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Archive May 2003
Wednesday 28 May 2003
I've finally got around to selling my videos on ebay. The NTSC ones, anyway. My PAL videos will probably be mostly thrown out, annoyingly, since the shipping costs nearly as much as buying new videos anyway. If any people with PAL-compatible VCRs want to rescue any of the following, let me know. The tapes: X-Men episodes 1 to 6, Rumble in the Bronx, The Master with Cracked Fingers, Snake in the Eagle's Shadow, Twin Dragons, American Ninja, Rumble in Hong Kong, The Lost Boys, Thunderbolt, Mad Monkey Kung Fu, Dark City, The Princess Bride, The Crow, The Game, Police Story, Saviour of the Soul, God of Gamblers and Raven Tengu Kabuto. [07:05] [4 comments]


Tuesday 27 May 2003
Further to the random animal substances, in confirming some of the assertions that were found scattered around, I found the Animal Ingredient A to Z (warning, heavy on the popups). Mostly this was useful in that I could just search it for occurrences of stear, lact and glycer, but it was also quite amusing, due to listing such subtleties as "Ox Bile", "Placenta", "RNA/DNA", "Shark-liver oil", "Sperm Oil", "Spleen Extract" and "Testicular Extract". Coincidentally, all of these ingredients appear in American bread. [08:35] [7 comments] Some random new food knowledge, via Holly researching what foods will be available to me when I arrive in Australia. Apparently ingredients containing glycer or stear are bad for me, and lact is apparently often not milk-derived after all (though that's not really relevant since it gives me a cold either way). Also fun is that L-Cysteine, which you'll see often on the ingredients of American breads if you often look at the ingredients of American breads, is most often made of human hair. The L stands for soyLent!

I have no problem with eating bread that contains delicious delicious human hair, but the sodium stearoyl lactylate is generally present in those same breads, so alas, no delicious hair for me. [08:19] [11 comments]


Monday 26 May 2003
I am in the process of hax0ring a pair of boots. Using a hacksaw. I suspect my medieval-style boots of being partially responsible for my ankle-sprain, as walking in them tends to exacerbate the residual injury, the sole of the boots being marginally narrower than my foot, resulting in some sideways slippage. And besides, I'm tired of the time-consuming laces. The obvious solution is to get a new pair of boots, but that just wouldn't be my style now, would it? No, instead, I should clearly return to using an old pair of boots. But I stopped wearing those for a reason - the tall soles with non-functional springs in them were obviously a bit silly and less than practical, and also tended to result in people trying to talk to me, which I'm sure you all know I hate. And thus, we come to the hax0ring.
Before:After:
Before!After!
Surprisingly, success! But does anyone local have a power-sander or a plane I can borrow to level out what remains of the soles? [10:53] [20 comments]


Sunday 25 May 2003
A combined movie-review, now, of more Saturday-9pm-Sci-Fi. This is a genre of its own, recently, featuring such stellar titles as Deathlands and Futuresport. Despite being on at 7pm on a Sunday, Virtual Nightmare is also clearly a Saturday-9pm-Sci-Fi.

Deathlands is clearly first in the series, and is the most archetypical of what I expect of a Saturday-9pm-Sci-Fi; it, along with Interceptor Force and Interceptor Force 2 really defines Saturday-9pm-Sci-Fi.

Deathlands, whose name almost functions as a review in itself, is now being used as a descriptor for bad sci-fi, since it's shorter than "Saturday 9pm Sci-fi". Made-for-TV sci-fi gets described as "like a cross between Deathlands and (whatever movie the plot rips off)".

Futuresport, for example, was expected to be "like a cross between Deathlands and Running Man". Alas, we were disappointed - instead it was like a cross between Dragon Fighter and Rollerball. I had recorded it, expecting it to be a horrible horrible keeper, like Deathlands, but as soon as it ended I erased it. There's nothing worse than a Saturday-9pm-Sci-Fi that lacks the proper low-budget effects. Futuresport can be summed up by its ending - he learns to cooperate and so the game is won and everyone is happy, even the baddie team.

Virtual Nightmare also disappointed in its made-for-TV-ness, being far too high quality to fully entertain. It was redeemed, however, by actually being fairly good. It was like The Matrix II: Elves Gone Wild only without Ted Theodore Logan and with other zombies that were rotting like zombies should. Oh, and not in slow motion. And with the plot revelations being directed towards people who have an attention span, rather than people who can't even concentrate for the duration of a stick-figure-death-theatre. (Incidentally, Joe Zombie does Matrix effects better than The Matrix II: When Stop-Motion Animation Goes Bad.)

