Monday, October 08, 2007

despite your destination

Bad news from the news of Blogs - Span has decided to go offline. I'd like to think that she'll be back, brand-spanking and re-pseudonymed after a short and fruitful hiatus, but in the meantime we'll just have to make our own fun. You can in send those naked photos care of the usual address.

While we're waiting for those to come through, some faintly amusing pictures I stole of the web:

... probably more pertinent to America than here, but still ... yes, this is how the rest of us see christians and the constant whining about how us godless communists are destroying the world. And you know what? Since we stole all the scientists by seducing them with that brazen harlot "Evolution", we now secretly control all the doomsday devices. So shut the hell up or we're coming for you.

Right after we deal with the Scientologists.

Mmmm, zombies ...

... I really, really want someone to make this movie.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Does smoking organically grown tobacco lower the chance of lung cancer? - okay, so before we go after the Scientologists, we'll be coming for the people who equate "natural" and "organic" with "good for you".
Going postal: Are employees of the United States Postal Service more likely to be violent towards coworkers?

I'm all about the Bad Science:
The trouble with herbals

Madeleine McCann, the Observer, and their special magic quantum DNA box (with secret energy source) - I don't know about anyone else but I'm getting seriously pissed off with sloppy journalists who foist the b-grade charlatans of pseudo-science onto the public. Quite frankly this guy with his fucked-up theories sounds like he needs a straitjacket, not public validation of his psychosis by hacks who don't give a rats ass about anything except selling papers.

No one – and I repeat, no one – has ever died for a flag. See, a flag … is just a piece of cloth. They may have died for freedom, which is also the freedom to burn the fucking flag, see. That's freedom. - Bill Hicks

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

put on your new face

From The Culture of Fear: Why Americans are afraid of the wrong things, by Barry Glassner. Excerpt from pages 30-31.
'The myth of Halloween bogeymen and bogeywomen might never have been exposed had not a sociologist named Joel Best become sufficiently leery that he undertook an examination of every reported incident since 1958. Best, currently a professor at the University of Southern Illinois, established in a scholarly article in 1985 that there has not been a single death or serious injury. He uncovered a few incidents where children recieved minor cuts from sharp objects in their candy bags, but the vast majority of reports turned out to be old-fashioned hoaxes, sometimes enacted by young pranksters, other times by parents hoping to make money in lawsuits or insurance scames.

Ironically, in the only two known cases where children apparently did die from poisoned Halloween candy, the myth of the anonymous, sadistic stranger was used to cover up the real crime. In the first incident family members sprinkled heroin on a five-year-old's Halloween candy im hopes of fooling the police about the cause of the child's death. Actually, the boys had found and eaten heroin in his uncle's home. In the second incident a biy died after eating cyanide-poisoned candy on Halloween, but police determined that his father had spiked the candy to collect insurance money. Bill Ellis, a professor of English at Penn State University, as commented that both of these incidents, reported in the press at first as stranger murders, "reinforced the moral of having parents examine treats - ironically, because in both cases family members were responsible for their children's deaths!"

Yet if anonymous Halloween sadists were fictitious creatures, they were useful diversions from some truly frightening realities, such as the fact that far more children are seriously injured and killed by family members than by strangers. Halloween sadists also served in news stories as evidence that particular social trends were having ill effects on the populace. A psychiatrist quoted in the New York Times article held that Halloween sadism was a by-product of "the permissiveness in today's society." The candy poisoner him - or herself was not directly to blame, the doctor suggested. The real villains were elsewhere. "The people who gave harmful treats to children see criminals and students in campus riots getting away with things," the Times article quoted him, "so they think they can get away with it too."

In many of these articles the choice of hero also suggests that other social issues are surreptitously being discussed. At a time when divorce rates were high and rising, and women were leaving home in great numbers to take jobs, news stories heralded women who represented the antithesis of those trends - full-time housewives and employed moms who returned early from work to throw a safe trick-or-treat parties for their children and their children's friends in their homes or churches, or simply to escort their kids on their rounds and inspect their treats.'
You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Does the average American student have less vocabulary today than in days gone by?

Screw the iPhone, I want one of these:
The Helio Ocean - I don't generally care that much about cellphones, but damn do I like the look of this one ...

God put [dinosaur fossils] here to test our faith!"... I think God put you here to test my faith, dude. - Bill Hicks

Monday, September 10, 2007

should have known I would consume

... property rates have always seemed like a bad idea to me. It's a tax that only falls on a subset of citizens within the council's area (e.g. I, as a renter, pay no council fees, except theoretically through my landlord - though how much my landlord can recover from me depends on the ups and downs of the rental market), it takes little or no account of income (so if your locked-in capital far exceeds your income, you have to liquidate your property and live somewhere else), and if you're a dyed-in-the-wool neo-con, it also ignores your actual usage of council resources.

For my money I'd prefer to abolish rates completely and swap them for a range of targeted usage fees (water, waste water - with appropriate caps or rebates so as to not disadvantage low-income families, development fees, etc) and an increase in income taxes. I haven't run the numbers, but I would expect that the extension of the revenue base would mean that the PAYE rates would not need to be too large to replace property rates income.

This still isn't a perfect solution by any means - once you centralise council revenue under the general income tax take, councils suddenly have lost most of their control over their own finances, and therefore their ability to fund projects of concern to their constituents (of course, some people might see this as an advantage - councils can also no longer indulge in the vanity projects they seem particularly enamoured of. **cough** stadiums **cough**). You also have to work out how to allocate the taxation revenue - as no longer can the money you receive be easily tied back to a geographical area as easy as it was when you were levying the tax on a property which is fixed in space.

What I'm Watching:
The Power of Nightmares, by Adam Curtis. All three chapters (each about an hour long, and 1Gb in size) can be downloaded from here. Bloody interesting, and the kicking-est-ass soundtrack ever (cf the soundtrack to John Carpenter's The Thing).

A great slice of geek legend over at Arstechnica - A History of the Amiga, parts
1, 2 & 3 (it's not finished yet, they've been teasing us by rolling out a new part every 1-2 weeks).

