I imagine a world in which this were possible being quite political, or quite religious, with the boundaries between the two fairly ill-defined. Different philosophies would give competing guidance as to how best to live your life. I can imagine there would be those philosophies who would encourage people to have a relatively hard and frugal life, with a glorious retirement at the end. There would be other philosophies who would advocate spending your earnings on self-improvement rather than luxury as a move of long-term benefit; I imagine there would be some overlap between philosophy and commerical enterprise as some businesses would train you how to maximise your potential for future earnings... for a price, naturally. There would be other communist organisations which would aim to minimise the pain of suffering by giving you comrades who were sharing similar suffering in the same way, providing some level of minimal shared existence for all. There would also be those who'd counsel people not to use the facilities at all.
It's always tempting to try to work out what sort of role you'd take in all this, how your sets of skills and abilities would fit into such a world. I imagine that I would end up in the (reasonably large) industry of helping people to use the system as well as possible. I suspect that the only way to make the very big money would be to specialise in some particular skill or talent and just use the system to make your existence known to those who might be interested in it. (A marketable skill in itself!) Perhaps there might be those who would pay some sum to be able to use my knowledge and love of games for some reason. That said, I know there would be those with similar but better facilities to mine out there, though the market couldn't be perfectly efficient at matchmaking supply and demand. Perhaps it wouldn't be so different from today's job market after all.
Taking this to its logical conclusion, I suspect that one of the most highly-prized talents of all would be that of imagination. Fancy being able to pay someone with a wonderful track record in such things to enjoy their wonderfully pleasurable dreams for a night! It would be comforting to think that anyone with no other outstanding abilities at all might still be able to carve out a nice niche for themselves as a professional dreamer in such a world.
2. Scrabble on ESPN last Sunday, as discussed. I didn't mention at the time that ESPN 2 are showing chess this week: Kasparov takes on a 3-D graphics version of Fritz over four games in New York. Game one saw Kasparov press the initiative until move 32, then ran out of ideas before conceding a draw through perpetual check; Kasparov stumbled on move 32 again in game two, a blunder in time trouble giving the computer a 1½-½ lead with two to play. Game three Sunday, game four next Tuesday. Action starts at 1pm EDT both days. Follow it live on ESPN2 or online.
3. Talking of chess, the British commentators in the Roy Jones Jr. - Antonio Tarver light-heavyweight boxing championship match compared some of the action to a chess game - specifically, one of the round fragments where the two were pawing at each other mid-air. (Tarver was robbed by the judges - robbed, I tell you. I had him winning by at least two rounds.) However, the chess-boxing parallels are well-known. Put the two together and you get schachboxen. Yes, really. (Apparently.) Picking through a free translator, I get the following.
Four minutes chess, two minutes boxing. Four more minutes chess, two more minutes boxing. Repeat three more times, finish with a sixth four-minutes of chess. The boxing is amateur and so heavily padded, but the referee might stop the fight early, which resolves the match. Other than that, the chess result is decisive and will presumably be ended by one competitor or the other winning on time in the sixth round. If the chess is drawn - presumably by a stalemate or a perpetual check, because can you imagine the boxers agreeing a draw? - only then do we go to the boxing judges for a points verdict. Theoretically both chess and boxing can be drawn to tie the contest, but they ought to say Sudden Death Extra Round and be done with it. There would be No Time Limit for this Sudden Death Extra Round, just like in the final game of Rollerball.
I think this is a fantastic concept, but it raises loads of practical questions. First off, where is the chess board? If it's actually in the ring, then they have to box around it; if it's not in the ring, someone's got to bring it in and take it out. (I think they should lower it into the ring on a pulley and then raise it back out again.) Secondly, given that there presumably are seconds who tend to the boxers' wounds between rounds, how do we know the seconds aren't giving tips for the chess too? You've probably seen how entertainingly, spectacularly horribly ineffective boxing seconds are, offering remarkably useless advice. Now imagine if there's a chess GM in the entourage passing on chess tips as well. It doesn't really need be a GM - simply give the cuts man a copy of some computer chess program and get him to belt out three variations to three moves depth and you've rigged it right there. Thirdly, four minutes of physical inactivity between the rounds of boxing: won't you need to keep warming up again each time?
Heavyweight champion of not-being-bothered-any-more Lennox Lewis and both Klitschko brothers are known to be chess fans, as well as being able to bang a bit. (Down, tartpants.) There ought to be a Klitschko-Lewis rematch after Lewis' TKO win through cuts, but it's looking increasingly like Lewis is going to say "ehh" and leave boxing altogether. Perhaps the two of them should stipulate this chess-boxing format for the rematch. They could probably get a few million dollars each for it fairly easily - and certainly far more column-inches than a straight boxing match would get. Now imagine if you're Luis the Lawyer from that article, the world chess-boxing champ, and get to take on a Klitschko. What are your tactics? I say Klitschko ought to deliberately stall through the chess rounds, to avoid falling prey to any short tactical shots, then absolutely lamp Luis in the boxing. Hurrah.
The biggest question I have about chess-boxing, though: with those big chunky boxing gloves on, how on earth do they move the pieces?
