Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Ice Break No Added Sugar is not low in sugar

Ice Break have released a "No Added Sugar" version of their iced coffee flavoured milk. There's still 36g of sugar in a 500mL bottle, though, which means "no added sugar" doesn't really mean "low sugar". For comparison, ordinary full-cream milk has about 5g of sugar per 100mL, which is 2g/100mL less than this.

2g is about half a teaspoon, which isn't much of a difference. 36g, however, converts to 7.2 teaspoons of sugar, or about 3.5 teaspoons per cup. That's a bit over the top, and that's what you get in a "No Added Sugar" Ice Break: almost twice the sugar a sweet-tooth puts in his or her ordinary coffee.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Regular Ice Break, of course, contains much more sugar than that.
PPS - 9.5g/100mL, or over 11 teaspoons per cup.

Monday, 29 April 2013

So much entertainment, so little time

There are so many books that I want to read, and so many new ones that will come out in the meantime, that I will probably never get through them all in my lifetime. The same goes for many other aspects of life. There are too many movies to see, too much TV to watch, too many articles to read, too many people to meet, too many careers to try. This is what I mean when I say that life is too short: the world is much too big to ever experience it all.

The upshot of all this is that, if there's not enough time to read all the books I want to read, I certainly don't have time to go back and read any over again. I don't have time to watch TV series a second time around, or to watch any of my movies again. So from that point of view, there's not much point collecting them. There's no reason to build a library of books or DVDs, because I can never afford the time to read or watch any of them again. Once I'm done with them, I have no reason to keep them. All my entertainment is disposable.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - A personal library is like a shrine to good memories.
PPS - In that way, it's a lot like photo albums. You can't go back there, but you can remember.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Friday Flash Fiction - Heroics

Dire Sun had been living on his own for three months now. The army didn't seem to have followed him. Nobody from the Red Giant program had shown up to take him away again. His former squadmate, codenamed "EKG", had left as soon as he'd regained consciousness after the escape. Dire Sun hoped EKG was doing well for himself.

He stalked the aisles of the all-night grocery store, feeling out of place, pushing a trolley that seemed just a little too small. His bulky body and ham-hock hands made him feel out of place everywhere, and people tended to stare. His mountainous frame was built for battle, not suburbia. He felt better when he avoided people, hence the all-night grocery store at 1am.

As he was trying to decide between some different cuts of steak to go with his daily pasta dish, he heard a commotion at the front of the store. He peeked around the end of the aisle to see what was going on. Some punk kid with a knife trying to rob the register. Don't get involved, don't get involved, he thought to himself, eyes squeezed shut. He was wearing his army fatigues just because it was laundry day, so he felt like keeping an extra-low profile today. But when the woman at the checkout screamed, his body leapt into action of its own accord.

Dire Sun rounded the corner of the aisle and bounded down it, picking up speed. The shelves shook and his heavy footsteps echoed all through the store. Halfway down he gave a yell which drew the robber's attention. The kid's head snapped up in surprise, just before Dire Sun's full bulk smashed him into the back wall. He was knocked out cold, and Dire Sun extracted himself from the massive dent he had made.

"Oh, thank you so much!" said the distraught cashier through her tears. She wiped them away and took a better look at her rescuer. "I haven't seen you somewhere before, have I?"

"I ... shop here a lot," he said, starting to squirm. He noticed the kid coming around, so took out a zip tie from his pocket and hog-tied the kid's hands to his feet in a smooth, practised motion.

"I should ... get going," he said, and turned to head out the doors.

"What about your food? Oh, and we should take a picture! For the news or at least for my Facebook. Please?" She was looking at his enormous biceps, which flattered him just enough to get him to pose for the picture. He did go back for his shopping after that, and the police arrived a few minutes later. And even though it was just police procedure, Dire Sun found he liked this kind of attention.

He liked it even more the next day when the press showed up to take his picture and get his story. He especially liked that they kept calling him "hero".

A guy could get used to this, he thought.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The next stage in the journey of Dire Sun.
PPS - I'm trying him out as a character in the Champions Online MMO.


