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Archive July 2006
Friday 28 July 2006
Those anti-piracy ads in cinemas and sometimes on DVDs - the ones that say "piracy is theft"- are outright lying. Theft has a legal definition, piracy is not it, piracy is copyright violation. This brings to mind a question - if they're allowed to lie about legal terms, would it be okay for them to say, eg. "piracy is premeditated murder" or "piracy is genocidal war-crimes against civilians"? (Note, I'm not saying copyright violation is okay, just that it's legally, morally and sensibly distinct from theft, in that no goods, not even virtual goods, go missing as a result.)

More interestingly, would it be okay for someone to produce and publish advertisements of "copyright-protection is pedophilia", "anti-piracy measures are slavery" and "the RIAA is illegal immigration"? Where is the boundary for acceptable "X is Y" lies in advertising? Could Burger-King advertise with the slogan "Big Macs are people"? That one wouldn't even be a lie, I'm pretty sure there are at least two people in the world who are called "Big Mac".

Having thought of these few examples I'm now quite in favour of "X is Y" lies in advertising, provided they're sufficiently absurd that people won't buy into them - unlike the "piracy is theft (and also you're supporting drug barons)" campaign. If you had money to burn, what would you advertise with a comical "X is Y" lie? [17:50] [11 comments]

Friday 21 July 2006
I have discovered a cunning new motivational technique for persuading myself to get work done on my projects. I had tried 'rewards' before, and the effectiveness tends to tail off a bit, as well as reducing the potential development time by the duration of the reward. My main problem with getting things done is that I enjoy the early part of new projects while I still think they're a great idea, but when I get anywhere close to finishing a large project I'm invariably sick of it, not helped by the fact that finishing touches are always more draining than the early development where progress is rapid and visible.

So what usually happens is I come up with a new project that I'd rather do, and I start doing that, and the old one falls away and is forgotten, left forever nearly-finished. The new trick is a reward system that takes that into account - I have my new project that I want to work on, and my old project that's nearly finished and I'm sick of. The rule is I'm not allowed to work on the new project unless I've done significant work on the old project that day.

Brilliantly, this trick accelerates development on both projects. The old one that I'm sick of goes from not getting anything done to getting something significant done each day, and the new project gets boosted through the boring parts by the fact that I've earned the right to work on it, so if I don't do it then I've wasted the effort of working on the other project that I already did that day. I've done more work this last two weeks than in all of the six months or so before that. If this rate keeps up, the old project might be up for a beta release in a mere week or two. [19:44] [5 comments]

Thursday 20 July 2006
Shareware games have a horrible tendency to be terribly, boringly easy. Is it because they are demos, and they will get harder and more interesting if you get the full version? How does anyone find that out, when the free version is so easy as to not be any fun? I can see a twisted sort of reasoning behind it, that if people can't finish the demo then they won't buy a full version, but I think you probably lose more sales to your game being no fun than to people being useless players - and if that reasoning is valid then surely the customers will be angry when they get stuck a few levels further on after buying the game.

But I don't think it is just the demos, I think the problem is that shareware creators for the most part just aren't good at making games difficult. Perhaps this is wise. It may be that most people who will pay for a full product are people who like winning even if it wasn't a challenge. But surely there's something wrong with the games when I can play through the entirety of the demos of five games without losing a life or failing a single level at any of them? [03:55] [0 comments]

Saturday 15 July 2006
"AdeZ - a brand new way to stay strong." I don't think they considered their brand name very carefully.

"Big and Tall Menswear." But I've been told it's not big and it's not clever. (If you don't understand what I'm talking about, try reading the domain name a few times.) [15:46] [2 comments]
"Small Person On Board" - annoying cutesy sign about a child, or does the car actually regularly contain a midget? Shite or awesome? You decide!

Ethical dilemma - you are a disabled person. You arrive at a parking lot very early while it's still empty. There are a few non-disabled parking spaces as close to the entrance as the disabled spaces. The lot is often completely full, but also sometimes is full except for a few disabled spaces. Do you park in a disabled space, or one of the equally convenient non-disabled spaces?

