Thursday, December 30
Just got back from seeing The Incredibles with my family.
This film is a work of art. In my opinion, the best film from Pixar to date, and that says a lot. There were only a couple of moments when it slowed down - for the rest of it (and at 2 hours, there was quite a bit of rest of it) I was totally involved in the film.
The short that accompanied it, Boundin', was also a delight, and introduced my family to one of my personal favourite quintessentially American critters, the jackalope. None of them had ever heard of a jackalope before, so they were probably wondering why I was laughing so hard at that point.
Unlike Finding Nemo, The Incredibles isn't for really young children. There's actually a fair bit of violence in the film, and unlike, say, Bugs Bunny, the violence clearly has consequences. But for older children, and for us grown ups who haven't forgotten being children, it's an absolute must-see.
Tuesday, December 28
It's been an amazing year for elections. Australia, America, Indonesia, Afghanistan, and now Ukraine. Okay, so the elections in Spain didn't go the way I'd like, but they were free and basically fair. (And considering that Spain was a military dictatorship as recently as 1975, that's of no small import.)
I'll leave my borders orange for now, in honor of Viktor Yushchenko and the people of Ukraine.
Monday, December 27
I'm fully occupied right now digesting (burp!) and watching anime, but here's something for you in the meantime:
My Christmas quest was simple enough: buy toy cowboy guns for my boys. Caleb and Eli have boots and hats, bandanas and sheriff's badges. But they don't have holsters and guns. Without those critical components, however, you've really just got yourself a Village People costume. We've made do until now with two wooden pistols that were originally designed to shoot rubber bands. But I wanted to get them shiny cowboy guns, the kind that make a little boy's heart race, that turn a bad guy's legs to jelly, and that give a damsel that funny climbing-the-rope-in-gym-class feeling when she sees them strapped around your waist.
One man's quest for the perfect Christmas present, at Sand in the Gears.
Saturday, December 25
To all the Munuvians, to my many friends throughout the blogosphere and the broader internet, to my readers and family and friends, Merry Christmas!
I have a big bag of chocolate-coated macadamias here. Anyone interested?
(These are from the same company that makes abalone-flavoured, and indeed wasabi-flavoured, macadamias. I hope like hell that they clean the machinery between batches...)
I was thinking about James Lileks and Michele Catalano's posts about Christmas lights and the difference between coloured-lighters and white-lighters, and reflecting that around here (Sydney) people don't really go in for Christmas lights very much.
And then I thought to myself: Duh!
Mr Lileks lives in Minneapolis. This time of year, the sun rises at 7:50 am and sets at 4:36 pm (#). That's less than 9 hours of daylight. Plenty of dark time for everyone to see your handiwork.
In Sydney today the sun rose at 5:42 am and set at 8:07 pm (#). Not a reverse of Minneapolis, since we are not as latitudinally blessed* as that city, but nearly 14½ hours of daylight. Unless you were out late or up very early, you'd never see the lights.
* Mineappolis is 45° N; Sydney about 34° S. The southernmost city in Australia, Hobart, is only 43° S. Dunedin in New Zealand, at roughly 46° S, is currently blessed with 15¾ hours of daylight.
For my American readers (hi there!) Sydney is about the same distance from the equator as Long Beach, California. And no, it doesn't snow here. Particularly not at Christmas. Except for one occasion, on which subject Google has let me down utterly...
|You Are Socks!|
And all through the office,
Not a telephony application was stirring,
Because they'd all crashed.
I don't know why - they fell over at different times and for different reasons - but one by one, over they fell. Just to make sure I wasn't bored, I guess.
Pixy: That little boy has a toy puppy stuffed in his shirt pocket! How cute!
"Toy" Puppy: Woof!
Pixy: And so lifelike!
Friday, December 24
You know, if through genetic engineering or some nanotechnological miracle cure all of humanity is gifted with perfect vision, there won't be any more girls with glasses.
This makes me sad.
