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Archive July 2003
Wednesday 30 July 2003
Grrr, Telstra!

I just tried to pay our phone bill online. First I tried to use "postbillpay", the payment method that goes via the post office. Telstra apparently don't accept that payment method via credit card, but will only accept bank account based payment through postbillpay. Next step, trying the direct-via-Telstra's-site payment method (which I tried last month and got a "site is currently not working" message of some sort); it went through all the data-collection bits fine, then gave me a blank page when it got to the point of opening a URL with the word 'receipt' in it.

Since I don't want to have to phone them to find out whether the payment went through, I thought perhaps registering (which supposedly lets one view bills) would be a good way to find out whether the bill had been paid. After giving them a bunch of information that I wasn't really happy for them to have (email address, date of birth), it came to the terms of service. The terms of service were even more unnerving than their inability to code their site functionally; essentially "you agree not to steal all our information or do anything naughty" (implication of "you can do those things if you try, so we have to ask you not to", aka. "our security is arse"), so I decided to decline at that point.

A couple of minutes later, I get an email from them with a pin number, including this: If you need assistance at any stage, or did not apply for registration and wish to cancel, please call 1800 266 000.

How does "decline" at the terms of service not equal "wish to cancel" or, indeed, "wish to not have you record all the information I've given you thus far, you fuckers"? Not to mention "wish not to get email from you because I hate you all, unless the email says 'your ADSL service through one of our competitors - that we're not providing even though we said it would be ready a month ago because we're useless - is ready now'".

It's like Verizon all over again. [18:20] [5 comments]
Random rental of cheap movies from the video shop, number two: Series 7: The Contenders. Another of those stories along the line of Robert Sheckley's "Hunter/Victim" series, The Running Man, and so forth, Series 7 distinguishes itself by being done as an excellent parody of Reality TV.

Splendidly, the Reality TV model is not departed from at all throughout the entire duration of the movie; dodgy camerawork, players getting annoyed at the camerapeople getting in the way, and some rather cleverly and amusingly done implication of "this may have been cut and edited to provide misleading information". This one's worth renting should you see it. [08:08] [0 comments]

Tuesday 29 July 2003
Superior zombie entertainment, albeit brief, was had from the Typing of the Dead; a bizarre combination of House of the Dead and Mavis Beacon Teaches Typing. Shoot the zombies by typing words that appear over them. It has classic Sega-arcade horrible acting and stupid plot. Very close to a direct copy of House of the Dead's story, but with the characters occasionally saying "this is just like that other case two years ago," "that case? Why so it is!"

Most entertaining is the intro section, which has the two-year flashback to House of the Dead story, with zombies being shot, and then cuts forward to the present, with the main characters, completely unexplained, having keyboards hung around their necks rather than guns. It's not mentioned anywhere in the storyline, nor are any of the characters ever shown typing at their keyboard. The lack of explanation combined with the overt display is, I think, a masterpiece of plothole workaround. Hours of oozing zombie fun, anyway. [11:32] [0 comments]
Random rental of cheap movies from the video shop, number one: Bad Taste. The box compared it to Dark Star and Evil Dead; I was hoping for more the latter and less the former. At the beginning I was quite disappointed; the first half of the movie is very much Dark Star. Tedium, horrible everything, and horrible some other things too. The second half, thankfully, was more like Evil Dead, with humour, frivolous gore and unnecessary explosions. The crapness felt deliberate for the second half, and not for the first half, effectively. I suspect this is the case, since it was apparently made over the course of four years.

We were amused, at the end, to discover that it was directed by, and starred, Peter Jackson, the fat beardy bloke in charge of making Lord of the Rings have too many boring shots of scenery to the accompaniment of oh-so-epic music. Looking back over it at that point, we realised that Bad Taste also conformed to the school of forgetting to entertain for a while because there's a piece of music that's not over yet. Maybe worth watching if it's on TV, but not otherwise. [11:25] [2 comments]

Monday 28 July 2003
Another fantastic thing about Australia is that products will happily use silly-but-descriptive words. "Doongara CleverRice; hard to overcook, so it turns out fluffy, not gluggy". I haven't found a rice that says it specifically does turn out gluggy, though, which is a shame. I like gluggy rice. Gluggy gluggy gluggy. [14:15] [1 comment]

Monday 21 July 2003
We finally got around to watching Vanilla Sky last night, which I've had sitting around for ages. The first half was akin to Minority Report, which is to say, it had Tom Cruise in it too much and was terribly tedious, poorly paced and faux-artistic. The second half was rather better, to the point of almost being worth watching. However, there's a vastly superior alternative to watching Vanilla Sky - and I'm not even going to say "not watching Vanilla Sky", here, as I normally would - and that's watching Darkman. The plots of the two movies are very close to parallel, but Sam Raimi's sense of drama and timing is a lot less flimsy than Cameron Crowe's.

