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Archive March 2003
Sunday 30 March 2003
Tsk. You probably know how my blog entries are usually complaining about stupid things people have done. Well today, that would be me.

We went for coffee-and-wandering with a bunch of people. The wandering took us up a slope that ended atop a cliff. After several hours I was quite bored. The whole "going outside with several people" thing, after all. And all this time, as the boredom built up, there was a cliff of rocks staring at me.

It finally came to be time to leave, and I decided it would be fun to climb down the cliff rather than walking down the winding path. It looked both easy and fun, after all. And it wasn't so high.

It was, of course, high, not easy, and not fun. It was about three times as high as it looked. All the nice firm-looking rocky handholds were actually full of loose dirt and slick with watery moss-gloop. All the nice firm-looking trees, spaced at convenient person-height distances, that would be excellent footholds were, it turned out, mostly just large branches with no roots at all. Those that weren't loose branches were trees with just enough roots to support themselves so long as it's not windy. Light as I am, I still don't weigh less than a bit of wind.

A couple of fifteen-foot drops later, and with a sprained ankle, I was still about thirty feet from the ground, and entirely out of secure handholds or footholds. Said ground being on a steep incline (thus particularly not good to land on with a sprained ankle) and leading to sharp rocks.

After surveying the possible routes (can't go up, going down that way would be dangerous and suck, and going down that way would also be dangerous and suck), two of the group went to get rope. An hour or so later, with a couple of hundred-foot nylon ropes, they returned. These were used cunningly, one to safely pass me the other. I tied that one around myself, and lobbed the other end over the one firm log on the whole cliff (coincidentally, the same one I was sitting on - no, I wasn't hanging off a tiny ledge for an hour; I'd have probably just tried the drop, if that were the case) and down to the companions. A classic simple descent, after that, with three people and some friction holding my weight. And given the mechanism, we didn't have to leave either rope there, which is, of course, a good thing. After all, a 100-foot light rope is worth 20 gold pieces.

After that, it was but a short hop-limp-carry-piggyback to the nearest car. A joy and a pleasure.

Lessons learned:
1. Never leave the house. You'll get bored and do something stupid.
2. Cliffs are taller and more difficult than they appear. You knew that, you idiot.
3. Cliffs are harder to go down safely than up. You knew that too. Honestly, what were you thinking?
4. Ow. [09:35] [12 comments]

Wednesday 26 March 2003
An article about being a lunatic and optimising Perl code (via Kevan). [20:22] [0 comments]
Amused by EasyMixing.com; a hotornot-like, but instead of just rating people's attractiveness, you stereotype them into various categories. What is this person's favourite colour? Where would they rather go on holiday? (via Kevan) [07:45] [3 comments] I recommend the show .hack//sign for anyone who likes anime that has a plot, characters, nice music and decent animation. So probably not if you like Dragonball Z. .hack//sign is a bit slow, but the music makes that much less irritating than it would usually be. And its being good makes up for the odd punctuation in the title. [07:02] [3 comments] I just found a thing that corresponds nicely with my Vanish Drop-ins entry of December. This one being, I think, from an ice-cube device of some sort. "Contains non-toxic distilled water. Not recommended for children." [06:37] [0 comments]

Tuesday 25 March 2003
I've been looking for a decent new RPG for a while, finding Neverwinter Nights and Dungeon Siege to both involve about as compelling a plot as Nethack, and Morrowind to have a horrible horrible interface albeit attached to at least a rudimentary semi-flexible plot.

I thought Warrior Kings might be good, based on reviews, but I couldn't even bear to play a demo beyond one minute, because the interface was unwieldy and the tutorial stupidly, mindlessly non-interactive, with no introduction to the controls or anything.

