Fairly recently I got myself a Panasonic DVD recorder with a harddrive, so I could record TV progs without being hassled by using the VCR in conjungtion with my DVD player. (Although that there's nothing nowadays to watch on TV is a secondary consideration...)
The model I link to above is the newer version, but one thing I really like is the ability to put on the subtitles, then switch on to about 1.5x speed, which still plays sound and shows subtitles (although it does make people sound like they're speaking some foreign language). This means that you can watch shows/movies/etc in about 3/4 of the time. Sweet!
Some of you may be wondering: why do this? Don't you want to enjoy the show properly? Need I point out to you that some shows, eg. Lost, enjoy long slow pans and slowly unfolding scenes and you just want them to GET ON WITH IT? Or commentaries are interesting, but you do have better things to do than to listen to every second... it really is useful being able to get through these things in less time.
Sunday, 31 December 2006
Fairly recently I got myself a Panasonic DVD recorder with a harddrive, so I could record TV progs without being hassled by using the VCR in conjungtion with my DVD player. (Although that there's nothing nowadays to watch on TV is a secondary consideration...)
Saturday, 30 December 2006
Recently I ranted about why we care about celebrities.
A great case in point has been made over in the UK. Recently, Sky One aired to specials on Lost, Lost Uncovered and Get Lost, which look at the Lost phenomenon and consider theories about it, etc., etc. Lots of 'talking head' interviews.
Any who were those talking heads? UK actors and singers and the like.
Why? Is there some special reason to expect that they've got a better hook into the series than the man on the street? Or the Lost fan fanatic who's followed every episode and even read the books? Just why are these people so special??
Admittedly, the Get Lost special features the more non-celebrity fans, but this just really highlights the point about Lost Uncovered...
Friday, 29 December 2006
So who here has seen 'Casino Royale'? It's been claimed as a reboot of the series, and don't try to consider it in the wider continuity of the Bond films. But I have an idea as to how to fit it in.
Consider that Bond of the rest of the movies is now around 40 years older than when he started. Probably now around retirement age. (Ignore the physical appearance, obviously.) So what if he did retire? And what if he had a son? (Certainly there have been enough women and not all of them died...)
Consider that the new Bond is in fact his son. James Jnr joined MI6 and in his own way earned a right to a '00' license, taking over that of his recently retired old man. (This also gets around the appearantly controversial "blond" Bond aspect.)
This also explains how this Bond knows so much that M complains about. :)
And so, continuity is preserved...
Thursday, 28 December 2006
Thursday morning is our recycling/rubbish collection time in my street. The collectors can turn up any time in the morning, from as early as 6.30am till after 8am.
Now, convenience would dictate not having to get up early in the morning. Indeed, there are those who work during the night and don't get home until later that morning. And there are those that are elderly or infirm or...well...lazy who find it hard to get up in the morning. So, the answer to that is to put it out the night before.
However, add in the factor of Wellington, namely wind. Lots of it. And my street starts trying to pretend to be a wind tunnel. This means that anything light and not nailed down, like, for example, a recycling bin, suddenly has the potential for going on a magical mystery tour. Best case scenario is that the bin moves only a bit and everything is contained. Worse case...
Given all this, I'm sure you can now appreciate that there are times when I don't get a lot of sleep Wednesday night. Fortunately it was best case scenario, but there have been times...
Wednesday, 27 December 2006
The limit of my ISP that is! Why does any ISP think that a mere 20Gigs is sufficient, and, moreover, thinks we want to pay through the nose for even that much? And then even more to use packs of a gig after that? (Yes, I could simply not download that much, but, hey, this isn't about me!) Of course, I'm referring here to TelstraClear, and I'm fast becoming of the opinion that another IS provider is increasingly attractive. (I'm also not sure why I've got the Digital TV package when there's so little to watch on TV these days.)
And I'm certainly not switching over to Xtra, 'cos I've seen how that turns out.
Slingshot is looking very tempting, I must say...
Tuesday, 26 December 2006
Oh stuff, that we must have you.
Oh stuff, that Christmas is not enough,
that we must brave the weather for Boxing Day sales.
Oh stuff, that we must struggle to find room for
or else guiltily "accidentally" throw away,
for my room has too much stuff already.
Oh stuff, that is presents.
Oh stuff, that is brought.
Why, of why, do I need to much stuff?
