Meandering Post

I'm listening to Exit Planet Dust. I pulled it out of my CD rack and kind of thought, Whoa... I own this? It's really a good thing though. This album is slightly unlike any of the Chemical Brothers' later albums - and they have a diverse sound. What's really interesting is that it actually sounds less cheesy to 21st century ears than their next album, Dig Your Own Hole. Although that's possibly more to do with some of the tracks from that album being seriously over-referenced for the past 10+ years.

The thing is, I really, really need to buy some new music. I've never been much of a one for music, but it's getting beyond a joke now. Pulling out a CD by one of my favourite acts that I haven't played to death by now is a real boon, but I don't think I should squander this blessing. To the music shop with me after mis examenes.

Speaking of my standardised testing, I have three exams over the next six days, and Disillusioned Kid's birthday as well. This is going to be fun. If I don't post on here, you'll just have to contain your frustration and punch a wall or something. I am deeply sorry for leaving you without my perfectly crafted words. If I don't make it at all, throw my ashes to the wind in Paris.

After my exams, if such a time frame is even meaningful, I do have a couple of things planned for Space Cat Rocket Ship. Least interestingly, a post on what I've been reading. Amounting to a whopping two whole books and a trade paperback. Woo-hoo, as the big yellow man himself might say.

I'm also going to post a comprehensive review of what my favourite film-makers are up to. Some of them I have an idea about: I've already posted about Sofia Coppola, Edgar Wright and Wong Kar Wai - but what about Tim Burton? Do we know yet if Mamoru Oshii's new film is brilliant or pants? Is Jean Pierre Jeunet still adapting Life of Pi? What's the deal with that anyway? I know Clooney is acting, but does he have any directing jobs coming up soon? Is Satoshi Kon's new film going to be scary or nice? Will Ridley Scott's next film add to my love or my hatred of him? Will Spike Lee's next film be showing at my local cinema? (Will I ever get around to watching his best works?) Is Luc Besson going to make any good films at all this century? What about Kassovitz? Is Buster Keaton really still dead? (Fingers crossed painfully tight on that count.) You'll have to wait till after my exams to find out all this... And more! Or just find out for yourself, ya lazy git.

Finally, I'm considering posting a story straight from my imagination and onto the Internet. It's 100% guaranteed to be shite, but you know what? You can't stop me! Not even the Man can do that!

Now I must go. The Man is making me do exams.



I'm feeling a bit hypersensitive at the moment. I have an almost overwhelming desire to just climb into bed and hide. For the rest of my life. But here are some reasons to at least peek into the internet once in a while:
  • Clifford at Cosmic Variance writes about London.

  • Sean, also at Cosmic Variance, ponders the nature of existence.

  • Why didn't anyone tell me this? I'm going to have to find some more sources for film news than Twitch, god-like as it may be. Space Cat favourite Wong Kar Wai has been awarded the Legion of Honour. Includes some details on his new film. Yes, his new film, apart from The Lady from Shanghai which has been pushed back.

  • Meanwhile, the high priests of the Space Cat religion, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, have a video blog for their new movie, Hot Fuzz, which you can find here. Failure to click that link is tantamount to heresy in this Rocket Ship, bub.

Have I Got Guy Goma For You

Since Angus Deayton left. I find that the quality of Have I Got News for You is very dependent on who the guest presenter is. I’m sure that this isn’t the first time that comedian Alexander Armstrong has taken the chair, and I certainly hope that it won’t be the last. He slides into the role with comfortable ease and doesn’t exude any of the supercilious smugness that Deayton was prone to.

Although Guy Goma’s accidental interview by BBC news is old hat by now, it was watching Have I Got News for You last night that I actually saw it for myself for the first time, including a slow-motion replay of his realisation that he’s on air.