Articles that caught my eye lately:
Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked

First kiss can make or break a couple’s relationship - but hey, no pressure ...

Zango tries, fails to sue its way out from under the "spyware" label

Internet use 'can cause insomnia' - colour me surprised. So who should I be suing?

Printer health risk report triggers response from HP, researchers - no really. Who can I sue about this?

See Who's Editing Wikipedia - Diebold, the CIA, a Campaign

Scan This Guy's E-Passport and Watch Your System Crash - Nice. Reeeeal nice.

How do I get myself one of these?
The Great Tennessee Marijuana Cave - I just like secret caverns under houses, that's all. No other reason.

My favorite word today: Algorithm. I've no idea why.

They lie about marijuana. Tell you pot-smoking makes you unmotivated. Lie! When you're high, you can do everything you normally do just as well … you just realize that it's not worth the fucking effort. There is a difference.

Not all drugs are good. Some … are great. - Bill Hicks

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

there's battlelines being drawn

For the fans only: Two Halo 3 trailers. The first is a live action teaser called Halo 3: Arms Race, from Weta and the proposed director of the Halo movie, Neill Blomkamp. Personally, I think it looks right tasty. They have it looking the way it should - in that it looks pretty much exactly like Aliens.

The second clip is the first Halo 3 trailer from back in 2006. That music always puts a prickly chill through my scalp (especially when the trumpets and chorus come in at the end). By the seven gods I hope they release a soundtrack CD.

a bad desire

I want to return to the subject of my post on police car chase policy. For the advocates of unrestricted police action in pursuit of the bad guys there seems to be an unspoken assumption that once you have broken the law, anything that happens to you thereafter is a fair cop, no matter how disproportionate that consequence is to the original crime. And I understand that impulse.

There is a small, dark part of me chained up in the cloisters of my soul that lets loose a hearty cheer anytime a boyracer drives into the side of a bridge and bursts into a ripe ball of flame (I hasten to add - as long as no one else was hurt). But that's because deep down in the cockles of my heart, just like a lot of the population ... I'm a complete bastard. It certainly shouldn't excuse the phenomenon.

Nonetheless. As befits the dirty pinko liberal that I am, I think a society can be judged on how well it treats it's loathsome scum. And by that, I mean that we should not descend to the level of the criminals we revile by treating them as badly as they treat us*. And I am of the opinion that life is singularly precious - as an atheist I only get one of them, and it's safest to assume everyone else is the same (... in only having one life, not in the atheism. Heck, I wouldn't want you buggers joining our little club, you'd drive property prices down). And the bad guys only have one life too, and that fact has to be given some respect, even if they don't.

Now note I'm not delving into the death penalty here - that's a whole 'nother debate for another day, and one I find myself quite torn by. I'm purely just looking at the treatment of people prior to conviction.

Recently there was the case of a farmer who fired upon 3 would-be-thieves who had attempted to convert his farm bike in the middle of the night. As the thieves fled in a truck, the farmer fired at them, hitting one of them in the posterior. The police prosecuted him (as well as the thieves), but a jury refused to convict.

In in cases like this I wish that along with "guilty" and "not guilty" we had a third option of "you did something really damn stupid, and therefore are guilty of breaking the law, but we don't really want to punish you because we might do the same thing in your position" (I'm pretty sure if you gave it a latin name it would sound much, much cooler). Because, really, this guy was an idiot. He fired a gun at a fleeing truck, and could easily have killed one of the felons, or, with a particularly unlucky ricochet, just about anyone close by (admittedly this was a farm in the middle of nowhere ... but it could have killed him). And he was effectively shooting them in the back, which in the books I read whilst growing up constitutes Not Cricket and a Bad Show. And to top it off, he was shooting at them over a farm bike. Is a farm bike really worth a person's life? Heck, do you have any possessions that you would value more than the life of another human being?**

But on the other hand I can understand the guy being pissed off (if memory serves it was the umpteen time he'd be robbed), it being a rural area the police were unlikely to be much help, and heck, if I found 3 thieves on my property after dark I'd be shit scared and not thinking properly to boot. But I still think he did the wrong thing to fire the gun at them.

Now, it seems that police, or the attorney general agrees with me, hence the attempted prosecution of this farmer, and the investigation of another farmer who fired warning shots at some miscreants intent on taking his petrol. The general public, I would hazard a guess, are not so keen on seeing these guys given even a slap on the wrist. And the real shame of it all is that it seems that neither side of the equation is prepared to talk to each. Outside of the slackjawed crackpots scrawling venial letters to the editor there seems to be little debate on the merits of the use of deadly force by Joesph Public in the defense of property. Personally I have but one argument.

We're the Good Guys.

No, seriously, that's my argument.

Alright, I'll expand just a little.

In my world, the Good Guys don't shoot people in the back. They sacrifice their own lives to save civilians; they don't kill civilians, ever, even to get the bad guy, because no one is so bad that it's worth the death of innocents. Torture is not something entertained by a Good Guy. Bad Guys torture - that's how you tell who the Bad Guy is. They always give a second chance; they'll always do their best to get the bad guy back alive and in one piece to face trial by a jury of their peers - because a Good Guy knows he can gendarme, judge, jury or executioner, but not any of them at the same time. Because at the end of the day the Good Guys knows they are as flawed and corruptible as anyone else around them, and it's a constant contention within to do the right thing. If there is anything they are sure of, it is doubt the righteousness of their actions.

Also, the Good Guys are Ninjas.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Is strength of will in fighting illness a factor in whether you live or die?
Are giant sci-fi bugs physically possible? -
yes, we'd all like both answers to "yes". However ....

I'm all about the Bad Science:
Bad Science kicks the Observer's ass about shoddy reporting on autism

Actually, I can't count either:
A transcript of a conversation between a customer and a Verizon rep over a phone bill

- Has to be read to be believed ...

