Thursday, September 30, 2004

Books - Or What We Called TV In The Old Days

Maybe I just don't watch TV enough anymore, but apart from the Andrew Denton spot (which frankly looks just like any other spot by Andrew Denton promoting that week's Enough Rope) I haven't heard a peep about My Favourite Book 2004.

It seems Aunty is running a poll again to find out what we like to read, and then later in the year she'll make a TV special about her findings, and then you'll be able to go down to your local ABC shop and buy the book about the TV special about the poll about the books Australians like to read.

She may have to earn her own way these days, but despite the Liberal Government's best efforts, the people's broadcaster hasn't quite been reduced to prostituting herself yet, and anyway, I like books.

The parameters are simple: it just has to have been published in the English language, and it can be anything: a translation, a technical manual, a collection of poems... whatever bites deep.

Voting closes 22nd October.  You can:

Mail: My Favourite Book
c/o ABC TV
GPO Box 9994
Sydney 2001
1900: 1900 957 175 (Max. call cost 55c incl. GST. Mobiles extra)
SMS: 197 97222 (Max. SMS cost 55c incl. GST.)
Fax: 02 8333 2657

or drop off your vote at your local ABC shop, selected bookshops and libraries.

Best of all, this time, it doesn't even have to be an Australian book, so that widens options a bit.

Not that there aren't any good Aussie reads around, but there aren't that many that make it to my annual Must-Read Again list.

What makes a favourite book?  For me, it has to be something I will read again and again for the sheer pleasure of it, that surprises and rewards me with each reading perhaps, and that will grow with me, and I love several entirely different types of books for those reasons.  Picking just one is going to be a challenge.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Being right

There are few moments in history when the right person is at the right location at the right time and does the right thing and that thing saves the lives of millions or even billions. At a little past midnight on September 26th, 1983 Lieutenant Colonel Stansilav Petrov of the Russian army was that person.

From his wikipedia entry:

Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov was the officer on duty at the Serpukhov-15 bunker near Moscow. It was his responsibility to use computers and satellites to warn his superiors if there were ever a nuclear missile attack against the USSR. In the event of such an attack, the Soviet Union's strategy was to launch an immediate all-out nuclear counter-attack against the United States.

Just past midnight, on September 26, 1983, the computers indicated that an American missile was heading toward the Soviet Union. Lt. Col. Petrov reasoned that a computer error had occurred, since the United States was not likely to launch just one missile if it were attacking the Soviet Union - it would launch many simultaneously. Also, the satellite system's reliability had in the past been questioned, so he dismissed the warning as a false alarm, concluding that no missile had actually been launched by the United States.

A short time later the computers indicated that a second missile had been launched, followed by a third, a fourth and a fifth. Petrov still felt that the computer system was wrong, but there was no other source of information with which to confirm his suspicions. The Soviet Union's land radar was not capable of detecting any missiles beyond the horizon, so by the time they could make a positive identification it would be too late.

Understanding that if he were wrong, nuclear missiles would soon be raining down on the Soviet Union, Petrov decided to trust his intuition and declare the system's indications a false alarm. After a short while it was apparent that his instincts were right. The crisis put him under immense nervous pressure, yet Petrov's judgement had been sound. A full-scale nuclear war had been averted.

Stanislav Petrov was not originally scheduled to be on duty that night. Had he not been there, it is possible a different commanding officer would have made the opposite decision.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

DVD Review: Attack of the Clones

TP and I had the displeasure of watching Star Wars: Attack of the Clones recently and I have to say that it wasn't as bad as all the reviews made it out to be.  It was worse. 

We did find a way to make most of the movie tolerable: skip every second chapter.  This allowed us to avoid the cringingly bad love story and concentrate upon the Ben Kenobi adventure, which while not good wasn't entirely bad.

One thing I will compliment the film on is the production design.  It was simply outstanding - albeit a little confused at times melding the Star Wars universe with Blade Runner with 1930s US.

As for special effects, this film is nothing to rave about.  Yoda was more convincing as a muppet than as CGI.  There are ample numbers of obvious mistakes - something that is unforgivable given a budget this size.  Basically, the stuff they did well 20 years ago in Empire and Jedi they've done well again except there is more.  Too much more.  A hundred jedis fighting a few thousand combat droids just isn't interesting.  It's like watching a video game that someone else is playing.

Lucas has forgotten what made the Star Wars franchise a phenomenon.  It was the characters.  It was the story.  It was the world.  The characters in SW:AotC are cardboard cutouts.  The story is meandering, boring and has a large so what factor. The world looks great but has no soul.

Avoid at all costs.

