Saturday, August 18
A programme that I'd been looking forward to for a few days finally aired today; called The Mission: A Grand Adventure, it was about an assorted bunch of British explorers, GPs, soldiers and PR agents delivered a grand piano to a tribe deep in the Amazon. Why? Because the tribe (the Wai Wai) had seen a photo of a piano in an old magazine and said that they would like one.
It was a gloriously crazy and wonderful adventure as you got to see them lugging it over all sorts of terrain and the Brit soldier trying to defend himself against accusations of weakness from joking tribesmen. The one thing that really spoke to me on the programme, though, was a comment the team leader made. He said that he never saw the point of doing things like climbing Everest just because it's there - he'd much rather spend his time doing something that helped people and made a difference, and was also personally challenging to him. And I think that sums up perfectly what I feel on the matter.
The grand piano did get to the tribe village intact and in working order, amazingly, and the Wai Wai were overjoyed to see its arrival, having never heard the sounds of a piano before.
Friday, August 17
Once again, it's the silly season of the year - not A-Level results, but the debate on whether Gap years are worth pursuing. While I'm, at best, skeptical about the benefits of Gap years in general, I'm willing to acknowledge that a well-planned and executed Gap year can be extremely useful to a person (useful in what way is a more subjective thing).
However, the thing that really bothers me about the pro-Gappers is the arguments they use against not taking a gap year and going straight to university. First off we have, 'You need to get some experience of the real world!' Ah, yes, I see - travelling around Bolivia and Peru is of course seeing the 'real world' as you'll experience it when you graduate from university, right? Of course not! Apart from a very tiny percentage, most of those who go on Gap years will have to admit that their Gap year bears little to no resemblance of what the 'real world' is actually like, unless they decide to go and emigrate to a developing country.
Then there's the holier-than-thou statements of 'While my mates were partying in Fresher's week, I was cleaning toilets in Venezuela.' Good for you; however, eventually you're going to have to go to university as well so it doesn't really make that much difference, does it? And what's to stop your mates from cleaning the very same toilets after they've graduated, huh?
So really I'm not arguing about the potential value of Gap years here, what I'm annoyed at are the patronising attitudes of some Gappers.
Been a bit ill for the last few days, hence the lack of updates. New Mars has finally officially launched.
Tuesday, August 14
So I'm sure a lot of you were wondering exactly what I got up to on my mysterious trip to Seattle - and even more are wondering how I managed to go somewhere without doing a trip report of it. Well, the trip to Seattle was to meet the creators of the A.I. web marketing game, and you can read the report right now.
Monday, August 13
The new banner image of Vavatch Orbital is of the galaxy cluster NGC 4631, courtesy of the Chandra X-Ray Observatory.
I was reading yet another long and predictable article about weblogs today when I decided to break the habit of a few months and check out some of the links. As I expected, the weblogs featured high amounts of incestuous linkage (i.e. lots of links to other webloggers) and various numbered lists of pithy thoughts. I sometimes wonder exactly who the hell reads this stuff, and always reach the same conclusion: either no-one reads it, or the people who do are so beguiled by the pretty pictures and layout of the weblog that they are completely distract (or don't care) about the non-existant content.
Let me explain how terrible I think their content is (read as: bear with me). I recently had an argument with a friend as to the definition of negative-G, which people use when talking about rollercoasters and fighter pilots. I surmised that if taken literally, there could be no such thing as negative-G, since I didn't remember seeing anything in the news about antigravity recently, and clearly the people who'd coined the term negative-G:
a) didn't know what they were talking about
So, if we carry the analogy to the quality of content (which hereafter will be termed qC) then under all normal circumstances, you have positive-qC. However, unlike gravity, it is in fact possible if rare to have negative-qC; instead of gaining something - knowledge, enjoyment, insight - from a piece of writing, negative-qC writing physically sucks this out of you.
And that is what I get when reading some of the more terrible weblogs - and that is the reason why I have a pathological fear of visiting said weblogs ever again...
*I am only too aware of the acute irony that I also have a numbered list in today's post. But don't worry - it's ironic, self-referential irony. Whatever that means.
Sunday, August 12
I had an interesting discussion with a scifi author the other day, which started off with Harry Potter and the 'His Dark Materials' series of books, then ambled slowly onto the fact that I'd read some American publisher wanted to re-release the Narnia books (to capitalise on the whole Harry Potter phenomenon) but they wanted to de-Christianise them.
I'm not religious but I do find it astonishing that someone could even consider doing that. As it happens, it turns out that they probably weren't going to do that anyway - they'd just conveniently forget to mention the religious overtones in the re-release publicity. There were also plans to release a sequel to the Narnia books, which I suppose could be done, but it'd be very, very easy to completely mess it up.
So anyway, the point is that after hearing this, the author came back with his own literature horror-story. Apprently one day while he was reading some literary magazine or whatnot, he noticed they reprinted The Happy Prince (a children's story) in it. However, they omitted the last two paragraphs - on purpose - which changed the entire tone of the story such that it wasn't the same as what the author originally intended.
We both shook our heads sorrowfully at the state of the world today, and then carried on.