Thursday, December 28, 2006

Google rocks!

This is a very quiet week at work, as you may expect. That's precisely why I enjoy working the week between Christmas an New Year... all the peace and quiet.

It's given me quite a lot of time to play around on the web. What I've been playing with this week is a bunch of Google's new products.

You may have noticed that Google Blogger has come out of Beta. I haven't tested all the new functionality yet, but I must say I'm impressed so far. If you haven't upgraded yours yet, I suggest you do so.

I'm typing this post on Google Docs & Spreadsheets... Google's web-based word-processor/spreadsheet application. From here I can publish my documents to my blog, to a seperate, dedicated web page and invite collaborators to work on my documents with me!

I've also fallen in love with Google Reader... a web-based XML feed reader that allows me to keep track of all the updates on all my favourite blogs, webcomics and news sites from one page! It even has a Shared Items page where I can publish my favourite articles to a publicly viewable web-page that you guys can monitor using your Google Reader! (I've added a link to my Shared Items page on the right-hand side of this one).

I've also been playing with Google Books Search, where you can search the full content of thousands (if not millions) of public-domain books. It would be nice if a lot of the newer books were also in the public domain, but it's still a super cool resource for information.

The other one I've been playing with is Google Groups... Google's answer to the long-standing Yahoo Groups mailing list service. Although not yet as feature-rich as it's Yahoo counterpart, Google Groups does integrate nicely with the other Google products and it's far more configurable. I'm contemplating migrating my existing Yahoo groups over to Google, despite the effort that would entail.

At work I've been involved with a couple of internal projects that will facilitate a convergence of all work functions through a single interface: Microsoft SharePoint Portal. I've been very excited about it. These new Google products and the inter-connectedness they have presents an opportunity for me to integrate all my non-work stuff through a single portal as well... also a very exciting proposition.

My one dissapointment with Google's products is the Google Calendar. There's nothing wrong with it as such. It's very feature-rich and boasts all kinds of cool thingies, like SMS reminders and stuff. My problem is that I'm already trying to keep calendars updated in four different places, which currently involves a fair amount of manual work. Without some sort of real-time or regular synchronisation between Google Calendar, my Outlook (at work and at home), my cellphone or my PDA, I'm afraid it's just no use to me.

So what are you waiting for? Go play with all the cool thingies!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

New Trek animated series?

I dunno if I like this idea.

I understand their reasons for suggesting it: moving forward, budgetary constraints, and so on.

I'm just not convinced that animation is an approprate medium for the Star Trek message. Andromeda, sure. Battlestar Galactica, absolutely. Even Star Wars could work well (I haven't seen the Clone Wars animated series yet). But Trek? I'm not convinced.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Rogue Scientist Has Own Scientific Method

The Onion

Rogue Scientist Has Own Scientific Method

TALAHASSEE, FL-The 44-year-old maverick says groundbreaking results require flexibility and creativity, not meticulous planning and observation.

Friday, November 17, 2006


In case you're wondering why I've been so quiet, it's because I'm trying to channel all my creative writing energy elsewhere.

I've managed to arrange a regular slot in a column in a local gaming magazine, plus I'm trying really hard to write my book.

You guys can buy it when I'm done and catch up on all the daily doses of 01 that you've missed out on in the interim.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Radio quiz shows

A little piece of advice:

If you're stupid, don't call in for radio quiz shows.

As a general rule, the questions on radio quiz shows aren't very difficult, but stupid people will still not know the answer. When a stupid person phones in and gets an easy question wrong it just pisses the rest of us off, because you've wasted someone else's chance of winning that prize (however meager it may have been).

If you don't know the difference between the pyramids and stonehenge, maybe you shouldn't phone in for a quiz show about famous tourist destinations. Maybe you should spend that time reading a goddam book instead.

Instead of leaving your DSTV permanently tuned to E! or goddam Supersport 75, maybe you should watch a little Discovery Channel from time to time... just have it on in the background.

If that doesn't appeal to you, then kindly refrain from calling in to radio quiz shows. You don't see fat people trying to win the Comrades do you? No. Because they would just embarrass themselves. The same goes for you and quizzes... don't bother, okay? Leave it to the brainy folk rather.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

I knew it!

It turns out that we may already have the solution to violent crime: action movies, Coca-Cola and Internet porn!


I would love to see a similar study looking at the effects of violent video games on the would-be perpetrators of violent crime.

Monday, October 30, 2006

It is a monumentous day indeed

Today I celebrate the first anniversary of the day the Most Amazing Person in the Universe agreed to become the Most Amazing Girlfriend in the Universe.

A year later I still can’t believe my luck: not only did she agree to be my girlfriend, but she has continued to hold that title. And what’s more, yesterday we “announced” to my family that we’re in the process of planning our wedding!

What the hell happened?

A little over a year ago I was single, miserable and on a road to nowhere in particular. Now I’m almost engaged, deliriously happy, and have a set of real goals… some of which have already been accomplished! And what was the catalyst that changed all of that? Hide.

Thank you for being with me. You’ve saved my life by making it worth living. I owe you so much, but all I have to offer is to spend the rest of my life trying to make yours as easy as possible. I love you.

Friday, October 27, 2006

From Randi's SWIFT newsletter

He pasted it from somewhere else... it's pretty cool:

Top Ten indications that you’re over-obsessed with religion:

#10 – You vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

#9 – You feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that humans were created from dirt.

#8 – You laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a Triune God.

#7 – Your face turns purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the male first-born babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" – including women, children, and trees.

#6 – You laugh at Hindu beliefs that deify humans, and Greek claims about gods consorting with women, but you have no problem believing that the Holy Spirit impregnated Mary, who then gave birth to a man-god who got killed, came back to life and then ascended into the sky.

#5 – You are willing to spend your life looking for little loopholes in the scientifically established age of the Earth (4.55 billion years), but you find nothing wrong with believing dates recorded by Bronze Age tribesmen sitting in their tents and guessing that Earth is about a couple of generations old.

#4 – You believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share your beliefs – though excluding those in all rival sects – will spend Eternity in an infinite Hell of Suffering, and yet you consider your religion the most "tolerant" and "loving."

#3 – While modern science, history, geology, biology, and physics have failed to convince you otherwise, some idiot rolling around on the floor “speaking in tongues" may be all the evidence you need to "prove" your choice of religions to be the correct one.

#2 – You define .01% as a "high success rate" when it comes to answered prayers, and consider that to be evidence that prayer works. And you think that the remaining 99.99% failure was simply the will of God.

#1 – You actually know a lot less than many atheists and agnostics do about the Bible, Christianity, and church history – but you still call yourself a Christian.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I hate natural stuff

That’s right, I hate “natural” stuff. Anything that’s “natural” I want no truck with.

Natural stuff is stupid and totally gay.

If you’re trying to give me something containing “all natural ingredients” I will throw it at your head. And then I will shout at you.

When I go shopping, I stay the hell away from anything containing anything natural. I head straight for the “non-natural” isle, which contains a great deal of non-existence.

That’s right, non-existence!

That’s because anything and everything that exists is part of nature, and is therefore natural. Whether it’s soy-beans or polypropylene, it’s all natural. I spit on natural things! Spit!

Give me a tall, cool glass of absolute non-existence please!

And don’t get clever handing me a glass of air. Air is natural! And if you think you’re going to be even cleverer and hand me a glass that all the air has been sucked out of, that won’t do either! A vacuum is part of nature too!

Where do you have to go to get good service around here? Sheesh!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Diwali (aka Deepavali)

“festival of lights” in the Hindu faith.

It celebrates several important events in their mythology, but the “lights” part comes from celebrating the “inner light” which is a pivotal part of the Hindu faith.

Our Hindu neighbours had a Diwali party on Saturday night, setting off cracker after cracker, scaring the bejeesus out of out poor dogs.

I see no reason why it should be celebrated with fireworks. Sure, there are pretty lights and all, but the loud bangs are not part of the celebration, and they are the part that is problematic. In the 21st century there is absolutely no excuse for setting off explosives in a high-density residential area that is populated not only by many non-Hindu humans, but also by several species of domestic animals, some of which have far more sensitive hearing than we have.

If you want to celebrate light, get some lights. You can get some nifty ones too… strings of colour-changing lights like the ones Christians use to decorate trees at Christmas. Get laser pointers and all sorts of cool little light-emitting toys and baubles that don’t make a sound… they can be bought at just about any toy shop for far less than the cost of a box of fireworks. And they are legal and are not antisocial.

I’m not just bashing Hindus here. The same goes everyone who likes to set off explosives at Guy Fawkes Day and New Years Eve.

We haven’t been a British colony for decades now. Why the hell are we still celebrating Guy Fawkes Day? And New Years’ Eve… not a year goes by without the news telling us of far too many injuries and even deaths resulting from shitfaced macho-men trying to use deadly weapons “safely”.