In the end, and in disgust, I fell back on the previous knowledge that Spiderweb Software have previously made RPGs that I've enjoyed, in the old low-tech style of Ultima 4 and 5, and went to see if they had any new offerings. Avernum 3 was a little too similar to Avernum 2 to maintain my interest for long, but Geneforge is just what I was looking for. A nice simple effective interface, a proper flexible plot ("over a dozen" endings, only one of which involves dying at the appendages of random monsters), a tutorial period that properly introduces you to all the basics at the same time as forming your character, and it even has fairly decent graphics and sound. On the downside, it seems likely to be a bit shorter than each of the Avernum/Exile series; the first fifth of it (the length of the demo) taking only a single night to finish.

Also tsk, I'm supposed to have a registration code within 24 hours of registering, which would be now; I still have none. [09:04] [18 comments]

Monday 24 March 2003
A somewhat entertaining thing, though a tad pushy with its view of what's the best thing to do: Alter Ego, a question-and-answer version of reliving your life from day minus-one. Apparently, if I'd grown up in America I'd have been kidnapped and murdered somewhere between the ages of 5 and 8. [23:42] [0 comments]

Saturday 22 March 2003
So, what should this war/massacre be called?
"Gulf War II: This Time It's Personal"
"Holy Crap"
"Bush: Part Duh"
"The Sum of Oil Fears"
"The UN-sanctioned War"
"Planet of the Apes"
[10:26] [8 comments]

Thursday 20 March 2003
Interesting economic observation - using the FX Plot Interface, compare pretty much any currency against US dollars (conveniently, all the options default to appropriate values; just change base-currency for extra reference points). Observe the leap in the relative value of the dollar, starting ten days ago. Form your own conspiracy theory. [20:17] [5 comments]

Monday 17 March 2003
More crappy Dell behaviour - I got no email confirmation of my order, and the website doesn't give an order number with its confirmation ("you'll get that in the email"). When I called, two days later, to make sure that the order had actually gone through, I got a phone menu which insisted that I give it an order number, which, if you didn't start reading this entry in the second sentence, you'll know I didn't have. After some arguing it suggested that I could give the phone number from which I placed the order instead; if you know me at all, you'll know very well that I would never place an order by phone if there is (or appears to be) a functional online alternative. Or if you read the first sentence, you'll notice that I implied ordering from the website. So phone number was out too. In vain hope, I tried giving it the phone number from which I was calling, in the hope that this would connect me to a person saying 'there is no order from that number' and I could explain what I actually wanted. No such luck, entering a phone number got the menu telling me to enter an order number again. Eventually I decided that this looping pair of options would probably go away if I just didn't tell it anything. After two more slow offerings of each option, I was connected to a human, who immediately asked me for an order number. Nice. After I'd explained why I didn't have one, I did manage to get the order looked up by name, address, email address and phone number combined, and get an order number from the person, who told me that I'd ordered a laptop and "looks like a bag for it". Know your own products, do you, Miss Salesperson? Rhetorical question, the answer is no; the other thing I had ordered, though $30 may look like the sort of price that a bag might be (*cough*fifty*cough*), was an international surge-protector.

For bonus Dell Smell points, the order is apparently forty days from shipping, not thirty - thirty is for a normal laptop, but my particular custom order added ten days to that. Thirty, normally. For everyone. Impressive, that is. [08:47] [1 comment]
It turns out that Maryland's divorce laws are stupid (you have to have lived in separate residences for a year in order to get a no-fault divorce). This shouldn't really come as any surprise. The most functional alternative solutions I could find were these two:
1. To establish sufficient residency in Nevada (which would require renting somewhere for over 6 weeks); not very functional.
2. To get a special divorce in the Dominican Republic. It's actually called a special divorce. That can apparently be done in 24 hours, and is binding in a few American states and pretty much everywhere that isn't America, as well as sufficiently valid even in the stupid American states that it'd hold so long as nobody contests it. Not only that, but it also only requires one of us to show up for the five-minute court appearance, so long as sufficient documents are taken along. So, we're going with that - hoorah, third-world-divorce. Hoorah for America being stupid enough that we have to do it that way. This, of course, is why we pay taxes. [08:35] [5 comments]