Today I went outside. I noticed my reflection in a shop window, and my hair appeared to be, in the morning sunlight, not "black with blue iridescence" but instead "holy fuck that's very blue". Once I have the UK adapter to recharge my video camera, I shall attempt to capture this effect. [00:25] [6 comments]

Thursday 13 July 2006
Over the last week or so, my hair and I have been arguing. "Be green!" I'd say. "Never!" it would respond. The fight escalated to the point where I put bleach on it for an hour and a half, before applying dye. My hair, like Ghandi, chose a course of passive resistance, which is to say it just sat there completely not responding to the bleach, let alone the dye.

Eventually I was worn down, and I said to my hair, "fine, will you be blue?" It promised to consider it if I was nice, so I promptly immersed it in dye and peroxide while its guard was down, thus successfully tricking it into absorbing a small amount of blue pigment along with the black it evidently always manages to suck out of even single-colour dyes.

Result - the hair colour I would expect of a dye called "blue-black" if I didn't know better from experience. "Blue-black" really means "absolute black, laughs at the idea of blue". The dye I used was "blue", thus resulting in "black with blue iridescence", which is all I ever really wanted from my hair anyway. Behold!

Bluish hair

It shows up better when not recorded via a camcorder, really - for comparison, the shirt is also a dark navy blue, and the sheet in the background is black. So yes, the camcorder can't actually tell the difference between blue and black at all, which makes the image pretty useless. Hooray! [19:29] [7 comments]

Saturday 8 July 2006
Yesterday, I was surprised to be considered strange for not putting hot liquids that I want cooled into the fridge, instead cooling them to room temperature first. If I did polls I would now poll whether you people do that or not, but I don't, so I won't. What I'll do instead is provide SCIENCE!

For simplicity's sake, let's say you have one litre of water at 50°C, room temperature is 25°C and your fridge's target temperature is 0°C (but not frozen). Your fridge has a generous one third of a cubic metre capacity (slightly larger than an average fridge I think).

The specific heat of water is about 4.186 kJ per litre per °C. So if you put your litre into the fridge at 50°C instead of at 25°C, you're putting 4.186*(50-25) kJ of unnecessary energy into your fridge that will need to be dissipated. That's 104.65kJ.

The specific heat of air is an imprecise thing depending on pressure, humidity and temperature, but a decent approximation is 1kJ/kg °C. One kilogram of air is also approximately one cubic metre, conveniently three times the volume of our hypothetical fridge. So, it takes about a third of a kilojoule to raise the temperature of an entire fridgeful of air by one degree. Which means our 104.65kJ of unnecessary warmth in our single litre of water is the energy equivalent to raising the temperature of a fridgeful of air from 0°C to 314°C.

Alternatively, and more realistically, it's the equivalent of letting all the cold air out of the fridge, to be replaced with room-temperature air, more than twelve times. People are mostly reluctant to leave the fridge door open because it will let a fraction of a fridgeful of cold air out - by comparison you can see that letting out a bit of cold air is nothing compared to introducing heat unnecessarily. Especially since your fridge's target temperature isn't even really that low - all simplified figures are simplified to understate the comparison.

And that's just one litre, at a not-very-hot 50°C. I had five litres of lemon barley water, at probably closer to 70°C - if I put that in the fridge without cooling, that would be the wasted energy equivalent of heating a fridgeful of air to a fantastic 2825°C. That's over 5000 fahrenheit, for Americans.

SCIENCE! [14:18] [12 comments]

Saturday 1 July 2006
Two things seen in town today; the first, a cyclist overtaking a taxi, and yelling at the driver through his open window, a bit surreally. The second, an indian shop with a cloth sign over their door, "we support the England football team". Perhaps a wise thing to do to keep patriotic hooligans from smashing up their shop, but saddening that people are scared enough of hooligans to put such a sign there. I admit it's possible that they really were just declaring support for the England football team with no ulterior motive, but I don't think it's likely - if it was just that then a flag would be enough, like bloody everyone else has up. [23:22] [1 comment]