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Archive June 2004
Monday 28 June 2004
In continuation of the policy that All The Rock Movies Must Be Seen Until He Makes A Bad One, we watched Walking Tall. Not as fun as The Rundown or Scorpion King, but still nicely done for its genre, so the policy remains intact. Especially since the next movie Mr Rock stars in will be Spy Hunter, based on the computer game. "An ex-fighter pilot rids the world of spies, assassins, and other vermin with his souped-up Interceptor car"!

A striking thing about this movie (Walking Tall, not Spy Hunter) is that it shows Mr Rock to be actually a competent actor, even though the character is a classic action-movie expressionless creature. Where Schwarzenegger would easily do expressionless, as he does, and Stallone would ham up every expression like an out-of-control Jim Carrey with a melting face, The Rock simply wraps the character in a panoply of subtle expressiveness even while portraying expressionlessness. I suspect he did this in previous movies too and I just didn't notice. You just wouldn't expect it from someone who looks so muscle-focussed.

I didn't realise until the credits that the movie was based on a true story, which goes a way to explaining why the plot is a bit bland and spaghetti-western flavoured. I thought it was just a modernised western, in fact - I'm pretty sure the plot must have appeared in at least one John Wayne or Clint Eastwood movie. Man returns to his home town, the main workplace is out of business, there's a new casino which is a law unto itself and the sheriff is corrupt. Our Man shakes the town up, becomes the sheriff, and cleans out the baddies with the power of his six-shooter and magic sheriff badge of +6 indestructability. Oh no, spoilers! And you couldn't possibly have anticipated such an original plot. Also, because it's a modernisation, there's a child and some drug-pushing involved.

I don't really recommend this one unless you're adopting our Rock policy. The Rundown and Scorpion King, on the other hand, are well worth the watching if you fancy a nice mindless action or fantasy movie with comedy elements. And surely Spy Hunter will be the best movie ever. Be Cool and Instant Karma - two Rock-featuring movies due for release before Spy Hunter - are excluded from the policy, as they merely feature The Rock, not star him. Though Instant Karma is about a safecracker who turns into animals or something, which sounds delightfully Sunday-afternoon-Disney. [05:54] [2 comments]


Thursday 24 June 2004
In addition to the zombie goodness, also fun from the trip to the suburb-of-Adelaide cinema is how cutely pathetic it is. I'm sure most of you are familiar with how cinemas generally have big swirly animated things explaining how you should switch off your cellphones, not throw popcorn, and so forth. In our cinema, on its really-not-very-big screen, all this was done with a sequence of four or five single frames. Each frame had its own soundtrack, separated from the others by a gap, such that the background music goes back to the start with each new frame even though it's the exact same music, making the announcements seem like some sort of hellish telephone hold-queue. One of the frames seemed to depict a large curly dog-turd in an ice-cream cone.

After these terrible frames come the proper advertisements made by other people. But they aren't proper expensive advertisements for products - no big-screen Tango ads here. No, instead they're for local shops. They don't animate either; the best of them had two frames. Why not visit the cafe that's in the same building as the cinema? How about going to Adelaide's surf shop? Or there are some shoes on sale somewhere nearby, if you fancy wandering around to look for them. But it'll be closed because it's 10pm.

About then came the best thing ever - the advertisement for placing advertisements. "Why not advertise on the big screen?" it challenges, after showing us the appallingness that will result if you do. "You'll have a captive audience!" It mentioned some other benefits too, but yes, it really did tell us, the audience, that we were captive to advertisers. Divertingly brutal, I thought.

Just before the trailers there was the second-best thing ever - an advertisement in a theatre for not downloading pirated movies. "You wouldn't steal a video from a video shop!" it informs us, "So you shouldn't download it because that's stealing too!" It says this without even any small print at the bottom telling the truth of the matter, that "piracy is legally distinct from stealing, so the thing we just said was an outright lie." This advertisement for stealing videotapes also opened with a display of someone's computer which obviously has the best broadband connection ever, even faster than copying from one hard-drive to another in the same machine. That or the movie they were downloading was less than one megabyte. I'd download thousands of movies if they downloaded half as quick as their imaginary evil Internet does it. "Hey, you people who have just paid money to see this movie - don't pirate things!" Surely the cinema audience is not the best target audience for this message?

