Friday, March 31, 2006

Back online

Last week my desktop PC finally gave up the ghost so I decided to order a shiny new laptop to replace it. After spending hours trawling round the net comparing deals I finally settled on an Acer laptop from AcerNotebooks.co.uk.

It wasn't delivered on the day they promised but after a phone call to a nice lady in the customer services department I had it by 8am the next morning. I'm VERY impressed with the machine itself; the screen is gorgeous, the hard-drive is large for a laptop, there's wireless networking built-in, as well as dual format DVD burner. It's easily as fast as my old desktop machine, but it's MUCH quieter (almost silent - my desktop sounded like a vacuum cleaner) and it's slim and lightweight too (that reminds me, about that diet...)

I hope that I haven't lost any data on the hard-drives which are still sitting in the desktop PC. I'm going to buy an IDE-to-USB adaptor which will allow me to connect the hard-drives to the laptop and hopefully extract whatever's on them.

From this point on, I'm going to have a back-up routine in place, as hardware is replaceable but the data contained therein often isn't.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Phobias

I hate spiders. I mean seriously... I can't stand the little black 8-legged freaks. If they left me alone forever and didn't ever come near me then I'd be very happy. Not only that, I could guarantee I would never suck them up with a vacuum, drown them in the bath or batter them to death with a very long broom.

I know where the phobia came from. When I was a child, we'd be sitting peacefully at home when suddenly my mother would erupt in an explosion of anger and swear words, all directed at the black blob on the wall. She would leap onto the sofa, throw whatever was near to hand at it, all the time shouting and cursing as if it was the devil incarnate. Naturally, this had a huge impact on my brother and me, and we would be scared witless, cowering on the sofa, terrified of the threat my mum had identified.

I was chatting to Rachel tonight about spiders and she trotted out the old cliche about them being more afraid of us than we are of them. Where did this particular expression originate I wonder? I guess wherever is not important as it is not true: I am CLEARLY a helluva lot more afraid of the 8-legged monster than it is of me! See how it nonchalantly wanders and meanders all over my wall, invading my space, not a care in the world (apart from maybe "I wonder if any flies have fallen into my trap yet, I feel racther peckish").

Meanwhile, I've dashed out of the room to call for assistance from a neighbour, begging them to move this thing from my room before it goes into hiding. If the neighbour's not in, or deliberately ignoring me(!), then I'm planning to see if I can get a late room at a local B&B, anything so I don't have to face this beast that awaits me.

To those of you reading this without such a phobia you probably have me written off as a mad cow. That may well be true, who am I to judge? But to those of you who share my affliction, I'm sure you not only empathise completely, but are now busy checking the walls and corners of the room just in case there's a spider watching you read this.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Universal Laws

For reasons I cannot yet fathom, there seems to be certain fundamental but cruel laws that govern this universe.

For example: money is so hard to earn yet it's so easy to spend. Losing weight (and keeping it off) takes a lot of determination yet putting it on (and keeping it there) can be done with no great hardship. In fact, it's fun!

The best medicines seem to taste the worst, you have to be cruel to be kind, and it hurts more to be cut by a blunt knife than a sharp one.

I'm aiming to do two difficult things over the next few months: save money and lose weight. Now, why do I get this funny feeling it's going to be the other way round?

Wachowski Siblings

I'm not sure for how much longer we can refer to the Wachowski Brothers (Andy and Larry) as "brothers". Larry's cross-dressing has developed from wearing wigs and dresses in private to growing his hair long and being seen in public more and more frequently as Lana. I wonder when the official announcement will come that Lana has had her Sexual Reassignment Surgery?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Picture of a bird in bed


I'm conscious that so far I haven't posted any pictures on this blog. To remedy this, here is an exclusive look at the first ever recorded case of a resident of Britain suffering from Avian Flu.

Interesting read

The good thing about the internet is, it's not just for porn. I know some of you may find this hard to believe, but it can actually carry information in the form of words, rather than pictures! I've compiled a short list of links to some articles and essays I found to be particularly stimulating. They're long enough to be interesting but short enough to print off and read when you're not at your computer.