What was The Mirthful Ones is now Fistful Of Fortnights. Only they are sad because no-one has pinged them.
Okay, it looks like the reason that no-one has pinged them is because no-one can ping them. I'll contact MuNu tech support and - oh, wait.
If you have ever spent any time in the science fiction groups on Usenet, you'd recognise the name of James Nicoll. Witty and erudite, and the unfortunate victim of more bizarre accidents than the collected populations of five of the smaller European states*, he has been a regular contributor to rec.arts.sf.written for as long as I can remember:
Results 1 - 10 of about 57,600 for james nicoll. in rec.arts.sf.written.* (1.01 seconds)
Anyway, he now has a blog. Okay, it's at Livejournal, but we all have to start somewhere.
An Open Letter to my cat Hillary
I appreciate that there can be no pause in the ongoing war between you and your bitterest enemy, you tail. I applaud your diligence and am amazed at the RPMs you reach chasing it. I would offer one lone bit of advice: seek a venue for tail chasing other than the slippery edge of a water-filled bath tub.
James has a number of cats, and many of them seem to have acquired his affinity towards implausible misadventure:
Blotchy has a history of run-in with doors. In fact, I once had to cut up a door to get his paw from under it. In most ways, he is a bright cat but he just seems to have bad luck with doors.
This time, he had somehow managed to pull the bathroom door closed as he walked out, pinning himself between the door and the wall. He could have easily escaped by going backward but he does not understand that. Instead he must have kept trying to push forward, getting increasingly upset and angry that the door was grabbing him. The growls alarmed the other cats, who tried to calm him down by attacking him (I assume this makes sense if your brain is the size of a walnut), thus all the noise.
Apart from his cats, James has one of the best jobs in the world: He is paid (paid!) to read science fiction novels before they come out.
Lois McMaster Bujold's The Hallowed Hunt (non-spoiler)
So I finally read this. It's sitting in the work related TBR pile for ages, because I keep what I think will be the best manuscripts for last, to help me get through the latest "Recent Plot Chunk of On-Going Fantasy Story #62" and "Loud Explosion Clumsy Info Dump Space Adventure #23", which I wouldn't have to read if you people would just stop buying them.
Bias: I am not a fantasy fan. It's not like I hate it but it just doesn't punch the right buttons for me. It's like coffee, which I like, vs tea, which I am indifferent to.
Omission: I have not read the second book in this series.
Good News: It doesn't matter. Each book set in this universe is a complete book and each comes with enough information of the world that you do not need to have read the other books.
Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favourite authors, and The Curse of Chalion is perhaps her finest work. James is reading the manuscript (MS) for the third book set in that world, something we mortals will not have the opportunity to do for months!
It's not all good, though:
A Short But Unkind Review
So for my sins, I was assigned Mission to Minerva by James P. Hogan. This is the fifth book in the Giants series, of which I have read the first three and this one. Nothing I have heard about Entoverse (the one I missed) makes me want to hunt it down but when I was a teen, I was very fond of _Inherit the Stars_.
Bias calibration: I am on record as thinking Hogan succumbed to the Brain Eater years ago. I base this on the crank theories he promotes on his website (and in his books, but there's really no way to tell just from a book if the author is using the idea because they think it makes for a good story or because they really truly think Jupiter horks out Venus sized loogies from time to time). Recently I discovered Hogan is a defender of David Irving and a promoter of the Institute for Historical Review as a news site, and swore off reading Hogan. A discussion with my boss in which various valid points were made convinced me to read this one for them, although I am sure they would accepted a no from me.
Ladies and gentlemen, I present James Nicoll. Please keep a safe distance, and be sure to extinguish any open flames.
* "What's the difference between a radiant space heater and an oven, when you get right down to it? Aside from the fact that I don't stick my leg in an oven."
For the person who has everything else:
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Previously only available to James Bond super-villains, the Phoenix 1000 would make a fine gift for that special someone in your life. And at just $78 million, it's so affordable! Contact U.S. Submarines to order your Phoenix 1000 today!