It clearly isn’t enough to ban these things. There needs to be far more police enforcement of it. And it’s not exactly difficult, either: just drive around residential areas on those nights and look for flares… follow the flare and slap on the cuffs.

It’s not rocket-science!

Thursday, October 19, 2006


After reading a recent post on Scott Adams’ blog on the subject, I’ve spent some time thinking about affirmations (the practice of regularly writing down or chanting a mantra or phrase relating to a seemingly distant goal).

Of course the woo-woo fringe like to think that by repeatedly expressing your goal, you’re sending positive “energy” out into the universe that will summon a magical winged leprechaun who will come and shake a stick at you, making your wildest dreams come true. Or something.

Suffice to say, I don’t think that is the case.

However I have read several studies on the effectiveness of affirmations. I don’t know how good those studies were, or how much confirmation bias had to do with the results, but I can see the logic behind why something like this might work.

Adams subscribes to the theory that affirmations allow the user to focus his or her attention, thus making them more able to recognise opportunities… some kind of self-hypnosis. I suspect that may be a contributing factor, but I don’t think that’s all there is to it.

I think it’s more a self-programming technique. The sheer repetition of it is enough to ensure that whatever your goal is, it’s going to be on your mind, even if it’s at the back of your mind, for most of the time. The more you think about it, the more time you have to consider your options and to figure out ways of achieving that goal.

Once you’ve figured out what you need to do to achieve the goal, you’re half-way there. It’s easy to recognise the opportunities when you know exactly what you’re looking for.

I also think that the sort of people who would commit themselves to constant repetition of an important goal over any length of time are the sort of people who are likely to be goal-oriented people… the sort of people who get things done anyway.

So, I’m going to give it a shot. I have chosen an important, but seemingly distant goal, and I’m going to type out a simple and direct phrase on my cellphone every hour, on the hour, during the day, every day, for the next six months. It’s not an impossible goal, just a difficult one that I don’t know how I’ll be able to accomplish just yet.

If after six months I haven’t managed to at least take some significant steps towards achieving that goal (assuming I’m able to keep up the typing for that long), I think I’ll be able to safely say that affirmations are not all they’re cracked up to be.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The dumbest thing I’ve ever heard

One of my favourite comedians is Lewis Black. In one of his shows he mentions that the dumbest thing he’s every heard was some strange girl at the International House of Pancakes telling her friend “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.”

Yeah, that’s what I said. I have a story like that as well.

One evening I was at a casual dinner party at a friend’s house. One of the other guests was a young fellow who took endless pleasure in bragging about how hard he could “party”. You know the sort.

During the course of the evening he let rip with this little nugget:
“I won’t give money to the Salvation Army. I saw this documentary about how they are sending troops to Ivory Coast to support the rebels in the civil war.”

I’ll give you a moment to roll that around in your head for a bit.

Ready? Okay.

In the interests of promoting reader interaction, I invite you all to tell us the story of the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard.

And… go!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The brain burden

Is it the responsibility of the skilled or knowledgeable to assist the ignorant?

I’m an intelligent person, skilled an experienced in many things. If someone I know comes asks me to do something that they lack the skill, experience, and frankly intelligence, to do themselves, am I obliged to do it for them?

Let me be more specific.

I’ve built a few websites in my day, some better than others, some easier than others. Someone recently approached me to ask that I, as a favour, help them create one. Being a generous sort of person, I agreed… I provided them with all the information they needed to build one themselves.

It’s not rocket-science to make the sort of website they wanted… in fact it’s exceptionally easy, and amounts to little more than filling in a few online forms: less than an hour’s work for someone who has never done it before.

For some reason, that wasn’t enough for them. They seemed to think that they needed more help from me. And when I wasn’t available to do it (the fact that I had no desire to do it is frankly irrelevant) they got very snotty and rude about it. Remember, this was a favour, not a paid job.

These people aren’t close friends of mine, by any measure. Although it’s likely that if I needed their assistance with something, they would help, it’s highly unlikely that I would never need their help with anything… there’s simply nothing they can do that I can’t do myself.

Plus I’ve done a great many favours for them already… the favour balance-sheet is heavily weighted in my direction. They already owe me big time. What right do they have to get snotty with me now?

It’s as if they feel that as someone with the brains to do it, I owe it to them to do this. My inner communist agrees to some extent: “From each, according to his ability, to each, according to his need.” I’m all for reciprocal altruism, but where exactly is the reciprocity if they have nothing I need or want? Should I continue doing them these favours on the off-chance that someday they may acquire something that might satisfy a need of mine? How long should I wait, and how much work should I put into it?

I’ve always been a sucker, running to the aid of anyone who needed my help. I used to take pleasure and satisfaction from it. But I’ve recently realized that by doing that I may not necessarily be helping people… just delaying their personal growth and development by acting as a crutch for them.

I now feel that it’s far more valuable to provide people with the information they need to be able to learn how to do it themselves. “Give a man a fish…”

In this case it’s especially valuable, since they needed a simple website that could be regularly updated. Is it not more logical to be able to update it yourself, rather than have to run to someone else to do it for you every time?

These people are obviously not intelligent enough to recognize that what I’ve already done for them (giving them the means rather than the product) is better, as demonstrated by their ingratitude. Why should I have to put up with their short-sightedness and ignorance?

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Modern man: the ignoble savage

(Disclaimer: The following is a statement of opinion, based on nothing more than my own pompous assumptions. Take it as seriously as you like.)

Fact: Human nature involves inherent violent tendencies. Just try and deny it… go on, I’ll wait.

You can’t. You could try. But you’d be lying.

Our ancestors evolved into killing machines: vicious hunters that were able and willing to use their precocious hunting talents either on food or their enemies as they waged the war for survival.

The best hunters and warriors were more likely to survive. And it wasn’t enough to only have hunters and warriors that were good at their arts, they had to enjoy these pursuits as well… what use is a good marksman who doesn’t like throwing a pointed stick? Thus we reach the 21st century with a population descended from bloody-minded brutes.

Knowing that, it’s no surprise whatsoever that war and violent crime are as prevalent in modern society as they are… we have a penchant for it written into our genetic code. It’s part of who we are. Denying that is, well, denial.

With that said, I don’t think there’s any excuse for anyone to want to be involved in war or violent crime. We may be bloody-minded brutes, but we’re bloody-minded brutes with brains! With a minimum of effort, we can easily outthink our violent tendencies.

Indeed, we have created within many of our civilisations a variety of means through which to express these urges in positive and socially acceptable ways. Of those means, I believe that the absolute best is sport.

“What?” I hear you say.
”I thought 01 hated sport!” I hear you carry on.

But it’s true. Sport is an ideal expression of our violent natures for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it involves a lot of things like running around, jumping, kicking, punching and hitting things with sticks. These are all activities our Palaeolithic ancestors associated with killing things… doing them for fun tricks the primitive parts of our brains into thinking that we really are killing things. The exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins, which help us calm down and feel lovely afterwards… thus relieving tension.

Secondly, there’s the competitive aspect. Within the context of competitive sport, defeating your opponent equates to killing him, on a subconscious level. And it’s not just in sports like boxing or martial arts. Even in sports where you’re not doing direct harm to your opponent, your brain is able to convince its very clever self that you are, indeed, killing him. All competitive sport is therefore simulated warfare.

But sport isn’t for everyone. This could be for a number of reasons. Some people have a physical disability that makes taking part in sport difficult or impossible. Others have an odd genetic mutation that makes them not enjoy all the running around and hitting of things with sticks. That’s where I fit in.

I was diagnosed with asthma as a young child (I was hospitalised with it for the first time when I was five). Although I tried some sports early in primary school, I wasn’t able to exert myself too much, so I wasn’t able to participate as fully as the other kids. So I lost interest and I became something of a mental athlete.

And that’s the key: mental athletics. A mental athlete can find it just as fulfilling to demolish an opponent in a game of monopoly as a boxer does to deliver that knockout punch. It’s just a different expression of the same built-in urge.

I’m all for the sport development programs that our government squanders our tax money on… it’s good to teach under-privileged youngsters peaceful and constructive ways of expressing their innate violence. Rather clobber other guys on the rugby field than in gang wars.

However I think it should be equally important to teach them mental athletics, and by that I don’t mean just sending them to school. Studying doesn’t really help you express the competitive urge (unless you’re competing with other students in terms of results, which seems to be discouraged in schools nowadays).

They need to be taught competitive intellectual pursuits. Chess is a good start. Chess sets are cheap and the game is easy to learn: ideal for low-income areas. You don’t even need to be literate or numerate to be able to play it. For families who have more substantial financial means, things like collectible card games, computer games and gaming consoles should be included in their education.