I love technology when it works, but these days "when it works" is getting to mean "when it works together" a lot more often. Every network has a different protocol, every mobile has a different operating system, everything wireless works on a different frequency and all data is in incompatible formats. Getting two pieces of technology to work together is becoming more of a challenge every day, which either means we are trying to do more difficult things with it or that standards are advancing too rapidly to keep up.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I think it's a bit of both.
PPS - We can't let it go too far, or nothing will work with anything else any more.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Foxtel IQ could run on the Xbox

Since the Xbox is basically a computer, including a hard drive, and it already has the ability to receive Foxtel over the internet, you could run a Foxtel IQ app (that is, a DVR) to record and rewind shows just like the dedicated Foxtel IQ appliance. The real difficulty, I expect, would be hard drive space, which is quite limited on the Xbox.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - You'd also have to convince Foxtel to go for the scheme.
PPS - Which I doubt they would.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Outsourcing to the extreme

Once all functions of a corporation are outsourced - accounts, IT, legal, whatever - everyone is just consulting for everyone else. At that point, it is the project managers and coordinators or the clients that are the only ones in power. It's a significant shift in the way business is done, because it takes extra skill to manage a multi-disciplinary project team.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The end result may be smaller projects.
PPS - Because there just aren't that many skilled managers around.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Trust and second chances

I hate not getting second chances, because I usually screw up my first chance. Doesn't everyone? I mean, that's life and learning, right? The problem is that second chances usually go to second candidates, which really means that there are no second chances, only someone else's first chance. That stinks, but it seems to be how people do "trust" these days. You get one chance to prove yourself when you meet someone, but then as soon as you make a mistake, the trust is gone and will never come back. Fool me once, shame on you, but you will never get a chance to fool me twice.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Where "fool me" can mean as little as "interact with me".
PPS - But maybe it's only this extreme on TV and in movies.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Joke religion collides with real bureaucracy

Nobody is really a Pastafarian. Sometimes - on BoingBoing, mostly - a story will come up saying that so-and-so, a "devout Pastafarian", has been denied freedom of religious expression because somebody refused to let him/her wear a colander on his/her head for an official photograph (driver's license, passport etc). This is a joke, of course, because nobody actually believes that the world was created by a flying spaghetti monster. It's a highly sarcastic point rooted in a belief in strict materialism - nothing exists outside this observable universe of matter and energy.

So my question is this: although Pastafarianism is meant to ridicule all religions, what point does it make to insist on wearing a colander on your head for your driver's license photo? Are you making the point that religious headgear should not be allowed in such photos? Are you just making fun of the officials involved for not having heard the joke? In essence, I believe that referencing Pastafarianism in this way makes it out to be more than an argument against religion, and implies that you actually take the belief seriously, which you don't.

The weird part is that the BoingBoing article is usually written as if it encourages religious tolerance, but you don't have to go far in the comments before getting to "When are we going to destroy all religion because grar millitant atheism grar!"

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Pastafarianism is, strictly speaking, not compatible with religious tolerance.
PPS - If only because it is a way of saying "all religion is ridiculous".

Friday, 19 April 2013

Friday Flash Fiction - Brothers on the Marsh

Two figures, brothers, trudged across the marsh, tall rubber boots splattered with mud. They travelled without speaking. Any voice could disturb the purpose of their trip. When one stumbled, the other offered a hand to help him up. When they crossed a gully, they helped lower each other down and boosted or hauled each other up the other side.

The ground grew softer with every step. Every metre they travelled took longer than the one before, but they had to go on. Their goal was visible ahead, where the maps had said it would be - a silver-coloured tree in the middle of the marsh, bare of leaves, glinting in the sunlight, standing alone.

The younger brother, who was not younger by much, stepped by mistake into a bog hole, sinking up to his middle. He caught his breath before he cried out in surprise. The elder brother gestured at him to keep still and, in the thick mud around the hole, searched for a solid place to pull his sibling to safety.

The best place was not perfect, not even very good, but it would have to do. He tied a rope around his middle, made his footing as secure as he could, tied another loop in the other end of the rope and threw it to his stuck brother. The stuck man shuffled his shoulders into the loop, secured it as best he could, then gave the signal to be hauled out.