Thursday, December 23
Tim Blair has his quotes of the year for 2004: April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December. January through March to follow, I expect.
The City of Sydney has gaily-painted* banners fluttering beside its major thoroughfares this Christmas, bearing messages in many different languages. I could see two different Chinese scripts, one that I thought I recognised as Thai, one in the Cyrillic alphabet, and many others. One I saw was in Spanish**; the first word was Felice; I didn't catch the second since the banner was waving in the wind, but I could see that it wasn't Navidad as one might expect.
Then I found one in English. It reads:
Well, quite. And a Pleasant Summer and Cheerful Winter to you as well.
(It's Felice Fiestas as it turns out. And isn't it Feliz Navidad in Spanish? Are Fiestas of a different gender to Navidads or something? Why are you looking at me like that?)
* Or printed, or however they do it these days.
** I think.
# cat .htaccess
Deny from 22.214.171.124 126.96.36.199 188.8.131.52
# tail -f /usr/local/apache/logs/error_log | grep denied
[Wed Dec 22 01:00:50 2004] [error] [client 184.108.40.206] client denied by server configuration: splorp.cgi
[Wed Dec 22 01:00:51 2004] [error] [client 220.127.116.11] client denied by server configuration: mt-comments.cgi
[Wed Dec 22 01:00:54 2004] [error] [client 18.104.22.168] client denied by server configuration: mt-comments.cgi
[Wed Dec 22 01:01:00 2004] [error] [client 22.214.171.124] client denied by server configuration: splorp.cgi
[Wed Dec 22 01:01:10 2004] [error] [client 126.96.36.199] client denied by server configuration: splorp.cgi
[Wed Dec 22 01:01:11 2004] [error] [client 188.8.131.52] client denied by server configuration: mt-comments.cgi
[Wed Dec 22 01:01:16 2004] [error] [client 184.108.40.206] client denied by server configuration: mt-comments.cgi
[Wed Dec 22 01:01:20 2004] [error] [client 220.127.116.11] client denied by server configuration: splorp.cgi
[Wed Dec 22 01:01:21 2004] [error] [client 18.104.22.168] client denied by server configuration: splorp.cgi
[Wed Dec 22 01:01:23 2004] [error] [client 22.214.171.124] client denied by server configuration: splorp.cgi
[Wed Dec 22 01:01:32 2004] [error] [client 126.96.36.199] client denied by server configuration: splorp.cgi
01:03:35 up 53 days, 15:21, 4 users, load average: 0.09, 0.30, 1.26
(I should explain that our server was extensively spamflooded and crapflooded today, and the load average exceeded 70 for an extended period. Fixed now.)
Wednesday, December 22
I've been busy battling a Chomskyite in my comments, which is rather less productive than blogging, but someone has to do it. I just wanted to note in passing that the spell-checker built into Mozilla Thunderbird (the email companion to the Firefox browser) doesn't recognise the word "Thunderbird". Which strikes me as something of an oversight.
Tuesday, December 21
Now is the time at the Flea when... Uh, never mind. Just watch the video.
Warning: Not entirely work-safe. Contains boobies.
Monday, December 20
A few days ago I mentioned that Blitz Max had been released, albeit only for MacOS X so far. (And as it happens, it requires a more recent version of MacOS X than I actually have installed on any of my Macs, the most recent of which dates to 2001.)
The good people at Blitz have now released beta versions of the Windows and Linux releases, showing that they really are pretty close to shipping. To get access to the betas you have to already have a paid license for Blitz Max... Which I did, even though I couldn't actually run it, as such. Heh.