Gaming isn’t just a distraction, it’s an essential requirement. Despite paranoid theories propagted by the media, I firmly believe that if you encourage a child (preferably an older child) to play Quake or Counter-Strike, he’ll be less likely to go out and actually shoot anyone…. he can do all his killing in virtual reality (with simulated blood and gore rendered in exquisite detail) without ever harming another person.

Of course there are other issues at stake: are you really doing an obese child a favour by telling him to sit on his fat ass playing video-games instead of running around outside? Perhaps not. But that’s someone else’s battle.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A small misunderstanding

As my regular readers will be aware, we’re trying to find a tenant to stay in our garden cottage.

Now, it’s a small garden cottage. It’s not very big. It’s quite small actually. So, armed with that knowledge, when typing up the ad we placed online, I gave it the title “Small Garden Cottage”. I named it that because, as I mentioned before, the cottage is small, and not very big at all.

We’ve had quite an overwhelming response to the ad. Most of the respondents were not suitable, but there were a few that have been. A number of them have even come by to look at the small cottage.

None of them have taken it yet. Of those that bothered to give me feedback after coming to see it cited, as their reason for not taking it, that it was too small.

Now, of course, the cottage is rather small. It’s not big at all. It’s so undeniably small that I placed the word “small” unambiguously in the ad. It really is rather small, you see, which is why I included the word “small”.

So what exactly did they think we meant by that? Did they think we were kidding about it being small? Did they think it was actually quite big, and we put the word “small” in the ad just for a laugh? Or did they think we were being modest in using the word “small” when the cottage was modest-sized, tending towards big?

Just to recap: The cottage is small. It’s not very big. It’s quite small. It’s not on the small side of big, or even on the big side of small, it’s just small. That’s why I said it was small: because it’s small. Not big. Small.

I didn’t think it was rocket-science to deduce from the fact that the word “small” appears in the ad, that the cottage is small. Apparently I was mistaken.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm too big for this country, apparently

Try as I might, I can't find a jacket large enough for me.

I need a size 48 (122cm) Long (as in, long sleeves).

My goddam gorilla-esque arms are too long to fit into a size 48 Regular, which is apparently the largest size that anyone stocks.

Even Edgars' "Size Up" range doesn't cater for my needs. I'm at a loss.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Myth of the Star Trek Fan |

The Myth of the Star Trek Fan |

What a surprise! Trekkies aren't as demographically uniform as the media would have us believe. I never would have thunk it... and here I was believing that I was the only Trekkie who wasn't a 40-year-old man living in my parents' basement.

I'll be keeping a close eye on the work of this Tenuto guy.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Delta Quadrant

With the Star Trek CCG Nationals in two days’ time, I’ve been reading the Decipher website a lot.

One of the new announcements that they’ve made concerns the upcoming expansion that will feature the debut of the Voyager crew to the game.

Voyager presents a difficulty to the Star Trek CCG basic game, in that the series worked completely differently to other Star Trek shows.

Previous shows all featured the adventures of Starships (and a space station) that were always in or near Federation (or United Earth) space… there was always a Starbase or friendly planet nearby. Which means that the game could employ Space Stations and Homeworlds as bases of operation, from which characters and Starships could be sent on their way.

The Voyager series was quite different, in that the ship was stranded on the other side of the galaxy, far from any friendly facilities.

Decipher has announced how this will be incorporated into the game.

Playing with the Voyager sub-affiliation will allow players to operate without any Headquarters Missions. There will be one Mission that will be mandatory: The Caretaker’s Array… a completable space Mission to which the USS Voyager can report.

Voyager-icon personnel and shuttles will be able to report directly to the USS Voyager, thus mitigating the ship-stranding strategy used in some Dilemma piles.

Another exciting development is the advent of this card:

This is the second card to introduce a new winning mechanism (the first was Up the ante). You need four Space Missions (one of which would be the super-easy Caretaker’s Array) and you win! Yay!

The only major danger I can see is when facing the ship-destroyer strategy. If you have a Finding our way handy, you can bring in a new ship, or else evacuate to shuttles… so this too has been mitigated to a certain extent.

The Voyager deck will make some major changes to how the game works. It sucks a little though that USS Voyager can apparently only report to the Caretaker’s Array. I’d love to use it in my Fed deck… I wonder if we’ll see an Earth-icon version of USS Voyager, or perhaps an alternate Voyager-icon Earth or Mouth of the Wormhole. (Why Mouth of the Wormhole you ask? Shame on you… if you paid attention in the Voyager pilot episode, you would have noticed that the last place Voyager docked before being whisked away to the Delta Quadrant was our old favourite station: Deep Space Nine.)

The pleasures of formality

One custom I enjoy is that of using formal titles. It started out as a joke, referring to my friends as Mr So-and-so. But it stuck, and now I rather like it.

The way I see it, most people have undergone a fair amount of effort in order to earn their title. The exception of course would be those whose title is “Miss”. It’s an unfortunate social norm that discriminates unfairly against women. “Ms” doesn’t quite do the job of replacing it, and I can’t help but feel patronising when I use it, so I don’t. Until a suitable replacement is found, I’ll have to continue using ‘Miss’.

Apart from ‘Miss’, just about every adult has earned their title in some way. A ‘Mister’ has earned it by surviving into adulthood. Not a spectacular achievement, but an achievement nonetheless. “Mrs” is also earned: she got married. Also not a big deal, but there was work done in order to acquire it.

In Starfleet everyone has a much fancier title… some more than one. Depending on who I’m speaking to, mine could be ‘Sir’, ‘Captain’ or ‘XO’. I’ve put a great deal of time and energy into my Starfleet work, so I have certainly earned those titles, and I enjoy hearing them. I also like to do other members the courtesy of addressing them by title whenever appropriate. Whether they’re a Crewman or an Admiral, they’ve earned that rank, and should be proud of it.

I find it dissatisfactory that is has become commonplace in modern society to address people by their first names. Even professional people who have fancy titles, will often prefix their first names with the title instead of the traditional surname (‘Doctor John’, as opposed to the traditional ‘Doctor Smith’).

And whatever happened to addressing your uncles and aunts as ‘Uncle’ or ‘Aunty’? It’s all first-names now. I’m surprised that ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ are still as popular as they are… I suspect we may start to see that decline in years to come.

That’s a real pity.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Why are Trekkies weird?

Not everyone is given to fanaticism. However there’s a sufficiently large portion of society that is.

Consider Bob. Bob is in his mid-thirties. He is married and has two children. He has a full-time job in middle-management at a mid-size company, and earns a comfortable salary.

Bob religiously watches his favourite shows on television. Even though he can’t really afford it, he is a DSTV subscriber… essential in order to watch those shows. He’s bought some of the better ones on DVD and proudly displays them next the television amidst a virtual shrine consisting of all sorts of memorabilia: posters, commemorative crockery and an assortment autographed items, some of which cannot be identified by the casual observer.

Whenever he can, Bob gets all dressed up in a special outfit, disguises his features with outrageous makeup and goes off to meet up with many other like-minded people to discuss these things and act rather silly. Even more frequently he invites his like-minded friends over to watch their favourite shows on the big-screen TV he can’t really afford.

As you may have deduced, Bob is a fanatic. He likes to label himself with the euphemistic abbreviation: ‘fan’. But despite what you may suspect, Bob is not a Trekkie. Bob is a Rugby Fan.

Just about everyone knows somebody like Bob. The sort of guy who lives rugby. He knows the names and careers of every important rugby player in the country, possibly the world. He knows the scores of all the major rugby games for the last twenty years, and can probably give you a play-by-play account of each one from memory. He’s the sort of person who will leave a family wedding (or funeral) early so that he can go home and watch the rugby on his far-too-expensive TV.

Bob isn’t unusual at all. I would say a significant portion of South African white males are like Bob… to varying degrees. In some white-male dominated companies it is taken for granted that no-one will be expected to work overtime (or even regular time) if there is a rugby game on.

I suspect that it’s as a result of the sheer number of such people that it has become socially acceptable. Some people think it is endearing or amusing. Others find it tolerable. Those who find it ridiculous daren’t say so in public, lest they offend someone.

I too am a fanatic. I don’t hide behind euphemistic language, although my specific brand of fanaticism carries a unique label: Trekkie*.

I too religiously watch my favourite shows, although most of them aren’t on TV anymore. I’ve had to acquire them on DVD. I display them proudly throughout my home in a virtual shrine alongside a variety of memorabilia, most of which cannot be identified by the casual observer.

I like to put on my special outfit at every available opportunity and attend conventions where I lecture and play Star Trek games. I know the names and histories of every important Star Trek character. I can name every episode for the last 40 years, and give you a play-by-play account of each one from memory. However I am not the sort of person who would leave a family wedding (or funeral) early to go home and watch Star Trek on my girlfriend’s modestly-sized TV. (Even if Trek was on TV, we have a VCR and I could easily record it.)

