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Archive January 2006
Sunday 22 January 2006
Possibly the most difficult ethical dilemma for me that I've ever thought of; everyone in the world except for you is going to magically become four times cleverer. You have the option of holding other people back too, to keep you company. Any number of people; just some friends, entire countries, only people whose names begin with Q, whatever you choose. What do you choose? [10:24] [18 comments]

Tuesday 17 January 2006
In a followup to my Science Is Rubbish post of a few days ago, now comes the exciting continuation of the series, Nature is rubbish. I know I said nature kicks the arse of science last time, but really, nature's had hundreds of thousands of years working on all this stuff, and this is the best it can do? It still hasn't even managed wheels, demonstrably more efficient in that a human with wheels, using no additional source of fuel or propulsion, can go faster for less energy than a human without wheels. Most notably with a bicycle, but even with crappy little tiny wheels as on a skateboard or rollerblades. And sure, germs and diseases are masterpieces of hard-to-resist murder, but while science is pretty crap at stopping diseases from being murderous, it does a damn good job at making them more murderous. I expect it can even make a murderous disease from scratch these days. And if that's not good enough, science can work up some pretty decent fucking huge explosions, when the best nature can do in that field is a slow clumsy forest fire.

Seriously, nature's so rubbish that we can't even tell if it wins in a fight of "nature versus nurture". Science obviously kicks the arse of nurture.

On a related note, science failed in our house today by the annoying blowing of a fuse; when I went outside to flick the switch, there was nature, shoving trees in my way, and some sort of crazy giant triffid seedpods the size of a child's fist, on the ground. There was no tree above for the seedpods to have dropped from. I mentioned this to the others in the house, to grunts of some interest but not enough to go and look. I wasn't sure the seedpods weren't some sort of horrible putrifying fruit (way to go again nature, you big jerk) so I left it alone. But then a few hours later, curiosity got the better of me, and I went out to give them a poke. This time I took a small pulley-driven mechanical chopping device that swiftly defeated the enemy trees (one point for science), and thus I could use one of the captured branches to poke at the seedpods. Once confirmed that they were hard and dry, not squishy, I brought one inside.

The insane Half-Life-esque appearance of the pod raised house-people interest more than the description could, and both came out to see where the pods had been found; this time I noticed there were more of the pods camouflaged on a vine that was creeping over the adjacent fence. A fresh pod was captured, and dissected in the laboratory, revealing a yellowish sweet-smelling pus-like substance inside. Identity was confirmed - the nightmarish fence-sitting triffids were, in fact, passion fruit vines. I hadn't even known passion fruit grew on vines, let alone that they grew on vines on our fence. A shame passion fruit are horrible, really. Stupid nature. [04:01] [6 comments]

Saturday 14 January 2006
Thought for the day - science is rubbish. It's had years and years peering at diseases, and the best it can do for most of them is vaccines - made of other diseases that nature made. Science can't even make its own vaccines, let alone cures for things. And that's just the external-influence diseases, the sort that go into you and start messing about - it's even more useless when it comes to the sorts of issues that start with your internals messing up, like cancers, allergies, diabetes, even appendicitis. "What's that, there's something wrong with your appendix? We can't fix that, but we can hack it out of you, will that do?" No it won't, science, that's crap, come up with something better.

And it's not just at the microscopic level - nobody wants ants, cockroaches, termites and the like in their buildings, but can science give us something that will keep them out? Not on any sort of permanent self-maintaining basis it can't. Just horrible poisons and things that'll make your pets explode nearly as much as it will the bugs. Come on, science, *I* can kill these creatures, can't you give me a robot that does it for me? But of course you can't, you can barely make a robot to clean up dust, and similar crud that doesn't breed or try to move out of the way. You suck, science. Nature can make anteaters, nature can make diseases that quell other diseases, nature can make immune systems that have a damn good go at fighting all the diseases at once, and what can you do, science? You can augment nature's immune system temporarily, often at the expense of its long term capabilities. Well done.