In that post I mentioned the, um, austerity of the supplied libraries, so I should also mention a couple of points here that work strongly in Blitz Max's favour. First, the libraries are for the most part written in Blitz Max, making them relatively easy to extend (and also makes them trivial to port from Mac to Linux to Windows and vice-versa). Second, the standard $80 price tag comes with the source code for all of the libraries, which makes the libraries not just easy but possible to extend. And third, Blitz has a long-standing and energetic user community, and they have already - ten days after the product was released - added significant new functionality to the libraries, which is even now being put back into the standard product. Most notably, a library enabling scripting Blitz Max programs with Lua has been developed and released in just days.
I've downloaded the Windows and Linux betas and I can confirm that the Windows version works well. And so if I disappear for a few days you can assume that the Linux version is also working well. Actually, hang on a tick...
Well, it runs well enough, but my test program won't compile because it can't find one of the libraries. I'm updating the libraries now (which is just a menu option away, very nice) and I'll try it again.
Works! Produces monster binaries* alas, so not so good for creating tiny utilities. I expect that's due to a lot of unwanted libraries being included, but the linker is supposed to be smarter than that.
I think this has a lot of promise. It's easy to use, it compiles quickly, the programs run fast, it works on Mac and Windows and Linux, it's cheap, it's got big brown eyes, and you get source code to the libraries.
Blitz Max get's a coveted Doesn't Suck award from me.
Update: Hmm. And three times slower than Python for string manipulation, which is something of a disappointment.
* By my old-fogy standards, at least. A minimal benchmark program compiled to 600k.**
** The minimal benchmark clocks it at 500 times faster than Python - for arithmetic and tight loops, which are hardly Python's strong point. But it's certainly not slow.
I have absolutely no idea what most of the pictures used in the titlebar represent. One of them is the Sydney Opera House. One is opals, another is agate. The other 597, I dunno.
Just wait until I get the remaining 59,400 images loaded onto the server. Or, if I manage to get the font switching working without it screwing up permissions like it did last time, the remaining 959,400.
“Peace and wealth and effective medicine and a comfortable home with air conditioning...”My little aside bagging Noam Chomsky in About the Author, and my choice of Oliver Kamm as my latest Blog of the Day after a long absence, are not some momentary aberration, but rather a return of this blog to its roots.*
After the recent electoral victories of the right people in Australia and America I felt as though a great weight had been lifted - or to use a less cliched phrasing, as though a critical and feared exam had turned out to be, relatively speaking, a walk in the park. And here we are in Graduate School, exams no longer looming on the horizon, but still a huge amount of work to be done.
Because, you have to understand, I'm not a Conservative. Neither George Bush nor John Howard truly represent my views on most subjects. I am pleased by their respective victories primarly because both are fundamentally honest, and I was deeply opposed to John Kerry and Mark Latham primarily because both challengers seemed to me to be deeply, personally, dishonest.
Look, I'm not a child; I don't expect politicians to tell the truth all the time. Sometimes they can't - they have to deal with matters of security that cannot be made public. Sometimes they won't, because, well, politics is like that. But the dishonesty of Kerry and Latham runs much deeper; they are not honest even to themselves.
What I'm really most directly opposed to, and what I've been fighting for years, long before I set up this blog, is not the political Left as such but intellectual dishonesty.
I'm not, technically, a scientist, though I would have been, technically, a scientist had I troubled myself to attend my classes and so ultimately graduated.** That doesn't mean that I can't recognise Science - the process, the method, even more than its vast body of discoveries and achievements - as the single greatest invention of Western Civilisation. (Number two being the limited liability corporation, something that far too many people take for granted.)
My aim is to promote Science and Civilisation, and it's a selfish aim. I want the products of Science and Civilisation for myself: Peace and wealth and effective medicine and a comfortable home with air conditioning and a fancy computer and an interesting and productive job. The people who attack Science and Civilisation are trying to deprive me of all that, and I won't allow it.