Very few people know someone like me. There are very few people like me, especially in South Africa. My fanaticism isn’t met with admiration or fondness… it’s more likely to meet with ridicule. People are far from discreet about their derision of my kind. I often have it delivered to my face (If I hear that goddam joke about Klingons and Uranus one more time...). It’s sometimes a source of shame for my loved ones, and that hurts.

But that’s nothing new. When you’re the sort of fanatic who latches onto the intellectual stimulation of Star Trek instead of the mind-numbing repetition of a sport, and you grow up a male in this country, you learn to deal with that kind of reaction from people. In high school I lived in constant struggle against the ruling ‘Sportocracy’, who believed that no activity other than sport was worthy of mention.

I enjoy being a Trekkie. I’m proud of it. Sometimes I even enjoy the fact that it’s seen as weird. But what annoys me a lot of the time is that I’m not all that different to your average rugby fan, yet I am not accorded any of the respect that they are.

It’s the injustice of it all.

*The “-ie” at the end is clearly meant to sound diminutive, which is why a number of us prefer the term ‘Trekker’. But, like the African-American and homosexual communities have done, many of us have decided to take ownership of the derogatory term used to describe us, and now proudly introduce ourselves as Trekkies.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Well that about wraps it up for Super Group

Yup, I just handed in my resignation and I’m off in search of greener pastures. They couldn’t match the offer I’ve received, so that’s it.

Ironically, even though this is one of the jobs I’ve enjoyed the least, on average, it’s also the job I’ve had the longest. My previous record was 18 months, this one lasted 28.

I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. “Starfleet Officer” isn’t a viable career choice yet. So every time I reach a career crossroads, I’m forced to evaluate the options available to me, and see which one is the least dissatisfactory… as opposed to following the path that leads me to where I want to be.

Of course I’d much rather be running a gaming shop, but I just can’t afford to take a risk like that right now. I need to be on a stable, sufficiently high income in order to fund the things I need in my life right now: a house, a wedding, perhaps a family. I can’t be in a situation where that income isn’t guaranteed, even for a couple of months.

One positive aspect is that my new job may bring me a little closer to that, by allowing me to develop some contacts that relate to one aspect of my plan. A small step, but a step nonetheless.

I can’t seem to shake the fear. I’m afraid that this move isn’t going to make any actual difference in my life… that I’ll be moving from the frying pan into the fire. It’s a feeling that isn’t justified by anything other than personal experience: ever since my Teraitech days, my jobs seem to have been getting, more-or-less, progressively worse. I can only hope that this move will alter that trend.

I was even kinda hoping my boss would match the offer. As unhappy as I was here, “rather the devil you know…”

Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant: Ya Button-Hooked Me...I Didn't Think You Were Gonna Button-Hook Me

Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant: Ya Button-Hooked Me...I Didn't Think You Were Gonna Button-Hook Me

An eloquent explanation of post-hoc reasoning. Worth a read.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What a weekend

After spending Friday night fighting orcs, trolls and ring wraiths in Lord of the Rings: The Third Age, things got busy.

Saturday morning was the last Star Trek CCG tournament before Nationals later this month.

I realised that everyone in our league has grown accustomed to my Federation 2-Mission Deck, so I decided to mix it up a bit and go back to a deck I haven't used in ages: a Terok Nor Mission-solver.

It's kinda risky, since the Terok Nor faction hasn't been advanced at all in several expansions, so the cards are mostly quite old, and are therefore not geared to deal with some of the newer dynamics. The good thing about it is that no-one else has used the Terok Nor deck in ages, so no-one would be expecting it.

It totally worked. I got a bye in the first round, which gave me a chance to look through my new Dangerous Missions booster draft boxes. I didn't get anything terribly exciting other than the Dangerous Missions premium cards.

Second round I went against a newbie with a Borg Mission-solver deck. He had been trained by our current top player, whom he had beaten in the first round. Much to my satisfaction I had left my Homeworld and was attempting Missions before he had gotten his first ship out. Plus my Dilemmas performed their usual magic slowing him down nicely. It was a clear and relatively
quick victory.

Third round I went up against another newbie using a Romulan Mission-solver. I made equally short work of him. That made 9 victory points, which is what is needed to win a 3-round tournament... the second tournament I've ever won. This deck rocks. I'll need to practice with it a bit before Nationals, but I'm fairly certain that I can expect a good result. Assuming I can do as well against the three or four players in the league who are usually better than
me, I'll soon have a new Adversaries Anthology box to keep my stock cards in.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to stick around to enjoy my victory. I had to rush off to a concert, stopping along the way to pick up something at Hide's mom's place. I arrived at the school almost an hour late, just in time to catch the tail-end of the warm-up practice.

The show went pretty well, after which I had to dash off once again to get home in time to get ready to go out: we were meeting some of Heidi's old high-school colleagues at a pre-reunion get-together. At the same time I was expected to sing at a retirement party, so a stressful juggling act ensued.

I had to abandon Hide at the get-together so I could go to the party and be ignored by the guest of honour (who had allegedly specifically requested a solo from me). I was not impressed. I managed to get back to the get-together just in time for the last round of drinks. Great.

Then yesterday it was my sister's birthday party where I made a failed attempt to educate my woo-woo infatuated family as to the real nature of "alternative medicine". I don't know why I bother. At least my nieces and nephews are entertaining.

Now, this morning I arrive at the office and sit chewing my nails to smithereens while I await a response from my boss who may or may not decide to increase my salary in order to prevent me from moving to another company who has offered me a job. I suppose I should be flattered that she even decided to think about it, considering the last three guys from my team who
left were sent on their way without so much as a kick in the pants.

These people don't seem to realise the stress they're putting me under by waiting so long to get back to me. This comes from the use of "resource" instead of "employee"... they find it inconvenient to think of me as a person, and that the decision they're making will have resonating consequences for my life, and that of my family.

I feel like a guitar string that's being tuned... they're turning the knob and winding me tighter and tighter. Every hour I have to wait is another turn on the knob. Not only am I no longer in tune, but I'm starting to feel like I'm about to snap.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Original Trek gets facelift


This is, of course, stirring up a lot of turmoil amongst fans. As always there are two camps: purists and pro-changers.

I'm sitting squarely in the pro-changer camp, with one foot over the fence.

Watching the original series is thoroughly enjoyable for a number of reasons. Part of the whole experience is the cheesy special effects. I'll always enjoy that.

On the other hand, they're disengaging. Just when you start getting really sucked into the story, the effects spoil it. It's hard to lose yourself in the plot when suddenly you see a shot of the Enterprise flying at an impossible angle or an alien ship consisting of nothing more than a multi-coloured flashing light.

I'm on a mission at the moment to watch through all of Trek in chronological order. When I moved from the slick and shiny Enterprise to the clusmy and primative Original Series it was a real shock to the system.

We've seen in a few episodes, most notably "In a mirror, darkly" from Enterpise, updated CGI renderings of the TOS era. The USS Defiant from that episode was slick and shiny like the rest of the Enterprise graphics, but remained true to the TOS look and feel of her sister ship from TOS.

It's not just the ships. On a couple of occasions in TOS, we saw Earth (or, a couple of times, a planet exactly like Earth) from space... it looked ridiculous. This was years before Apollo sent back that famous photograph of Earth from space, so it's to be expected that they didn't know what it looked like.

Now they can remake it, with a convincing image of Earth (or any other planet, for that matter), and a Starship that moves convincingly through space.

I will be very glad to see the upgrades, and I anticipate that watching those for the first time will be a whole new Trek experience.

The added benefit is the appeal this will have for youngsters (including my own generation). Most of today's sophisticated TV watchers have become accustomed to the kind of effects found in series like Farscape and the new Battlestar Galactica. As soon as they see the archaic "models on strings" effects from TOS, they burst out laughing and change the channel. They don't watch it long enough to find out just how kickass Kirk and the gang really were!

I suspect that these upgraded episodes will be the first that I will acquire on the new HD media format... be it HD DVD or Blu-ray. That will be a good week.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

ThinkGeek :: Star Trek Enterprise-E

ThinkGeek :: Star Trek Enterprise-E


My Enterprise A and Enterprise B are so lonely without the other Enterprises there to keep them company.


Richard Branson is such a geek

Virgin Galactic

I'll give you one guess what he's decided to name the first Virgin Galactic spacecraft... that's right: VSS Enterprise.

Apparently William Shatner turned down a free flight on the VSS Enterprise stating reservations about its ability to land safely.

I wouldn't trust a Starship that wasn't maintained by a Starfleet-certified engineer either.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

STXI Cast |



The Star Trek XI rumour-mill is churning away. I'm forced to wonder whether the "Matt Damon playing Kirk" rumour is as a result of my cynical speculations or just a coincidence.

Actually, come to think of it, Damon could make a pretty good Kirk. *shrug*

Friday, September 01, 2006

They think we're idiots...