* A raving conservative could agree that a society can be judged on how it treats it's loathsome scum - i.e. a good society would grind them underfoot or use them in lab experiments. And my dark-half heartily agrees.

** Dammit Apathy Jack, put your damn hand down.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

a rider on the tremors

I was intrigued by a paragraph in yesterday's Herald editorial on the subject of the recent finance company collapses:

"In unsecured finance markets that depend on a constant flow of new money to repay maturing loans, fear can be fatal"
I am not schooled in the ways of finance, or economics, law, or even basic hygiene. But even I can read wikipedia, and it seems to my simple eye that all these collapses stink to highest heaven of being ponzi schemes overlaid with only the thinnest veneer of sophistication - but without the common decency to advertise a ridiculous rate of return so at least the first mooks in through the door make a little money. If you are paying investors off with the incoming funds of new investors rather than from the fruits of your wise investment of the original money you scammed from them, then I'm of the opinion that you are a common criminal and should be out on chain gang breaking rocks with the other lawyers and stockbrokers.

The nail in the coffin was David Hutton from the Institute of Financial Advisers, who basically blamed the punters for not doing their homework irrespective of what their financial advisors told them.

What the fuck? Can we have our damn money back from your pack of feeble-minded twats or carpetbagging conmen then? Either the advisors were all too stupid to read or understand the prospectuses they foisted onto their luckless charges, or they were a bunch greedy slackgrabbers in the pocket of the finance companies, selling investors off like a pimp. Either way they should be answerable to the people who have lost their money.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

so your eyes can't see

A few opinions have been doing the rounds lately and I thought I might put my humble two cents in:

Police chases. Look people, we all agree that the Police by and large are chasing in their suped-up Holdens Bad & Ebil miscreants. And we all want them to catch the little bastards.


But there is a risk calculation that needs to be performed. Chasing someone at high speeds inevitably increases the risk that someone is going to come to grief. If a chase is abandoned then the bad guy might get away, but equally they may also slow the heck down, go to ground somewhere and stop being such a danger to the rest of the populace.

Of course, that's where element of calculation comes in. If you started chasing someone because they were already driving exceedingly dangerously, or because they kidnapped someone ... you get the picture - there may be good reasons to continue inspite of the danger inherent to a chase. But we have to expect that good cops will make that calculation, and good cops should also expect that their decisions to be reviewed or questioned. The fact that the bad guy has initiated the situation is not the most important consideration - it is the safety of the general public that is paramount. In today's paper someone wrote a letter saying: "... if people did not run from the police, there would not be a chase", which misses the point entirely; the police have a range of actions they can take, of which chasing a fleeing suspect is but one. And if police hadn't taken up the chase there wouldn't be a critically injured boy in hospital.

Chasing an erratic suspect through city streets is in my opinion somewhat akin to firing a gun at a suspect in a crowded pedestrian mall. In a lot of cases it is an reckless and unjustifiable action.

... and speaking of reckless and unjustifiable behaviours, the video for Snow Patrol's Open Your Eyes is fantastic*:

The footage is taken from a 1976 short film called C'était un rendez-vous, and it is not staged - the guy actually drove through those streets, at speed, putting the lives of early morning Parisians at risk. The director was even arrested when the film was released (although never charged). The director was, without a doubt, a complete prick. But it's a brilliant piece of film nonetheless.

* This is second in my series of songs-I-like-with-great-crescendo. The Crescendo in this case kicks in exactly at minute 4. Smashing.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

through this field of trees

... or in this case, links:

Sailor gets revenge for internet insult - lesson learnt. Don't call people nerds, even on the internet, and especially if they have a name like "Pyrodice".

Phone mast allergy 'in the mind' - alternative title: No. Fucking. Shit, Sherlock. Seriously, if you believe electromagnetic radiation from phone towers is affecting your health then you need to do the following immediately:
  1. Get out of your house. Your TV, microwave, stereo and hot-water cylinder (not to mention your electric blanket!) are emitting death-rays as we speak. Get out for christ's sake!
  2. Get out of town. You're surrounded by houses full of TVs, microwaves, stereos and electric blanket. Everyone you know is wearing an mp3 player. Get too close and you will be infected.
  3. Whatever you do, don't use a car to leave the place. It's chock full of electro-mechanical-jiggery-pokery. To be frank, it's a death-trap. Walk.
  4. Oh crap, you don't have those fancy nikes with the interface with your mp3 player, do you? Sorry, you're right fucked if you do.
  5. Get out in a field along way from civilization and take off all your clothes - they're probably saturated with oodles of electromagnetic waves from all those years of exposure.
  6. Die of pneumonia. Please.
Adolescent rats enjoy cannabis more than their elders and Marijuana wreaks havoc on brain's memory cells - just how the heck do we get in on these experiments anyway?

Aussies to stockpile Kiwi biometrics in central database - sadly, none of us can put away our tinfoil hats just yet. Can you spell "thin end of the fricking wedge"?

Oz mayor stole cash for Darth Vader voice distorter - sigh. In America they call this "thinking small".

Beavis and Butthead in London jihad - On the last UK bomb-plot. Choice quote:
So why is this such big news? Because clowns have got to be passed off as terrorists. Because a vast industry depends on terrorists, real and imagined, to justify its existence. We live now in the grip of the security-industrial complex, and that hungry beast demands to be fed. We feed it money hand over fist, and in return, it feeds us fear biscuits, which we are expected to accept with gratitude.
"I DON'T KNOW WHAT I WAS THINKING": Satan Concedes Coulter Was A Major Fuckup

Try time-outs; spanking suggests to children that violence is OK - 'nuff said.

Violent video games on the brain and Study finds stable personalities unaffected by violent games - if they'd come up with different conclusions I would have KILLED THEM ALL!

Booze worse than Speed or Acid shocker - and guess which ones we ban? Anyone? Anyone?

And finally, a couple of good links courtesy of Mr Kung-Fu Monkey - Why Americans Hate the Media and Hollywood's Profits, Demystified.

This week my favorite song is The Editors, Smokers outside the hospital doors. I do like a good crescendo. Video ain't bad, neither.