In unrelated things, 16 Across is bi-weekly short stories that double as crossword clues, Alphabox is Sokoban crossed with crosswords, Sci-fi News is real up-to-the-minute news translated into something that sounds interesting instead, and The Mechanical Contrivium reveals the following interesting trivia about RavenBlacks:
  1. During World War II, Americans tried to train RavenBlacks to drop bombs!
  2. About 100 people choke to death on RavenBlacks each year!
  3. There is no lead in a lead pencil - it is simply a stick of graphite mixed with RavenBlacks and water.
  4. White chocolate isn't technically chocolate, because it doesn't contain RavenBlacks.
  5. Bees visit over three million flowers to make a single kilogram of RavenBlacks.
  6. RavenBlacks can usually be found in nests built in the webs of large spiders.
  7. People used to believe that dressing their male children as RavenBlacks would protect them from evil spirits!
  8. According to the story, Pinocchio was made of RavenBlacks!
  9. Owls cannot move their eyes, because their eyeballs are shaped like RavenBlacks.
  10. If you cut RavenBlacks in half and count the number of seeds inside, you will know how many children you are going to have!
I am interested in - do tell me about
[02:15] [1 comment]

Sunday 8 January 2006
Recent movies watched and games played that nobody's interested in:
  • Arahan, an entertaining movie that's essentially a slightly inferior Kung Fu Hustle from Korea.
  • The Edukators, a slightly slow clumsily idealistic movie from Germany (or maybe Austria), nonetheless entertaining in an "if Hollywood did this it would have Aston Kutcher in it" sort of way.
  • Akumulator, a, er, comedy spiritualist sci-fi movie from the Czech Republic, well-paced and amusing, and not really as anti-TV as plot summaries might have you believe.
  • Prince of Persia: The Two Thrones, an alright game but not as good as its predecessor, Prince of Persia: The Warrior Within. Puzzles and plot weaker, length shorter, combat less varied, bosses more irritating. Still quite good, but it'd be silly to get it if you haven't played Warrior Within first, and then only if you liked WW quite a lot.
  • Half Life 2, not yet done with it. Less fun than Half Life. The graphics are very compelling. The beginning section would make quite a good sci-fi movie if it weren't for the lengthy and frequent ad-breaks trying to sell some product called "Loading". The section not long later is overlong and dull, with no plot points or interesting fights or scenes, just a lot of "shoot someone at a distance before they shoot you" interspersed with "look at our exciting physics engine, we can make you pile objects onto a thing to tilt another thing", which, yes, is quite impressive at the speeds it's going at, but it's not really fun.
  • Deadly Rooms of Death: Journey to Rooted Hold is quite the opposite - fairly crappy graphics (though very good for a shareware-like product), but a fun puzzle game, akin to Sokoban if Sokoban was fun instead of unbearably tedious.
And one more proper-length movie review, of sorts, for the Chronicles of Narnia movie that seems to be mostly not bothering with the Liony Witchy Furniture part of the title. I had tried to resist seeing it after the first review I saw included the word 'slow' - usually if someone other than me says slow it means I would say something more like "oh god this is boring I give up I'm not watching it any more". But in this instance, their slow turned out to be more akin to my slow, which is bearable.

The thing I discovered from this movie is that having been told about the Christianity allegory (which I wasn't aware of when I read the books or saw the 1988 UK TV version) does indeed totally ruin the story for me. But about half way through I made a further discovery - that trying to extend the allegory to places where it totally doesn't fit makes the story hilarious and awesome. Like that scene just after Jesus is killed by Satan, and one of his disciples, let's say Paul, leads an army to fight Satan's army, and he yells "FOR THE MIDDLE EAST, AND FOR JESUS!" to rally them. Or during the fight, just after Jesus gets resurrected, when John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene ride him to Satan's castle to get reinforcements. And then Judas breaks Satan's magic wand.

Without that game, Chronicles would be an okay movie that I wouldn't recommend bothering to see. Playing the Christianity allegory game from the very beginning, this may be the best movie I've seen all year. [07:42] [5 comments]

Friday 6 January 2006
A long time ago, Adam and Eve did something arbitrary that was naughty, and lo, it was Original Sin.

Sure, that was original back then, but we're still using the same sin now. It's boring. It's cliché and derivative sin. I think it's about time we had a new original sin, maybe something like this.

Why yes, that was a lot of effort for an extremely lame joke, thank you for asking.

In unrelated business, if you had to, right now, pick a city in which you would reside for the rest of your life, which city would you choose, and why? Assume any awkward legalities are taken care of, and likewise other issues of feasibility (viz. needing a job there). [23:11] [7 comments]