Archive for October, 2006

Mmmm… Timely!

Richard forwards me this link, about a plan for Australian schools to get grants to employ chaplains:

Asked if the program crossed the boundaries of church and state, Mr Howard stressed it was an entirely opt-in scheme and schools did not have to take part.

Charming. And there’s only one per school of course, so if you’re not in the majority sect this will also server as a nice reminder of who’s in charge.

Once again the assumption is that some religion is better than no religion. Because it’s comforting and all that. Except I never found comfort in advice from a church representative, ever. Somehow I managed to find comfort in advice from friends, family, teachers, counsellors, etc, and none of them gave a shit about my immortal soul– For this I am grateful.

The most popular search to this site is one for an atheist symbol, and I’m glad that more than a few people are taking an interest in the idea. It’s a touchy area, since many argue that having a symbol is in itself somehow anti-atheist (or maybe aatheist?).

atheist symbol Anyhow, it got me looking at my idea again and refining it a little, to the symbol you see here. It’s a little more robust than the heavily styled Times New Roman asterisk, but also more neutral, and easier to adapt I think. Click on the image for the high quality SVG drawing, which you can import into a vector drawing program and reuse as you see fit. I really like this version because it is familiar and yet kind of unique (of course it’s probably very similar to some font out there, please let me know if you can find a good match).

Read more about the design in an update of the original atheist symbol entry.

More Time Passes

This is another one of those "Holy crap is that the time?!" entries, inspired by a few different things: 1) A best of 1997 music selection on television has featured at least four songs which I can’t believe are more than five years old. 2) I bought some bed sheets, or Manchester as it is still referred to in Australasia, and 3) A teenage girl called me sir and asked me to purchase fireworks for her.

Music-wise, I have to admit, I’m turning into an old fart. Artists who have annoyed me this week include Justin Timberlake, Chamillionaire, Janet Jackson and (especially) Panic! at the Disco. See how old I sound? But then, it’s not all bad. Browsing the current top 40 here I see a few songs there that I do actually like. My favourite in the list would be Youthgroup’s Forever Young, though mostly for the vintage skateboarding footage featured in the video.

Manchester. Nice place name, but as a euphemism for sheets and stuff it’s kind of grating. In the same way that the singular form of the word pants is grating. Pant. Or even worse, "Cotton pant" [shudders] Must be spoken softly by a woman with lateral lisp for full effect. Goes well with phrases like "slight bladder weakness." In fact, it turns out I bought a pant myself this very day; it actually says PANT on the docket, and I see now I also purchased a FASHION TEE– Jesus was I shopping in the women’s section by mistake?

Anyhow, the point I wanted to make about MANCHESTER is that it’s taken me 34 years to understand why I shouldn’t always buy the cheapest sheets I can find. And now that I’ve finally realized how ignorant I’ve been, I am never going back! Even if it means I have to sacrifice other luxuries, like food, I will never buy anything with a thread count under 220 again. Cheap sheets pill within days, and some discount flannelette sheets I got for winter simply moulted, such that I am still picking beige balls of fluff from my wardrobe. These new sheets are crispy and thick and make it feel like I am sleeping in someone else’s bed (someone who gives a crap about bedlinen). Considering how much time we spend in contact with sheets, I don’t know why it took so long for the importance of of sheets to sink in. Manchester.

Purchasing fireworks for minors– I declined, a no brainer. Young people make me nervous at the best of times, so making any sort of dodgy deal with them is right out. Funny to be called sir though, since it made me instantly assume she worked in the shop and wanted to search my bag or something. Depending on how many fires are started (and children maimed) this may be the last time fireworks can be purchased without a license in NZ.

Black and White

I saw Renaissance recently, and as I suspected it was (unfortunately) somewhat lacking– there’s not a lot of substance beneath the style, with wooden acting and a plodding storyline about missing scientists and evil corporations… YAWN!