A penguin goes on holiday to the Bahamas. He's driving down the road when his car starts spluttering and eventually grinds to a halt. He manages to push the car to the nearest mechanic.

The mechanic warns him that he'll be a while, so the penguin should go and amuse himself for an hour. As he starts off down the road in the baking heat, he is delighted to see an ice cream van. However he can't hold a cone in his flippers, so the ice cream man puts a big plate of vanilla ice cream on the pavement in front of him, and the penguin lies down and gorges to his heart's content.

Having cooled down, he returns to the garage where the mechanic is still busying himself with the car.

As the penguin comes in the mechanic says "it looks like you've blown a seal."

"Nah," says the penguin, "it's just ice cream ..."


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

to save you from your old ways

Things that irritate me #4633 "People who beat/kill their children will still beat/kill their children after the anti-spanking/repeal Section 59 bill passes, so there is no point changing the law"

Yes, yes, perhaps I should have written this while the Repeal Section 59 debate was in full swing. But in my defense I'm a man who takes his procrastination seriously. After all, as an ex-Catholic I need something to feel guilty about, and possession all those pictures of Apathy Jack with the call-girl, the nun, and Dick Cheney just doesn't bother me like it used to (that's not his first name, people - it's an instruction). Anyway, the flaw in this argument is so huge I'm constantly shocked how many people use it in conversation - and we're talking ordinary joe public, not just mooks who are paid to obfuscate for a living like politicians and creationists.

Every day large numbers of people flagrantly exceed the speed limit, cheat on their taxes, and covert their neighbour's wives; heck, there's an average of a murder every three days in this country. According to the logic of the anti-abolitionists we might as well have no laws, because people will just go around breaking them, making a solemn mockery of the justice system. No, better to have complete anarchy, because then at least we aren't fooling ourselves.


I jest. The anti-abolitionists don't really mean that. They fall under the rubric of Things that irritate me #2579, "people who say one thing for rhetorical purposes, but actually mean something else". Here, what they mean to say is
"this law would be ineffective and therefore cause more harm than good"; which is certainly a coherent argument, and therefore somewhat surprising because I'd bet 85% of the proponents of it would also support the continued criminalisation of marijuana ... (Things that irritate me #2 "people who don't even have the decency to feel ashamed about their intellectual dishonesty").

And I tend to agree - this law has a high possibility of not affecting our appalling child violence statistics, for at least two reasons. Firstly, and it's a weird analogy I know, but I think we are in a similar situation to where we were with drink driving 25-30 years ago. It took a concerted public campaign to change the average punters' attitude to the point where (mostly) drunk drivers are vilified and despised. Now that the Government has won the legislative battle I not sure they have the stomach to go the extra distance with a public education campaign and media blitz on child violence. And while the drink-drive war had the police on the front lines, the spanking issue will mostly be fought down in the trenches by organisations like CYPFS, which often seem as welcomed in public opinion as child-beaters themselves. And just to make it harder, I believe that their is a long, thin streak of puritanism* in New Zealand society that helped to push the anti-drink driving message along. That same puritanical streak will most likely work in the other direction for bringing down child violence.

The second reason I think we will be fighting an uphill battle is because the root of child violence is the widespread acceptance in our society of violence itself - as a method of solving problems. This is a subject I would like to come back to another time, given the length of this post already.

My hope is that the repeal of Section 59 (I say repeal, but really the section has been rewritten, but the word repeal is indelibly imprinted into my brain after all those months of debate so just bear with me, you bastards) with serve two purposes:
  1. allow the police to prosecute parents who take to their children with riding crops, or who perform similar ridiculous, sadistic and dangerous acts in the name of "child discipline"; and
  2. slowly, but inexorably, change people's attitudes such that people like Simon Barnett, or anyone else who claims they are belting their children "for their own good", are vilified as the perverted weirdos they undoubtedly are. How the heck did that guy get on children's television? I feel all dirty now.
NB: In the wake of the Nia Glassie case, let's get one thing straight. Maori collectively have to do something about violence against children when white people sort out serial killers and white-collar criminals. Or just read the Herald article about the link between economic circumstances and violence and be done with it.

And while you're here you can bugger right off to Public Address and read Russell Brown's post on Corporal Punishment. Why yes, I do hold Family First in the same high esteem I hold Simon Barnett - right up there with fascism and botulism**.

* Having said I believe that there is a puritanical streak in NZ, I can't actually put my finger on why I believe it. Anyone want to try and retrospectively justify my beliefs?

** What? What? Oh come on, they're both "isms" aren't they?

I want to feel that fire again

File Under: Things I'd like to see, #7

It might surprise the people who know me, but I have been known on occasion to frequent the local gym. Weights strictly, as when you're a heaving train wreck of a man you get to know your own aerobic limitations pretty quickly. And when you have mass on your side, it makes the most sense to use that large mass to move other large masses, although god only knows why it gives such a sense of satisfaction.

I like to track my progress. To that end I carry a little black book around the gym and record the simplest of data - weight lifted and number of repetitions in each set. I then throw this data into a spreadsheet and use it to give myself a simplistic "score" for each session at the gym. It's not scientific by any means, but I do like having a way of measuring progress.

But it occurs to me that this is a bit of a cumbersome, and ultimately useless process.

First of all I have to carry around a small book and a pen, which can sometimes be a pain in a gym. I have to transcribe the data twice - once into the book, and then into excel. And once it is in excel it looks pretty, but I don't know enough about what the data means for it to be useful, and I have no organised way to share the data with people more knowledgeable than me.

Secondly, it's too easy to make mistakes and/or cheat. When you're doing a set of twelve 120kg 45-degree leg presses it's remarkably easy to lose count (I have to breathe properly, count, lift 120kgs AND chew gum all at the same time, which is no easy feat, let me tell you). It's even easier to decide that 8 1/2 repetitions should be recorded as 9. It would be nice if there was an impartial observer to make these decisions for me, AND automatically record the data in a useful format for analysis later.