The Creationists pushing their fraudulent spin on Evolutionary Theory; the Post-Modernists denying the concept of Objective Truth; the Islamists trying to do both at the same time; the historical revisionists; the Psychics; the "Alternative Health Practitioners"; the academics who see their role being not to teach but to brainwash their students into leftist zombiehood; the "free speech" proponents who want to stamp out speech they don't like; Mysticism and Obscurantism; the spammers and scammers and hackers who are doing their level best to destroy the Internet; the nanny-state idiots and the totalitarian hardliners who try to legislate problems out of existence: These and more are what I truly oppose.
So I shouldn't want for subject matter.
* Not that it has any.
** I was studying Computer Science, hence the "technically". Still, it's better than Sociology...
Over the weekend I switched from Mozilla to Firefox and Thunderbird, the separate web and email programs from, well, Mozilla. I do prefer the integrated design of Mozilla, but Firefox and Thunderbird are sufficiently ahead in functionality that the switch was worthwhile.
Except for the minor fact that I've stopped getting 90% of my email, which is somehow - I haven't quite worked this out yet - ending up in Mozilla, even though it isn't running! At least it's peaceful this way.
Update: Worked it out. Answer: I'm an idiot. Big surprise.
“Few of my correspondents manage to scale comparable heights of idleness and incompetence”Oliver Kamm dismantles a Chomskyite:
Thank you for writing. I receive, if not quite hundreds, then certainly scores of messages from people who, like you, press Chomsky's case without having first read either him or his critics. Be assured, however, that your own message is distinctive, in that few of my correspondents manage to scale comparable heights of idleness and incompetence, or at least not in the opening sentence.I won't exhort you to read the whole thing, which is part of a series of articles regarding our favorite left-wing crank, but if you have ever been irked by Chomsky's followers, or Moore's, or similar rabble, it is a delight to see Kamm's elegant handling of their uninformed diatribes.
Witness too his dismissal of some of Chomsky's fellow travellers in linguistics:
â€œI read books and talk to people about them,â€ she says. â€œWithout a method?â€ asks Howard. â€œThatâ€™s right,â€ she says. â€œIt doesnâ€™t sound very convincing,â€ says Howard.
I thought of this exchange when considering an international symposium to be held next April at the University of Montreal under the felicitous title For a Proactive Translatology.
Translatology is the study of translation. Proactive is a gruesome synonym for anticipatory. Of this pseudoscholarly gobbledegook, one leading literary translator remarked despairingly that her own work required no proactive translatology beyond the aim of serving foreign authors and English-language readers as well as possible.
Take that, defilers of the syllabary!
Oh, and this too:
I think you should be aware that a discharged lunatic has managed to gain access to your email account and is using it to send out absurd messages in your name in an attempt to discredit you. I am forwarding an example.That one looks to be quite useful. I might need to adopt it at work.
I should look into this if I were you.
Blog of the Day, folks: Oliver Kamm.
Thursday, December 16
Her life was transformed when she was introduced to the works of linguist and political philosopher Noam Chomsky, and she realised that anyone can get tenure these days. Sadly, her new academic career was short-lived, and in 1995 she was drummed out of the Bristol School of Sophistry when authorities uncovered her secret cache of samizdat Robert Heinlein novels.Forced to take up a new trade, she started her own business selling "Y2K" solutions to large corporations. This proved to be a huge success, and by 1999 her net worth had reached $3.5 billion, before she lost it all in a failed takeover bid for British Telecom.
Reinventing herself yet again, she became known as a composer, producing the chart-topping hits Crunchy Frog Blues, What Dance Dance Kitten Did On Her Holiday and Return of the Return of the Electric Ant in rapid succession. She is also the author of several unpublished novels, most notably the fantasy thriller Stone Dead, as well as even more unwritten ones.In 2003 she founded Mu.Nu, the Online Journal of the Good Parts of Western Civilisation, which has prospered to the point that it now garners sometimes dozens of visitors every month. In 2004 she became an ordained minister of a recognised church, though just how this was allowed to happen has not been adequately explored.
Her eyes are blue, her star sign is Carotius, the root vegetable, and she prefers coloured stones to diamonds, thank you.
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