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Archive September 2003
Monday 29 September 2003
Tsk, the deteriorating hard-drive of the server that does my email has finally collapsed into horrible nonfunctioning doom. There shouldn't be any email lost by it, but I won't be able to get any of it for a day or two. Expect your emails to go unreplied until then. Unless they're emails to people who aren't me, in which case I don't know what you should expect. Probably a stupid reply. [19:09] [0 comments]

Saturday 27 September 2003
Rather oddly written article on a topic that's somewhat of interest to me even though I'm no longer in America, since the horrific telemarketing thing is sure to move elsewhere eventually. There was a "do not call" list proposed a while back, being a list of phone numbers that it would be illegal for telemarketers to call. This article begins
A federal judge in Denver ruled late yesterday that the government's effort to curb unsolicited telemarketing calls was unconstitutional, another blow to plans to implement a national do-not-call list next week.
My immediate reaction, after reading that part, was "tsk, stupid judge". But that paragraph is, basically, a complete lie. He didn't rule that the government's effort to curb unsolicited telemarketing calls was unconstitional, he ruled that their proposed law was unconstitutional. And rightly so. Before I saw that article I wasn't aware that the proposal excluded charitable organisations and politicians from the rule (ie. they would still be allowed to make unsolicited calls whenever they feel like it). Charitable organisations such as The Police and possibly the other mafia.

So, good call, that judge. I hope the proposal is modified and reproposed without the exclusions this time. [21:04] [2 comments]

Thursday 25 September 2003
"Do you want a drink?"
"No thanks, I've got SARS."
A refreshing can of an overhyped deadly disease. [18:32] [3 comments]
"Rare earth magnets?"
"Mm. They're the super-strong magnets that you can put one on one side of your head, and another on the other, and they'll drill through and eat your brains."
"Ooh, really?"
"But you can make them give you a nasty nip!" [14:17] [1 comment]

Wednesday 24 September 2003
A spam worth blogging, I feel:
Spy on Anyone by sending them an Email-Greeting Card!

Spy Software records their emails, Hotmail, Yahoo, Outlook, ACTUAL Computer Passwords, Chats, Keystrokes, PLUS MORE..

Check up on your SPOUSE, KIDS, or EMPLOYEES! Follow This Link To Begin...
Two messages I take from this spam: first, don't open email greeting cards (I never did anyway), and second, don't use that company's software since they're clearly corrupt and there's no reason to believe they won't spy on the spy, stealing passwords etc. from them.

Not that it's really relevant for me, since I'm protected from the terrible secret of space by Tiny Personal Firewall and Startup Monitor. [06:15] [1 comment]

Tuesday 23 September 2003
An excellent 7-page article on Auctions and Game Theory; we came in on page three, thanks to the oddities of Google. This page was a bit weird, suggesting things that are patently untrue:
But Vickrey found that no matter what the number of bidders, the shaded bids mean the seller takes home only as much money as in a second-price auction.
It's fairly evident to me that Vickrey 'found' this in terms of all bidders being purely logical beings who cast the bid that optimises the auction result - that they get the item as cheaply as they can, or don't get it if it would be more expensive than they're willing to pay. If you've ever seen the progress of an ebay auction, or watched a live auction with your brain switched on, you'll well know that this isn't what happens. The next page of the article, thankfully, does go into the truth of the matter a little better (that English style auctions generally do best for the seller, for example).

Interesting to consider, though, in addition to the implications for bidders and sellers, the implications for the auctioneers. I think Ebay would be better if bids were blind, because this would remove the bid at the last moment effect, but by better I mean less annoying.

Ebay is currently very much a Prisoner's Dilemma situation - some bidders abuse the system by bidding at the last moment to exploit the foolish bidding techniques of others; if you don't do that, then the last-minute bidder will increase their bid to just exceed yours, so you won't get the item. If you do it too, you ruin the system for any fair players, who are thus forced to also adopt the negative approach.