I'm not sure if I was clear back there that Interceptor Force and Interceptor Force 2 were masterpieces of Deathlands-esque brilliance; Velocity Trap, by the same director, was almost as special.

And now, the moment we've all been waiting for - Deathlands! It's got red-eyed mutants! It's got closeups of leather boots! It stars a guy who resembles David Hasselhoff - with an eyepatch! It's post-apocalyptic! It's got really bad music, really bad dialogue, and really bad acting! Truly, it is the epitome of what we expect from a Deathlands movie.

I was surprised to discover that Mr Eyepatch wasn't previously a porn star. Even more suprised that the director's previous works were not primarily composed of porn. The movie positively reeks of an attempt to escape from filming pornography. Finally, my hunt succeeded, as the third member of credited cast was revealed to have an extensively pornographic history, with over 50 parts in 1985 alone.

It also has, impressively, an actor named "Park Bench" and one named "Max Danger", who are revealed in the fantastic experimental-style end-credits.

Speaking of experimental, there is a lot of it in the movie, and none of it is good. Gunfights dropped into silence, most of the movie filmed in dark red (though that might have just been an accident), and a few other odd audio-visual combinations. It also has some horrible extended sex scenes, though not as bad as the one in The Matrix II: Neo Sex0rs Himself All Day Long, which is possibly what led me to expect responsibility of a porn-director.

All in all, I recommend everyone watch Deathlands with a sarcastic friend or two, as it's grand old MST3K material. Futuresport, unfortunately, can only be MST3K'd with lots of references to homoeroticism. Interceptor Force and its cleverly named sequel Interceptor Force 2 don't even need MST3King to be amusing in that special way. Virtual Nightmare lent itself terribly to MST3King, alas, though it somewhat made up for it by being moderately entertaining in its own right, despite being a story that's been done by about 600 sci-fi writers in the mid-to-late eighties. [07:57] [4 comments]


Friday 23 May 2003
The Matrix II: Electric Boogaloo review by my movie-watching cohort is now available here, so long as you drink enough Powerade. It covers all the spoilers I missed. [12:20] [4 comments]


Thursday 22 May 2003
We recently saw The Matrix II: His Name Is Neo And He Dances In The Sand. I think it was a Saturday night 9pm sci-fi channel showing, but I'm not sure, we might have gone to the cinema. Qualitatively, anyway, I'll be assuming it was released direct to TV like a sci-fi channel extravaganza such as Deathlands or Virtual Nightmare.

I'm going to do this review starting at the end and working backwards, because it will make more sense that way, since the movie actually does open with a scene from the end. So, the last thing that happens is some very dramatic music and a close-up of the Matrix equivalent of the Riddler, then a voice-over intones "will Neo escape from his evil clutches? Tune in next movie, same Matrix-time, same Matrix-channel."

Just before that, it's revealed that, just like in the Powerade advertisement, the real world is also the Matrix, and their ship's rastafarian pilot is iron like a lion in Zion. At this point someone tells us that Neo's name is Neo, in case we missed that from the title and from earlier in the movie.

The reason the movie is playing out backwards is revealed at this point, with Neo flying really fast around the world so as to travel back in time to stop the Matrix before it was even built - just like in Superman 3 and Terminator. Except it wasn't Neo those times, it was Superman. Possibly in the Matrix, too, actually, since Neo is revealed to be Superman at the beginning, which I'll get to later.

Trinity dies! Then she gets better. Then she dies again! Then she gets better again. Then we get to see her bottom naked. Though I'm not sure if that was while she was dead or not, so it might be a bit necrophiliac. Or it might have been Neo's bottom, it was somewhat confusing with Trinity being more masculine than Neo.

We get introduced to The Great Architect, which is the Masonic God, who sees and knows all, but can't do anything about it because his beard is in the way. He compliments Neo on his coat.

There's a sex scene, which is composed of a metaphor through tribal dance. A metaphor which is accentuated by accompanying it with actual sex, and porn music. Many people are dancing; mostly it's the horizontal hokey-pokey, but in magical Matrix world it's done in slow motion and vertically. What a twist that is.

Trinity uses SSH, so the hacking is especially realistic. Most notably, the standard unix command "disable nodes 27 to 59" is demonstrated. For those not familiar with Unix, this command shuts down power grids, after you've logged in as root by guessing that the password is 'god'. Also, Neo's name is Neo, and during this scene he dances in the sand again.