Rating: 3 out of 10 Sith Lords

Thursday, September 23, 2004

God is Canadian

Some two to three weeks back, Dave Sim, creator of the utterly inexplicable comic Cerebus the Aardvark, made it known via Neil Gaiman's blog that he was offering free, signed copies of specific issues of Cerebus (the ones where he lampoons Gaiman's Sandman).  All anyone had to do was ask for one.  Nicely.  By mail.  And he would ship them out to you, at his own cost.  He apparently expected to get anywhere from ten to twenty requests, since the overlap audience for both comics would appear to be near zero.  He's up to a couple of thousand and still counting.

I got mine on Tuesday.

I'm a Happy Toxic Purity.

I'm also an utterly amazed ToxicPurity, because this one issue is like a single milimetre in a kilometre stretch.  That's a hell of a lot of pages Sim has written and drawn entirely on his own, out of sheer bloody mindedness, for well over two decades.  This is what one page from a magnum opus looks like.


Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Audition

Here's some images from The Audition:

Friday, September 17, 2004


Sri Lanka's handball team. Last seen crossing from Germany into Italy. If found please contact Heidi Jung, acting German Ambassador to Sri Lanka.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

What I Learnt This Week

1. You can almost teach yourself to lip-read by squinting at hours of medium shots with no audio that must be synched up with wide shot footage that has audio but poor video.

2. Australian Anglo-Indians are blonde.

3. Transperth bus route 32 is so badly managed that they can't even put the right driver behind the wheel. You don't want to hear the driver say, after turning south instead of north, "This is the 32? Shit, I don't know how to get back from here."

(HINT: Two wrongs may not make a right, but three left turns will.)

4. The cat growls just like a dog, which rather surprises dogwalkers - and their dogs - in the dark.

5. It is possible to move two files off a hard drive, delete some extraneous empty folders, clean up the disk, defrag it...etc, and be completely unable to move the two original files back because the hard drive now has less empty space on it than when you started.

All together now: Windows sucks.

6. Some companies think it's perfectly sensible to set a postal deadline on a Sunday.

7. Bitumen may come off with turpentine, but it sure as hell doesn't come off anything else afterwards.


I spent the day attending the Comm-IT WA Technology Showcase at PCEC as an exhibitor for PLUG.  Basically it is like the Royal Show but for IT corps instead of farmers and without the rides.  There were lots of goodies and I scored some stuff from Novell that, at first glance, looks pretty hoopy.  Hey with free stuff I'm easily impressed.

My job today was to stand at our booth - kindly purchased/hired/donated/acquired by the folks at Open Source WA - and talk to people about linux (and occasionally about PLUG).  Now, those that know me will know that I do this anyway so the job kinda came naturally.   If only I could work out how to get paid fat wads of cash in the process.

Things were kinda slow initially.  Then they got downright glacial.  Then I had lunch and when I returned I was run off my feet.  Go figure.

I met some interesting people and most of them said yes when I asked if I could interview them for Byte Me so the day was pretty rewarding, even if the morning was hideously tedious.  So rewarding I'm going to be spending some time there tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Understanding Politics

Thanks, George.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Gmail invites

I have a couple of Gmail invites available.  If you don't know what Gmail is then click here.  Currently it is still in beta testing and available via invite only.  If you'd like one just leave a message in the comments attached to this post.

Weekend Networking

I've just spent the last two days helping the new tech, Bob, fix the network situation at CTV. We now have the ability to transfer files between the upstairs and downstairs areas - something that was mysteriously disabled during one of the last tech's Windows reinstall binges.   It pretty much took two days to undo the good work the last tech did.  Bob has done a great job, even if he did insist on using windows (98 at that) as the server.  Hopefully it will improve productivity back up to where it was six months ago.  I can dream, can't I? =)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Sign here, please

Now you can call me a dirty brat, who's mind remains in the gutter, but I have to say that I think that one of the most poorly conceived - and evocative - names for a company is Sign Erection Services. I saw one of their vans today and it did take me a moment to work out what they did.

ToxicPurity's 2 Second Pop Quiz

ToxicPurity has not posted recently because she:
has no time even for email, let alone blogging.
is a total figment of skribe's imagination.
is mute-blogging in protest against spam, net-bloat, and Windows machines in general.
has the secret subpower of breaking Blogger everytime she tries to post something.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

More Installfest pics

The image server has returned and so here are a few more pics from the Installfest doco plus a few other stills that I took on the day.  Enjoy.

Monday, September 06, 2004

That's no moon. That's a space station.

This is a snap of the highly secretive weapon system being held in reserve in case the Bush Administration loses the November presidential election:

The picture was shot by the Cassini probe.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

More Installfest soon plus a puzzle

I have another lot of pictures from the Installfest that I will put up as soon as the image server returns to its normal programme. 

Meanwhile, here's a puzzle:

A man pushes his car to a hotel and as soon as he reaches it he knows he is bankrupt.  How?

Post your answers in the comments area attached to this posting.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Nothing to see here

There appears to be a problem with the image server so please bear with us while we find the person responsible and have it nibbled to death by horny goats.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Wacky Ads II

This one floored me: