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Ten shots at the target, let's see if any of them hit - Many a mickle maks a muckle

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November 4th, 2003

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10:04 pm - Ten shots at the target, let's see if any of them hit
1. Yesterday was mostly spent foetal in bed, listening to my "TV and game themes from my childhood" playlist. I gave blood again on Friday; on Sunday I picked up a very dry throat, headache and shivering, which I have been blasting with paracetamol and codeine ever since. I'm probably back at 90% strength now and never really got below about 80%. Apparently this post-donation cold is not enough to declare my blood bad, so someone may well yet end up with my latest pint of A+. Durham Uni have an interesting article on the politics of blood donation eligibility.

2. Recently, three otherwise unconnected people have posted links to Mark Morford columns: fruufoo (in e-mail) to Barbie The Hot Pagan Witch, whipartist to anti-Bush rhetoric, of which we can never have enough, and applez to Britney on the NRA blacklist. Is this just coincidence or, given that he's registering from 6,000 miles away, is Morford increasingly in vogue?

3. BBC News is always good for a couple of easy links. British pupils have less angst than those of many nations; I would question polling and linguistic differences from nation to nation. 17% seems pretty high already; 41% would be indicative of a seriously dysfunctional educational and social system. I'd be interested to see some cause-and-effect analysis to relate or separate the Korean 41% with their extremely high participation in online and MMORPG culture.

4. Unusual phrases found on BBC News: "freestyle beard". I do not mock; I am impressed by the creativity. Look at the 2001 championship beard; you wouldn't mess, would you? That thing could have your eye out even on a near miss.

5. Talking of World Championships, the Settlers of Catan World Championships were the weekend before last in Germany, with the results available in German only - a home win for last year's world #2, Michel Hirschfeld. 24 nations competing in this year's event, which is an excellent haul, though this does use the slight cheat of counting England and Northern Ireland separately. Impressively, Canada, the USA, China, Japan and South Korea were all represented; it's a global game these days. The English qualifiers did us proud, both in the top ten.

6. I'm idly kicking around the concept of a weblog whose purpose was just to report on the various games world championships that exist, just so we can attempt to judge (in part) the health and robustness of each game or sport by the competitiveness of its World Championship and the structure leading up to it. What I'd really like to do is produce a document comparing all the games and sports that exist in the world and their significance to the wider world, but that would take hundreds of hours of research.

7. Bonfire Night tomorrow, Britain's traditional firework occasion. From next year onwards, the public sale of fireworks will be heavily restricted, about which I am rather pleased. Interesting to see a burgeoning market in illegal fireworks, though. I have always been rather curious to what extent a commodity's illegality makes it a more desirable purchase for some. If people are going to take an interest in dealing in something partly because it's illegal, part of me says "better fireworks than narcotics". I am not completely sure of this, though.

8. International Social Innovations Day today - the Global Ideas Bank is always good for an inspiring, idealistic browse. My idea for a new website: www.isLJup.com . LJ has been particularly patchy recently and the status page is updated intermittently. I'm thinking of a site where, if you find Live Journal to be slow, you can go and press a button marked "LJ is being slow" - or, if LJ is not working at all, you can go and press a button marked "LJ is down". We then track how many people have pressed the sundry buttons over the last minute or two. Accordingly, when people find LJ is being slow, they can get an immediate view of whether it's being particularly slow for everyone at the moment (and hence a problem at LJ's end) or, if nobody else is having a similar problem, whether the problem is likely to be at their end, their ISP's end or the like.

Optional improvements: a "LJ was slow for me earlier but seems to be working well again now" button; an extra level of recursion to also create www.isisLJupup.com at the same time.

9. For the record, I do not actually live in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, 155 miles west of Cape Wrath, nor did I tell the LJ ClusterMap that I did. However, I am disinclined to correct this error.

10. More films with the Fan Society last Friday; being October 31st, we had a vaguely horror-themed evening, to the extent of watching The Faculty, a Lij-fest played-for-laughs American high-school monster/slasher movie. The subtitles and the Harry Knowles cameo cheered it up, but very forgettable. However, considerably more interesting was Avalon. The time: the future. The place: deep space continental Europe. (Award yourself a geek point for getting the reference, Iain, Nic and Mrs.) There exists a virtual reality game called Avalon which we would identify as having all the trappings of today's traditional fantasy MMORPGs, but with gameplay which seems to come from something more like a modern-day-technology shoot'em'up. The game has been declared illegal for players can become insane within.

We are introduced to the lead character, a young lady called Ash, who plays with consumate skill. We learn about her backstory. She learns about a curious and secret aspect of the game which seems to be a kind of one-way door. The rest of the movie details her quest to explore this and what she finds as a result.

"Er... that's it", as Private Eye would say. The whole shebang takes 107 minutes. There is disturbingly much time spent on scenes of Ash smoking, Ash putting on her spectacles, Ash taking off her spectacles and the local trams. (I like the last of these only.) There is about as much material in the film as there is in Back To Reality, the vaguely comparable fifth-series episode of Red Dwarf, which was half an hour minus the credits. One of our group literally fell asleep half-way through for about 20 minutes - we were much amused by his soft snoring - and missed really very little in terms of plot development indeed.

That doesn't make it a bad movie, though it does stop it from being what I would think of as a great one. I tend to find myself complimenting films' cinematography a lot recently, but this definitely shines above the competition; if I had to criticise the direction, the first 80% of the movie seems a little reliant on arbitrary tricks, though the last 20% (and you'll recognise the turning-point!) is very natural. Not one to hire for its story, but one where I enjoyed trying to sink into the gritty, borderline dystopian, setting and seeing where my mind might take me. If you're in a similar slow movie mood then it comes highly recommended for a rental.

Interesting to see that Avalon, The Faculty and Secretary all earned an identical R certification in the US, which would seem to be a very broad stroke of the brush by British cultural terms. (For comparison, the UK awarded them 12, 15 and 18 certificates respectively.) On top of that, with parental accompaniment, the R rating is advisory only; I can remember tales of fathers taking their sons to see the similarly R-rated Starship Troopers in the US upon its release. There's "The Land of the Free" for you. (The argument that all certificates awarded should be essentially advisory definitely has its merits; I'm not criticising the US for taking this attitude.) Nevertheless, an interesting statement upon what America considers suitable or objectionable for children's viewing, perhaps.
Current Mood: sniffly :-(

(10 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:November 4th, 2003 04:30 pm (UTC)

Catan tastic!!!

That's a competition I'd love to join, so long as I could represent an international collective. :-)
[User Picture]
Date:November 6th, 2003 08:28 am (UTC)

Re: Catan tastic!!!

There was an advert on (rec.games.board) for a $1,000 Settlers tournament somewhere in the US the other day. $15 entry fee, I think; prize fund split 500-300-100-100. The UK has had some hundred-pound tournaments in the past, but this is a whole leap forward.
[User Picture]
Date:November 4th, 2003 05:49 pm (UTC)
I find that the www.isisLJup.com page would definitely be necessary... as most every LJ user would flock to www.isLJup.com should LJ not be up. But, a very very good idea. They do have better hosting/bandwidth/servers now, but in the near future you never know...
[User Picture]
Date:November 6th, 2003 08:31 am (UTC)
I have an uninformed suspicion that the service has got a lot worse ever since they implemented that memcached thing. Now I'm prepared to believe that the site was getting so big that it would eventually have ground to a halt without it, but it's untried, untested technology and - well - it just doesn't work properly 100% of the time yet, with the user experience being rather less resilient when it isn't working.

I'm sure they'll eventually get it more fixed still and the site will pick up. In time, in time.
Date:November 4th, 2003 07:35 pm (UTC)
That beard competition was very cool. They are awfully creative, aren't they? You got sick from giving blood?! *hugs* I'm sorry, but I hate the thought of needles let alone blood coming from them. *shivers* I hope you're alright now! *hugs again for good measure*
[User Picture]
Date:November 6th, 2003 10:24 am (UTC)
Well, that's inspired a very interesting thought. The last time I got a similar sort of cold was away at Nimbus in July. Again, I gave blood about two or three days before I travelled to Nimbus. Perhaps there is a link between giving blood and being a bit more succeptible (sp?) to picking up some sort of grot after all. If there is - and three in a row (a similar sort of illness after the next time I give blood) would be sufficiently convincing for my needs - then I will have to rethink whether I want to keep giving blood or not.
Date:November 6th, 2003 06:42 pm (UTC)
Simple suggestion? Don't give anymore blood Chris! Dear god...the thought of those needles....ARGH. (I have a VERY bad phobia of needles and knives)

You are probably right, with the blood giving followed by illness thing. I know I get sick after giving blood. Always. Maybe it is normal? I beg to differ...any excuse to get me out of giving blood is perfect for me. ;)

[User Picture]
Date:November 5th, 2003 03:57 am (UTC)
*g* That beard thing's really amusing. Just goes to show the odd kind of things you can be creative with. You always post up such interesting links. :)
[User Picture]
Date:November 6th, 2003 10:25 am (UTC)
BBC News! :-)
[User Picture]
Date:November 15th, 2003 01:51 pm (UTC)
Alice and I have just enjoyed a private display of fireworks from the next street. I wouldn't have noticed the new restrictions without your link, so thanks.

The extreme cases cited in the BBC News report (blowing up phone boxes!) persuade me to change my mind about the desirability of a ban on a potentially harmless activity. I wonder whether a pragmatic policy would go further and introduce a total ban on individuals buying fireworks - like the calls for a total ban on drinking and driving - for the avoidance of doubt.

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