There seems to have been some confusion about how this happened, including the notion that Guy was a taxi driver. Instead it seems that at some point the Guy to be interviewed for an IT job got mixed up with the Guy to be interviewed for an IT news item. As one of the panellists said, if he had been a taxi driver he would’ve talked with much greater authority on a subject he knew nothing about.

I’ve heard a lot of different impressions of how he is supposed to have looked, but to me, and all the folks on HIGNFY, the unanimous feeling was respect for how well he did. After an initial, wordless, “WHOOPS!” he then managed to talk half-convincingly on a subject he wasn't prepared for. Huge respect for this guy.



There is no better way to recover from a nasty exam than by watching a weepy movie. In many respects, I actually watched the weepy movie for me. Although there are a lot of movies that I will declare ‘make me cry’, what I typically mean is, There’s a lump in my throat, my eyes sting and if I blink hard I may shed a single tear. When it comes to openly weeping - you know, tears, sobs the lot - I have only actually done so three times in my adult life (which amounts to four years). Emotionally repressed, I know. I cried very easily at school, where I was conditioned out of it entirely in that friendly fashion children are renowned for.

The reason I’m sharing this is to tell you that of those three times I have properly wept, two of those times were the two times that I have watched the film I am talking about: Satoshi Kon’s award-winning animated film, Millennium Actress. Only two times, because I'm deathly afraid of becoming immune to its beauty. Since I have nothing better to do (except revise for another three exams), I think I’ll share a little more about it.

Documentary-maker Genya Tachibana is a huge fan of Chiyoko Fujiwara, an actress of a former era, now living in seclusion. As the studio that she worked for is demolished, Genya resolves to seek her out and interview her, along with his slovenly cameraman, Kyoji. Unsurprisingly, she agrees to the interview and begins to recount the details of her life. But, rather than adopting the typical flashback style of more conventional movies, writers Kon and Murai instead place Genya and Kyoji within Chiyoko’s memories, where they continue to film and interview her.

As a young woman in an imperialistic Japan, Chiyoko is talent scouted by a movie studio who feel that she’d be perfect for a role in a patriotic movie to be filmed in Manchuria. Much as she might want to accept this job, her stern mother is intent that her role should be to raise a family. But then Chiyoko encounters a political dissident. An artist, he wears a key around his neck - “the key to the most important thing there is” - and is planning on going to Manchuria himself, albeit for different (implicitly subversive and adventurous) reasons. When he is forced to flee from the authorities and leaves his key behind, Chiyoko suddenly realises that the romantic mission of returning it gives her the courage to defy her mother and become an actress.

At this point the next clever card up the scriptwriters’ sleeve is played, and the story of Chiyoko’s attempts to return the key is played out within the settings of the movies she has starred in - with Genya and Kyoji still tagging along. The movie settings progress chronologically through a thousand years of Japanese history, taking us from samurai and ninjas to moon buggies and rocket ships, and thereby justifying the snappy title of Millennium Actress.

I’m dying to write more about what happens, about what I feel the film's themes are, what I think the key ‘unlocks’ (I’m sure most people will say ‘love’ without even having seen the film, but I think that’s only one possible answer), how Genya’s character is developed to become as interesting as Chiyoko’s… but, although I know many people seem to hate being surprised by a film, I love it, and if you want to know more, you’ll just have to buy the film and find out for yourself. Or nose around on the official English language site, which contains a few spoilers (although you should be safe to look at the trailer and the couple of (subtitled) clips).

As I should have made clear by now, I love this film. It really makes me cry, it really makes me laugh. Why this should be the one film to really make me cry, I don't know. Is it because the film is so perfectly tailored to my interests, with its hallucinatory images and recognition of the subjectivity of memory, that I can't help but be carried along with it? Is it that the nature of its emotional moments is somehow attuned to me and my life? Perhaps it's just because it's really bloody good.

And now I’ve finished my wine, so I’m going to stop writing.

Addendum: I did not once correctly spell ‘millennium’ while writing this, and must therefore share credit with my spellchecker.