Alas, the experience just doesn't seem as funny in the retelling. Perhaps I should sneak a video camera into the cinema next time so I can display the insanity properly. Do you think they'd mind if I distributed their anti-piracy advertisement on the Internet? [21:54] [12 comments]


Wednesday 23 June 2004
Something I missed out of yesterday's zombie review, which was very much supposed to be in there - the suggestion that anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet but still intends to see it in the theatre should, during one of the few lull moments, lean forward and bite the head of whoever's sitting in front of them. Clearly this is the best prank ever.

Similarly childish would be to put, in the same style as Livejournal's "current mood" and "current music", a "today's farts" subtext to each post, with either numbers or adjectives. "Plentiful", "Fragrant", "Squelchy" and the like. Possibly with occasional extended descriptions. "Sounded squelchy but turned out to actually be bone-dry when I checked."

A less disturbing but still slightly amusing alternative would be to only give current moods in terms of song titles. Current mood: Gloomy (Apocalypse Theatre 2000). And possibly fill the current music slot with descriptors instead of titles. Current music: a bit whiny and too long.

Now go and vote about What's Better, even though there are far too many items. Or create a Livejournal ranking community devoted to ranking arbitrary objects. Possibly by Condorcet style voting. [15:54] [0 comments]
An unusually positive movie review; Dawn of the Dead (2004).Let the spoilers begin!

The movie opens amusingly much the same as Shaun of the Dead, with hints of zombies in the background that our heroine skims over without noticing. Within the first ten minutes the movie had managed to score over 100 movie-points, which are points assigned when I mutter "X points if thing Y happens in a moment" and thing Y does happen. This scale is such that most movies score zero points - it's not "points for doing something predictable and common" but rather "points for avoiding the predictable and common behaviour". In the most impressive instance, the movie scored 50 points for the "scary music and a door slowly opening that turns out to just be a cat" not turning out to just be a cat, thus deviating from the 75-years-established established horror movie formula. Frightening indeed! A rather interesting ploy, really - that it wouldn't work at all without the horror movie formula existing to provide wrong expectations to the viewer. The movie exploits this several times, most effectively.

Given that Dawn of the Dead was properly of zombie genre, and not trying to be a comedy at all, it was somewhat surprising that the audience sharing our theatre chortled at all the same moments we did - entirely non-comedy moments such as "fat zombie gets spike stuck through head".

It was a bit surprising and slightly disappointing that the zombies were more 28 Days Later style than proper moan-groan-mumble-stumble zombies, but that was compensated for by having them be slightly stupider than your average moan-groan-mumblers. On a par with computer game AI from the 80s. I suppose this change had to be made, anyway, since without it there would be very little to separate the plot from that of the original Dawn of the Dead. It also makes the siege a bit more plausible; that the original Dawners were able to go out and wander around all they wanted - so long as they took a baseball bat and moved vaguely quickly - is very much not the case now.

The characters are appropriately flat for a zombie movie, most of them easily summarised in two words or less; cop, redneck, generalist, competent woman, pregnant woman, sarcastic man, and so forth.

It's nice that you get a different ending if you sit through the credits than if you don't. The pre-credits ending is the Hollywood ending, while the during-credits ending is more what you'd expect from a British-made zomborama.

I can think of pretty much nothing that could be done to make a Dawn of the Dead remake better than this.

Bubba Ho-tep, on the other hand, is rubbish. [09:57] [0 comments]


Tuesday 22 June 2004
For those of you who use Azureus for BitTorrent downloads, a public service announcement; the latest auto-update malarkey installs a UPnP plugin, which is enabled by default, and probably completely useless to all of you. What it does is tries to lob UDP packets at 239.255.255.250, port 1900 (for firewall purposes in Windows, this being sent from java.exe or javaw.exe). It can be switched off from the configuration/plugins area of dialogs, and switching it off doesn't take effect until Azureus is restarted. It also sends some other packet of a type my firewall cries about, to a different multicast IP, when Azureus is exited.