Paul Graham (the man who suggested using Bayesian filtering techniques to reduce the amount of spam we receive in our inboxes) made his millions in the DotCom era. I recommend you read How To Do What You Love and How To Make Wealth as both are well written and thought-provoking. More of his essays here.

Isaac Asmimov was one of my favourite sci-fi authors and he once wrote a very haunting short story. I don't want to give anything away, but have a read of it here and tell me what you think. From reading people's opinions of the story online, I guess it's like marmite - you either love it or hate it.

While more sci and less fi, the late Carl Sagan was rare amongst scientists in that he was able to convey a sense of awe and wonder about the universe to lay people yet still enrich their knowledge at the same time. My favourite piece of his writing is from 1996 when he talks about the Pale Blue Dot we all inhabit. Sadly, he died later that year.

Being slightly unpalatable was probably the author's intention of the next piece. A highly sophisticated alien intelligence discover the human race and are most disgusted to discover that we're made out of meat. Pretty gross when you think about it, yet sadly true all the same.

Finally, if you're still hungry for more, I've put some links down the right-hand side of this blog which will most likely stay here permanently. Check out James Randi's past newsletters (he's ill at the moment so not writing the current ones), Digg is a technology-based news blog which is very popular and is updated many times a day and saving the best 'til last...the awesome Wikipedia.

Gmail invites

I still have 99 invites to use up for Google's Gmail service. It's the best email service I know of, but at the moment it's an invite-only affair so if you want to see what all the fuss is about, leave a commment with your email address and I'll send you an invite so you can sign up.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

V for Vendetta

Despite feeling under the weather on Saturday, I went to the cinema with Rachel to see V for Vendetta, the film based on the comic book from the '80s. And boy, was I pleased I did.

The last film I had seen before this was Serenity. Serenity is a very ok film. I'd not seen Firefly (the series the film is based on) so my take on the film was perhaps different than some, but I found it to be funny in places, good in places and starkravingly average in places. It was just too...predictable. Hackneyed. A popcorn movie. A way to spend 90 minutes without being too bored. The CGI spaceships looked exactly like CGI spaceships. I thought the idea of CGI was to look like the real thing? Anyway, I digress.

The reason I mention this is because I was pleasantly surprised by just how thoroughly good Vendetta was. It was original. It was intelligent. It was arty without being pretentious and it was a damn fine film. Go and see it!

Hollywood Cliches

At the end of the day, cliches should be avoided like the plague. Honestly. There's simply no excuse for them!

Since I met Rachel I've been watching a lot of films. We go to the cinema every weekend, and I often watch a film at Nikki's during the week, so I guess I've probably seen about 25-30 films this year alone.

I have noticed that there are as many cliches alive and well in the movie industry as there are in every-day language.

I guess my film tastes are changing as I get older, but I'm probably also becoming more cynical. The movie industry is enourmous... a typical budget for a film nowadays is probably about $80m with many going way above that. As you can imagine, with that kind of investment, the investors want to play things safe - they don't want to invest money in a film which the audience doesn't understand, or is offended by and therefore stays away from the cinema in droves.

Over the years, the Powers That Be in Hollywood and elsewhere have devised movie templates, or recipes if you like, and they cling to these like a one-armed man hanging from a branch. For example:

  • a Hollywood movie should always have a happy ending

  • there should always be a love scene. Not only that, but the attraction between characters should be glaringly obvious (yet they often act as if in denial).

  • the main hero never gets killed*


*(there are a few rare exceptions to this but if the hero DOES die then it's always at the end of the film, and it's designed as a tear jerker to give the film some poignancy).

Personally I hate this her-never-dying rule because if, 20 minutes into the movie, he is confronted by seemingly impossible odds, his death is surely imminent, you just know beyond doubt that no matter what happens he is going to survive.

Not only that, he'll save the day at the end of the film, get the girl, and then she'll fall in love with him because he's so damn macho.

Mind if I vomit?

New blog

Well, I've set up a blog again and can't think of much to say right now, typical! Maybe now it's done I'll get round to actually writing something for a change... (stranger things have happened)