An extract from Stephen Lewis's closing remarks at the Toronto
conference on HIV/AIDS:

South Africa... is the only country in Africa, amongst all the countries I have traversed in the last five years, whose government is still obtuse, dilatory and negligent about rolling out treatment. It is the only country in Africa whose government continues to propound theories more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state. Between six and eight hundred people a day die of AIDS in South Africa. The government has a lot to atone for. I’m of the opinion that they can never achieve redemption.

Indeed we are idiots for allowing this to go so far. Manto needs to be removed from office, now. She needs to stand trial for what is essentially genocide. She needs to be taken very far away from anywhere where she could continue doing her damage. I suggest the bottom of Sterkfontein Dam with a pair of concrete goloshes... but the means is really irrelevant as far as I'm concerned.

Let's stop banging on about the goddam Brett Kebble murder and look at the bigger picture here. Millions of other people are slowly being murdered by this fucking moron. She has to go.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Corporate lessons from nursery school

I don’t know about you, but I frequently start feeling drowsy in the mid afternoon. It doesn’t really matter what I’m doing, what I’ve had to eat or how much sleep I’ve had, at around 2:30 every day I start feeling drowsy.

It seems to go away again, and by 4 I’m wide awake. But no matter what I do, I don’t seem to be able to avoid that afternoon slump. And while it’s upon me, my ability to concentrate, and thus be productive, is severely diminished. I’m forced to do things like Sudoku puzzles or blogging just to keep my eyes open.

Assuming that everyone else encounters the same phenomenon, I propose the following: every office building should have a Nap Room on each floor. (The Nap Room would only be for employees who have to work in public areas like “open-plan” offices or cube-farms. People who have private offices can simulate these conditions without stepping out.)

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a room the size of a large office with some comfy couches in it. It should be darkened with curtains or blinds, and preferably sound-proofed, with some relaxing music being played all the time. (Private office workers could be provided with a comfy chair and relaxing music CDs to play on their computers.)

Then, whenever you’re sitting at your desk and start feeling drowsy, you can pop over to the Nap Room and have a little snooze. After a bit you can wake up and grab a cup of coffee on the way back to your desk, refreshed and more productive.

In fact, I would gladly accept a 1 or 2 hour extension to my working hours if I was allowed either a designated or informal nap-time during the day.

Friday, August 25, 2006

A skit

“Order! Order! I hereby call the 917th quasi-annual meeting of the Arbitrary Semantics Association to order!

First and only item on the agenda: Defining the word ‘people’.

As you all know, dear fellows, it has been debated for years now what qualifies as “people”. The generally accepted definition has been that any and all individuals of the species Homo Sapiens Sapiens are people. However, it has been suggested that this definition is inaccurate as other naturally occurring objects such as non-human animals, plants and rocks could also be considered humans from certain points of view.

Despite the fact that we all agreed last week that reptiles, mammals, fish and insects (but not birds) qualified as the new class of people called “Stupid People”, it has since come to our attention that that term is, in fact, already in use by some anthropologists to describe a human sub-set.

Therefore, we hereby decree that the following criteria must apply in order for an object to be classified as ‘people’:

1. It must speak French as a second or third language.
2. It must have been born on one of the following days:

Second-language French-speaking objects born on Thursday cannot be classified as ‘people’, as they have freckles.


Thank you all.

Meeting adjourned.”

(In case you require an explanation, this skit is designed to express my distaste and newfound lack of enthusiasm regarding the whole “Pluto isn’t a planet anymore” extravaganza. Meh.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006


I reckon it's about time I got back to my language-learning hobby. I've neglected it for a while, and as T-rex says "WHAT COULD BE COOLER THAN THAT?"

Anyone out there keen on helping me revive 'Language Club'?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

A bad shopping experience

For my birthday, I was lucky enough to be given a couple of Exclusive Books gift vouchers. It's awesome, because if you look at my wishlist, there's a list of books in there as long as my arm.

Of course a bunch of them are books about Star Trek, but most of them aren't. They're the works by people who have inspired and guided me on my path in crossing over from a faith-based to a reality-based world view: people like Phil Plait, James Randi, Carl Sagan, Scott Adams and Michael Shermer.

I'm forever coming across references to those books in my online travels, so intrigued am I that I would very much like to buy and read them.

So, with gift vouchers clutched in my grubby little fists, I trekked off to my local branch at Sandton City. This particular one is one of their flagship branches… it’s big. Like, a lot big.

I spent about an hour in the store before I was able to find just one of the many books I was looking for: The Science of Good and Evil – Michael Shermer. And it wasn’t where you would expect to find it either. I would look for something like that in a section marked “Science”, “Psychology” or even “Philosophy”. But that’s not where I found it. I found it under “Esoteric”. Esoteric? On the same bloody shelf as the lunatic ravings of Zecharia Sitchin!

It was no surprise to me that it was there. This shop has a “Science” section made up of three racks. About half of it is actually about science… and even then, only indirectly. That half consists mostly of biographies of people like Darwin and Einstein… clearly not interesting enough to fit into the “Biography” section.

The other half is decidedly not science. It’s all kinds of crap disguised to look like science… nonsense about alien abductions, intelligent design and all manner of woo-woo rubbish masquerading as “Quantum Mechanics”.

The “Esoteric” section consists of nine racks. NINE! I know the woo-woo fringe are prolific writers, but so are scientists and sceptics! If I was looking for a book by crackpots like David Icke, Sylvia Browne or Neal Donald Walsh, I would’ve been in book heaven. But because I happen to prefer a perspective grounded in reality, I have very little to choose from.

I can’t really blame Exclusive Books. They’re a retailer – they make their money by selling people what they want. It’s not their fault if they can’t sell “Flim Flam!” or “Bad Astronomy” to a public who chooses to believe in the mystical powers of John Edward or that there really is a human face on Mars.

The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind. --H. L. Mencken

It is at times like that when I am reminded of just how true that is. Standing in that store, looking at the carnage of reason before me, I felt so sad, and so very, very alone.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Here's a question

If Astrology is for real (it isn't, but let's pretend that it could be, for the sake of argument) how would my horoscope work if I were to spend my retirement living on Mars, as I intend to?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Corporate Slavery

I recently listened to George Carlin’s latest audio-book “When will Jesus bring the pork-chops?”

I recommend it to anyone. His refreshingly cynical and off-beat world-views are entertaining and thought-provoking. And that’s exactly what happened: it provoked a thought in me.

One of the issues he harps on endlessly in the book is that of euphemistic language: the current trend of euphemising just about anything in order to make uncomfortable subjects easier to deal with, and also to sound more important, specifically within the context of the political and corporate worlds.

Not just the tired old ones like saying someone ‘passed away’ or a woman being ‘on the red robot’. Those are fine. George was referring to what I like to call “Corporate Quasi-English”.

I could carry on about this for days, but I think George sums it all up quite nicely. So I recommend you go along to and buy it.

However there is one euphemism that I’d like to talk about now. It’s one that’s used far too prolifically in corporate South Africa, and one that, I believe, has resulted in a very unsatisfactory state of affairs.

It’s when people, specifically pointy-haired managers and business consultants, start referring to employees as “resources”.

“We’ll need a such-and-such resource assigned to that task.”
“I have a team of dedicated resources working on that issue.”

And so on. defines resource as follows:

1. Something that can be used for support or help: The local library is a valuable resource.
2. An available supply that can be drawn on when needed. Often used in the plural.
3. The ability to deal with a difficult or troublesome situation effectively; initiative: a person of resource.
4. Means that can be used to cope with a difficult situation. Often used in the plural: needed all my intellectual resources for the exam.
a. resources The total means available for economic and political development, such as mineral wealth, labor force, and armaments.
b. resources The total means available to a company for increasing production or profit, including plant, labor, and raw material; assets.
c. Such means considered individually.

A resource is a thing. Your resources may include the labour performed by people, as per 5.b. Labour is still a thing though. It’s a service supplied by a person.

Every time my pointy-haired boss calls me a resource I want to punch her in the face. My laptop is a resource. My desk is a resource. My car is a resource. You could even go so far as to say that my time and the knowledge stored in my brain are resources too. But I AM NOT A RESOURCE! I AM A PERSON!

Using a euphemism for people allows pointy-haired managers and business consultants to trivialise them. As soon as you start thinking of people as things or property, it’s suddenly a lot easier to make decisions that could have devastating effects on their lives… they don’t have lives, they’re not people, they’re resources.

It’s hard to make a decision when you’re getting rid of employees, but it’s easy, and really quite sensible to “scale back resource deployment”.

It’s remarkable what atrocities can be justified by calling them by another name. The Nazi’s didn’t call it a holocaust… they called it “Ethnic Cleansing”, or something to that effect. “Cleansing” sounds so nice and sensible doesn’t it? What kind of idiot would oppose the idea of being “cleansed”?