There are cars and motorbikes, which is great for the mechanics in the audience, who get to see extensive engine details and realistic car physics throughout. Some more rastafarians are involved with the cars; this time they are white, so as to avoid the movie's original racist connotation that white people can't be real rastafarians, and must have oozing pustulent sex while the rastafarians dance.

Neo dances with Elrond! Lots of Elrond! "Hello, Mr Anderson. I am Elrond." "So am I." "Me too." "I'm not! Oh, wait, I am."

The Oracle reveals herself to actually be Tron, from the movie Tron, though she does it in a sidelong manner that Neo doesn't recognise. He's too busy planning dance moves for his next elven dance festival.

Trinity dies again! But this time it's just a dream. But it's real! But that's just a dream too. And it's not even a real dream, it's a Matrix dream. And it's not even a real Matrix dream, it's a Matrix dream in a movie about the Matrix - that wasn't even on TV at the time!

And thus we reach the beginning of the movie, about seven minutes before the end (excepting slow motion). What a fantastic reverse thrill-ride that was. At this point the theatre staff check your ID to make sure you're old enough that your senses are sufficiently degraded, so that you won't realise how drab is the movie you're about to endure. I didn't think it was possible for a movie to have so many explosions, kickings and gunfights without being entertaining.

Not that "The Matrix II: Digital Ejaculate" wasn't entertaining - it just entertained in a manner quite different from the intended. A manner reminiscent of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of The CGI Fruit. Unlike CGI Fruit, The Matrix II: More Green Flowing Text Than You Can Possibly Imagine wasn't painful enough to stop me from watching the third one when it comes out, for snide review purposes. So look forward to a future review of The Matrix III: Neo Discovers That He Is Flynn And Assimilates Elrond The Master Control Program.

Oh yes, this post contained spoilers, so if you haven't seen the movie, pretend you didn't read it. Or don't see the movie. [00:10] [24 comments]


Tuesday 20 May 2003
Before writing to your senators when people ask you to, please read and understand the supplied evidence. I've encountered this sort of thing fairly often; someone grossly misinterpreting a bill and calling for complaints. It's no wonder senators mostly don't listen to their constituents - I certainly wouldn't, after the thirtieth form letter filled with misapprehension for any given day.

The article linked up there would have us believe that "Oregon's Senate Bill 742, section 19, chapter 666 defines the "unlawful labelling of a sound recording" as terrorism."

In fact, the bill doesn't speak at all to any of the minor crimes listed within it (of which there are many); only one change is made to the section listing crimes, and that is the addition of "(132) Terrorism, as defined in section 1 of this 2003 Act".

Where the bill relates to terrorism is to define it only as knowingly planning, participating in, or carrying out any act that is intended to disrupt free and orderly assembly, commerce, transportation, or educational or governmental institutions, and to set a harsh penalty for such acts. A quite reasonable and well thought out definition, all told. Bit of a bugger for potential false accusations, but that's the case for all crimes.

The person who cited the bill evidently missed that only boldfaced and italic parts of the bill would amend anything (ie. none of the crimes listed were being added anywhere, since they were all in plain font). They also missed "the crimes to which section 1 (11)(b) applies are:" - section 1 (11)(b) is not present in the bill, and hence, presumably, has nothing to do with the terrorism section which, if my understanding is correct, creates a new provision which runs from section 1 (1) to section 1 (4).

If you are unable to follow this argument, even though it has been broken down to a simple description of pertinent points, you shouldn't be writing to your senator at all, ever, unless you get someone reliable to verify that you're writing about something real first. If I've made a mistake in my interpretation and you have recognised it, then run for senator and I'll probably vote for you. [19:24] [5 comments]


Friday 16 May 2003
I've just discovered that I didn't ever blog my four favourite PLIF strips. So now I shall. They are, as I think of them, Skinman, Dead Rabbits, Mars and Sucky Things. [10:03] [2 comments]
Holly is the best. Even from silly number of miles away, she keeps me supplied with tasteful sugary comestibles. Today, Mr Postman brought me sherbet lemons, a sherbet fountain, two sorts of spooky mints, some chewy stick things that are apparently not supposed to be chewy but become that way in transit and are vastly improved thereby, some spooky hard licorice which may or may not have been hard originally, Soothers, Fruit Tingles, two sorts of spooky chocolate, and Soor Plooms. Very delicious! And so are the foods. [01:24] [4 comments]