Friday Frog Blogging

This kind of thing is funny when you're about to fail an exam.

Pre-Frog Blogging

I have a frog to draw.

My head’s in a bit of a muddle at the moment, so excuse me if I am not blessing you with my usual finely crafted sentences on important things. I have an exam tomorrow and I can’t even find my lecture notes. That was enough to put me into a huff and make me - that’s right force me - to spend the morning reading a fantasy novel.

One thing I have noticed that has been happening in my absence (perhaps because of my absence, oh what heavy responsibility it is to blog!) is all this furore over the Washington Post’s report that science now says that women’s health is only important in light of the fact that they can bear children. But as Amanda at Pandagon writes (she’s not the only one, but she is the most eloquent), this may be what the Washington Post believes, but it is not in what the CDC actually said in their report.

The report is far from perfect - it was after all conceived in this messed up world of ours, and in a country which is, to use a technical term, nutzoid conservative. But the recommendations in the report are sound - including an emphasis on planned pregnancy and contraception provision. As American feminists are reporting downright scary assaults on basic sexual healthcare in the US (see Amanda’s article on Crisis Pregnancy Centers for an example), it seems that this report is something that should be embraced as a positive blow for the contra-contra-contraception lobby.

Regarding that, though, Amanda has the following to say:
And for those who are fixing to smugly say that feminists should have read the report before getting angry, think about what you’re saying. It’s sad that we’ve come to a point where even a medical article has to be assumed to be 90% propaganda, 10% information. Instead of clucking and condescending, get mad!
I got mad at an American newspaper once. I had in my hands a copy of the New York Times that could seriously have been something from this lovely book I got from Disillusioned Kid many moons ago. The headline was basically, “Backwards Europeans Fail to Embrace Religious Fundamentalism, Risk World’s Ire!” I don’t like being mad all the time, so I’m only going to pass Amanda’s recommendation on to the Americans among you. The rest I urge to get angry at the Daily Mail.


A Play by Shakespeare, by Pacian

I have decided that I am not cut out to be a computer man. Instead I am going to be a person who writes plays by Shakespeare. Here is my first attempt.
Fair Verona. Enter two men, both alike in dignity: Pacian, a handsome prince; and Yorrick, a frog. They are accompanied by a dog, Spot.

Yorrick: Good morrow, and well met.
Pacian: Alas, poor Yorrick!
Yorrick: Out, damned spot!

Exit Spot.

Yorrick: What light through yonder window breaks?

Enter a man with the head of an ass.

Yorrick: A sail! A sail!
Assman: Do you bite your thumb at me, sir?
Pacian: I do not bite my thumb at you, sir; but I bite my thumb, sir.
Assman: A pox o’ both your houses!
Yorrick: To be or not to be?
Pacian: That is the question.

Pacian and Yorrick both die of THE POX.
I think we can all agree that this is easily at least the equal of any of Shakespeare’s works, with the exception of The Forbidden Planet.


Sunday Practice Frogging

Hello my loyal fans. I am currently cramming frantically oh dear god help me revising in a highly organised fashion for the exams I have this week, and so will be unable to blog again until the end of time (Wednesday). Naturally, an important part of revising for an exam on advanced database use is coming up with a standardised frog character. I present to you my last page of doodles. (If my exams kill me, this may well be my very last page of doodles.)

Addendum: If you are sacrificing virgins to the Flying Spaghetti Monster at any time over the next few days, please mention my name.


Friday Frog Blogging

Drawing frogs is actually really hard. I'm starting to regret not picking an easier animal - such as an amoeba. If there was a day of the week that began with the letter 'a' all my problems would be solved.

I think that I should probably get some practice in between Fridays. That doesn't seem like the kind of thing I'd ever do, though. No, leaving everything to the last minute, that is my creed.

