Monday, 30 June 2008

The real holy grail

If someone claimed to have found the Holy Grail, or the Ark of the Covenant, how would we verify its authenticity? Against what known specimen would we compare it to know the truth? About the best we could do is to try and determine its age (by making assumptions about the past) and see if that represents approximately the appropriate age for the real artifact, but that just proves that it came from the right time and that it looks about right.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Something as vague as the Grail must surely be lost forever.
PPS - Though I guess we could compare it to the Indiana Jones version.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

The Sunday Mok - South Dakota Edition

On Tuesday, Deb and I got up at 05:00 to get a ride to the airport and the first leg of our journey. The six-hour flight brought us to Japan for an overnight stay. I didn't get to see much of it, but I noticed beautiful gardens everywhere, a few vending machines in odd places, and traditional architecture covered in power lines.

Our Wednesday was 36 hours long, thanks to crossing the International Date Line on our Pacific passage. We took a look at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, an enormous square structure dedicated to fashion, LEGO and Nickelodeon. I was tickled by the sign explicitly banning guns from the premises. From there we caught a late two-hop flight on a double-propeller plane to Pierre, South Dakota and slept until morning.

From then, we've mostly been catching up with family, relaxing and getting over our jet-lag.

A few observations so far:

1. Cars are big. I was intellectually aware of this American fondness for big cars, but seeing three out of four vehicles on the road being tall, wide GMC pickups is another thing. A man's gotta have his truck, apparently.

2. American television is full of medical ads. This might just be the Fox News channel, though.

3. "Pierre" might be spelled French, but it's pronounced "Pier" by the locals. They'll look at you funny if you say it differently.

4. I asked for lemonade on the plane, which means lemon juice with sugar in it. That's not what I meant. Fortunately for me, they didn't have any.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - So I committed my first language gaffe before even setting foot in the country.
PPS - Off to a good start.

Friday, 27 June 2008

Friday Zombie Blogging - LostZombies has the stated goal of creating a user-generated zombie documentary. Site patrons are encouraged to upload video "evidence" of zombie outbreaks and view results from other users. I'm guessing the documentary part is more in the web tradition than that of traditional movies.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That would make more of a zombie-themed YouTube.
PPS - And I can live with that.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

A writing holiday

I'm interested to see if I am inspired to do some fiction writing on this trip. Usually I keep a journal and this blog, which might be just enough writing to innoculate me against doing more. But with the blog posts set up in advance, a change of scenery and no work pressures, I might start producing some new short stories. I guess I'll just have to wait and see.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Of course if there's anything good I'll post it here.
PPS - Because, so far, that's all I can really do with it.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Voice mail lock-up

Why can't I check my mobile voice mail online? I should at least be able to log on to the phone company's proprietary website and delete old messages manually. I would even be happy to have the messages forwarded to my email account as sound file attachments. The reason this is not the case is that my phone company can charge me to check my voice mail as long as they keep it locked up.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This is what non-neutral networks do.
PPS - And customer lock-in.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

On My Way to the USA

Assuming all has gone according to plan, I am currently on my way to the USA via Japan. I don't expect to see the Japanese Madness Caverns first hand, as we will only be stopped there overnight, but I might get a glimpse of Japanese TV. I'll be sure to take plenty of photos on the trip and post the best ones when I get back. I've set up blog posts in advance for the trip, including Friday Zombie Blogging. They won't necessarily be relevant to the trip itself, having not happened yet at the time of writing, but they will keep up the usual daily schedule. With luck I should be able to log on and make an update once or twice while I'm away.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I shall return to Australia on the 9th of July.
PPS - Until then, I bid you farewell.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Freud in the House

I have just finished watching (some of) three seasons of House, and I have a theory about his team. To a certain extent, they represent his Freudian id (Chase), ego (Foreman) and superego (Cameron). This observation was mostly triggered by season 3 episode 18, Airborne, where House has three airplane passengers stand in for his team to provide the functions of agreement, disagreement and moral outrage.

Unfortunately, I don't know enough Freud (or House, for that matter) to fully develop my thesis with examples from the show.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - That is left as an exercise for the reader.
PPS - I wonder how many psychologists study TV characters.