As annoying as it is when pointy-haired boomer bosses start using big words when diminutive ones will suffice, I can put up with it. But as soon as they start trivialising me and addressing me by a term that could just as easily be applied to a truck or a stapler, I take offence.

It may be human arrogance, but I like to think that I am more important that a truck or a stapler. A truck or a stapler would be useless if there was no person to use them.

That’s the distinction between a person and a resource: one uses the other. I don’t like the idea of being used, not by anyone. I’m happy to do things for people, but as soon as I’m being used by someone, I become a tool, a thing, a resource, and I lose my humanity.

I will no longer allow people to rob me of my humanity. This is my new pet issue. From now on, I don’t keep my mouth shut about it anymore. Will you join me in my quest?

What you've missed. Part 2

The next thing that happened was my birthday.

I decided that this year I wanted a low-key, intimate celebration instead of my usual “Let’s do something cool that everyone likes doing but nobody does often enough” plan.

The Most Amazing Girlfriend in the Universe facilitated the whole thing, and ensured that it was all thoroughly enjoyable… plus she spoiled me with some really cool stuff.

(Since many of you forgot about my birthday, please feel free to make use of the “buy me stuff” section on the right-hand side of this page. Scroll down, you’ll see it. If you get me something cool I’ll consider forgiving you.)

We also planned well in advance, and timed it all to coincide with the beginning of two weeks’ leave we took together (which is why I haven’t been blogging).

We decided that we wanted to use the time to go away somewhere, so that’s exactly what we did.

We drove down to Ballito, where we stayed in a lovely little self-catering holiday flat for a week. We were right across from the beach, which we visited regularly. While all you poor saps were shivering with cold and pretending it was snowing up in Joburg, we were lying in the sun watching the dolphins swim past.

It was awesome, except for two things.
1. There is nowhere in Ballito where you can buy a T-shirt saying “Ballito” on it. We considered stopping at one of the larger malls on the way home and getting T-shirts made, but we decided against it. However I did get a necklace with a shark-tooth on it. I’m now, like, totally a surfer. Fully.

2. I made the mistake of ordering a prawn curry at a seafood restaurant. The prawn curries you get in Joburg are quite mild, and usually exquisite. The ones in or near Durban are also exquisite, but most certainly not mild. If you ever find yourself tempted to order a curry of any sort at a restaurant in or near Durban, heed this advice: NOOOOOOOO!

But we eventually decided to come back and go back to work. That may have been a mistake.

Sunrise over the ocean as seen from the balcony of our flat

SALT starts some serious science

SA telescope 'worth its salt' : News - Marvel Movie Line Up : News - Marvel Movie Line Up

Ok, I take it all back. Apparently someone does have some brains...

Iron Man's release will be followed by another Hulk movie (sequel or not, I don't know), as well as a suite of sequels we were expecting:

Spider-Man 3
Fantastic Four 2 (alledgedly featuring the Silver Surfer)
The Punisher 2

Of course the Wolverine movie is coming too, along with some surprises:

Captain America (Sweet!)
Thor (Way sweet!)
Magneto (As a vallain he's awesome, but as the hero?)
Nick Fury (Could be cool)
Namor (AKA The Sub-Mariner, Marvel's answer to Aquaman. Who would want to see that?)
Ant-Man (A second rate hero at best... something different, I suppose)
The Avengers (a group sequel perhaps? Iron Man 2, Captain America 2, Thor 2 and Ant-Man 2 all rolled up together? That would be brilliant! Who else is in the Avengers again?)
Gargoyle (Never heard of him)
Deathlok (Never heard of him either)

I'll sniff around to see if I can find a similar list for DC Comics' properties.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bad Astronomy Blog - Congratulations! It's a planet!

Bad Astronomy Blog - Congratulations! It's a planet!

Well, apparently the people whose job it is to decide what constitutes a planet and what doesn't are currently sitting together in Prague and are about to ratify a revised definition.

For some time it has been disputed whether Pluto could be called a planet. The new definition says it is... it's introduced three new classes of planetary object:
1. Small, distant planets called Plutons
2. Small, closer planets called Dwarf-Planets
3. Small objects that don't qualify as planets (including asteroids and comets) called Small Solar System Bodies.

Under these new definitions Pluto counts as a planet, and so does it's largest moon, Charon. Together they're called a Double Planet. (The reason Pluto-Charon counts as a double planet and Earth-Luna doesn't is pretty complicated. But I'll explain it if you like)

Two other objects also count as planets now: the recently discovered 2003 UB313 (I hope they choose a nicer name soon) and the object formerly known as the largest asteroid in the solar system: Ceres.

That brings the total number of planets in our solar system now to twelve.

Astronomers predict that there may be many more Pluton-class planets in the Kuiper Belt (a region of debris beyond Pluto's orbit) that would also classify as planets under the new definition. As detection techniques and observation technology improve, we may eventually be counting the number of "planets" in our solar system in the millions!

Scientifically speaking it doesn't matter whether an object is called a planet or not, it's all a matter of semantics, but I think this is pretty exciting. It means all the astronomy books on my shelf at home are now out-of-date.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Quick thought

I just got one of those annoying, cutesy, "inspirational" emails. It had the old proverb "Life is a journey, not a destination." all decorated with sickeningly saccarine teddy bears or cherubs or something. I deleted it before I got too good a look at it.

Sorry, I just threw up a little bit in my mouth there.

Anyway, it occurs to me that that proverb is bullshit. If life is the journey, what is the destination? Incontinence? Springs? Death? No thanks!

Life IS the destination. If you're reading this you're already there! You've arrived! Welcome! Make yourself at home! Pull up a chair!

Goddam stupid proverbs. Who makes that shit up anyway?

Please tell your friends

We've got a cottage to rent out now that [he who shall remain nameless] has moved out.

If you know anyone who might be interested, please send them this link:


Monday, August 14, 2006

What you've missed. Part 1

Right, well, it’s been a busy few weeks.

To begin with, I had another accident. Not just a mere bumper-bashing this time… the sort where much swearing ensues and then men with tow-trucks make lots of money from criminal syndicates called ‘Insurance Companies’.

The incident has left me without a car since then (the aforementioned criminal syndicate I subscribe to doesn’t offer the option of a rental car) which has been somewhat of a bind. Fortunately the Most Amazing Girlfriend in the universe has been kind enough to let me share hers, so I haven’t been completely stuck.

But it doesn’t end there. I got a call last week that it was ready to be picked up. Hide drove me over there and there it was, almost good as new (with the new shape bonnet and colour-coded radiator grille nogal).

Upon driving it home, a symphony of grinding and whining noises was accompanied by warning lights and a sudden stiffening of the steering wheel. When we got home, I found a puddle of what turned out to be hydraulic fluid on the ground. The ancillary power belt and come off and apparently nicked the fluid conduit connecting the power steering pump to the fluid reservoir.

So, it had to be towed back to the shop… a seemingly very difficult thing to arrange as the tow truck only arrived to pick it up late this morning. Odd, since the one that towed the car away from the accident scene was there seconds after impact.

So, I’m still without a car. Yay.

I’m tired of writing now. I’ll tell you about the other stuff that happened in Part 2. Maybe.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Star Trek XI: Teaser poster released


I know it's probably not that big a deal for you guys, but this is the sort of announcement that makes fanboys like myself crap our collective pants.

To the untrained eye, the poster looks quite innocuous, but to the staunch Trekkie it tells us a lot.

1. The insignia and colour-coding puts it in the mid 23rd century, around the time of the Original Series.
2. The insignia is specific to the USS Enterprise, Command Division, which implies that it will be, at least partially, set aboard the Enterprise (assuming they're not planning on retconning the established heraldry practices of Starfleet in the 23rd century, which isn't impossible).

Conclusions: We're looking at a movie about Kirk and Spock aboard the Enterprise, and that they will be played by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon respectively. Okay, I made that last part up.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Bush stands in the way of freedom... once again - Bush Vetoes Stem Cell Bill As Promised

I have mixed feelings on the subject of "freedom". To be honest, I think real freedom is a myth, a convenient fiction that we use to tell ourselves that we really are in control of our lives, rather than being subject to the mechanics of our brains.

But of course freedom comes in many guises.

The American state was built around the concept of "freedom", specifically a kind of freedom sometimes called "civil liberty" - the right to do whatever you damn-well please as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.

Personally I think that's a bad idea... only a small percentage of the human species can be trusted with that kind of liberty, the rest will undoubtedly abuse it.

The freedom I'm talking about in the title of this post is the freedom to decide how long you will live.

Up till now, our life-spans have been dictated by, for the most part, natural factors: predators, disease, misfortune and old age. Predators haven't been a problem for some time, but the others remain. That's about to change.

Medical science is reaching a point where it will be so efficient that we will no longer be subject to those factors.