For those of you who don't use Azureus, this post is instead a moving story about a talking banana, in which it gets eaten by a deaf person at the end. [12:12] [8 comments]


Sunday 20 June 2004
The debate of Free Will versus Determinism is a strangely ongoing and pointless one, pretty much on a par with "is there a god?" The two are also comparable in that my answer to both is somewhere in the region of "I don't really care."

What does annoy me is when people try to argue that there is or is not free will (or a god). What annoys me more is this 'compatibilist' crap. (Also Firefox, which just gave me a horizontal scrollbar in my textbox because I pasted a URL that was too wide.)
Free will in the usual sense does not exist : there is no such thing as a consciousness detached from reality. However, the notion of free will which we could call man's "decisional capacities" - being able to make decisions - is axiomatic. Something is axiomatic if it is necessary to accept the concept in order to deny it. Because of this, any refusal to admit the axiom is what we call a fallacy of stolen concept.
Translation:
First we define free will as something non-contentious, thus rendering the entire argument void. Actually, the very first thing we said was "free will does not exist", and there is no actual difference between compatibilism and determinism, except that we try to make some sort of poncy compromise to avoid argument.
On to the next paragraph:
In the case of free will, this is true : if we were not able to decide how to orient our attention, we could not deny free will. Therefore someone who denies free will, has accepted it by necessity. Any discussion presumes the existence of free will in this sense.
Refutation:
10 PRINT "This program does not have free will."
RUN
Later:
This solution may seem to reduce free will to an illusion. But this is a misunderstanding of evolution. Like any other function of the brain, free will has evolved to fulfill a function - in this case, mental flexibility. Decision-making abilities have permitted our species to go beyond the simplest instincts and tool-making of apes to the incredible range of technology and knowledge available to us today. A lot of benefits for an illusion !
What a load of arse. Those aren't benefits of free will, they are benefits of the ability to make decisions. Okay, so compatibilism defined free will as the ability to make decisions right at the start, but then surely nobody is contending that brains don't have the ability to make decisions. The further problem I see with this definition is that I'm pretty sure that at least 90% of compatibilists would not admit that computer game AI has free will, even by their definition. It clearly does. By the definition this bloke gives, even a pseudocode program such as the following has 'free will'.
if (sensor.detect_sunlight()) {
  Turn_off_outdoor_light();
} else {
  Turn_on_outdoor_light();
}
What they want to say is that free will is an illusion and it's all deterministic, but they're too scared to go quite that far.

My view of the argument is that the following are acceptable positions to take:
  • I believe there is free will, I accept my own thought as evidence of this, I discard measurable physics or believe there are missing aspects, and cannot provide any evidence to anyone else, or any argument to back up my belief. *
  • I believe there is no free will, I accept measurable physics as evidence of this, I believe my own thought is purely a result of deterministic physics within my brain, and I cannot provide any evidence to anyone else, or any argument to back up my belief. *
  • I have no firm opinions on the matter, due to lack of evidence or lack of caring about it.
Whereas the following are not acceptable positions:
  • I define free will as something that isn't being argued about, and then prove my own argument that nobody was ever actually contending, thus avoiding the question entirely because it scares me.
  • I believe in free will and can prove it by...*
  • I believe in predestination and can prove it by...*
* Actually having good proof makes the unacceptable notions acceptable, and renders the later clauses of the acceptable ones unnecessary. Good proof for free will would require some action that a computer could not be programmed to do, or a definition of free will which accepts that computers also have it (which actually falls foul of unacceptable type 1, until we have proper AI). Good proof for predestination would require some technology capable of exactly modelling a brain and environment, and showing that it would behave exactly the same as the real brain and environment, no matter how much it and they try to behave differently.

And my own opinion is, of course, of the "don't know, don't care" flavour.