I Hate HMV

Taking a break from not revising very well, I decided to go shopping. I didn't actually intend to spend any money on myself, shopping as I was for birthday presents. But I didn't reckon on HMV and the most annoying thing they have ever done. A few months back, HMV started putting DVDs in their sales... that I actually wanted to buy.

So today I see A Bittersweet Life for £11.99. In part I am thinking of Empire's references to Takeshi Kitano in their review. In part I am thinking of Mr McMuffin's glowing recommendation. Mostly I am thinking that Korean cinema is where it's all supposed to be happening at the moment, and I have only seen one Korean film in my life. So, yes, I have to get it at that price.

And then I see that they have the first volume of Shinichiro Watanabe's Samurai Champloo for the same price. And suddenly I have spent twenty four quid on myself. I am a shameful example of a financier. But it isn't my fault. It is all HMV.


Woman in a Silver Suit

I meant to post about this earlier but kept forgetting. While I was heading into uni to give my presentation I saw a woman on the opposite platform, wearing a silver suit and top hat and performing magic tricks. Nothing spectacular. She wasn't levitating or anything. I couldn't really see what she was doing from where I was, except that it was making people smile. Perhaps she was showing them a list of swear words she'd written on her hands or something. I just see a silver suit and top hat and assume that there's magic involved.

I wondered if there was some sort of hidden camera show going on. I was glad that I wasn't on the same platform as her, but then I thought, if there are hidden cameras they may want to get some "And bystanders look puzzled/amused" shots. That's why I hope that she was just practicing or trying to build her confidence or something, because I was definitely looking puzzled/amused.

After I got on my train I thought, If she's that confident, I should've gone up to her and made her do my presentation for me. But it was too late by then, and I'd left my gun at home anyway.


Spaced Out

I'm having trouble concentrating at the mo, so going through the archives at the Planetary Society Weblog proved rather difficult, but, naturally, highly rewarding.
  • Spirit and Opportunity had barely bounced to a halt when many naysayers started claiming that the double-mission had ended in failure. In a just Universe these people would still be harping on loudly, saying, "I can't believe they're still running 2 years and 3 months after they landed! Did you know they were only expected to last 90 days?" but while those people remain silent, you can check up on their current status in this nice article.

  • I'm trying desperately to come up with a dirty joke to go with the title How Uranus got its tilt, but I can't manage it. In any case, some bloke's come up with a mathematical model for how Uranus ended up on its side - and it doesn't involve any impacts - just gravitational chaos in the early solar system. There is some technical terminology in here, such as "Uranus and Neptune go nuts".

  • Balloons on Titan. I don't think I need to say any more to get you to click that link, do I?

  • Speaking of Titan, the ESA have released some spiffy videos showing a Huygens-eye view of descent into the dense organic clouds of everyone's favourite moon. You can find them here. They're both pretty massive, and, in a great testament to my self-loathing, I have decided to try and download the prettier, larger one on my dial-up connection. I'll try and remember to let you know how I do.

Light on Snow, Anita Shreve

I normally find it rather easy to sketch out my feelings about a book. And it’s always the feel of a book that’s most important to me. I don’t especially care about the particulars of the plot or level of tension or all those other things that are supposed to go into making a good book. Hey, I don’t even care if the book is good. If it feels right, I like it. It’s that simple.

Figuring out how Light on Snow feels, however, has turned out to be rather complicated. I know what the feeling is, of course. I can hold it in the centre of my chest, and in the space behind my eyes, I can turn it over in the hands of my imagination and say, “That’s rather nice,” but how can I put it into words?

The main problem seems to be my reluctance to try and define the book by just relating the details of the story. In a lot of the books I read, the story gives no indication of the feel. Sometimes the feel is contrary to the story. To describe Kafka’s America, for example, as “the story of a boy who goes to America to find his fortune” is easy and (mostly) accurate. But it doesn’t tell you how acutely the novel made me feel the absurdity and pain of human existence. In Light on Snow, however - a book whose feel I can only sum up with two words: sensitive, understated - the feel of the book flows expertly from the plot itself. The descriptions in the book are prosaic and functional. In many cases my ignorance of this particular cranny in American culture turned objects and actions into broad, half-imagined brush strokes. What poetic language Shreve does attempt feels somewhat clumsy and pretentious.