The moral of Vanilla Sky appears to be "don't get in cars with insane blonde women who've been stalking you", but in fact, it's "don't watch movies that have Tom Cruise in them because they'll be boring". Even though that should be the director's fault. [10:43] [3 comments]
Tsk. ADSL ready by the 11th of July, they say. "Oh no, wait, the exchange has just run out of ports and has to be upgraded. Won't be ready 'til early August."

Do they not have records of how many ports are used at a given exchange? Can they not see that it's going to run out soon, and order an upgrade such that its implementation date coincides, or almost coincides, with the need for it? Evidently not.

Does the cheese shop actually have any cheese at all? Oh yes, sir. Really? No. [06:01] [4 comments]

Sunday 20 July 2003
Fantastic - we just put together Dance Dance Revolting steps to Orff's "O Fortuna". It's the best song-and-dance ever, with the possible exception of the "Guillaume Tell remix" done by someone for DDRManiaX Tournamix 4 (whatever that means). All with PCs and dance pads should get USB Adapters for them, and StepMania, in preparation for the impending step file release, once we've made the medium and hard versions. And possibly once we've made some images better than my twenty-second stick-figure scrawlings, though personally I don't believe that's possible. [23:18] [0 comments]

Wednesday 16 July 2003
In other toy-arrival news, we now have a general purpose mat. Not related to our intention of Dance Dance Revolting, this is merely a double-thickness moderately-large gym mat. I'm not quite sure why we have it, really, but it's fairly fun for arbitrary falling over onto and throwing people at. [22:44] [3 comments]
Best spam subject line to make it through my filters in a while: "Mother Nature takes it off". Followed by the obligatory random gibberish, of course, which I suppose might be interpreted as vomiting noises or Homer Simpson style drooling sound effect. "It", in this instance, appears to refer to fat, rather than clothes, which is a shame. I was hoping it was an amusing new fetish. [20:30] [0 comments]

Tuesday 15 July 2003
It's a taste sensation! A sandwich of Cajun-flavour hummus, picalilli, sweet chilli flavour corn chips (you can use Doritos if you don't mind having chips full of poisonous scum), and beansprouts. It's foul, and delicious, and nutritious! [23:44] [6 comments]
Danger, Will Robinson!

Crossfire has the potential to eat your time. Like Nethack. It's a poxily multiplayer online roleplaying game, of the grid-based ouvre familiar to Nethackers; real-time-ness detracts somewhat, but lag adds an interesting extra layer of challenge to it - you have to pre-empt every monster's action by about 1.5 seconds if you're using dial-up from Australia.

If you fancy playing and possibly overlapping with me, then you'll want to play on the particularly little-used server "whitehats.dyndns.org", port 13327. If using Windows, you'll likely want to use the DirectX client, even though it says it's deprecated, since the other one sucks twice as much (which is quite the achievement). If using Lunix, the GTK client is apparently best. Bit of extra setup instructions here. [16:34] [0 comments]
Part one of my incoming set of toys arrived today, and was rather disappointing. A superior substitute was found, however. The product that arrived; the PC version of Dance Dance Revolution. The disappointment; the description sounded like you could configure it to run with your own songs, whereas the truth is you can just give it your own set of steps for their forty crappy songs. Okay, I'm being unfair - thirty-eight crappy songs and two bland songs.

The superior substitute - Stepmania, an open-source version compatible with many different 'rhythm' games. Unlike most open-source, it's graphically competent. Doesn't come with any music of its own, but links to lots available for download. The one song I picked at near-random is better than the best of the DDRPC tracks. If only I'd found that before I paid moneys for the pants pants version.