New research is bringing us ever closer to curing life-threatening diseases. On a regular basis, our understanding of cancer is improving, and we're not far off from knowing exactly how to stop it. I anticipate that within 20 years we'll start having some sort of "cancer vaccine" (along with vaccines for nasty viri like HIV, SARS and Ebola). It's just a matter of time.

Medical science is even getting closer to porviding solutions to old age and misfortune... we're only decades away from being able to replace damaged or faulty body parts with new ones grown from our own DNA.

There is one field of research that is central to these impending discoveries: stem cell research.

Why does it not surprise me in the least that the "Leader of the Free World (TM)" has vetoed a bill that would send that research forward in leaps and bounds. Even though Congress passed the bill with just shy of the two thirds majority they would need to override Dubya's veto, that goddam right-wing warmonger won't let the will of the people get in the way of him forcing his own conservative, religious fundamentalist, anti-science agenda down everybody's throats.

Fuck you, George W. Bush. Fuck you very much.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

SCIFI.COM | Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

SCIFI.COM Who Wants To Be A Superhero?

Man, this looks like such a cool show! And the winner gets to be in their own comic book! Sweet!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Hypoallergenic cats

That's right... Hypoallergenic cats.

A California-based company called Allerca has a patent pending for a technique that allows them to produce these genetically modified cats.

People who are allergic to cats are actually allergic to a particular protein which is excreted through their skin and salivary glands. The ALLERCA GD cat has been engineered not to produce that protein, thus rendering them harmless to the allergy sufferer.

The first batch of ALLERGA GD kittens will be shipped in October. At just shy of $4000 (US) per kitten, it's a real bargain!

The Goddam IT Nazis

I know how it happens.

You’re the IT director of a fairly large division of a fairly large corporation. You have a few hundred users coming through your backend using email and the web. You have all the basics: email attachment size limits (set at 10mb… a generous but reasonable size), random spot-checks on surfing habits (just to make sure no-one is downloading full-length movies or gigabytes of porn), an adequate and inexpensive enterprise anti-virus system.

Life is good.

Then some idiot in upper management wants to know where your budget is going. Of course, if you tell him how you’ve spent it on a server for porn, movies, games and music, LCD screens and PDAs for the IT support staff, you’d be in trouble.

So you have to justify all that expense by actually doing something. You set in motion an easy 5-Step Plan.

Step 1: Increase resource utilisation (English translation: ‘Make your staff do some work’). Action a task-team to prioritise a network security plan (Translation: ‘Get your overpaid and underworked IT ninjas to spend 6 months coming up with a list of ways of annoying the users by restricting their usage in-between their daily gaming and porn-viewing times.’)

Step 2: Implement network utilisation strategy (Trans: ‘Prevent users from sending email attachments larger than 3MB regardless of file type or user. This rightfully prevents PAs and bored accounts ladies from sending cutesy PowerPoint slideshows, but simultaneously prevents systems engineers from sharing vital documentation like functional specifications and database table-dumps. Then buy 3 new email servers to increase storage space, and simultaneously decrease the allotted mailbox size of all users by 75%.’)

Step 3: Upgrade network security (Trans: ‘Replace inexpensive, unobtrusive and adequate Anti-Virus software with ridiculously overpriced, useless Anti-Virus software that is so resource-intensive it instantly renders every machine on the domain useless. Block any and all ports that don’t have any immediately apparent purpose, and blatantly refuse to re-open them, even if they are needed for operations.’)

Step 4: Upgrade network infrastructure (Trans: ‘Upgrade all WAN connections from ADSL and Diginet to MPLS so that everyone can fail to do their jobs with better bandwidth, and so that the useless Anti-Virus can update itself even more prolifically.’)

Step 5: Implement web restriction policy (Trans: ‘Prevent users from gaining access to the few websites that relieve the tedium of their work-days because those sites look too much like porn, music, violence, free-thinking, entertainment or news which might result in reducing a user’s productivity… thus forcing users to spend their time playing solitaire or producing cutesy PowerPoint slideshows just small enough to email. Also, prevent systems engineers from communicating with their counterparts in remote areas and various international support desks via IM or VoIP networks, forcing them to use the company’s phones instead, at far greater cost’)

So, at the end of this process, you have not only justified the expense, you have also doubled the organisation’s IT budgetary requirements, and created jobs by increasing the amount of personnel (and hardware) required to do the simplest tasks.

Good job! You can go home to your family knowing that you have made a difference... right after calling the AA to rescue you after finding your car tyres slashed, obscenities spraypainted on every body panel and a small pile of what appears to be human feces on the driver's seat.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Why No One Want Make Hulk 2? | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Why No One Want Make Hulk 2? The Onion - America's Finest News Source

I couldn't agree more. I thouroughly enjoyed the Hulk movie. It wasn't perfect, but it was daring in its presentation, and treated the Hulk character with the sensitivity he needs.

I really hope we'll get a sequel... basing it on the look and feel of the first film, but fixing the dodgy plot elements, a second movie with a real super-villian in it could be really awesome.

While I'm on the subject, see Superman Returns. It was awesome too. I'm hoping that it represents a rebirth of the franchise, and we'll see a few more of those in the coming years.

What I'd like to see there is Superman coming up against some of the super-powered adversaries he's faced in the comics... Lex Luther will always be his nemesis, but the "Hey Superman, I've got some Kryptonite" thing gets old.

What about Metallo, or the Parasite, or Braniac? Hell, even Doomsday could make an awesome first installment of a 'Reign of the Supermen' trilogy... they've already got a character lined up to take the Superboy spot (imagine what they could do with Steel and the Cyborg Superman with CGI).

I think that's a recurring issue with most comic-based movies. In translating the character to a new medium, Hollywood producers tend to abandon the awesome story-lines in the comics in favour of bastardised, cliche-infested, regurgitated nonsense.

The most notable exception to that is of course The Hulk, but the Spider-man movies have done a pretty good job of keeping it real.

I think the X-men movies could have been much better if they had stayed closer to the comic stories... there are so many brilliant story-lines in the comics that would make excellent movies... why change them?

Can you imagine how cool it could've been to have the proper Phoenix Saga in a movie, instead of the watered-down version we saw in "Last Stand"? Not that X3 wasn't cool, but it could've been so much cooler.

And another thing... how did Ghost Rider get his own movie before Iron Man? Don't get me wrong, the Ghost Rider movie looks like it's going to be brilliant, but surely Iron Man is a far more popular character? The Iron Man movie practically writes itself!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Last Thursday Hide’s colleagues invited us out to drinks in honour of her birthday. Cool.
Afterwards, in the parking lot, I had reversed out of my parking bay, and was turning my wheels so as to begin pulling off when we felt a sharp jolt. Some idiot woman had reversed into me.

(Battle Begins:
01: 100Health Points, 100Attack Points
Idiot Woman: 100HP, 100AP)

(Idiot Woman: “Drunken Cellphone Reverse Attack!” -10AP)

I leapt out and quickly inspected the damage. I didn’t see any at first until a bouncer, who had seen it happen, pointed out that my bumper was hanging loose on the other side. There was also a little dent in the body panel under the left tail-light cluster. There was a tiny dent on her rear fender… not as bad as mine. (Idiot Woman: -10HP; 01: -25HP)

The idiot woman was profuse in her apologies (01: +5AP). We exchanged details, I photographed the scene (01: +1AP), and collected details from the bouncer (01: +5AP) and, after securing the loose bumper with a shoelace, we went on our way.

On Friday I took my car in for a quote from the panel beater, which turned out considerably higher than I expected (01: -25HP).

I weighed up my options and eventually decided to go ahead and claim from my insurance. I made an appointment for a damage assessment.

I went to the assessment today. I decided not to mention that she was drunk and using her cellphone when it happened, because I hadn’t seen those things myself… although I did have witnesses to those facts, should the need arise. They contacted her to obtain her insurance details… they would need them in order to recoup my excess.

(01: “Insurance Consultant Enquiry Attack!” -5AP)

She refused to give her details. She claimed that she was not at fault, and that she wanted to contact me to discuss it.

(Idiot Woman: “Denial Defense!”)

The consultant assured me that their legal department would handle it and reimburse me my excess eventually, but I can see this is going to be a difficult one.

I have a full arsenal of weapons up my sleeve: the “+20 Witness of Drunkenness and Cellphone Usage”, my five “+20 Witnesses of Me Not Drinking a Drop” and my “+5 Photos of Accident Scene”… not to mention my secret weapon: my “+200 Most Amazing Girlfriend in the Universe Who is an Attorney and a Witness”.

I’m quite confident that I’ll win this one, I just wish it didn’t have to be a battle. I just want my car to be fixed… it’s bad enough I’m going to have to go without it for however long it’ll take to fix, but I don’t want to have to pay for it as well.