However, if Ebay adopted the system that I think would be better, there are several unwanted effects that would probably occur. One possible effect is that I would have to pay more when I win an auction, since other bidders won't be bidding foolishly incrementally, so my last minute bids won't provide me with any advantage. This, if it were the case, would be good for the seller, of course. However, the other effect that I foresee from such a change is that people wouldn't use Ebay any more, because blind bidding wouldn't be as compelling - there'd be no feedback as to what an appropriate price is for an item, it wouldn't seem interactive, you wouldn't seem to be 'winning' anything. People would go to some other auction service that still uses stupid broken methods.

In my world, people are logical beings to whom game-theory applies. Unfortunately not very many people live in my world. [16:56] [6 comments]

Sunday 21 September 2003
It's good that DVD-ripping software exists - not because of piracy, file-sharing and such, but because of DVDs being annoying and not working. A quick run-over with a ripper, then a slow run-through with FlaskMpeg, and lo, you can watch the contents of your DVD which otherwise refuses to play or stops arbitrarily without explanation during play. This is the mechanism required to watch my Terrahawks DVDs (though I think it's really my cranky old DVD drive causing the trouble). [10:10] [0 comments]

Monday 15 September 2003
A new Google-game - try to find the most generic search for which you are the top result. The genericness of a search is measured by the total number of results returned - the more the better. For example, a search for horse melange comes up with me top, and 11000 results total. This very much beats Moore boring tosser with only 262, but isn't as good a result as Moore fucking boring at 13600. Despite the not so good score, I'm most pleased with being the top result for edible paper aeroplane, scoring 1140. Irksome that the livejournal copy takes all these results, rather than the blog doing so, though. [09:32] [9 comments]

Sunday 14 September 2003
An enjoyable line on Australian news, referring to "the US's feud with anti-war countries such as France". Mmmm, delicious implication of other countries being pro-war. I wonder what French news has to say on the subject (other than 'ooh-la-la' and 'aw-hawhawhawhawww'). [12:49] [0 comments] Best random snack ever, apart from edible paper aeroplanes; frozen mini-jellies. Get those strange little jelly cups that you can get from oriental markets, and stick them in the freezer. You end up with quite nicely flavoured mini-lollies with a freakish squishy texture as they melt. And oriental-type jellies don't even have cow hooves in them. Take that, western food-engineers. [12:33] [1 comment]
An amusing movie premise spotted in the TV guide: Barefoot Executive. "Follow the show business career of a young man who rises from mail boy to Network Vice President when he discovers a TV-loving chimpanzee with an unfailing knack for picking hit series."

I love it when social commentary about schlock entertainment is disguised as schlock entertainment. [05:21] [2 comments]

Thursday 11 September 2003
I've recently encountered people being outraged by proposed changes to airport security. Odd, since the changes apparently mean "It's going to be a lot fewer people flagged, but we think it will be the right people." Surely reducing the number of people flagged is a good thing? Be outraged at the current security annoyingness, not at a change that will make it less annoying.

However, what would be a better thing is true freedom of choice. Some airlines offering this sort of security measure, the cost of which is covered by the cost of flying on those airlines, and others not. I would like there to be a "no hassle, no security checks" airline, for which you would simply need to waive their responsibility; the entire flight being at your own risk. In order to make it not also a risk for people in buildings below, the plane would need a good self-destruct mechanism available. The cost per flight would obviously be much less - you wouldn't need to mess with ticketing or anything, you could just pay cash on arrival if you want, and if the plane isn't overbooked. Just like driving, only faster. No "check in two hours in advance", either.

But what about the terrorists? Imagine who'll be on such a flight (in America, for these purposes).
Terrorist: "Okay, everybody put your hands on your head, I've got a gun!"
Fifty other passengers: "So have we. Put yours down, dickhead."

Terrorist to pilot: "Crash this plane into that building!"
Pilot: "Nah, policy is I have to self-destruct under these circumstances."
Terrorist: "Do it! I've got a bomb! I'll blo... oh."
Pilot: "It's okay. Just sit back down, eat your peanuts, and we'll say nothing more about it."

