights of shopping and cooking.

[The bits about the harsh Russian training regimen and so on weren't new to me, or I suspect many other older viewers (although I'm sure the younger ones appreciated it) so I won't bother going on about them.]

I think it's definitely a good reality check for British kids to watch programmes like this, so they realise that yes, things are different outside of this little island of ours. In past days, the Lowdown was probably the equivalent children's TV programme and pretty much everyone remembers the classic show which followed the training of the Wimbledon ballboys (repeated almost as much as the Snowman was back then).

/ forum / 04:32 pm GMT

Wednesday, August 8

Well, New Mars is pretty much finished now, albeit not 'live' - I'm hoping to get the official go-ahead sometime later today and prepare for the floods (read as: trickle) of visitors that will no doubt appear as if out of the ether.

I'm pretty pleased with the website; I'd intended it originally to look essentially like what it does now (I have a sketch that I did a few weeks ago before I went to America on a piece of paper somewhere). It should strictly have some more dynamic information, like recent posts on the forum and so on except SSI nesting isn't enabled on the server yet. But on the whole, the clean and simple look suits the website very well and concentrates the reader's attention on the writing as opposed to fancy graphics or adverts.

Surprisingly enough, it's the first major website that I've done since Generation Mars or the redesign of this site, whichever was most recent, and it only took me about three days of fairly hard work (hard work being defined as 6 to 8 hours of coding, frowning, rewriting and editing per day). It's nice to be doing something productive again.

I've been listening to a lot of old music in the past few days - usually Johnny B. Goode gets played an even dozen times every day, and every time I hear it I get a flash of imagery for this type of music (which is frequented by 'coming-of-age' teenage flicks set in the 60s/70s) - there should be some kind of naive-but-about-to-receive-a-sharp-shock male teenager doing a voiceover over it as the movie shows him, in his typically antiquated 60s/70s clothes, driving around in a Chevy in America...

Anyway. It's all very strange.

Seeing as I have the rest of the day off (my life seems peculiarly empty now that I've finished the New Mars website) I think I'll probably put an end to the A.I. web game's insidious involvement in my life and finish off the Guide.

/ forum / 11:44 am GMT

Tuesday, August 7

Yes, I did get back five days ago. However, I do have some decent excuses for not making any posts this time; first off, the jet lag from Seattle is pretty horrendous. Secondly, I have written up a nice long trip report although there are some details and other stuff I need to add before I can upload it. Thirdly, I got the Mars maps yesterday which obviously was a cause for joy and made the whole of Monday a bit of a write-off as I had to send off far too many emails to people and set up a webpage where you can buy the maps.

[Self-plug: Buy one now! Only $18 including P&P! The money goes to a good cause!]

Fourthly, I've been working pretty intensively on the New Mars online magazine for the last few days, whose editorship I picked up a while back. Now, seeing as I calculated the other day that given my present commitments, I wouldn't be able to do anything else that was remotely important, it's definitely a good thing that the whole A.I. web game thing has just wrapped up, thus freeing up time for me to spend on New Mars.

My plan with New Mars is to get everything on the website running as smoothly and automated as possible (which has necessarily taken a bit of time to get right so far) and then, after getting a few new articles in the magazine - not including the re-released articles - start recruiting section editors, columnists, tech people and reporters to help out. Delegation is the key insight (just like hexapodia. Sorry, in-joke...)

Apart from all of that, life is generally good and to be honest, I'd probably go insane if I wasn't busy all of the time.

/ forum / 11:00 pm GMT

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