Still awaiting the hardware aspect of this toy, which I expect to be also disappointing, and also redeemable with a bit of effort. And duct tape. [06:44] [3 comments]

Saturday 12 July 2003
The Australian channel SBS has the best movie selection. It's the sort of channel that would show Cemetery Man and A Life Of Ninja on consecutive nights. It doesn't have movies very often, but on the other hand, it does have one non-repeated movie every week, which renders it better for movies than all 50-ish channels of basic cable in America put together, which just show a single Jean Claude Van Damme movie sixteen times a week.

Tonight's beauty, advertised well enough that we recorded it (hence my earlier waffling about cable-splicing) was a Spanish slasher movie, Black Serenade. The IMDB reviews are rather strange, with all the Spaniards suggesting that the ending is predictable and the music is full of heavy metal. Perhaps the plot and music were entirely changed in the subtitling process, but I thought the end-twist was rather good - not unexpected, per-se, but neither was it the only expected ending; rather, any of five or six endings would have been equally valid (and more likely in terms of normal movie plots), which makes it quite different from predictable. The writing and direction do a brilliant job of casting a suspicious light on every character, giving each of them a good movie-esque motivation for being the killer, and at the same time rendering all of them eminently likeable. Most of you will realise that movie-characters being likeable to me is a fairly unusual and impressive feat.

All in all, a fine movie, well worth seeing. And not even in a Deathlands sort of way; the humour in this one is evidently intentional. And black, of course; goes without saying, what with it being a European movie. We loves us some death. [20:22] [10 comments]
Did you know there's a new Captain Planet Theme Song? It's even worse than the old one.

Apparently "He's the Mega-mac daddy of ecology". Also, "Cap's here to level the playing field, with a Ph.D. in sustainable yield."

The power is yours. [16:42] [1 comment]
I spliced an RF video cable (similar to coaxial, for Americans, but with different terminators). I had one male/female ended cable, with the female connector squashed and bent, and one male/male cable that didn't work for some reason. I needed a working male/male, and didn't fancy walking to a shop, so I chopped the mangled female end off the one cable, and one end off the other, to attempt a splice. Little did I know that RF cable insides were so stupid - the centre is a standard thin copper wire; around that is a wodge of translucent plastic; around that is a circle of something resembling tinfoil; outside that is a tangle of thin copper wire of the sort that's generally woven together in power cables; outside that, the outer casing. This means stripping off the outer casing, peeling back the thin meshy copper and the tinfoil, stripping the inner plastic casing (which results in the inner less-flexible copper wire breaking repeatedly, especially when your only tool is a pair of kitchen scissors), repeating for the other side, binding the two thicker copper wires together somehow (resulting in them breaking again), taping around that (using gaffer tape because I had no electrical tape), smashing the copper mesh bits together, and taping around that too. The result, surprisingly, was somewhat success. A functional but suboptimal cable. If I were to do it again in future, I would also take some excess of the meshy copper and shove it in with the thicker wire to make the connection a bit less tenuous.
Australian temporary immigration completed - you may recall a few months ago my being impressed with the ease of getting an electronic working holiday visa for Australia-going. A couple of days ago I went in to get the physical passport-stamping. I got to the immigration office at 9:30am, and was out, all done, by 9:40am. As opposed to getting anything from an American immigration office, which involves getting there at 6am, three hours before they open, to stand astern of a line of 60 people who got there even earlier than that, and be out by about noon.
We have an ADSL modem, which is reasonably well set up and functional. It defaulted to stealing a 192.168.0.* address block for some reason, but that's okay because I had thoughtfully taken 192.168.1.* for our network, expecting such a nefarious development.
The ADSL service, whose most recent ETA was (and, stupidly, still is) the 11th of June, is now marked "Held: Delay encountered in provisioning". Curse you, phone company!
[16:37] [1 comment]

Saturday 5 July 2003
Tsk, by stealing this question I fear I may be near the front end of another of those wildfire propagation buggers. Still, at least it's an interesting question, and a relatively concise post, unlike the "interview me" one.

So, the question is: what unique identifiers do I have in your mind? What am I that nobody else is, to you? What do I do that you aren't aware of anybody else doing?

The three questions are really one, of course; the latters just clarification of the former. [09:42] [17 comments]