So what I'd really like to see is gym equipment routinely fitted with sensors. Let's be honest, they wouldn't have to be very sophisticated to get the job done: a sensor to monitor the amount of weight lifted, distance travelled, and time taken, topped off with a wireless network to transmit the data back to base in real-time (I'm thinking exclusively here of weight machines, but there is no reason not to apply this to just about any exercise machine in a gym). The final piece of the puzzle is some way of relating the data back to the gym-user, but since everyone at a gym has an ID card it wouldn't be too difficult to co-opt that. Attach a card-reader or fit it for RFID and everybody's happy.

There would need to be a backend database to capture all this, so some thought would need to go into field and table formatting. Ideally you would make the data system as lean and mean as possible to cater for menagerie of different fitness assessment programs there would be out there, which could then import the data as needed.

Presumably this technology already exists - if they weren't capturing this kind of data automatically in fields like sports medicine I'd be very disappointed. What I'd like to see is this technology made cheap and simple enough for roll-out in local gyms, and ultimately in home gyms. If anyone has seen stuff like this out in the wild, please chuck it into the comments.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I knew him long before he ever became a Jersey girl

So where to now for Harry Potter? Two words people: Grange Hill.

Oh c'mon, surely Harry Potter would work fantastically as a school drama? 8-12 1 hour episodes for each book, some of the minor characters and unnecessary subplots can get a proper fleshing out, the teenage angst can be ramped up, and, most importantly, J K Rowling gets another great wodge of cash. Obviously it's a little early to be starting such a project now, but give it another 10 years HP the series will be on our small screens.

I forgot to mention in my Order of the Phoenix review that prior to the movie was a trailer for The Golden Compass, which is actually The Northern Lights by Philip Pullman renamed. You can see the trailer at the film's website. As I am a fan of the books I'm reasonably excited by the movie, but I'm guessing they're going to have to tone down some of the content for the international audience. For international audience read: America, and for content read: anything about overthrowing God and the Church. Good luck getting that stuff through, guys.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

the bastards of war

Bastard is a card game for 3+ players. I've heard it called a number of games, including Sick, Scum, Holy Jamamee, and هوو مني] جمال للفضيلة من ابنتك. But for me Bastard is a perfect description for the game, since that is the monkier I usually bestow on the people who beat me at it.

Since I initially heard the rules second-hand, and over time have had several slightly different rule-sets proposed, I thought I might write them down for the benefit of newer players. Feel free to suggest your own variations in the comments.

Note: in all versions of Bastard either one or two packs of cards can be used. It is recommended that two packs are used for any game with 4+ players. If two packs are used players must decide which 3 of Spades will start the game (so it is an advantage to play with dissimilar packs).

Right Bastard (or Classic Bastard):
  1. Bastard consists of rounds, games and sets. You play rounds in a game of bastard, and you have sets of games.
  2. All cards (sans Jokers, unless you are playing with the Funny Bastard rules, see below) are dealt to the players. The player with the 3 of Spades starts the first round of the game. They must play the 3 of Spades as their first action. If they have the 3 of Spades and another 3, or multiple 3s, of any suit they can play that as well. If multiples of the same card value are played subsequent players must also play multiples during that round (so you have rounds of singles, doubles, triple, etc, determined by the first cards played).
  3. Cards are played clockwise.
  4. You must put down a higher card than the last card played in the round. If the last card played was a 3 you must put down a 4 or higher. If the last card played was a Jack, you must put down a Queen or higher, and so on.
  5. The highest card played wins the round. 2 is always the highest card and 3 is the lowest. Players are not obliged to play their highest card, and pull out of a round at any time by saying "pass". Once you have passed in a round you cannot play any cards until the next round begins. Theoretically you can win a round simply by playing a 3 if all other players subsequently pass.
  6. The player who wins the round then gets to start the next round.
  7. The first player to play all their cards is dubbed 'The President'. The last player left with cards to play has lost the game and is therefore 'The Bastard'. Players continue playing on the last cards played by the players who have gone out (i.e. it is not necessary to start a new round when a player goes out - unless all players pass, or the last played card is a 2). The game is only finished when only one player remains with cards, at which point The Bastard can be announced.
  8. When playing with 4 or more players you can also have the positions of 'Vice-President' and 'Vice-Bastard'. It is generally recommended that 2 packs are used when these positions are in play.
  9. Once the cards are dealt, the Bastard and the President engage in Patronage - the Bastard must give the President their highest card, and the President must give the Bastard their lowest card. If the President has multiple 3s (i.e. more 3s than are required to give patronage) including the 3 of Spades then they are not obliged to give up the 3 of Spades.
  10. Where Vice-President/Vice-Bastard positions are in play the Bastard must give up their two highest cards and the President their two lowest; The VP and VB must do the same with just one card each.
  11. Once Patronage is over and all players are ready the first round of the set can begin, as per the rules above.
  12. Players may decide how many games will constitute a set, or just continue playing games until exhausted.
  13. Swearing inventively at opposing players either to distract them or after they beat you in a round/game is encouraged.

Rule variations to Bastard:
  • Run - where 3 (or more) cards are put down in sequence (i.e. 7, 8, 9 or double Jack, double Queen, double King), then any player can call 'run'. Subsequent cards played in that round must be sequential.
  • Keep the Bastard Happy - after the first round the Bastard always starts the game by playing the first hand (i.e. the 3 of spades is no longer significant). In general this makes it easier for the Bastard to change position.
  • Kick a Man When He's Down - the President can give the Bastard any card they like during patronage- they are not compelled to give their lowest card (but they are still restricted in the number of cards they give).
  • Veto (proposed by Paul Litterick) - Playing an 8 (or multiple 8s) ends the round. The 8 must be played as part of the normal sequence (i.e. you can't play it after a 9).
  • Funny Bastard - A single Joker is added to the pack which acts as a wildcard. Because the value of the card is not assigned until it has been played, the Joker is not part of the Bastard's patronage to the President. As a wildcard the Joker can be played as a 2, but cannot beat a 2.
  • Total Bastard - Games are scored to determine an overall winner for the Set. Each game played as President counts as 2-points, Vice-President 1 point, Vice-Bastard -1-points, Bastard -2 points.
For anyone who hasn't quite got the card ordering, it goes like this, starting lowest to highest: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, Jack, Queen, King, Ace, 2.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

this great evil

Hands down, the most disturbing music video ever: Unkle's Eye for an Eye.