Wednesday 14 May 2003
Also in the "pointlessly making computer more efficient" line of thought comes 7-Zip, a Winzip alternative that behaves how I would want such a program to - ie. it's small, fast, and doesn't bother me with output I don't care about. Its within-the-program interface is a bit clumpy, but it makes up for that by doing everything I'd generally use within the right-click menu. It also provides "7z" compression which proved to be 8% more efficient than zip, and approximately level with bzip, in the one small file I just tested it on. (via Nik) [22:53] [9 comments] It appears I missed a couple of registry settings that I like, back in June 2002 when I changed to small fonts and small icons. The animated-icon-removal didn't work for new IE; this one does. There's also another hidden setting that I like for getting rid of desktop icons - it doesn't remove the shortcuts, it just stops the desktop from showing them. That would be this registry setting. The convenient thing about this is that whenever I'm setting up a new computer, I can just search my blog for ".reg", and get all the files linked at once - hooray! [17:13] [0 comments]


Saturday 10 May 2003
I just got a second email from Paypal scammers suggesting that I should go to 'securepaypal.org' and enter all my account details and my credit card number to confirm my account, thusly:
Dear Paypal Member,
We are sorry to inform you that our database has been crashed, as a result some of our members login information has been lost. on behalf of paypal costumer care department we ask you please to go to the following link and submit your information:

http://www.securepaypal.org/activate/

This URL : Paypal Secure Field

Please note that, Incase we needed further information or to confirm your submitted data one of our customer support department will call you.

Note: *This system is made to prevent Fraud

Sincerely,
Paypal Customer Department
I suggest that everybody go to that URL via an anonymising proxy of some sort, fill the form with swearing, and submit it thirty or forty times. And also tell other people you know to do the same. [15:24] [12 comments]


Friday 9 May 2003
Ahhh! Some annoyance at the contrast setting of the new laptop's screen not going nearly as low as I would like (minimum brightness setting of "a screen full of white will melt your eyeballs in 10 seconds" rather than the normal brightness' 2), which seems ridiculous given that it's a laptop, so its battery would surely appreciate being asked to give less power to the screen. After five minutes of poking control panels, trying various downloads to get extra contrast control (which all ended up affecting the same contrast value with the same limitations), ten minutes of donning and trying various pairs of sunglasses (and discovering they're all too scratched to be useful for the accurate vision required to read my 1-millimetre-wide font), ten minutes of looking for tinted sticky plastic that I could put over the screen, changing all my desktop settings so that eye-searing white (255,255,255) was replaced with comfortable white (200,200,200) and everything else scaled down appropriately, using Internet Explorer's accessibility settings to override the normal colour schemes of pages (many of which involved lots of white) with grey-on-black, and getting headaches (not in that order), I finally discovered what I had looked for in the first place; the NVidia control panel with brightness/contrast/gamma settings. At last, I am comfortable, having reduced the software brightness to just over 50%, and the contrast appropriately. I'd still rather be able to reduce the hardware brightness, though, since that would probably be better for the battery life. Still, the point remains, hooray for NVidia. Their drivers are the best. [19:25] [6 comments]


Thursday 8 May 2003
Just watched X-Men 2. It's pretty similar to the first one, but a bit more so. It has a very good Raiders Scene, a few too many slow conversations or closeups, and some nice twists.

Nightcrawler is very nicely done, and stars strongly (mostly as CGI) in the Raiders Scene.

Colossus makes a short cameo, which is good because if he were in it much more than that the goody-goody-ness and Terminator accent would have been irritating. Beast makes a pre-blueness cameo. Kitty is rather good, but again, just a cameo.

Wolverine is the star of the show, which is good because he's the best actor/character combination (the other competent actors play Professor Xavier and Magneto, but those roles don't actually allow for much acting).

Mystique is also good; her 'costume' was noticably less intricate this time - not actually worse. They evidently couldn't be bothered with the much-hyped 8-hour donning time, this time. This mostly shows that the costume was a complete waste of effort last time.

This time it was also much more true to the proper characters; Wolverine mooning over Jean Grey despite everyone else being both available and superior, most notably.

On the subject of true to the comics, there was a Hulk preview, which makes the movie look completely horrendous, but very comic-book-accurate; it even had (those of you familiar with the comic will get this) "THOOM".