The rope pulled taut and the younger brother in the bog fell forwards, his head submerged for a breathless moment. The other man pulled faster, and his head emerged with his gasp for air. He helped pull himself out, when his arms were free, but his boots had been lost at the bottom of the sticky mudhole.

Both men stood still, trying to decide what to do. The younger brother gestured that the older should go on, the older indicated that they should turn back. It was not safe to travel on the marsh barefoot. The promise of the silver tree and its glassy, miraculous sap would not be worth anything if they could not make it there or back. The younger pleaded with his eyes. The tree was so close, and it would surely be just as treacherous to travel back now as to go on a little further first.

The older brother sighed and assented. They trudged on, even more carefully now, the younger brother getting more exhausted with every step, his boots no longer helping his footing, but they reached the base of the silver tree. The glass-like sap of the silver tree, when conditions were right, could harden into a bead the shape of a water drop, as hard as rock on one end, but explosively fragile if the pointed tip were fractured. It was said to happen only once or twice a decade, and only here on the dreaded marsh. The medicine man had asked for one of the beads as the price for curing their brother. None of them knew whether such a bead would be here, or if the brothers could bring it back intact.

They examined the tree from root to branch tip, searching for the bead of sap, until they finally found one, tiny and delicate, clinging to the tip of one twig. It refracted the sunlight into a little rainbow circle with rays cutting across it. The brothers could see why the medicine man wanted it, and why they were so valuable.

The younger brother, with as much care as he could muster, plucked the bead from the twig and rested it in the padded box they had brought. He tied it closed, wrapped the box in a blanket, and eased it into his pack. They smiled at each other. If they made it back in time, their youngest brother would live, and everything would be fine.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The bead of sap I describe is essentially a Prince Rupert's Drop.
PPS - Though those are made of glass and cooled in water.

Things I love

I don't much want to post a simple list without any explanation, but I'm trying to channel some positivity, and this seems like the quickest way to a lot of it. So here are some things I love in this world:

- Telling a good story, especially when it's funny.
- Hearing someone else tell a good story, whether verbally, on paper or on screen.
- Sleeping in.
- A good home-cooked meal.
- Hugs.
- Clean sheets.
- Parties that never seem to end, with friends who could talk until the sun came up.
- Floating in a pool without a care in the world.
- Finishing a project.
- Knowing the next step.
- Feeling like the world has become a little bit better today.
- Making progress.
- Having all the time in the world.
- Dogpile on that guy!
- The animal warmth of my family around me or, failing that, a sleeping cat on my lap.
- Pancakes.
- Antici...pation.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - My friends and family are in there, but it should be more than once.
PPS - I'd be very lost if I were alone.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Great expectations

I have a history of trying to reduce everyone's expectations of me. I tell them I can't sing, can't dance, can't improvise. I hate the feeling of disappointing someone. It is the worst feeling in the world to me. So if everyone expects little of me, I don't have anyone to disappoint. It is simple, solid, deeply flawed logic.

So how can I get over that? I don't want to swing far in the other direction, so that I'm talking myself up before falling short, but there has to be some way to middle ground, where I am objective and honest about my abilities and I meet the expectations they set up. I wish I knew how to get there.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Maybe, through fear, I put too much pressure on myself.
PPS - And maybe my supposed failures aren't as bad as I imagine.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Apple and limited choice

Is it true that part of Apple's success in consumer electronics is offering much less choice than rivals? Now, granted, you'd never hear someone saying "well, I was going to buy an Android phone, but there were just so many fewer options from Apple that I couldn't resist!" My point, though, is that choice is hard, and the near-infinite options you have for most items like phones or computers can be paralysing. When Apple offers you "phone" or "slightly bigger phone", suddenly you'd be much more at ease and more likely to buy. Couple that with post-purchase rationalisations about knowing it will "just work" and the fact that Apple designs shiny things, and everything lines up for them. Apple knows that you find choosing hard, and they design and sell based on that.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Plus the limited form factor means that the accessories market is bigger.
PPS - It's subtle, but I think it's a valid strategy.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Turn-based vs real-time RPG combat