The message is unmistakeable - the forces of the Evil Teddy Bear Nation will one day come for us.

And we must make ourselves ready.

Carry on.

Seriously though, the album Eye for an Eye comes from, Never, Never, Land, is an absolute stonker and worth every penny. Happy it is not - definitely qualifying for the moniker "Mood Music", as you'll be moody as all hell after listening to it.

reputation's changeable

Not Bad. Not bad at all.

I was a late comer to Harry Potter (I saw the first two movies well before I read any of the books), and while I'll be the first to point out that they are not high art, they are definitely a jolly good romp. If I had kids I would definitely make them read them, if nothing else because they are the one true path to Satan, and much easier to read than the Necronomicon, which, to be honest, I found uninspiring and in fact rather a bore.

The problem with reading the books, though, is that you instantly start picking the movies apart, and whining miserably about the bits the movie left out. Philosopher's Stone and Chamber of Secrets are still rather pristine in my memory, but Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire are forever sullied by small annoyances: would it have killed the director to put in a scene telling us the derivation of the names Moony, Padfoot and Prongs? Or for Dumbledore to have explained why Harry and Voldemort's wands acted the way they did at the end of Goblet of Fire? One wonders why the makers haven't taken a leaf out of Peter Jackon's book and released special editions with a half hour of extra footage - is it just that HP fans are far less fanatical than Tolkienites?

On this score Order of the Phoenix comes out actually rather well. At a guess this comes down to that particular book being badly in need of a good pruning. It is by far my least favorite book being quite damned dreary and overly infected with Harry's whining teenage recalcitrance. The movie improves matters to no end, without cutting out too many important scenes. Thankfully the acting from the youngsters is also definitely improving. They also quite arfully manage to wrap up the Cho Chang affair quite nicely, even if they do depart quite spectacularly from the book.

Speaking of acting, Evanna Lynch (as Luna Lovegood**) will be one to watch for in the future. She nails the character as delightfully disconnected from world in her own serene reality, which as a first time actor is fairly impressive. It helps that the character is one of the stand-outs from the book - and that she has a fantastic irish lilt, which could potential cover a multitude of acting evils. I've always said that if I was to be reincarnated I'd like to come back as an African-American man, because black guys just naturally look better than any other race (just think about it - old balding white guy vs old balding black guy? No freaking contest. I'll take your Sean Connery and raise you one Samual L. Jackson. Or Morgan Freeman even). In light of Evanna Lynch I'd have to say if I had to be reincarnated as a woman then I would like to come back Irish. Perhaps this is not so surprising, the Irish being the niggers of Europe - everyone has treated them like dirt, even though they're so much cooler than everyone else*.

(Of course, one would hope no God would be silly enough to reincarnate me as a woman because if you gave me two breasts of my own I'm sure as hell not going to get very much work done).

But I digress. I was slightly surprised how much Luna features in the movie - I wonder whether Rowling has told that filmmakers that she plays an important part in the final book? (for my money I reckon she and Neville hook up. And I'll put money on an outside chance that it turns out the Neville ends up killing Voldemort as well - oh come on, it fits the prophecy doesn't it?).

For more musings and predictions check out Span's thread on this.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Are the Smurfs anti-Semitic Communists? - Why yes, Jimmy, yes they are.

What's the fastest-acting, most lethal poison? - I only ask because out of innocent curiousity you understand ...

* ... except when it comes dancing. Sorry, dancing is at heart a mating ritual, and Irish dancing is about as sexy as a polar bear. And not one of those pretty polar bears, either. I see you people from the North American Man-Polar Bear Love Association out there in the audience. And you're all sick, sick people I tell you.

** Okay, Luna Lovegood - excellent name for a character in a book about witches and wizards? Or something you would expect as the name of a girl in a Bond movie? It's not Plenty O'Toole, but still ... what was Rowling thinking?

"You don't appreciate a lot of stuff in school until you get older. Little things like being spanked every day by a middle aged woman: Stuff you pay good money for in later life." - Emo Philips

Sunday, July 01, 2007

trade all your heroes in for ghosts

Gentlemen - it is good.

Not Donnie Darko, Fight Club or Heat good, but good enough for an event movie, and all that that entails - explosions, fast edits and kinetic action. The dialogue is on occasion quite ropey, but mostly it knows that any movie involving giant robots fighting over something called "The All-Spark" - especially giant robots named things like Bumblebee, Ironhide, Starscream, Ratchet and Megatron (that's just a sampling, folks) - is going to be fighting a losing battle when it comes to credibility and suspension of disbelief. They make the movie work by (generally) not taking themselves too seriously.

Funnily enough it's the humans that get the best exposure - Shia LaBeouf and Megan Fox do pretty well as the human leads, and the supporting cast is uniformly good as well - except for the NSA analyst/hacker subplot, which is quite frankly a waste of good space.

But in the end it's the robots whose characters are not developed enough - when one of the autobots die at the end it's kind of hard to care, which is a little unfortunate. But they leave the door wide-open (in a non-groan-worthy way - stay for the credits, folks) for a sequel, so maybe that will be an chance to flesh everyone out a little: cf X-Men 2 - and hopefully not X-men 3.

you know the secrets of the universe

Funny pictures, just because I can.

I may be thinking of particular people I know with that last one.