So, Light on Snow is a sensitive, understated book about a father and daughter who have moved into an isolated country house to escape the memories of a tragedy. One winter day they chance upon a baby that has been left to die in the snow. And that’s the book. The rest of the story flows naturally, does not cover anything especially mind-blowing, but has such a gentle heart that you can’t help but be moved - has a cast of such likable characters that you at once understand their grievances with one another and hope desperately to see them resolved. In the end my only disappointment with this book was the fact that I only have space in my bookcase towards the bottom. After I clear out all my uni stuff, I’ll have to put it in a more deserving space.

Next, on Lost Space Cat Rocket Ship: this. Probably.



I think my presentation went OK-ish. I've mentioned before that I'm on the clamshell side of the timid-shy divide, but I actually don’t mind public speaking. Public speaking is just standing in front of some people and mouthing off. You only have to look at this blog to see that I like mouthing off.

I felt confident when I left at the end of my presentation, but when I think back I keep remembering things I did wrong. And that’s why I'm going to try and forget about it. The only thing I need to do with my final year project now is to collect the marks.

My first exam is next Monday, but I’m going to take a day off today to finish off all those diary entries I started but never finished. I may also catch up with some of the blogs I’ve not read for a while and also post here about the book I finished this morning. But I may not. As a capricious traveller, I merely follow the wind.


Guest Blogger: the Ghost of Thomas Jefferson

Obviously, I can't blog today because I'm busy working on the presentation I have to do tomorrow, so instead I'm going to leave you all with a guest blogger. The ghost of US President Thomas Jefferson!

Thomas Jefferson in 1791. The primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was at this time the Secretary of State. His interests included promoting classical liberalism, republicanism and the separation of church and state.

Thomas Jefferson in 2006. His chief interests now include ridding the world's mazes of the scourge of Pac-Man.

This amazing feat is made possible by my copying a quote verbatim from my copy of Carl Sagan's The Demon Haunted World:
From the conclusion of this [Revolutionary] war we shall be going downhill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, 'til our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.
I do like that quote. Thank you Thomas Jefferson, and watch out for those power pills!


La La La, I Should Be Working...


Friday Frog Blogging

His centre of gravity is a bit off. Try and imagine he's leaning against a wall or something. And the thumbnail has been over-compressed by Blogger, so make sure to click for the bigger one. What a masterpiece! I'm so proud of myself.

Not Enough Water? Drink Poison Instead!

Until recently, the UK was one of the leading voices when it came to banning PFOS, a poisonous fire fighting chemical that accumulates in humans and wildlife. Importing the chemical was about to be made illegal, however it was postponed on account of an anticipated EU-wide ban. The UK was expected to object that this ban wasn’t strict enough.

But that was before that bloody great big fuel depot fire. You remember - the biggest fire in peacetime Europe? Now there is a load of PFOS contaminated water sitting under Buncefield, and a water shortage looming. The solution? According to the Independent, this chemical, which was almost banned, is now allowed to be present in drinking water to the tune of three micrograms per litre. Let's remember that this stuff accumulates in your body and breaks down rather slowly. What new evidence about the effects of PFOS have come to light? Well, none. But it does help deal with the water shortage, because now all that water under Buncefield is suddenly safe to drink!



Damn, that was a shitty post. That's the kind of thing I'd normally completely re-write about ten times before posting, but this time I kind of just changed a few bits. Ah well, I got a bee in my bonnet and I wrote about it vomit-style. Shoot me, but I think this is the kind of thing a blog can be for.

Blogging Against... um... Deafism?