If I were a terrorist, I'd rather take my chances with fooling 'security' than try to pull anything on a flight full of armed people. But it'd be passengers' choice - luxury expensive strip searches, a bus in the sky, or something in the middle. [07:53] [6 comments]

Thursday 4 September 2003
On a further Bowling-For-Columbine-related note, I have a great way to settle the perpetual argument about gun control. Unfortunately, it involves an experiment that nobody will ever run. I would like to combine that experiment with some other, related experiments, to avoid unnecessary duplication of the controls.

Control: a school in which no weapons are allowed.
Case 1: a school in which everyone must carry a gun at all times.
Case 2: a school in which anyone who chooses to carry a gun, may. They must provide their own guns.
Case 3 (additional experiment): a school in which everyone must carry a blade at all times.

Set them in motion, and watch the carnage or lack thereof over the course of a few years. Children are a fantastic exaggerated model of human behaviour. The schools, of course, should be selected based on similarity. Some additional data could be gleaned by also performing the same experiments on different qualities of school.

My hypothesis, if I were to run such an experiment, is that adding compulsory weapons would increase violence in schools already violent, and decrease violence (or decrease teasing) in relatively peaceful schools. Which is to say, in the words of Verlaine, "Guns don't kill people, racist, paranoiac nutters with guns kill people". Infer your own snide comment about America.

The guns-optional case, I would hypothesise, would result in far more horrible massacres than in any other case. Once again, infer your own snide comment about America. Or infer mine, if you'd rather. [12:57] [3 comments]
Having just been reminded, by comments in a livejournal, to watch the sitting-waiting-to-be-watched Bowling for Columbine, I studiously avoided reading this page until, well, about two thirds of the way through because I was terribly bored by that point.

Moore's arguments are really incredibly horrible and unconvincing - lots of strawmen and fraudulent slippery slopery. The part that irked me more than any other (and wasn't mentioned in that deconstruction) was twice equating poverty levels with unemployment levels. Horribly inappropriate comparison. Though I quite enjoyed the equally horrible comparison of gun murder rates by raw number rather than per capita (let alone the exclusion of other flavours of murder).

That deconstruction, though, has me narrowing my eyes too. Is the writer adding another layer of deception to the pile? Does the writer actually think Moore was making a joke, or is the writer making a joke about thinking Moore was making a joke? Yes, Moore knew he was lying a lot (the Bowling for Columbine website makes that fairly clear in that it outright contradicts parts of the movie, but in flowery prose disguise), but was he doing it because he thought it was funny, or in order to genuinely deceive the gullible part of the audience into accepting what he wants people to accept; the blatant falsehoods included so that he would then be able to claim it's all a funny joke when confronted by the less gullible?

I have no idea. But the movie is fucking boring.

The fact that people do believe such propaganda is infuriating. Not the lies - I have no problem with people believing lies that are presented as truth - but the shit. Either the man can't tie an argument together for toffee, or he's a smarty man who realises that the most effective way to convince idiots is to argue as one of them. Either way, he's a tosser. [11:36] [2 comments]
Ah, how the little things do amuse me. If little things amuse you too, try this: purchase some edible paper. Fold it into a paper aeroplane. Fly it into your mouth.

If your mouth hasn't collapsed in laughter, you should then fly a second plane into it, too. It's precedent. [08:43] [0 comments]

Tuesday 2 September 2003
Tsk. Bit of a temporary stumbling block in my production of Snowstorm; it turns out there is no easy way to do controls within a DirectX full-screen context, and even less so if you want your controls to look embedded rather than like a window shoved over the top of your nice display. So, it seems it's time to write a menu and configuration GUI from scratch. Probably not as annoying as it seems at the moment; it's just like programming for DOS. [19:50] [9 comments]
None of my livejournal people have posted anything for ages. You have only yourselves to blame for this:

Human Resources II: This Time It's Personnel

Post something entertaining, damn your hides, or suffer more heinous punnery! [18:17] [3 comments]

Monday 1 September 2003
Nonsense joke melange!

A horse walks into a bar, and says "ouch."
The barman says "a talking horse? We don't get many of those in here."
The horse says "no, I'm afraid not."
The barman says "Are you sure?"
The horse says "I'm positive." [19:09] [3 comments]