... especially here for the people I was thinking of with the Cat Proximity picture. And finally, it is traditional to end with this:


"One day I had an asthmatic attack. These three asthmatics jumped me. I know, it's my fault... I should have heard them hiding." - Emo Philips

Saturday, June 30, 2007

but your love alone won't save the world

Despite appearing to commit the heinous sin of wearing skirt-over-trousers, in the Maniac Street Preachers song Your Love Alone Is Not Enough Nina Persson reminds us that her swedish-scented voice can on occasion rent holes in bloody carcass of my heart, like a succubus on heat. She ain't half bad looking either.

The incurably heart-broken should also look out for her singing
The Bluest Eyes In Texas, off the Boys Don't Cry soundtrack.

Friday, June 29, 2007

I got no time for private consultation

I seem to have collected several hundred links to articles of momentary interest during my travails upon the silicon paths, always meaning to tag them onto the end of my blog entries; but since my blog entries have been a little light recently, I guess I'll have to salt a few random ones here instead:

The USB Missile launcher - now, I've got one of these. It's fun for 5 minutes or so, but desperately needs the following:
  • A camera. For aiming, and possibly recording your hits. If you want to go real crazy, a mini-camera in the head of the foam missile.
  • A wireless controller. Because a.) the usb cable only reaches so far, and b.) it would be so much easier to ambush people if you could hide them randomly round the office.
  • A better power supply (it takes 3 AA batteries and they last no time at all).
  • Actual explosive tips.
  • The ability to control more than one at once.
Besides all that, I now desperately need to find one of these. Unfortunately it's ridiculously expensive at the only place I can find it for sale, ThinkGeek.

Beating Guns into Guitars - Well, I suppose it's better than beating guitars over the heads of guitarists ... no, wait, it's not.

Conspiracy theorists must face the truth of Mars hill - Let me put it this way. How many faces have you sculpted hills out of in the hope of attracting aliens? No, while drunk doesn't count.

LEDs could start replacing lightbulbs soon

quadtec: A new way to tell digital time - personally, I'm not sold on the concept, but golly, don't it look snazzy?

Lack of sleep may impact upon moral judgement - not to mention making me cranky as hell.

Sex workers report high job satisfaction - dammit, is nothing sacred? But at least the survey does prove that a BA doesn't doom you solely to a job in McDonalds.

Torture and '24' - because it hurts us less than the real thing?

Religious video game leaves spyware behind - Seriously, why am I not surprised?

Laws for sale! Astroturfing and citizen apathy on the rise

For God's Sake, By Paul Krugman
- Well, when I finally get to hell, at least I'll be in good company.

Sudanese goat wife pops her hooves - Words fail me, much.

Makes me happy
Attempts to introduce Intelligent Design in Europe spark backlash

Makes my angry

Banks demand a look inside customer PCs in fraud cases

Makes me angry, and Satan happy

Copyright coalition: Piracy more serious than burglary, fraud, bank robbery

"You meet saints every where. They can be anywhere. They are people behaving decently in an indecent society." - Kurt Vonnegut
"I love to go down to the schoolyard and watch all the little children jump up and down and run around yelling and screaming...They don't know I'm only using blanks." - Emo Philips

... and what else could I go out on, but
Headless teddy wins weirdest USB drive.

Monday, June 25, 2007

in Jersey everything's legal, as long as you don't get caught

Well it's official: if Seth Green liked Transformers, it must be good. I'm off to see it Sunday, with a spring in my step and a small child in my tummy.

... obviously I'm kidding. I couldn't fit a whole small child in my tummy.

I'll put the rest in the fridge for later.

... I'm no expert obviously, but doesn't Optimus Prime look kinda young in that poster? Weird.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

cut out of the sun

It's official - after watching the latest Doctor Who episode (Blink - episode 10 of series 3 *cough* utorrent *cough*), there is a new Hottest-Girl-In-Teh-World, finally dethroning The-Mysterious-Redhead-At-Teh-Bus-stop. Her name is Carey Mulligan, playing Sally Sparrow, and here's some more photos from the BBC's Doctor Who site:

The fan-boy and fan-girl discussion has already started here. Also, Blink was hands-frinking-down the best episode this season. Stone angels aren't quite as scary as 6 year-olds in gas masks, but they come pretty damn close.

In other news, Candians have green blood (would I make this shit up?). And get in line for the new Steampunk monitor and keyboard - for the totally incurable.

Addendum: It strikes me that those pictures make Ms Mulligan look kinda younger than real life - she is in fact 22, and so I am not quite the dirty old man you bastards all think I am.

Addendum the second: I should probably stop being so surprised about how crap the political discourse is in this country, but this whole "banning junk food in our schools" furore gets my goat (you might ask how many goats I have, considering how often it gets got. And the answer is: one. But it gets quite a workout, let me tell you). For those who consider it bureacratic, nanny state, anti-freedom-of-choice-commie-satanism ... well, I guess you'll be supporting my proposal to sell pornography, cigarettes and solvents in school tuckshops. After all, if they aren't buying it in school, they can just go out to the dairy down the street.

There's also a whole screed in here somewhere about the Muliaga/Mercury energy snafu, but Mutopia condenses pretty much my feelings on the matter, so bugger off and read him instead, you dirty oiks.

Friday, June 01, 2007

with magic soaking my spine

On the subject of our "Christian Heritage". Well, heck it's true. We're fricking soaked in unconscious christianity in this country, like most of the Western World that we receive the majority of our cultural influences from. How many of us, everyday, invoke the christian deities accidentally when we make an exclaimation - "My God!", "Jesus Christ!", "Sweet Zombie Jesus!", etc.

What is less clear is why this heritage should be deemed important, or indeed what we are obliged to do about it. Conceivably this could get quite complicated, since, to be entirely true to our heritage we would have to acknowledge all of our heritages - Judaism for a start, since Christianity is at least 50% jewish. We would need a bit of Mesopotamian heritage in there too, since the Jews probably stole their flood myth from there (not to mention our way of telling time - thank you Sumerians for the 12 month year and 60 minute hour). Add on top of these we also overlay our Greek, Roman and English heritage (English heritage further splitting into the thousands of different groups that at one point or another invaded the English, or who the English invaded and then stole their words in an effort to make English the hardest damn language to learn) ... you'll see where his might get a little confusing.

