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1. The first episode of Raven was more fantasy-Scavengers than Knightmare II - the games weren't very interesting and the show had signs of taking itself a little too seriously. Effectively: six contestants each start with seven lives and play a series of games over five days. Every game lost penalises a life. Subject to confirmation, the contestant with fewest lives remaining at the end of days two, three, four and five is eliminated. (I say "subject to confirmation" as there was alternatively some intimation that losing your final life leads to elimination - it could be that there is no schedule specifying exactly when contestants must be disqualified and they just do something a bit jiggy to make sure we end up with two contestants left at the end of day five.)
Today's show had four games: game one was a "follow the path" affair with no particularly well-defined path and consequently little play-along value. Some spurious brown-coated, black-faced "demons" were chasing the contestants. Game two is effectively a redux of Skull, long underdue for a return: contestants wander alongside ropes carrying long poles with somewhat gratuitous windchimes dangling on the end. First contestant to the end of the rope uses their pole to hook a treasure life and beat their opponent. Getting hit by a boffer-pole-wielding demon (see game one) also lost a life, but it didn't happen in practice. Game three was a riddle at the Old Troll's house: contestants simultaneously write down their answers, correctness earned a ring (i.e., "save a life"), incorrectness earned no ring and penalised a life. Game four saw only one contestant take part by volunteering (which strikes me as a dubious mechanism for fairness) - it's effectively an obstacle course where you are required not to fall off the path or to get hit by a swinging spiky-looking device, gambling +1/-1 life on the result.
Some reasonably nice graphical effects, a good batch of contestants neatly dresed up in noughth-level-fighter garb and the eponymous host - looking more than a little like 400m runner (and celebrity laugher in the Kriss Akabusi traditions) Jamie Baulch - did a competent job, though perhaps at his weakest in the Old Troll riddle game. Downside: the use of a vaguely pensieve-like device to get auto-feedback from the contestants between games, spoilers about tomorrow's challenges and not especially interesting games. Only day one so far, but unambitious and so faintly disappointing; not one to inspire a fandom with voluminous fiction. Should be at least worth the week, though.
2. On the other hand, the first episode of the new version of Treasure Hunt was very good. Other than a rather nasty remix of the theme tune (not by Zack Laurence - and yes, we could tell) the graphics package was improved, the camerawork was imperious, the gameplay and explanation of the clues was logical, the locations chosen were entertaining, the contestants were pretty good and new skyrunner Suzi Perry had fun while not being quite as annoying as Annabel Croft ever was. I have concerns that there might have been a little too much editing of the in-flight sequences going on, unless that part of the country (probably within thirty miles of athena_arena's non-university home) really does have lots of interesting things all within about two miles of each other. All told, a remarkably action-packed and interesting show - a very welcome return.
3. Prime95 was lying about being a third slower on this machine than on the PIII-500 - it errs as to the length of time its calculations take. I estimate the Duron 1200 as being about 40%-50% faster than the P-III 500 and that there is about half a Duron-1200-year of processing left to perform. Thus I can hope to see a conclusion by about the end of 2003, or about the end of 2004 if I can get a job and so only turn this computer on in the evenings.
In other massively parallel computing news, distributed.net are starting work on RC5-72, the next cipher-brute-forcing challenge along. It will require 256 times the computing power of the last one, as RC5-72 did to RC5-64; despite the popularisation of distributed computing and the increase in processor speeds, I'm not so convinced that it's going to happen. (Formally, I would bet GBP 10, or equivalent local currency, at even money that RC5-72 is not successfully completed by the end of 2008-12-31, UT. Bet available until end of 2002.) distributed.net may have burnt a few bridges by muffing the conclusion of RC5-64, they have left quite a gap between RC5-64 and RC5-72, they have already proved their political point and other distributed computing tasks are gaining in popularity. On the other hand, I believe that they remain the only distributed computing task to encourage competition between teams - though please do correct me when I'm wrong - so they'll always have some sort of niche.
At least d.net feature a number so large on their temporary stats page - 4,722,366,482,869,645,213,696, which I think ought to be 2^72 - that it requires some thought to remember what the higher powers are called. Actually, it's not that tricky - every 2^10 is the next term along, so 2^20 is a million, 2^30 is a billion, 2^x0 is an (x-1)illion and so on. For a while, at least.
4. I am trying to get hold of a copy of "Theme For A Mid-Afternoon Game Show", track number three on "White Town"'s "Your Woman". The only place I've found which might have it would be here, which claims only to make the link available occasionally and I fear I may not live long enough to see the next such occasion. Could any of you folks who are good at P2P music-stealing programs or the like assist me in finding what might be euphemistically referred to as "a preview"?
5. Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, the acceptable face of being a Randy Old Devil, has become a father for the first time at the age of 57. Son Thomas was 6 pounds 8 ounces at birth, which is exactly the same weight I was.
There. Instead of giving you one post with a hundred useless facts about me in, I will give you one hundred posts each with one useless fact about me in.
6. Ah, Christmas. (Segue! Segue!) One of the nice things about Christmas is buying chocolates and other fancy food items so that when visitors call we can treat them hospitably.
Unfortunately, visitors don't tend to call and we end up with lots of chocolates and other fancy food items which we forget about. They then go past their "best before" date and we end up eating them next Christmas. Well, want not, waste not. Another of the nice things about Christmas.
7. Many thanks for taking part in the something for everyone game. No specifics, but broadly the ladies were rather better at identifying themselves than the gentlemen. Unfortunately nobody has taken a bite at #21 or at any of the "I'd love to meet you" ones, which is a bit disappointing. Never mind; worth a go.