It stands to reason that when I need to really be getting on with my uni work, all of a sudden a serious post leaps into my mind and I find myself compelled to bash it out. I am aware that I have missed the official day for blogging against disablism, but this post has come about in reaction to those posts blogging against disablism in my blogroll. You see, few, if any, of them mentioned deafness. This seems to be a problem with my blogroll, as rummaging through the mother-post, I did find some posts of relevance, here, here and here. (I will have to consider calling a blogroll repair company to get this fixed.)

I have found myself wondering if perhaps many people in the Deaf community are correct in their assertion that deafness is not a disability. I have always thought of it this way when considering my mother’s deafness: deafness is a communications disability. Since we judge a person by the way they communicate with us, this explains the enormous amount of discrimination and rudeness that deaf people have to deal with every day. Difficulty communicating is confused with stupidity or rudeness. But thinking about it more, I realise that this is incorrect. Deaf people communicate fine - in sign language, by lip-reading, by textphone, by text message, over the Internet.

The problem stems from the fact that hearing people do not know how to and are often not actually willing to communicate with deaf people. For the record, my mother doesn’t know sign language - she lost her hearing in her forties and found adult sign language classes to be completely biased towards hearing people - but a lack of sign language among hearing people is not the extent of the problem. Complete ignorance of how to communicate by voice to a deaf person is rife - on being told that a deaf person needs to lip-read, people will still shout, talk quickly, turn away from them, chew gum, and when the deaf person cannot understand what is being said, often the hearing person will react as if this is the deaf person’s fault.

Some of the stories my mother has told me about the way she is treated have made my blood boil. I pride myself on being a hugely laid-back individual, but I know that if I was ever around while someone was treating my mum this way I would blow a gasket. In a shop I would demand to speak to the manager and then try to get the employee fired on the spot (I guess I am a typical son in this respect: "don't be dissin' my mom"). If some employees treated all hearing people the way they treat deaf people, they would get fired on the spot. Of course, if I am around when my mum is speaking to someone, I am able to smooth out the communication difficulties and even if I am able to see mild prejudice, it rarely meets the disgusting level it might when I am not there. (Although I think the fact that my presence makes a difference still speaks volumes about the discrimination occurring).

Discrimination is, naturally, institutional and not just limited to individuals. You have probably seen textphone numbers on adverts, bank letters and bills and thought, “What a lovely company!” Except nine times out of ten, my mum will find that the textphone will not be answered, it will be engaged, it will not be answered and then will be engaged (ie. it is taken off the hook after ringing the first time) or the number given will be incorrect. Typetalk is a service where an operator will play the go-between for a deaf person on a textphone and a hearing person on a voice phone. Except no-one has heard of it. People will hang up while typetalk is being explained to them because they cannot be bothered or they think that it is a prank or marketing call. And don’t use typetalk to call any big businesses: it is extremely difficult for the operator-deaf person pair to ‘press 3 now’. Not to mention that many shops, through their reliance on PAs and their constant piped in music can make things very difficult for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Even on the Internet, discrimination against deaf people is rife. Videos are almost never subtitled. Podcast transcripts are the exception, not the rule. Once, when logging onto her banking site to manage her finances, my mother was given a voice phone number and told to call her bank as soon as possible. Many eBay auctions require a paypal account and in order to activate a paypal account one must receive an automated phone call and write down a series of numbers. Discrimination against deaf people is everywhere, and I curse this fact myself every time I want to go hunt down some shop assistant and rip their ears off and every time I have to make an urgent phone call on behalf of my mother and every time I see someone looking at her as if their inability to communicate properly with her is somehow her fault.