Friday, 20 June 2008

An ultra-portable laptop

I'd really like to get a little ASUS EeePC (or however they capitalise it). It would be very handy to carry around a small functional machine that's essentially for email and web browsing rather than a bulky laptop. I'd bring it to work every day and read on the bus all the time, though exactly how long the novelty would last is another matter.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - And how quickly I'd fill up the tiny hard drive.
PPS - Though when it's just web and email, it would take a while.

Friday Zombie Blogging - GTA4

Apparently, under certain circumstances, some players appear as zombies in Grand Theft Auto 4.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It seems to be at the discretion of Rockstar whether you become a zombie.
PPS - And they're not telling much bout it.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Firefox 3.0

We've updated to Firefox 3.0 at work, and from a developer's perspective it's very nice. I'm actually surprised how much faster it is over version 2.0, given that version 2.0 is a cut above Internet Explorer 7. The only thing that disappoints me very slightly is that my bookmarks plugin doesn't integrate with Firefox's Places bookmarking, opting instead to install a separate bookmark system.

I'm sure the time will come when will integrate nicely with Places, so I can be patient for that, and the bookmarks are all still there and usable, so it's not affecting me really. I just think it would be neater.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The security improvements are nice too.
PPS - Overall, it's positive.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Grow a plant between glass plates

I think it would be cool to grow a plant between two glass plates, just to see how it looks. I imagine it would also force the plant to grow in slightly unusual patterns, and that would be interesting too. You'd probably have to use a strong glass just in case the plant decided to break out of its two-dimensional prison.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It might make an interesting art exhibit.
PPS - That is assuming the plants grow at all.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

For the love of programming

It's hard to love a computer programming job sometimes. When you're doing a bad job, you'll be told so regularly and forcefully by frustrated users, but that's only if they have no choice in using your program. If you're doing a mostly adequate job, people will still complain, but less. If you're doing an amazing job, you won't hear anything at all. Positive feedback about your work is almost non-existent, so if you're an affirmation kind of person, you'll have a very tough time. You need to find something else to love about the job.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This may only be true of business software such as what I do.
PPS - Games and some other applications do have vocal fans.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Finishing school

After seeing just the season finale of "Ladette to Lady", I was intrigued. They took a bunch of loutish, drunken English girls, re-opened an old-fashioned finishing school and trained them in horse riding, cake making and various other skills. I wondered whether there was a masculine equivalent. Keep in mind that I'm not talking about teaching boys proper diction and what forks to use. I'm talking about teaching them to clean and gut a fish, fix a car and build a bookshelf. Things men should know. There are also some things men should know for the sake of women, like how to dance a waltz and proper grooming, and they should be taught there too.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The only thing I found via Google was a book.
PPS - And Amazon is a bit light on details for it.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Filtering reality

I wonder how long it will be before someone manages to create an augmented reality appliance that blocks or replaces profanity, nudity and violence with soft and fuzzy, socially-acceptable items. Imagine a motorcycle helmet with a computer inside, processing the images you see and the sounds you hear to tone them down or block them out. I think we're a long way from there, but I do wonder if it will be attempted one day.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - We have filters for our web browsers that can remove profanity.
PPS - But that's much easier than selectively sanitising the whole world.

Friday Zombie Blogging - Dead Frontier

Dead Frontier is a simple zombie-themed MMORPG from an independent group of developers. It is currently in free beta testing.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It looks a bit more sophisticated than Urban Dead.
PPS - That may or may not attract you.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Impersonating an officer

A hypothetical situation: you are on your way to a fancy dress party, going as a police officer. Your costume is very authentic, and you decide to take the bus. The bus driver waves you past the ticket machines because police travel for free, but at the time you assume the machine is broken. Halfway through your journey, you realise your mistake. Do you (a) fess up and pay the fare or (b) just keep your mouth shut and continue on your way. The second question is this: if you are discovered, would you be charged with impersonating a police officer, fare evasion or both?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Probably fare evasion at minimum.
PPS - I don't know about the other one.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Mental mash-ups

Sometimes I get a couple of songs mixed up in my head, like a mash-up, but worse. The most recent one has involved some children's gospel song and the Speed Racer theme, which ends up something like:

"J-E-S-U-S! Yes! He's a demon on wheels."