Friday, July 07, 2006

David Icke Interview: Aliens among us

David Icke Interview: Aliens among us

Oi... another idiot who doesn't know how to translate Hebrew.

I love his talk about "bloodlines"... what appears not to have taken into account is that everyone, everywhere has royal ancestry... does that mean we're all aliens?


Skiers Get d3o-Based 'Impact Suits': Science Fiction in the News

Skiers Get d3o-Based 'Impact Suits': Science Fiction in the News

Yeah baby! I need one of these for Paintball!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


This is a subject that seems to recur regularly on the Mensa mailing list.

Why is it socially acceptable to brag about certain things, but not about others?

If I were a talented athlete with a preference for rugby, it would be practically expected that I engage in a career of professional sport. My aptitude for the sport would make me a shoe-in, and no-one would think it at all strange or unfair that I got to play for a professional team.

Meeting people socially, it would be expected that I talk about rugby, and share my experiences and knowledge of the professional rugby scene with anyone I met. People would read magazine articles about me and fanatics would memorise statistics detailing my performance.

Being a professional musician is much the same. Or even an amateur one. It doesn’t seem at all arrogant when musicians discuss their artistic achievements or innovations. We buy their CDs and marvel at their genius with as much enthusiasm as sports-fans watch game after game after game.

So why is it that intelligent people aren’t able to talk about their intelligence without coming off as pompous?

Look at these examples:

“I can bench-press 150kg.”

“I have an IQ of 150.”

The usual response to the first one of these is “Wow, where do you train?” or something to that effect. The usual response to the second is silence and an unspoken “Oooo… big deal! You think you’re so smart!”

Another set of examples: in a workplace situation it’s not unusual for a co-worker to ask “What are you doing tonight?” Below are three responses to that question.

1. “I’m going to hit the gym… tonight it’s back and shoulders with a bit of cardio. I’m on this new program I got from Fitness magazine. I’ve improved my BMI significantly.”

2. “I’ve got band-practice. We’re getting ready for a gig next Saturday. You should come check it out. It’s at that new club on Smith street.”

3. “Tonight is our monthly Mensa meeting. There’s a guest speaker from the Astronomy department at Wits University coming to give us a talk on Extrasolar Planets.”

Is it my imagination, but does only the third one come off as arrogant?

I understand that as soon as you mention a quantifiable fact that indicates that you might be more intelligent than the person you’re talking to, they get intimidated and envious. I certainly experience that.

But why do we experience that when it comes to intelligence, but not sports ability?

I don’t see any difference in the two: your genes determine whether you have an aptitude for either one or not. Either one can be worked on and improved, or neglected and allowed to stagnate.

I don’t have the physique of an athlete… it’s a simple fact. My arms and legs are hopelessly out of proportion with my body – I’m just not built for running, lifting, jumping, swimming or anything like that. It’s a fact I came to terms with at a very young age. That doesn’t mean I can’t do those things at all, it just means that it’s more difficult for me to do them than someone who is a natural athlete.

With discipline and a lot of hard work I could probably achieve a level of mediocrity in some or other sport, but I’d probably never be considered good at it.

Because of that, I’d probably be perfectly justified in being envious of professional athletes – they can do something with ease that I would struggle to do, if at all. But I’m not.

Yet I (and other Mensans) frequently encounter envy from people we deal with. For that reason, many Mensans choose not to disclose the fact that they are such. A pity.

The irony is that most of the people I work and socialise with (and whose envy I have to put up with) would easily pass the Mensa exam if they tried. It makes sense: because I am so intelligent, I tend to gravitate towards jobs that require intelligence and circles of people who are also intelligent.

Perhaps as a result of low self esteem, my brainy compatriots don’t believe they could pass the test, or are too afraid to try in case they fail.

Perhaps the negative stigma comes from ignorance: everyone knows you can improve your physical performance through exercise, but maybe people just don’t know that it’s just as easy to improve your mental performance (called “cognitive reserve”) through exercise as well.

Of course, as with physical exercise, your maximum potential is limited by your brain’s capacity, which varies from person to person. But there’s no reason why each of us can’t exceed our current capability.

WorldWide Religious News-Welcome to real world, judge tells head Raelian

WorldWide Religious News-Welcome to real world, judge tells head Raelian

Bwahaha! This guy wielding a special kind of crazy who stole some ideas from Sitchin and started a cult has been put in his place by a Canadian judge.

(I have blogged about him before here.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Heidi's Hideout: Finally, it's here!

Heidi's Hideout: Finally, it's here!

The Most Amazing Girlfriend in the Universe just got more amazing... she's now also a published poet!

Monday, July 03, 2006

The world's biggest meteor crater -

The world's biggest meteor crater -

This country never ceases to amaze me. When someone told me about this the other day I dismissed it as a fiction or an error... there was no way it could be true without me knowing about it.

I was wrong.

Today, while playing with Google Earth, I happened to notice a clear and distinct crater ring around the town of Parys... so I Googled "Parys crater" and lo and behold... the Free State Province is indeed home to the oldest and largest clearly visible meteor impact crater in the world!

And I thought Tswaing was cool!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

It's up!

Ok, it took me the better part of two weeks, but I've finally finished the transcript of my presentation.

If you have half an hour to kill and want to learn more about Star Trek technology, cruise along to the Dauntless website and take a look. I haven't included any of the visual aids I used in the original presentation... if you think I need to put those in (some of the concepts I cover are pretty complex), lemme know.


Friday, June 23, 2006

Xmen: The Last Stand - Ultra-condensed version

Ian McKellan
The humans have developed a weapon against us. We will have a WAR.

(There is a WAR and it is AWESOME)


Monday, June 19, 2006

Trek Minicon report

Well, the con went pretty well.

The gamer hordes who were supposed to show up for our CCG tournament and Role-Playing afterwards didn’t pitch… leaving my associate Tournament Director alone in the gaming hall for most of the day and leaving myself and my associate Role Playing Narrator with a bunch of newbies for the RPG session that evening.

Also the quiz questions I had devised were not used, for some reason… the quiz was cancelled.

Other than that, it was frikken cool.

My presentation was well received and I was inundated with questions about it for the rest of the day (as usual). The other speaker also delivered some fascinating insights, as I knew he would. I just hope his (somewhat obscure) episode references weren’t lost on everyone else… even I battled to keep up with him sometimes.

I even walked away with some free stuff… a pair of SFSA tumblers (to add to my collection of SFSA tumblers); a fantasy novel of intimidating length that I might get up the courage to read someday; and a gift from one of the local gaming retailers: a t-shirt, rules disk and demo-decks for the new Battlestar Galactica card game – a thinly veiled gesture designed to lure me into becoming a volunteer representative for the game which, since I have yet to see a single episode of the new BG series, is unlikely.

All in all it was a good day. I got to feel like an expert in something important for a day, and my uniform was much admired… it always goes down well at these things. Hopefully next year they’ll be less indecisive about the arrangements and I’ll have enough time to make a real effort in marketing the event.

For those of you who missed my talk and are waiting for the transcript, you’ll have to be patient. It took me a few days to write up the last one, so you can expect this one to take just as long. I’ll try to have it up on the Dauntless website by the end of the week, but no promises.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Dilbert Blog: Relativity

The Dilbert Blog: Relativity

I'm becoming more and more of a Scott Adams fan.

I still disagree with a lot of what he has to say (and he says a lot of things with the express intent that people like me will disagree with him), but he seems to have an uncanny knack of expressing extremely complicated scientific and philosophical concepts in very clear and manageable ways.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Tim McGraw - I'm amazed by you

Every Time Our Eyes Meet,
There Is A Feelin Inside Me
It’s Almost More Than I Can Take
Baby When You Touch Me
I Can Feel How Much You Love Me
And It Just Blows Me Away
I’ve Never Been This Close To Anyone
Or Anything
I Can Hear your Thoughts, I Can See Your Dreams

I Dunno How You Do What You Do
I’m So In Love With You
It Just Keeps Getting Better
I Wanna Spend The Rest Of My life
With You By My Side
For Ever and Ever
Every Little Thing That You Do
Baby I’m Amazed By You

The Smell Of Your Skin
The Taste of your kiss
The Way You Whisper In The Dark
You’re Hair All Around Me
Baby You Surround Me
You Touch Every Place In My Heart
Oh..It Feels Like The First Time, Every Time
I Wanna Spend The Whole Night..In Your Eyes

I Dunno How You Do What You Do
I’m So In Love With You
It Just Keeps Getting Better
I Wanna Spend The Rest Of My life
With You By My Side
For Ever and Ever
Every Little Thing That You Do
Baby I’m Amazed By You

Every Little Thing That You Do
I’m So In Love With You
And It Just Keeps Getting Better
I Wanna Spend The Rest Of My Life
With You By My Side
For Ever And Ever
Every Little Thing That You Do
Every Little Thing That You Do

Baby I’m Amazed By You…