Friday 14 March 2003
I forgot to mention the two crappy things about ordering a Dell laptop. First, it won't be shipping for over a month. How does it take a month to put parts together? A trained monkey could do it. If they have a one month backlog, why are they not training/hiring more monkeys? And second, the warranty-type radio buttons default to "FREE bla bla SecurityCenter w3yr Wty - Dell Recommended", on a page full of things where the default options are the lowest cost. Full, that is, except for this one, which actually translates as "Free SecurityCenter when you pay $260 for the warranty". This is revealed in tiny letters next to the best non-default option, as "(subtract $260)". All the other options that change the price default to the cheapest selection, and have "(add $X)" next to the others. The deliberate obscuring and misleadingness of this is utterly appalling. If I'd been able to find anyone else selling a laptop with my chosen GPU I'd have gone with them for this reason alone. [23:12] [1 comment]
Speaking of dude, I'm getting a Dell. In order to be able to compress all my worldly goods, most of which are binary, into the smallest possible space, I need a laptop capable of doing DirectX 8.1 things properly (so I can still do 3D programming without taking my desktop with me). Which means an ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 or an NVIDIA GeForce4 4200 Go. Since the laptops I got for Damask and Holly had ATI chipsets, and that aspect has been trouble, and since my wanderings around review things suggested that ATI were still being pretty lax with their driver quality, and since the GeForce4 4200 Go is much nicer, albeit also much hotter and more power-hungry (not so much an issue, since I don't want it for actual regular travelling, but rather for irregular moving), I decided for the NVIDIA, which limited my choice of supplier rather a lot since that's a sparkly new device. Alienware haven't caught up yet, unfortunately, since apart from the GPU their spec was much nicer for the money (which was surprising since their desktops are extortionate). So, anyway, it's a Dell Inspiron 8500; 2.2GHz 15.4" WUXGA 512MB 60GB, 64MB Geforce4 4200 Go, plus integrated 802.11g wireless, spare battery and floppy drive. [13:30] [3 comments]
Ahaha. Ahahahaha. And, I should emphasise, ahahaaahahaha. While my friends continue with the excellent responses, Damask's have now moved onto such gems as "you know, I've always wanted to date you" and "if you want to take some of that frustration and anger and want a physical release for it, no strings attached...". Ahahaha.

(Added later, for clarity - those are her friends talking to her. None of her friends daft enough to think such responses a good idea would have any reason to be talking to me.) [07:04] [1 comment]
Incidentally, with regard to divorce-things; tsk. It's annoying that divorce evokes something of a"made a mistake" ambience, which isn't actually appropriate. Even with the advantage of hindsight, I'd probably have done nothing different; the marriage was in order to be together, not an "ooh, look, we're married because it's forever" thing. Stupid perceptions. And hooray for escaping America at last. [05:43] [9 comments] Goodness, the Australian department of immigration is fantastically efficient. It took about one hour and no ink to get an Electronic Working Holiday Visa, for a 12-month Australia visit. Government departments aren't supposed to be that good. They must be broken. [05:22] [9 comments]

Thursday 13 March 2003
After, ooh, minutes of consideration, we've decided to get a divorce. Pretty much a growing apart, diversification of goals sort of thing, no horrible event-based triggers, so it's all very amicable and should be fairly easy to sort out.

On a related note, I have the most excellent friends in the world. While Damask is complaining "gargh, these people with their bloody sympathy that I explicitly said I didn't want", I'm getting responses such as:
"You should move to Scotland, so I have an excuse to visit there,"
"That's probably a good decision, you seem to have your head together,"
and "I don't know how to be there for a bitter, cynical fuck of a friend."

Thanks for not being all spazzy, those of you quoted above.

It should be noted that posting comments to this entry in a sympathetic tone will now make you either look like a retard, or look like you're being deliberately antagonistic. [22:00] [3 comments]

Wednesday 12 March 2003
Apparently only greed runs in the family, not stupidity... unless you fancy going all conspiracy and supposing that Old Bush is prompting New Bush and then buffing his own public image with such "not addressed to his son in person" statements.

Gosh, who would fabricate evidence, d'you think?