4. There's another interesting use for online web translators. Compare what happens when you search Google News UK for "Prince Charles" and then compare the results to what you get when you search Google News Italy for "Principe Carlo". Given that Google happily offers to translate web pages already, and Google News UK is happy to include news stories from non-UK English-speaking countries, the next step is for Google News to include translated news reports from other languages' newspapers. Latest scores: Google 1, National Boundaries 0; Court Injunctions 0, Free Information 106.
5. Discussion of the vague prospect of getting trams here in Middlesbrough ten years down the line. (Eeeee!) Some company think they might be able to make money from it, the local rag comes in early with a pro-tram editorial (a very pleasant surprise!) and my favourite local MP, whose neighbouring constituency would nearly be served, gets in on the act. I'll believe it when I see it, but it's something to hope for.
6. YouGov point to a quick poll whereby you have to make snap decisions about political candidates based just on their name and appearance. It ought to have been called Am I Electable Or Not?, and in an ideal world it should have told you after a dozen candidates "You might not have realised this, but you are really the most horrible bigot for having displayed prejudice (x) against (category of candidate y). Not all people with (e.g.) extensive dental work are (e.g.) out of touch with your concerns." Alas, they're playing nicely, though.
7. I had an idea for a Las Vegas show: Banzai Live! You pay your $100 to come in and watch (say) five stunts live - whether Cool Hand Luke really can eat fifty eggs in an hour, or whatever. However, the evil genius part is that you can bet on the success or failure of the bet while it is in progress, with odds changing every half-second in reaction to the audience's wagering patterns. All returns from winning bets paid out at the end of the show. Very simple user interface: two buttons, one for "bet succeeds", one for "bet fails", each press represents one $5 bet at the current odds.
Naturally (1), the odds are crummy - something like both outcomes start off by paying $8.10 for a nominal-$5 wager or some other hugely lop-sided book. Naturally (2), even though people would get (say) 20 "free" $5 bets included with their $100 ticket, if you blow all your bets on Gambling Opportunity Number One when the commentator screams "BET BET BET! BET NOW!" then you can buy 20 more $5 crummy-odds bets for another $100. As many times as you like. Cha-ching!
8. For my birthday, I got money - the gift that keeps on giving. (Until you spend it. Then it stops.) One of the things I bought was a selection of disposable razors with one blade, with two blades and with three blades. Yesterday I did a comparison to see whether three-blade razors really are better than two-blade ones, and two-blade better than one-blade. Unfortunately it wasn't nearly as funny as I had hoped it would be, so I won't inflict the photos on you.
- Damnit, three-blade razors really do seem to be the tiniest bit better than two-blade razors, which do seem to be the tiniest bit better than one-blade razors.
- Which is reassuring but annoying given that I still have lots of two-blade and one-blade razors to use and now I don't want to use 'em.
- Gillette brand razors really are better at dealing with nice goopy Gillette shaving gel and not getting it stuck between the blades when you rinse the razor in water than non-Gillette razors. Again, this is reassuring but annoying.
- I have got the tiniest little dimple on my chin, inside which an ickle wee whisker grows. The one-blade razor just seems to keep missing it, but a Razor +2 can deal with it. Maybe it's immune to non-magical weapons, or something.
- Even though three-blade razors really do leave me feeling smoother than one-blade ones, give it about half an hour and I still look like I've got five o'clock shadow.
- Three-blade razors cause less shaving cuts than fewer-bladed ones. Maybe this is because of the individually spring-loaded heads.
- Or maybe it's because I still am really pretty lousy at wet shaving. Probably the latter.
- The handle of the Gillette Mach 3 is a very strange off-straight shape, as if it's clearly intended to be used for stimulating purposes that you're really not meant to use razor handles for.
9. You might recall a couple of months ago that I moaned that my favourite thermometer had broken. The family went on another stupid-o'-clock adventure to a semi-local 24-hour supermarket we hadn't visited before last night and by happy accident I've got an early Christmas present. Whee!
This little baby might not do indoor/outdoor temperature, but it has an in-built YYYY/MM/DD hh:mm clock, with optional hourly beep, alarm and snooze button (bottom right), temperature to the nearest 0.1°, °C and °F display (booyah!), a little trend indicator which points out that it's warmer than it was two hours ago because I've put the hot-air blower on to heat the room up, a humidity measurement system, user-defineable alarms when the temperature or humidity go too high or too low and it's only got minimum/maximum features as well. Currently we're at a comfortable 23.1°C, 48% humidity in the Chris' bedroom weather region, but the last 24 hours have seen minima of 19.8°C and 45% and maxima of 24.3°C and 52%. My bedroom is my climate-controlled temple.
How much will one of these little babies set you back - just how much does a toy to geek me out for months to come cost? One penny less than eight of your Earth pounds sterling. :-D I'm easily pleased, me. You do have to supply two AAA batteries, though, and the device helpfully comes with exactly one of them.
Accusations that I knew I had to buy it the moment when I saw what it was called (at the bottom) will be ignored, but only because they might be true. :-)
10. Finally, a quick poll. I will be aggregating the results early next week, but not revealling any voter IDs, so it's all anonymous. No "tied between..." votes, please - I expect the winning score to be two, maybe three. You can vote for yourself if you think you deserve it - I'll be interested (and not think badly) if anyone does. This is actually serious.
Whose, would you say, is the happiest LiveJournal you read?
I'm not sure how I would vote and not having an answer to this faintly troubles me.