I don't think that's quite what either songwriter had in mind.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It may be the first time Jesus has been described that way, too.
PPS - I'm not sure what the first song actually is.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

A dim memory of Narnia

Now that the Narnia books are gradually being made into movies, it's brought up some memories of reading them as a child. One scene that never sat quite right with me went like this: a prince (or someone, anyway) is tied to The Silver Chair for an hour every night. Before being tied down, he tells the children that they must not untie him, no matter what he says. He claims that during this time of the night he is overtaken by a madness, and will try to convince them to untie him. He may be persuasive or crafty in doing so, and they must not under any circumstances, approach or untie him.

The time ticks around and the prince, now tied to the chair, starts saying that, actually, this is the time of day when he is in his right mind, and would they untie him please so he can be free of the curse. So they untie him, taking his word for it after his previous word contradicted this and, in fact, prepared them for it. Now, keep in mind that this might be a bit hazy in my mind since it was many years ago that I read the books, but doesn't it seem a bit wrong?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I saw Prince Caspian on the weekend.
PPS - I enjoyed it.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Lifeline Bookfest

I've already missed one Lifeline Bookfest this year, but apparently now they have two. I only happened to catch the ads on television by accident because I usually don't watch TV with ads. Deb and I went yesterday, but I would have preferred to go on Saturday before all the Star Wars books had been picked out of the sci-fi table. Still, I picked up a few items that I hope will provide me with some entertainment on bus rides for the rest of the year.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I'd be especially grateful if the books gave me ideas.
PPS - I tend to value ideas over entertainment.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Gum strengthening

My dentist apparently has a new theory that stabbing your gums with metal toothpicks makes them stronger. I say "metal toothpicks" because that's the most concise explanation, but they're like little bottle brushes. He was able to determine with one of these devices that I don't floss, and sent me home with a packet of them to use myself. They must be new or something, because there are no prices on the website.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The packet says "Like floss, but easier!"
PPS - The disclaimer says, in a nutshell, "You should also floss".

Friday Zombie Blogging - Brisbane Zombie Walk

Somehow it seems I've missed the 2008 Brisbane Zombie Walk. Last I heard, from their official website, the walk was scheduled for "some time in July", but then it came and went in May. Also, it was five times as large as last year when I did participate. I guess I'll be waiting until next year.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Apparently the lack of a police escort caused some behavioural problems.
PPS - Though zombies are not generally known for their manners.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

An alpaca as a lawnmower

Could I keep an alpaca in my back yard as a fairly maintenence-free grass cutting alternative? The bonus would be that their wool is valuable (depending on quality, of course). Wikipedia suggests that in Australia it is generally only possible to run one to three alpacas per acre "due to drought". I don't know how much land we have at home, but I'd bet it's much less than an acre, so I might be pushing it space-wise. The final benefit I can name is that keeping a large animal like that is an obscure reference to Philip K. Dick's "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep".

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Sheep or goats are the other options.
PPS - I don't know where I would procure any of them, though.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

The quietest night at the movies ever

On Monday night it was pouring down rain, so I imagine most people stayed home. Also, it was a weeknight and we chose a late session, combined with a movie that was not Indiana Jones. So Deb and I had the whole cinema to ourselves. I guess I shouldn't have been entirely surprised to find that they forgot to start the movie at all.

It was nice to have the whole room to ourselves, as it left us free to make occasional comments if we wished, and we both rather enjoyed What Happens in Vegas. We'll probably buy it on DVD.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The open hatred between the friends was a highlight.
PPS - And the extra scene at the end.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

AVG 8.0 annoyances

I've updated my home machines to use AVG Free 8.0 for virus protection at the insistence of version 7. The one annoyance I have is the link scanner. My web surfing has been generally pretty clean and safe without link scanning so far, and the big green ticks on Google search results are a bit ugly. Furthermore, I don't know if it's using extra bandwidth to check the websites and whether the feature allows my web browsing to be tracked, violating my privacy. If I turn the feature off in AVG, it reports itself in an "error" state, the same as if its signatures are out of date. I guess this is the price I pay for using a free security product. The price for version 7 was large obnoxious update windows every time the machine booted up.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I have discovered that I can disable the link scanner Firefox plugin.
PPS - I guess that will do for now.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Star Trek Montage

I saw a montage of original Star Trek moments involving the phrase "he's dead" which was slightly amusing. I'd like to see someone do the same thing with The Next Generation and the phrase "energy field". There's plenty of material to work with.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - A few other phrases would show up repeatedly too.
PPS - "Make it so" and "engage" are pretty frequent.