Here is a fun and exciting word for everyone who bothered to read this far, or skipped to the end. Octopus. [18:27] [8 comments]


Saturday 19 June 2004
Internet Explorer's refusal to let me specify that there are some sites I want to be allowed cookies but no Javascript, some sites that I want to be allowed Javascript but no cookies, some for which I want both and some for which I want neither (ideally by asking me whenever the question becomes relevant and hasn't been previously answered), combined with Livejournal's recent viral Javascript pain (and the worse vulnerability which I believe still hasn't been remedied) has finally driven me to switch to a bloody Mozilla-based browser. So far it has annoyed me with stupid font sizes and sluggishness, with viewing source in its own stupid window instead of a program of my choice, with getting favicon.ico even when a page isn't in my favourites, with the keyboard shortcuts being different and not configurable without taking things out of a jar file and putting them back in even though the jar file is not compressed (it actually gets 6K smaller when I put the stuff back in even using 'store' mode), with deciding that when I say 'new window' I mean 'new window at my homepage' instead of 'new window the same as the window I'm currently using which is why I bloody selected new window from this window rather than the program from the start menu' (though I'm told I can fix that with an extension). And its configuration with regard to cookies and javascript still isn't what I wanted, though it is better than IE's. [14:44] [1 comment]


Thursday 17 June 2004
Shrek 2 is quite good. Very much comparable to the first one. My complaints, since that's what I do, are but two: Pinocchio should have died, and the dragon was left unresolved. But it made up for that by having a tribute to one of my favourite "walked into a bar" jokes, and a Godzilla noise. Mm. [23:16] [5 comments]
If you never played Ultima 4, play it now in remade Windows-compatible format. I marginally preferred Ultima 5, but they were both by far the best of the pre-real-time Ultima games. (indirectly via Levez) [10:03] [1 comment]


Tuesday 15 June 2004
It's that time again; Recipe Time.

For today's recipe, I present RavenBlack's Semen-resembling Soup.

Unlike most of my recipes, this one actually has proper specified ingredients: five medium-large potatoes or equivalent in different-sized potatoes, one large or three small onions (do not use medium sized onions), the amount of spring onions that you get from the supermarket bound together with a rubber band, one normal-sized stick of celery or twenty abnormal sized sticks, four spoons of powdered vegetable stock or equivalent in some other stock such as TCPD, half a spoon of crushed garlic, a sprinkle of each of basil, salt and pepper, three drops of a nice hot-sauce, some water, and the use of a blender.

Chop up all the ingredients except the 'use of a blender' which we'll chop up later, and the ingredients that are already very small like the salt. Oh, and don't chop up the water, it'll just flow back together like a second-generation Terminator. Put the ingredients in a pan, except the 'use of a blender' which we'll add later. The amount of water to add is "enough to not quite cover everything else". Bring it to the boil as quickly as you can - be impatient if you can - and then simmer it very quickly for half an hour or so. Apply the blender to the mix, either by pouring the mix into the blender if it's a female blender, or by sticking the blender into the soup if it's male. Also switch it on. When the soup resembles semen, it's ready and delicious. Eat from a bowl, with toast and your mouth.

(Also, if you have a PGP key, please sign mine and upload it to the pgpkeys.mit.edu server.) [12:33] [2 comments]


Monday 14 June 2004
Time to construct your own super-human. I have a series of questions.

1. If you could add one person's knowledge to your own, whose would it be? Note, knowledge doesn't necessarily include skills, but may contribute to them - if someone knows a martial art, for example, and you add that to your knowledge, you probably wouldn't be very good at it but you would be able to get good at it without a teacher. A language, on the other hand, is almost all knowledge. If the knowledge is to be substituted rather than added (you lose all your own knowledge), is your answer different?

2. If you could add one person's aptitudes to your own, whose would it be? Similarly, an aptitude doesn't contain knowledge but may require it to be useful - but the knowledge involved in some tasks is very small and simple to learn compared to the required aptitude. Programming, for example. This would also encompass the strength and muscle-memory of a martial artist. If the aptitudes are to be substituted rather than added, is your answer different?

3. If you could have one person's appearance, whose would it be? This doesn't encompass things that you might expect it to, ie. your lifespan isn't shortened if you choose someone old, your gender isn't changed if you choose someone not of your gender, and you don't become strong if you choose someone muscular. It's appearance-only.

If your answers for any of the questions are "I wouldn't", also answer the same questions but with "if you had to" in place of "if you could". If your answers for any of the questions are famous people, also answer the same questions with the additional caveat that it must be someone you know.

4. If you were making all of the changes rather than just one (as substitutions not additions), does it change your answer? [18:45] [1 comment]


Thursday 10 June 2004
It's that time of year again, when we play Fun With Immigration. Last night, we thought it must be getting close to when I have to put in my permanent-residency application, so we looked at my passport to find what the date was when I arrived in Australia. "Oh," we said, "12th of June. Not July. That's not very good."