Other trailers were The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, The Matrix Reloaded, Finding Nemo, and Something About Gold That Has Edward Norton In It. A more appealing set of trailers than I've seen in a while, but still not particularly compelling. [10:07] [15 comments]


Wednesday 7 May 2003
Mobile phones are the spawn of nasty.

Two of them are regularly left lying around our house, and it seems I'm the only person who can hear the incessant beeping that results when one has been called and a message left. "Someone called for you and left a message! Beep! Someone called for you and left a message! Beep!" Our answering machine doesn't keep beeping when there's a message. Why do mobile phone designers feel this is a necessary attribute? This should at least be restricted to vibration mode, and really shouldn't happen at all. One beep per message, so if you have the phone with you and missed a call you get it, and if you don't have it with you, fucking look what you're doing when you pick it up. Check if you have a message. Ask "did anyone call for me?", don't rely on your electronic friend leaping around hyperactively screaming "THERE WAS A CALL! THERE WAS A CALL!" and fucking keeping me awake because I'm the only person aware of it.

The other lovely thing about mobile phones is simply a more virulent subset of the behaviour of ordinary phones; how they take priority over whatever people are doing. Got company in person, someone who drove an hour for your company? Blow them off to talk to some fucker on the phone who wants to whine about their life! This is an especially good thing to do during overtures of foreplay, and really makes people feel special.

I'm sure people are thinking "tsk, that's silly, why would anyone stop what they're doing for the phone like that", but seriously, I think most people would. People have a Pavlovian reaction to the ringing of the bell, even though it doesn't provide food. They start going to answer it before they even realise. You see it in sitcoms and dramas all the time; "don't answer it" or "let it ring".

Perhaps, then, I should thank the insanity of telemarketers here, for breaking me of the habit (though I was never so afflicted as to interrupt sex). Nowadays the phone downstairs is unplugged because the ring is annoying, and the phone in the kitchen is attached to an answering machine, the message on which is "we don't pick up the phone here, so if you want to talk to someone you'll have to leave a message (beep)". [10:39] [13 comments]


Saturday 3 May 2003
An amusing prank-thing, borderline not-work-safe: this. [11:47] [3 comments]


Friday 2 May 2003
I just saw an advertisement for the most stupid product I've seen in a while; the unnecessarily large Black and Decker® 'Lids Off'TM Jar Opener. A $50 product that occupies a large chunk of counter space, for the sole purpose of getting the lid off a jar. I wouldn't mind if it was marketed to arthritics and people with broken wrists, but it was marketed to ordinary people. Use a fucking pair of rubber gloves, people! They fold up, and don't cost $50! [21:15] [5 comments] We also have the best message left on an answering machine ever. Imagine, if you will, a loud retarded slurring nasal voice (almost the exact voice of the shoe-guy who makes a cameo in this splendidly offensive animation), saying just "I'm gonna rewrite the list on this one. (pause). On my notes. (click)" [14:01] [0 comments] The spam that makes it through my filters these days is quite entertaining. The only way for spam to get through my filters is to not say whatever they're trying to say, resulting in fantastic ads like the one I just got for "Generic Vy ag raahhhhhhhh". Orcish battle drugs, presumably. [13:29] [3 comments]


Thursday 1 May 2003
A decently well-written personality test banishes me to the sixth level of hell. I am apparently, by Dante standards, moderately gluttonous, fraudulent and malicious, highly lustful and violent, and very highly prodigal, avaricious, wrathful, gloomy, treacherous and heretical. Thus we can conclude that I spend my money (which is better than god) on extravagant revenge against my friends for making me gloomy. Possibly revenge involving sex and violence. [07:59] [9 comments]


Wednesday 30 April 2003
The laptop has now arrived, and after some tomfoolery I have it all happily Win2K-running. Happy except for one lone USB controller lurking in the "Other Devices" bit of the hardware list instead of having a driver, despite three USB controllers and three USB hubs being listed properly.

"Tomfoolery?" I imagine you didn't ask, and I also imagine you are now batting in vain at your screen screaming "no, no, don't explain the tomfoolery, it'll be boring", but I'm going to explain it anyway. And it would have been only about half as long without all this explanation, so now see what your imaginary screaming has wrought.

I couldn't get the wireless network to work. It seemed the sort of thing that would happen if the card was failing to transmit, which is a common fault in newly-delivered wireless cards. I changed OS twice in my endeavors. Then I remembered that the wireless access point was configured, by me, to not communicate with any cards other than the three we previously had. Tsk. [09:05] [4 comments]