And a nice eloquent statement of resignation over objection to international policy.

Freedom Fries. I bet the French are crying about that. Perhaps they'll retaliate by renaming the only thing with "American" in its name from "American-style cheese" to "le fromage répugnant". And that horrible French statue of liberty, eh? Better cover that up with a huge tarpaulin, with the words "Now Your Freedom Is Protected" emblazoned on it, above a big 'your country needs you' picture of Uncle Sam.

I wonder if America is waiting for some French diplomat to object to 'freedom fries', so they can yell "the French are against freedom! Those terrorist bastards!" [21:04] [8 comments]

Sunday 9 March 2003
Testing the blog's move to a different server. If you can see this, and you're reading it at blog.ravenblack.net, then the DNS change has propagated to your location and everything is working nicely. Hoorah! [22:16] [8 comments]

Saturday 8 March 2003
Shanghai Knights is really not very good. I liked the prequel, but this one would have been better billed as a tribute to Harold Lloyd than as a movie. It even has a hanging-off-a-clock-face scene. It lacks the pace and humour of even an average Jackie Chan movie, and doesn't even reach the usual basic level of pseudo-plot. I gather from IMDB reviews that it might be more entertaining for Americans who are sufficiently unfamiliar with things British that the very mention of haggis, spotted dick and Stonehenge is enough to render a movie hilarious, but that doesn't really do it for me.

Daredevil is pretty drab as well. [14:33] [2 comments]

Thursday 6 March 2003
We went to see Cradle 2 The Grave, or, as I prefer to think of it, Cr8l 2 T Gr8v. It was about as entertaining as one would expect of such a movie - cliché upon cliché, lots of action, desultory plot... Which is to say, I quite enjoyed it. But then, I enjoyed Romeo Must Die as well (same director), and that was mostly received pretty poorly.

The following will be spoilers, for anyone concerned with the spoilage of a barely-present plot that makes very little sense.

The movie opens with a bank robbery wherein an integral part of the plan apparently relies upon underground trains running on time. And in that respect the plan works - so suspension of disbelief is a must. Or, better, being entertained by the implausible.

The middle part of the movie is lots of people hitting people, and smashing things, all for the purpose of retrieving the 'black diamonds' that were originally stolen from their repeatedly re-stolen-to locations. It transpires that these 'black diamonds' are not, in fact, diamonds, nor the microchips that I was expecting, but rather synthetic super-plutonium which is inert but can be charged up to a hundred times the power of an equivalent volume of real plutonium, through the judicious application of green lasers. The baddies charge a piece up to "two Hiroshimas" level.

The final fight scene involves a tank, six helicopters, and a very special ring of fire for Jet Li and his opposite number (after climbing out of a twice-exploded and once-crashed helicopter) to fight in. It turns out that the effect of two Hiroshimas inside an indestructible man is a slow Tales From The Crypt style melting of the man, and a bit of light.

The end credits roll just long enough that everyone gets up to leave before adding a lengthy comedy conversation between a couple of the protagonists - it's my suspicion that the director watched audiences watching action-movie end credits, and timed how long it takes before they get up to leave, putting the additional conversation about two seconds beyond the leaving point so as to catch everyone standing up. Quite a fun trick, if I'm right. [09:44] [1 comment]

Wednesday 5 March 2003
The X3D Glasses were even less impressive than I was expecting. Now, stereoscopic 3D has never been a very impressive thing, but I was expecting it to at least be better than red-green line drawings I did when I was a child. To give it credit, the 3D-ness was probably superior. The problem is that a drawing only needs to be an inch or two 3D to be reasonably entertaining, whereas a computer game would need at least a few feet, because it's viewed from a greater distance. When it tries to do that, it doesn't look like the object is a few feet outside the screen - it just looks like my eyes are malfunctioning and I'm getting annoying double-vision, as if alcohol-induced. Hooray for the satisfaction guarantee.

The NVidia GeForce 4 TI4200, on the other hand, is lovely, having no trouble at all with Grand Theft Auto 3 on full detail. [21:57] [1 comment]