8. Yesterday the BBC launched digital radio channel BBC7, which might be considered as being to Radio 4 what 6music is to Radio 1. (Easy, really.) Lots of comedy, lots of drama, kids' programming too. What it means in practice is I'm Sorry I haven't A Clue twice a weekday at noon and 7pm. (Both in British time, obviously.) Can't be bad. I suspect that the rest of the output is likely to be as good, though possibly less accessible. I mean, how can you get anything less accessible than Mornington Crescent?
9. Long-running mystery department: from time to time, I see crazy (United States of) Americans using the punctuation-dipthong ~! which makes no sense to me. There are two particularly usual suspects in this regard. If someone could ever explain what the value of ~ as a suffix to ! were to mean then I should be most grateful. I have half a feeling it should mean not-!, but surely one would use ¡ for that.
10. Yachtsman Chris Dickson got skunked 4-0, so faces a repechage in order to have the right to face the crew who skunked him again. Chessplayer Luke McShane fell from 4/4 to 6/8 - going WWWWDLDW, so I think we can establish a three-day blip. Neither good.
11. Google have introduced Google Viewer, which is intriguing but possibly slightly worrying. When you search for some topic, it will show you the front pages of each of the sites it finds on that topic (typically for five seconds per front page, but you can change the speed). Very useful if you trust the sort of things that Google is going to throw up as search results, less useful if you're searching for something where you feel you're going to want to decide which is the correct site to visit based on the context your search phrase is mentioned for each of Google's results.
12. Haven't bothered reinstaling either of the two RSS readers I tried on the old computer, AmphetaDesk and FeedReader. AmphetaDesk was slower than I liked and had a tendency to leave old news on-screen without letting me be able to get rid of it; FeedReader didn't seem to link to full versions of syndicated stories. Instead, I favour reading syndicated streams as Friends list journals, possibly a paid-account-only spiff. (Incidentally, I'm sure I only used to get five units' worth of syndicates and now I get ten. When did this change? Is it just a bonus for those who might use all their units?) I read dilbertdaily, boondocks and googleblog, which are all popular and so consume a small fraction of a unit each; I also am the sole reader of gameblog_rss (board games), gamegirladvance (the people who broke the Res & Trance Vibrator story) and the triumblogate of mssv_massive, mssv_middling and mssv_tiny, the three blogs of Adrian Hon, currently in Utah but pretending to be on Mars for two weeks. (There's live-action role-playing for you.) He writes about massively multiplayer online entertainment - yer Cloudmakers / AI campaign and that - but also about space and science. The three blogs vary in entry length, but also on focus; mssv_massive has longer entries on the games, mssv_tiny is mindless link propogation and mssv_middling is somewhere in between. All recommended.
13. The Independent report that the government are considering building a 15,000,000-passenger airport in Redhill, five miles up the road from Gatwick. Interesting thought - worth further consideration. It neatly sidesteps the commitment not to expand Gatwick which the government signed in 1977, which they've decided to keep and which the High Court recently slapped them upon the wrist for keeping. (No, I don't understand that one either.) However, I have a feeling that airports five miles apart in Redhill and Gatwick would be considerably less useful for the public than a bigger Gatwick. (That is, unless they build a five-mile super-high-speed rail link between the two airports, which would seem unlikely.) Worth considering, though, especially in terms of airspace complexities. An imaginitive try at the very least.
14. Most of the best posters from the alt.tv.game-shows newsgroup have decamped to a new web-based message board which introduces wild concepts like accountability and responsibility in return for the privilege of being able to post with the cream. I think it's a sad move, but I understand the reasons behind it and respect the judgement of the people responsible. The quality of discussion on alt.tv.game-shows has dropped considerably, but I can't help feeling that this is admitting defeat to the trolls. I also miss being able to interact using my newsreader software - any newsgroup that I hold less dear to my heart and I wouldn't bother with the extra effort and hassle involved - and I miss being able to use my killfile, for there are now at least four people who are posting there (none of my Friends, for reference) who were kill-filed long ago. Admittedly, now that they're in good company, they haven't said anything annoying yet, but their methods of expression do tend to rub me up the wrong way. I remain unconvinced that we won't all be back to alt.tv.game-shows in six or twelve months time, but once again, an imaginitive try at the very least.
15. I've come up with a way of making profit from online casinos. Now this is a phrase which sets fear into my own heart - I have an innate feeling that there must be some error in my methodology. If you can spot it, kindly let me know what it is before this cheap theoretical mistake becomes an expensive one; if there isn't a flaw then I would welcome a co-conspirator to make some money.
Many online casinos will match an initial deposit of some sum of money with extra funds. Some online casinos will let two people play online roulette, online baccarat, online craps or somesuch together, betting on the same set of results. I and a co-conspirator each deposit, say, $100 at the same online casino and each receive, say, $50 bonus from the casino, thus giving us $150 of funds. We then both go to the same roulette, craps or baccarat table and both bet our entire $150 on opposing propositions. Now, barring a zero coming up, one of us will win and the other will lose. We then take the winnings and never play at the casino again. We have turned $200 between us into $300 between us. We repeat this several times and share the overall winnings evenly. (I have half a feeling that doing this on craps will mean that we would only turn $200 into $285, not $300, but would at least have the advantage of eliminating the zero.)
There's got to be a flaw there, hasn't there? It can't be that easy, can it?