The style has a hard time supporting the range of visuals required for a feature length film, with some scenes being downright irritating to watch (but many others looking quite beautiful). Visually, Sin City worked a lot better, in that it didn’t commit to any particular technique but rather to an overall aesthetic. I think Renaissance is too much a slave to a single visual concept. The animation is so smooth that I actually found myself wishing for a reduction in the frame rate, as the shadow threshold gliding over the characters’ cheekbones can get quite distracting.

See me hear me

I keep thinking I’d like to get into podcasting but then realizing I’ve got nothing much to talk about apart from the stuff I post here in text form. I guess I could just kind of go over the same stuff with more ermmms and ahhhs but it seems kind of redundant… I think. I don’t know, I’m still not sure how I even feel about the sound of my own voice, but that’s obviously something I have to get over.

BTW Can anyone guess which comic book character I am reminding myself of in this photo?

audio

Feed Readin’

I’ve been using Bloglines for ages as my preferred method for reading RSS feeds, but I think I may be ready for a change. Google Reader has been revamped to be much more useful than its previous suckful incarnarnation, and it now does two things which I really need: 1) It loads progressively– ie the more entries you read the more it loads, and 2) It sorts by newest even where there are multiple entries from the same blog. Check it out, especially if you’re already a gmail user:

http://www.google.com/reader/

With Bloglines, once the massive "all items" page has loaded then all entries on it are considered read, which means that if you get halfway through it but then close your browser, when you come back to it later you won’t see those unread entries again. If you have limited bandwidth as I do this also means the page can take a long time to load. Google reader loads 20 entries at a time, and tracks read items as you scroll down the page (also because by default it uses a newest-first order you are free to continue reading into older entries).

So dear Bloglines, screw you and your lack of innovation, there really is no excuse for not improving a web based application– unlike us poor sods in the world of desktop applications you have the luxury of rolling out a new feature any time you want, so when you fail to do this you piss me off. Google’s initial offering was crap, so they just replaced it with a better version, and you should consider doing the same.

My Trainwreck of Thought

Hmmm… seems like a very long time I posted an entry, but really it’s less than a week. I feel like my time management skills are sliding, and my attention span infinitely fragmented. I cannot read a book right now… I find the non-interactivity of them almost painful! The internet has changed things so much…I’m even starting to believe in the notion of computer games as a medium for storytelling. The most powerful fiction I have experienced in recent years was in the playing of Half-Life 2, a first person "shooter" with a strong narrative. Even though I haven’t played it (or even had access to it) in about a year, I can almost remember being there, and no novel or movie has ever come this close to creating such a memory out of fiction. It left such a strong imprint that I still find myself looking at real life quiet coastal scenes and being reminded of the road between City 17 and Nova Prospekt.

I am jealous…

Shaun sent me this link, to a teaser for the most gorgeous 2D game I’ve ever seen– this is like what I wish my own stuff looked like. Apparently this is all the work of Arnt Jensen, an extremely talented artist and developer previously credited on Eidos’ Hitman 2: Silent Assassin.

Forums?

nothing to do Recently at work we decided it might be useful if we set up an internal message board for the software engineers, to improve communications and share ideas a little more. Technical issues could be discussed there without flooding people’s inboxes with layer upon layer of quoted CC’s.

The first thing we tried was Sharepoint’s discussion boards, since we were already using Sharepoint for our intranet, but after a few days the verdict was unanimous: it totally sucked! So then we tried the other thing we already had installed: Outlook– Specifically the "public folders" support, which is really just a terrible name for a message board.

That seems to be working out ok… deficiencies in the interface are made up for by a couple of major conveniences:

  1. Everyone already runs Outlook all the time anyway, so this didn’t require any extra software to be run, nor any additional signup, and meant that you could set it up to easily monitor new posts appearing on the board.
  2. Being integrated with Outlook means that message formatting and composition is identical to regular mail, including the convenience of being able to copy-paste images into posts. This is a massive plus for me as I really like being to be able to illustrate messages with screenshots.