Many years ago, as my beloved adventure games were slowly consumed by role-playing games, I resented the very idea of RPGs on several levels. I had never played an RPG properly, and I was absolutely convinced that turn-based combat would be essential for my enjoyment. Now I have had the experience of playing three types of RPG: the MMO City of Heroes, which was an action RPG, all real-time, and the two very different styles that were manifested in the Penny Arcade Adventures series. The first two episodes had semi-real-time combat sequences, and the third has turn-based combat, but with a time line to determine whose turn it is next. Now, prepare to eat my words, younger self, because the real-time options absolutely wipe the floor with turn-based combat.

When you can literally walk away during a battle and be in no danger at all, something is lost. You don't even have to pause. It drains all of the excitement and tension out of the game for me, making it all about what weapons or spells to choose next. It also means that the game designers can go absolutely nuts with the number of options in combat, and they do. In the first two Penny Arcade Adventures episodes, you had three characters with one pre-equipped weapon each, capable of an ordinary attack or one of three special attacks. There were also about 15 different items you might use, and most of those were different strengths of the same type of item. There's no time to sift through a dozen sub-menus, because your characters will be dead by then.

In contrast, the turn-based Episode 3 has each character with one built-in class, two equipped classes and an upgradeable weapon, each with at least four different possible attacks or spells. There are so many new options every time someone levels up that I just stopped reading the post-combat summary and decided to learn my attacks during combat. After all, the names aren't going to tell me what they do. The mechanics of turn-based combat meant that the game designers added a lot of complexity to the play mechanics, and those start getting in the way of the fun.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - So there you have it. For me, at least, turn-based combat bad, real-time good.
PPS - Based on the third Penny Arcade Adventures episode, I may not buy the fourth.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Videogames for the elderly

When people retire and have very little to do with their time, can't move around a lot but still want to socialise, the internet can help fill that need. And what better way to use it than designing videogames for grandpa? Think about it. They probably won't want to or won't be able to handle the same twitch-spasm FPS titles that appeal to the core demographic of 14-year-old boys, but their brains could use the workout other games have to offer. Something designed specifically to appeal to the elderly, without being insultingly simple or too similar to overwrought "educational" titles, should do really well. And how do you keep those 14-year-olds from coming in and beating everyone, ruining it all? For the most part, they'll be too busy in their own games, injecting caffeine directly into their hearts to shave milliseconds off their reaction times, all to earn the right to call each other names. Games written for the elderly simply won't appeal to them, either because they're boring or because they won't be competitive enough.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I would love to see games where the elderly simply out-perform the young.
PPS - That would be pretty satisfying for everyone.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Friday Flash Fiction - Bane Mage

The figure standing over Randall looked just like the stories he had heard. A sorceress escaped from Hell, wearing torn, dark latex and a severe, straight haircut covering half her face. Her fist glowed with blue-white energy. She was standing with one foot on his chest and a furious, almost crazy, glint in her eye. Bane Mage, crime-fighting "superhero". She'd been hauled in front of the Registrar a dozen times for misconduct since arriving in the city, but they always let her back on the streets. She got results. She also patrolled areas where other heroes feared to tread, or fly.

And this was who had stopped Randall from mugging that old lady. Just my luck, he thought to himself.

The energy around her fist glowed brighter, and Bane Mage's grin turned manic. Randall had to try something to avoid getting crispy-fried.
"What did I do? Why are you doing this?"

Bane Mage gave the briefest shake of her head, as if a gnat had landed on her nose. "You know why," she said, and resumed building up her energy for a last strike.

"But it was just a mugging! She got the purse back!"

"So I should just let you go? Not a chance. Evil ... Must ... Be ... Punished!"

Just as her fist seemed like it would blast Randall on its own, Bane Mage turned , slapped at her ear and screamed "WHAT?" The built-up energy beam sizzled against the ground, next to Randall's head.