Then comes to problem of how we go about reflecting our combined heritage. Christianity seems pretty easy, we just retain the prayer opening in Parliament, although we might want to insert something in there about how we deplore all those dirty heathens that seem to be infesting the place these days (yes Catholics, we mean you. Bloody papists). But how do we adequately reflect our Roman heritage? Conquer most of Western Europe, build some roads, and cap it all off by having a bunch of orgies? Tempting, I know. But there are also some darker periods in our history - cannibalism anyone? I don't just mean among Maori - go back far enough and I suspect everyone's ancestors have partaken of a slice of juicy long-pig. But let's look on the bright side - at least we would finally be able to put to rest that age-old question that has stumped philosophers far, far wiser than I: to wit, do we taste like chicken, or pork?

Hands up who's surprised?
Movie piracy claims more fiction than fact Well I, for one, am shocked.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

there's a light in the valley

Brian Tamaki sees the dark shadow of Satan, in the form of secularism, looming across New Zealand ...

... meanwhile, Satan is sitting at home on the couch watching South Park and drinking a beer, because while the dark shadow of evil - in the form of Brian Tamaki - looms across New Zealand, his work here is done.

In other news ...
  • The Transformers movie looks like it actually might turn out to be good, based on the trailers they've released so far. I'm guessing die-hard fans will hate it, since they seem to have ditched half the original premise and just kept the transforming robots and the names.
  • A Nancy Drew movie should be a good thing, but won't be because they're making it for 3-year olds. Heck, in this day and age resurrecting a tough, independent, teenage girl detective should be a no-brainer, god knows there's enough decent TV shows based on similar premises. Instead, it looks like they are making something that you half expect Hilary Duff to star in. Bastards. And where the hell is our Famous Five movie already? In fact, fuck the Famous Five, where the hell is our Three Investigators movie?? Actually, it turns out it's here. There is even a trailer. In German. Which won't even load. Goddamn.
  • Heath Ledger as The Joker? Who'd a thunk it, but he actually looks half decent (you'll have to scroll down a little to find the picture). And of course, check out I believe in Harvey Dent and I believe in Harvey Dent too. I still wish they'd made Batman Year 1, but the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale interpretation is turning out rather well ...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

you wear nothing, but you wear it so well

Things that irritate me #4627:

"Tax cuts will act as incentive for people to work more"

This is one of the those supposedly intuitive ideas that I could never for the life of me understand. If you cut taxes, workers have more incentives to work as they receive more money in the hand, since less of it is going to our fat, old, nanny-cow of a government. Or something.

But it's ridiculous.

The majority of workers in this country have bugger-all control of how many hours they work. Or they're on a fixed salary, and get nothing if they work harder except a limp handshake and maybe a couple of movie tickets.

Who the hell, except economists and the OCD, sits down and works out how much tax they're going to pay if they do overtime this week (christ, does overtime even exist anymore??)? Who turns down a promotion because they'll suddenly be earning 39c for every dollar over $60,000? Personally half the reason for my job moves during my career has been about 60% money and 40% pride/prestige. Reducing all human activities to money is the greatest failure of economic theory, if you ask me, which you don't, and that quite frankly is why you have so many damn problems.

Hell, let's argue the other way - if you raise taxes people will work harder, because now that I have less money in the hand, I need to earn more to pay for my house, that LCD tv and the second helipad I've been meaning to build. With the government taking 50% of my income, I'll need to work 15 more hours a week! Instant growth!

Sweet zombie jesus, I'm a fiscal genius.

I'm actually agnostic about whether tax cuts in general stimulate long-term sustainable growth (as opposed to short term spending splurges. Arguably the best time to cut taxes will be straight after the next real estate crash). Show me some pretty graphs and long-term research and I could fall either way. I respect (even if I disagree) with the idea that you should cut taxes and government spending purely because people are a better judge of what their money should be spent on. But feed me up with stupid arguments and I'll just be inclined to think you're just a blithering moron.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

bare-boned and crazy


Sexy Vader - So, so wrong.

Army Tests Fighting 'Bot - some people obviously need to watch Terminator again. This particular droid of death has the relatively unthreatenging name of MULE (Multifunction Utility Logistics and Equipment). Slightly less cuddly is it's big brother - Crusher. Obviously they ain't no pansies at DARPA. One thing is for certain though: giant, killer robots will always be cool.

Fighter-controlled jet is tested
- More Skynet-esqe silliness.

Breast cancer not linked to abortion - 'nuff said.

The poverty/terror myth
- interesting article from Fortune Magazine

The HD-DVD crack furoe:
Man I'm starting to hate copyright laws ... do us all a favour people, and pick up a copy of Dean Baker's The Conservative Nanny State. It's even downloadable on the internet for free (free as in the author is happy for you to do it), though I'm too lazy to chase down the link for you.

You always wanted to know, but were afraid to ask:
Can urinating on your feet in the shower cure athlete's foot? Oh come on, like you weren't curious.

What happens if a werewolf bites a vampire? What's the minimum daily requirement of blood for a vampire? Can you get zombified by having sex with a zombie? Hmm. When exactly was the last time you were turned on by a zombie?

if I've gone overboard: letters to the ether

Fuck it, the Herald might be smart enough not unleash my passions upon the unsuspecting public, but you poor bastards will not escape my wrath. Below then, is my last unpublished letter to the editor:

When the opening headline in the Herald proclaims "Jealous gunman who massacred 32 ... was a new immigrant" one wonders how much further into the gutter journalism can fall. What was so important about the gunman's immigration status or what kind of visa he had? In the context of this particular story it would make exactly as much sense to highlight his height, or the colour of his hair, or what kind of aftershave he habitually wore. By making his nationality a defining factor you manage to impute that somehow the massacre was caused by it.

To add insult to injury you can't even get your facts correct - unless, of course, by "new" you meant "had lived in America since he was eight years old, fifteen years ago", and by "Chinese" you meant "Korean".