Another option considered was a third party PHP based system, but this required someone to install and maintain it. PHPBB is well regarded, and used on many popular sites, but after doing a test install here I decided it was a bit too complicated with its enforced categories/subject/thread heirarchy.

I was considering implementing forums here to enourage free conversation without necessarily tying it to a particular post, but figure since my readership is relatively small that the current system of comments works pretty well (and you don’t need to sign in/register or anything, which is a big benefit).

I probably should rethink my skinny column layout for the cases where comments go past 10 though…

The Kiss

Kissing is a funny thing… so nice and yet sometimes so annoying. I cannot abide the prolonged kiss (especially when it’s the people queuing in front of me in a cinema) nor any which seems to assert ownership. But I do like the affectionate, the playful and the spontaneous kiss. We need more of those.

I have kissed relatively few people in my life, and have spent enormous slabs of time not kissing anyone at all, which is what of course leads me to embarrass myself wondering aloud about how I feel about it anyway (ie how much I miss it). Thinking about those kisses that I really remember, I realize there are only a few, and they all seem to have happened during my high school years.

So here’s what I recall of five memorable kisses, presented in chronological order (initials used to protect the innocent from turning up in a Google search)

  1. CS, at a Blue Light Disco (ie chaperoned by local police), I was 12 or 13 I think, she was a year older. This kiss was a big deal, because of course it was my first "real" kiss, by which I mean it was a horrid clumsy open-mouthed pash with teeth banging together and all that (no tongue though). Also she was about a foot taller than me so I had to crane my neck somewhat. What I remember most about that night is coming home afterwards with a sore neck thinking "holy crap I finally pashed someone!"
  2. AD, in the kitchen of a two storey terrace in Surry Hills. I was 16. This was a short soft kiss accompanied by a warm embrace– an affectionate moment that just kind of happened, and left me feeling a little embarrassed but still very nice. Embarrassed because I was at the time infatuated with her sister CD, who was not there, and who also was not available… Suffice to say that I would be lying if I said I didn’t find AD attractive, but I didn’t think it would have been such a great idea to pursue this further (plus I was and still am a chicken-shit). Writing this I now recall that we had spent the day together… it’s kind of odd really, we had an unusual relationship which just kept getting weirder.
  3. CD, on the living room floor of a friends house after a New Year’s Eve party. This was one of those moments you spend so long waiting for that you can’t believe when it finally happens. I had been chasing her for almost two years, and this was such a big moment that I totally missed the details (mostly I was numb with surprise shock etc) but it must in retrospect have also been one of my seediest kisses ever, since we had both been drinking and smoking the night before and were neither of us fully awake when the momentous thing finally happened. Still, it was great!
  4. CB (best friend to CD), at her house in the middle of town. This was supposed to be just a friendly kiss, with decidedly closed mouth and exaggerated puckering, but since she had just stepped out of the shower her skin was unbelievably soft and her lips like… pillows? They were damn soft and warm anyway. This reminds me that there was some weird rumour at the time that the three of us were getting it on together, and to be honest at moments like this it didn’t sound like such a terrible idea.
  5. CD again, on the verandah of her family home in a quiet valley 20 minutes out of town. We had already been together for some time, but this spontaneous burst of light kisses left us both grinning like idiots, making me realize that a kiss can and should be pleasurable and fun, not just automatic. Also marked the beginning of the end for my interest in the pash* since that never delivered the same amount of pleasure.

There have of course been many other pleasurable moments, but these are the ones that stand out in my memory right now. I’m guessing this is not unusual, since the teenage years are a rather emotional time and such moments will tend to imprint much more strongly then.

* The thing I really grew to dislike about the pash is that it prevents one from talking– and of course I find that infuriating! It’s not so much "Shut up and kiss me" as "Maybe a kiss will shut you up"