"No!" she kept saying into her earpiece radio. "He has to ... I have him ... It's my ..." Finally she just started yelling incoherently until she tore off the earpiece and dashed it to the ground where it broke in two.

With some obvious reluctance, Bane Mage pulled out a teleport tag from her belt and slapped it down hard on Randall's chest, then gave him a kick in the ribs for good measure.

As he faded out, being teleported to the holding cells at the local police precinct, he heard Bane Mage shout after him "Don't you DARE try this again. Next time, I might be in a bad mood."

Mokalus of Borg

PS - This is another of my City of Heroes characters.
PPS - She ... had a lot of personal growth in the story in my head as time went on.

Computer platform instability

Are we headed towards or away from computer platform stability? In the very early days of computers, each one needed a custom operating system, because they were all that different. As time went by, hardware started standardising, and so did operating systems, through the mainframe days into desktops and servers. For a while, there was peace, with just a few desktop operating systems, and that is still the case to an extent, but there are more minor OSes popping up every day, usually based on Linux, because it's open-source, and even the new versions of the major platforms fail to completely displace their old versions (Windows XP is still going strong, despite being unsupported and now superseded three times over).

Cut to the mobile marketplace, where not only do we have unique hardware, but every company insists on putting its own spin on Android, quite often with special requests and additions for the mobile carrier too. New versions fail to displace the old, and our only relief is planned obsolesence where the phones break down on their own after a year. Meanwhile there are more and more software development libraries promising to make cross-platform development easier, usually by liberal application of JavaScript and HTML5, the lowest-commond-denominators of the software world.

So is it going to get better any time soon? Probably not. Until it is legally mandatory for every mobile phone to be equipped with a factory reset button that installs stock-standard Android without carrier and manufacturer cruftware, all those custom tweaks will make life hell for developers like me, unless we resign ourselves to a lifetime of complex server-side development with tools that were meant to make images change on 1990s websites.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Right now, to target "every major platform", you need at least six versions of your app.
PPS - Which is why so many people just make a website and call it an app.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Braid review

I really liked playing through Braid. It was short and used a unique play mechanic added onto a familiar genre - in this case, time control in a platformer. It makes a big difference to the way you play when, instead of dying and restarting the level, you just rewind time and try again. I was much more reckless and willing to try difficult or dangerous things, because progress is never really lost. It is still a challenge, though, because there are the time mechanism puzzles, playing with the concept and twisting your brain. Lots of fun, though I had to consult a guide for a couple of puzzle solutions. One in particular was the way a puzzle display in the background acted as an extra platform, and I just didn't notice.

The ending, the very final level, was where the real "wow" factor came in, though. I don't want to spoil it, in case you feel inclined to go and play it yourself, but it was, to me, the cleverest part of the entire game, and put a new spin on everything that came before. So do go and play it now.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I realise this is not the newest of games.
PPS - I just wanted to say what I thought of it.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

High-demand concert ticket lotteries

When tickets to special events are sold out in mere hours or even minutes, and could command prices much, much higher if they wanted to, perhaps we should change from a straight-up queue system to a lottery instead.

The main problem with selling tickets online is that everyone in the world arrives at the front door the second the servers are open for business, or a long time before that. Then, while you and several thousand other people all clamour for the attention of the poor server, some who get through buy their tickets and the rest of us go away empty handed.

A better way would be to take a page from the Olympics ticket allocation system. If you want to go to an event, you register for a lottery that will be drawn at a later date. There's no rush, because it is no longer a mad grab for all available tickets, so the servers should experience less load. Then, at the appointed time, a selection of patrons is drawn randomly from the registrations and those people get to buy tickets.

The main problems with a system like that are social. People have grown to expect queues and crowds. We can deal with that. The idea that you showed up at three seconds after 9am while I showed up a lazy four seconds after means that you are clearly more deserving of the tickets than me. We understand it. The idea that you can "win" your right to buy a ticket at random is weird and confusing. You can bet there would be a lot of backlash from people who prefer queues, or from people who have never had problems with them.