The date at which I have to have put in my application is one year after entering the country, ie. three days and an hour from then (it being 11pm), excepting that the 12th is a Saturday, which made it two days and an hour. "What do we need?"

There followed about six hours of frantic scanning-and-printing of things we'd need to include copies of, filling in forms then realising we'd done it wrong, and repeated exclamations of "argh, we need (thing X)", where thing X is something that requires the use of other people, such as statutory declarations from people who know us, proof that those same people are Australian citizens, recent passport photographs and various documents being certified by a Justice of the Peace.

Then we slept, and today we accosted people (Holly's mother and Scribblette), got them to compose the statutory declarations, and got the requisite things photocopied and certified. And then spent about another six hours scanning and printing more things, and collating all the various stuff. End result - a stack of approximately 200 sheets of paper to be hefted to the immigration office tomorrow, where we will get three replacement fifteen-page forms for the screwed up ones (with such grievous errors as "using a blue biro instead of black" and "crossing out a date to put a correct date in its place"), copy the information from our previously filled forms, and then hermetically seal the whole lot in a futuristic tomb for future generations to find. And then I say "yes, I have seen a drop-bear" and become an Australian citizen. [19:36] [4 comments]


Tuesday 8 June 2004
As a result of someone else's Livejournal entry in which they were amused by the bizarre terms writers come up with to suggest an erection, and a comment thereon chortling at some of the most ridiculously common of such things, I present the brand spanking new Privates Eye. Constructing terms for genitalia since, ooh, about an hour ago. For example:
RavenBlack's bits are best described as his "bulging baton".
What's yours? Enter your name:
[19:53] [5 comments]


Sunday 6 June 2004
KFC (in Australia, anyway) has the advertising slogan "Nobody Makes Chicken Like KFC". Given that the effect of advertising is supposed to be primarily subliminal, surely it's not a good idea to advertise with a sentence including the words "Nobody", "Like" and "KFC"? This thought brought to you by the fact that I just, due to not paying attention, read the text off the screen of the advertisement as saying "Nobody Likes Chicken From KFC". Oops. [13:47] [4 comments]
I want my own pet human race, which I can arrange to perform bizarre experiments, and which runs at a rate of one year per hour so I can see the results of my experiments.

I want to try separating quadruplets and bringing them up in two sets of two, each set alongside a twin from a different genetic set, so as to comprise a nice nature versus nurture test. The resulting adults, eighteen hours later, can partake of IQ tests, Myers-Briggs tests, and so forth.

I want to try organising my pet people into sixteen towns separated by Myers-Briggs type, with the towns starting out under much the same present-society structure (a mayor, whatever councillors, and the like), to see what effects groups of different types have - which ones breed, which ones are criminal, which ones have society break down entirely? How long before one of the types decides to invade a nearby town, and which type invades which other type?

I want to arrange my pet humans into a "trickle up" system of government, where all taxes go to the government at the town level, and only required amounts are passed up to the state and country level governments to run things that those levels are truly required for. The towns are responsible for setting their own laws, and the only things the larger components have jurisdiction over are those things the towns grant them jurisdiction over - if they try to seize more, they simply don't get paid. Would the towns, under modern conditions, start instituting immigration policies? How would towns compete to acquire the best citizens? Which town does better, the one which tries 'true communism' or the one which tries 'true libertarianism'? Which town does better when the one which was doing worse decides to invade the other and take their stuff?

Once I run out of experiments, I want to make my pet people wear funny hats and dance like hyper-accelerated monkeys. [12:37] [6 comments]


Thursday 3 June 2004
Last week my heathen-ness was ruined. I almost went a full year in Australia without seeing a single kangaroo or koala, or, indeed, a marsupial of any sort. But then one of those terrible people who are interested in seeing the sights came to visit and I was dragged out on the rounds. "This is a tree, this is a building, this is an animal, can we go home now?" I said, but she wasn't satisfied.

Thus a trip to Cleland Wildlife Park ensued, and I was forcibly introduced to kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, tasmanian devils, dingos, sleeping wombats, and tawny frogmouths.