But is deafness a disability, as most hearing people assume it is, or, as many deaf people feel, is deafness actually a culture which is discriminated against? My mother has a firm opinion on this count. She feels that being unable to hear music or birdsong is reason enough to consider it a disability, although this feeling obviously arises from having been born hearing. There is also a safety aspect. If you are hearing, imagine how you’d feel if you knew that someone could break into your house at night and walk right into your room and you wouldn’t even know it. Next time you are out and about, keep track of how much you use your hearing when moving - whether it’s crossing the road when you can hear no cars or dodging out of someone’s way without even seeing them coming. I am going to argue that deafness is a disability, since it makes some things impossible and some things difficult. But I am also going to argue that deafness is actually a rather mild disability. And here’s where I think my point really comes to the fore: deafness is only so serious a disability in so far as it is so thoroughly discriminated against. In this respect I think that blogging against discrimination against deaf people is extremely important. Most of the problems with being deaf actually stem from direct discrimination.

Finally, let me leave you with a thought. A lot of the “blogging against disablism” posts I have read that were written by non-disabled people had an air of superiority to them. "Of course, I would never discriminate against people in wheelchairs or blind people or people with mental disabilities." Let me tell you something: if you have ever said ‘excuse me’ to a person and then assumed that they are rude when they don’t get out of your way, if you have ever assumed that someone who has difficulty understanding what you are saying is stupid, then you have been prejudiced. If you do not know how to speak to a deaf person, if you have ever been impatient or annoyed or rude with a person because it has taken extra time to communicate with them, if you post audio content to your site without subtitles or a transcript, if the easiest way to communicate with your business is by voice phone, then you are discriminating. There are a million other ways and I know that I have myself been guilty of some of them. I suspect that many people who have blogged against disablism have too.


A Dash of Politics, A Smidgen of Computer News

I forgot about the May Day protests. Does the mainstream press even cover it? Then again, it's not like I pay a lot of attention to the press (or, indeed, anything at all).
  • Disillusioned Kid writes about his participation (word of the day: "de-arrest").

  • As does a reader over at Pickled Politics.

  • By comparison, Lenin wimps out with a sore foot, but he does provide some sterling coverage of the protests in America.

  • Reading the last few days of posts at Pickled Politics I also finally find someone expressing what's been bugging me about this whole Charles Clarke thing: what exactly is the problem, beside the fact that they're foreigners? Comment number 8, I think, is also especially worth reading.

  • Sunny also debates the merits of compulsory voting.

  • Sunbelt Blog report on something that should have you slapping your forehead with its I-shoulda-seen-that-coming-ness: image spam that avoids junk mail filters.

  • Speaking of spam, Sunbelt also report here, here, and here about a security company whose innovative product is so good at stopping spam, they are now naturally enough the target of DoS attacks and hoax spam emails.


But seriously...

  • I meant to post about this a few days back, but I’m a bit off at the moment (did you notice?), due to exams and other craziness bearing down on me. By now I think the title of Twitch’s post on the subject sums it up best: On The Off Chance There's Anybody Left In The World Who Hasn't Seen This...

  • From here, we find out what young activist Ava Lowrey has got up to since receiving volumes of hate mail. Naturally enough she’s made another flash movie based on the advice she’s received from conservative America. I really wish this was something you could find funny. It is kind of inspiring, though.

  • Again from Twitch, a new trailer for Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette. There is a word for this. It is j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-j-jjjjjjjjjoy.

  • And Cosmic Variance relate this pretty nuts tale of a dead scientist who, according to legend, is still wheeled into meetings of the College Council at University College, London.

An Academic Essay

My friend is learning to become an Opthalotologist, but she is struggling with writing an essay about communication in her profession. Naturally I stepped up and wrote it for her. I reproduce my essay below. Since I wrote this in about 20 minutes, I can only conclude that I should be able to consider myself a fully qualified eye doctor. Feel free to make an appointment.

Communication is naturally an important part of any interaction between two humans, eye doctoring included. Smooth communication is necessary to facilitate any number of small parts of an interaction between an optician and their patient. But while seamless communication is evidenced by the fact that it is not noticeable, even a small failure in communication can stymie an interaction completely. To add a further layer of complication, it may not even be obvious to either party that communication has failed, or, if the failure in communication is only evident to one party, that party may then fail to communicate this fact to the other.