But on the whole, I think it's a better system for extremely high-demand events. Give everyone the time to register their interest, then everyone gets a fair go. No more first-come-first-served-sorry-mate-sold-out-at-9:01 mad rush.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - I've missed out on tickets in the "mad rush" system.
PPS - I'm sure I'd miss out in a lottery system too, but it might feel less like a personal failure.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

TeamViewer review

One of the software tools I used to rely on every single day was Windows Live Mesh, because it could synchronise large collections of files and provide remote computer access in a simple, set-and-forget way. Microsoft decided to can that entire useful service to focus on making a Dropbox clone instead, which is what led me to install TeamViewer on all my computers. My cousin-in-law pointed me to it, and I can't thank him enough.

TeamViewer does the remote access job of Live Mesh, plus a couple of other tasks, and I am very pleased with it. It works faster than Live Mesh did, and more reliably, in my experience. Once I'm logged in on all my machines, I just choose one from a list, double-click, and it's like I'm right there in front of it.

But TeamViewer has a few extra tricks up its sleeve, too. You can start a one-to-one VPN with a connected machine, too, which allows you to transfer files and access private web services too. That's pretty handy. And with the Android app, I can do all this from my phone as well.

The most useful thing it does, however, is allow me to connect to family PCs for that all-too-frequent family tech support. I set it up on my Dad's machine, and if he's having trouble, I can log in and help, rather than trying to talk him through it blind, which is like helping a panicky passenger through land a plane over the radio. It's much better to actually see what's going on and be able to help with my mouse and keyboard.

For all these reasons, TeamViewer gets my personal recommendation, and it's staying in my toolbox.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It's free for non-commercial use.
PPS - I haven't needed it for commercial use yet.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Expensive ink and brand choice in new printers

Another unusual side-effect of expensive printer ink is that you'll replace your printer with the same brand just to use your spare ink. That is, if your printer lasts a while, and you have some spare ink left over when it does break, it may be more worthwhile buying the same brand of printer rather than letting that spare ink go to waste.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - It would depend on how much you spend on ink over the lifetime of a printer.
PPS - Or how much you think you spend.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Friday Flash Fiction - Escape

Alarms startled Dire Sun out of a deep sleep in his cell. It took a few seconds to shake the cobwebs free from his mind, but when he realised what was happening, he snapped to full alert, years of training and conditioning kicking in. The rising tone was an evacuation alert. His door was ajar just a few centimetres, which was odd.

He picked up a sidearm and grabbed the cap that kept his bald spot from showing. Force of habit. He strapped on the weapon as he strode out the door and down the passage towards the fire exit. None of the other cell doors were locked, which further confirmed his suspicion that this was no drill. He and his fellow soldiers would be locked in during most mundane drills.

He passed door after door, checking in each one with a quick glance before moving on. Empty, empty, empty. Where was everyone? When he reached the door at the end of the passage, he could smell the smoke.

The door wouldn't budge and the smoke was becoming thicker and more visible. He braced against the floor, put his full weight behind the push, even shoulder-slammed it with his full 175kg of solid muscle, but it didn't even dent.

He pulled the front of his uniform shirt up over his mouth to keep from breathing in too much smoke. It didn't help much, though it might keep him going a little longer. The smoke started to sting his eyes. He raced to the other end of the military-grey corridor and turned a corner, almost tripping over a prone form at his feet. The man's code name didn't come to mind, only his serial number - D14. Dire Sun was D15. He hefted his fellow soldier's unconscious body over his shoulders with a grunt and charged for the fire door at the other end of the corridor. With the weight of two of them, Dire Sun couldn't move fast, but their combined momentum would be unstoppable. As he reached the door, he extended a meaty foot with his last step and let his and his squad mate's mass carry the kick into the door.

His whole frame shuddered with the impact on the reinforced steel, but the locking bolts bent and popped out of place. The door swung free on squealing hinges. The thickening smoke followed them out into open air, and Dire Sun collapsed, allowing D14 to fall from his shoulders and getting his breath back.

In a control room, not far away, a technician turned from his video monitor in disbelief to ask his commander, "Did you see that?"

The commander kept watching with stoic composure. "I saw."