The best animal in the world is the tawny frogmouth. You might think it's sloths, and yes, they are lazy and have three toes, but the tawny frogmouths didn't move an inch the entire time we were in the park, and they also glared, resembled a statue (between two of them), and were extremely extremely fluffy. Can a sloth do that? No. Not unless you paint quick-drying cement around two sloths and then throw grey hair at them quickly before it dries. And that'd be pretty quick throwing, because it was quick-drying cement.

The most unfeasibly cute animal in the world is small kangaroos. Their faces are just as cute as any animal you expect to be cute, but kangaroos have the advantage over anything, even meercats, of naturally being in a cute begging pose whenever they're not walking. If they're sitting up, they're begging. If they're lying down, they're obviously very comfortable and would you please bring them a drink and some food so they don't have to get up? Get me one, while you're at it.

Wombats are bigger and fatter than you think. No, fatter. Fatter than that. There you go, close enough.

Tasmanian devils don't spin around and go 'grargh-bligger-blorch' at all, Warner Brothers have been lying to you all this time. They do, however, look a lot like vampire potatoes.

Wallabies are like small kangaroos, except inexplicably not cute at all.

Koalas do nothing but stink and look sinister. I think sometimes they dress up as people and carry other koalas around so as to seem like they're nice and friendly, but they're not.

Dingos look like really boring dogs. Really boring dogs more innocent and harmless than any dog you've ever seen. And they don't make any sound at all. And then they rip your throat out and wee in the hole and laugh like hyenas.

Now you don't have to come to Australia. You'll only be disappointed, because my descriptions are better than the real animals. And nobody wears those cork hats, not even people whose first name is Crocodile. And you won't fit in a kangaroo pouch. [21:19] [9 comments]


Wednesday 2 June 2004
It's RavenBlack Recipe Time, with a recipe for Arbitrary Vegetable Tandoori.

Ingredients:
  • Arbitrary vegetables.
  • A fat tin of diced tomato.
  • About half a jar of tandoori paste, or less if the jar is very big.
In the example case, the arbitrary vegetables consist of three small onions, half a large cauliflower, three medium-sized potatoes, half a small bag of peas, a medium-sized lump of broccoli and one red bell pepper which shouldn't have gone in because it wasn't very good.

Chop everything up into pieces of appropriate sizes; inch-cubes for big vegetables, small pieces for onions, and don't chop up the peas, tin or jar. You can chop the lid off the tin if you want, I suppose, and remove the lid from the jar but not by chopping. And when I say "chop everything up", I only mean the ingredients - don't chop up your pans and arms.

Start the recalcitrant vegetables boiling or steaming; recalcitrant vegetables include potato, broccoli and cauliflower. Any vegetables which would tend to be firmer than you want them in a curry, if they were prepared by stir-frying.

While those boil, fry the chopped up onion at a fairly moderate heat. Moderate for frying that is, not moderate for outdoor temperature which wouldn't be any use at all. You can't fry onions at 25 celsius. Maybe at weird pressures. If you can do that, feel free, but it's easier to do it with heat. Throw any vegetables that aren't bothering to be boiled in here as well, such as the bell peppers that you shouldn't be putting in because they aren't very good. And the peas can go in now or later, it doesn't really matter, because they're peas.

When the recalcitrant vegetables are about half as boiled as you would do them if you were just going to eat them boiled, lob them across into the frying pan. If you're not a very good shot, lift them across with a tool of some sort instead.

Spoon four tablespoons of tandoori paste in amongst the vegetables in the pan. More if it's mild tandoori paste or if you want the curry properly spicy. What the hell, just tip the entire jar of tandoori paste in, and add some hot sauce as well, and some chilli powder. Pour the tin of tomatoes into the pan. Or, for non-robots, just pour the tomatoes out of the tin, into the pan, and then put the tin somewhere else such as a bin or recycling receptacle.

Simmer until you're really hungry, stirring whenever you feel a bit hungry but not quite so hungry that it's ready. Also, each time you stir it, taste a bit, decide it's really nice, and wish it didn't require quite so much damn simmering.

Eat while you watch a dodgy subtitled kung-fu movie or, if you have one, a crazy hindi movie with singing and dancing. [06:57] [2 comments]