A failure of communication may vary in severity from a seemingly successful interaction where the patient then fails to follow the optician’s advice or where the optician has failed to administer the correct treatment to the patient due to a misunderstanding, to an emotional confrontation between clinician and patient, perhaps resulting in physical violence or death. Indicators that communication has failed towards the lower end of the spectrum might only be uncovered by chance. Conversely, if the patient kills the optician quickly, they may never actually perceive that the failure in communication has occurred, even if it is so obvious it is busting their skull open.

Assuming without reason that this is in fact a binary pairing, and that interactions between clinicians and patients where there is a failure in communication will only result in either difficult-to-detect mistakes or death, we can conclude that two preventative measures are necessary.

For the first, lesser, part we must recommend a radical restructuring of society with drastically reduced privacy. In this case clinicians will be able to see every tiny aspect of a patient’s life and the potential for miscommunication will be drastically reduced. Clinicians will quite simply already know everything about their patients and their problems, and communication will be rendered unnecessary. In the process, democracy will be fundamentally undermined, but this pales into consideration when compared to the benefits of perfect eye-care for every citizen.

The threat of violence against eye-care practitioners is still present, however. Even with complete surveillance, the inside of a person’s mind and their intentions remain inscrutable, at least to modern technology. Until such time as a person’s very thoughts can be monitored, it is recommended that to avoid violence against clinicians, every new patient be rendered unconscious or killed immediately on attending their eye-care appointment. This will have the added positive effect of preventing incidents where the movement of a patient can make care provision difficult or dangerous. Naturally the patient (or their next of kin) should be charged for this service.

When considering this on the fundamental level, all problems resulting from patient-clinician interactions stem from the fact that the patient must accurately convey information to the clinician and must also be capable of understanding and acting upon the instructions of that clinician. The potential for confusion can therefore be greatly decreased simply by requiring that information should be controlled completely by the clinician.

To whit, the solution to all the problems that can occur during a clinical interaction with a patient could be solved by creating a society wherein opticians exist in sealed and heavily secured bunkers. Their pronouncements will be beamed out to the world on giant television screens placed so that no person can ever fail to see or hear them. A dense network of surveillance will convey information of every person’s life to their optician and they will have no way to communicate with their optician by themselves. On attending their appointment with their optician they will be killed painlessly and then operated upon in an environment of complete safety for all parties. This, my opticianal friends, would be UTOPIA.

A Work of Art

Much as I like John Tenniel's drawing of the Cheshire Cat, it scales like shit (except in Opera, my browser of choice). Time, I feel, to put up a picture of what I really look like!

It's not a physical likeness, of course.

See? There's a rocket ship, and a cat in a space suit. His tail is also in the space suit, which is why it is green. And he is standing in front of a window which is why he is not suffocating without his space-cat helmet.

It still scales like shit (except in Opera), but at least it looks interesting.


I Told You This Blog Was Going to Get Silly

Weird Shape Disease is one of the fastest growing health threats in the First World. Increasing numbers of people are eating weird shaped food and then waking up the following day with mice for fingers. It is important that you arm yourself with knowledge about the symptoms and causes of Weird Shape Disease and encourage others to learn more as well.

The Symptoms

  1. The first symptom of Weird Shape Disease is that you don’t feel like you have weird shape disease.

  2. The second symptom of Weird Shape Disease is that on being told what the first symptom is, you suddenly begin to worry that you have Weird Shape Disease.

  3. Finally, you do not feel as if your body is turning into weird shapes. But it is, trust me.

How Does One Contract Weird Shape Disease?

There are two ways to contract Weird Shape Disease.
  1. Eat a weird shaped fruit or vegetable.

  2. Be told by me that you have Weird Shape Disease.

An Artist’s Impression of a Sufferer of Advanced Stage Weird Shape Disease

Could this be you?