"That was ten centimetres of hardened steel with *six* lock bolts! And he just, you know, POW!" The tech smacked a fist into his open palm to emphasise his point.

"Private, I saw it. It's why we made him."

"But, well, uh, permission to speak freely, sir?"

The commander nodded.

"Why the fire? Why are we doing this to him?"

"Super-soldiers escape, private. It's inevitable. We're just making escape part of the plan."

The technician nodded, without certainty. On the monitor, Dire Sun picked up his fellow soldier again and started for the fence.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - Dire Sun was one of my City of Heroes characters.
PPS - I was kind of vague about his back-story, but I think I'd like to write it like this.

Science, fun and precision

Engaging, interesting communication is not always going to be precise. It still has to be accurate, but you can't expect people to listen to boring communication just because it is as precise as you can make it. I saw a TED talk where Tyler DeWitt talked about communicating science to children. Because this is usually done by career scientists, they strive for two things above all else: precision and seriousness. If your textbook is too imprecise (saying, for example, "viruses have DNA" when some viruses don't) or too much fun, then it won't be accepted as a textbook for use in school.

DeWitt's point is that hyper-precision right off the bat is not going to ensure kids fall in love with science. It has the same effect as your annoying friend who corrects your stories as you tell them. It doesn't make the story more engaging, it becomes harder to follow and more annoying. Also, of course, if you're being deliberately not-fun, you shouldn't be surprised that kids aren't having fun in class and therefore aren't interested in science as a result. "Fun in class" even sounds strange to me, and I'm right on board with this. So it's infected me too.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - For now, I love science TV.
PPS - TV science is, of course, missing on the accuracy axis, but it's fun.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Ripping entertainment

It's okay (in Australia) to take some entertainment you bought on a round plastic disc and copy that data to your computer for personal use, as long as it only involves sound, not moving pictures. When you look at it that way, this is a very weird and inconsistent law, and I think it's time it changed. Why am I forbidden from doing to my DVD movies the same thing I am allowed to do to my CD music - that is, to rip it and copy it to my tablet or phone? Why is the law so specific about the type of entertainment to which I can do this?

Mokalus of Borg

PS - The same laws are in force in most countries.
PPS - Because ripping movies is stealing but ripping music is just using it.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Goal setting

I used to get very upset when people talked to me about the important - some would say paramount - task of setting goals. You have to set goals, they said. It's vital. The most important thing you can do, or else how do you know where you're headed?

Okay, I'd reply in my head, I have a goal to own and run a software company. Now what? There was no guidance on that. That's what frustrated me. I could have goals, but no idea how to get there, even in very tiny steps. What is the task I should have done, that day, as a high school student, to progress towards my goal? The only thing anyone seemed able to offer me was "set goals". It seemed as if their entire strategy was to impress upon me the importance of goal setting, and then let the rest sort itself out in my undeveloped teenage brain somehow.

My point is that goals are only half the story. You need a plan to get there and, in that sense, the plan is even more important. Yes, you need to start by figuring out where you want to be, what you want to do, but how you're going to get there is essential.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - These days, my life goals are only reviewed once or twice a year.
PPS - According to GTD, they're supposed to help filter my day-to-day actions for relevance.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Identical beautiful people

When the actors and actresses on a TV show are too pretty, I feel like I'm never going to remember them. They're like mannequins, all identical. They slide out of my memory like water. This may be related to the fact, according to research, that the people rated most attractive on online dating websites don't tend to get as much attention as more "average-looking" people.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - After a while, I do get used to it.
PPS - Because the human mind has great capacity for adaptation.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Satisfying progress

One of my personal problems (and I have many) is that I like feeling like I'm making progress, so sometimes I will do things that only feel like progress, rather than achieving something real with my time. And sometimes I will stop a task halfway through, because that feels like enough progress, and tomorrow I can do the rest, and get that same feeling again. Finishing a task does hold some satisfaction, but that very same satisfaction is right there in the middle, too, as long as I can see I'm getting closer to the goal.

Mokalus of Borg

PS - So if progress is measurable, I'll stop halfway.
PPS - And if progress is not measurable, I'll stop as soon as I realise that.