Monday, 25 December 2006
There's a lot been said about the "true meaning of Christmas", and there's a great post on the Institute of Liberal Values of New Zealand site, but unfortunately the site has exceeded bandwidth so I can't link to it.
According to Tom Flynn in the lastest Point of Inquiry podcast, there is one aspect about Christmas that is truly Christian and not appropriated from elsewhere, namely the midnight mass. And this is convenient as it's exactly the aspect about religion that I want to discuss today.
One point about the mass is that people come together as one community to celebrate an event, in this case the birth of Jesus Christ (more about that in a week). People coming together as a community is a wonderful thing, people are social animals and gathering is something that we humans like to do.
But why do we need religion to cause this to happen?(*) Why can't we have people coming together for the joy of coming together? Consider the number of street/suburb fairs that happen. Huge gatherings, and no religious cause. Anzac Day is another non-religious day that people gather.
[* Religion was a binding force in early human communities and it's still around as such.]
Ultimately, what we really need, is "community gathering... for no reason other than it's great to see you all!" When we can get to the real core of gatherings (because we are social!) then we can be inclusive of everyone, and isn't that better than any other gathering reason?
In the mean time... happy Annie Lennox birthday everyone!
Sunday, 24 December 2006
When you think of the police, you immediately think of Scientology right? Well, sure, especially if you're in Clearwater.
Watch (in horror) while you can (ie. before the lawyers get onto it):
Scientology and the Clearwater Police
(That said, it has been said that once something is made fun of in the public's eye, it looses its potency. So head on over to Xenu.net for the South Park take on Scientology.)
Saturday, 23 December 2006
Okay, work is over, time to kick back and relax for the next two weeks...
...except I have to do last minute shopping because some presents haven't turned up yet, and I have to get food for the holiday period, and there's the actual day of Christmas with two family gatherings to prepare for and get through, and...
Okay, to be honest, I'm not going to be that rushed, but let's be honest here. The real holiday is not going to begin until Boxing Day at best. (And then there are the Boxing Day sales! :) )
Friday, 22 December 2006
Speaking of Madonna (of which I will be wont to do), I recently heard a song by her I hadn't come across before. By 'song', I mean a poem that she reads by Pablo Neruda on the 'Il Postino' soundtrack, by the name of "If You Forget Me". [Side note: it's amazing how many lyric sites are infested with ads and popups...]
A nice wee poem about two people being in love, possibly fading over time, but if you keep it alive it will stay alive... but allow me to summarise it differently:
"If you don't obsessively compulsively think about me every moment of every day, then... well... screw you, buddy boy."
Not quite as poetic, but it gets to the heart I think...
Thursday, 21 December 2006
What is it about celebrities that make us want to know the details of their personal lives? Looking at the entertainment section of Stuff, there are articles about Britney and KFed, JK Rowling dreaming about Harry Potter and even a general gossip section.
But... why do we want to know these things? (And I definitely use 'we' in the general sense.) What does it matter if Harrison Ford goes partying somewhere or that Victoria Beckham was seen in a swap shop? Why (and I admit this is an ironical point) do we invite people to convention then ask them questions like "what do you think of the latest Tom Cruise movie?" Shouldn't just their work matter? Their private life is their private life.
I'm a big-time fan of Madonna, and I really like her music, but she's currently thinking that kaballah water can purify toxic waste! Does that make me not want to listen to her songs, or enjoy them any less? Nope! (Although I might hesitate to accept a glass of water at her house...)
Is this all just cults of personalities that we are getting hooked into? Do we really need to know what some Shortland Street star is going to have a baby?
Wednesday, 20 December 2006
Okay, Christmas time, wonderful time (I might post more about what Christmas means later... or not...), present time. In particular, getting presents for other people.
The internet is wonderful, lots of options, various prices, various options for getting them... ah, but the internet sucks. (In this tale no links will be provided, as this is a negative review!)
So I'm looking on Ferrit, find a great set of cooking dishs, nice and cheap compared with getting them through the stores(*). I enter my information, including credit card, smile that postage is currently free, and hit go... credit card transaction declined! (The hey?? It was fine when I ordered other stuff just the other day!)
Next step, go directly to the store website for ShopSmart, and yes I can order direct through them (although now I have to pay courier charges). I order it, enter my PO Box address and hit go. Fine so far, but then they contact me (Thursday) to get a physical address. If I must, I go for my business address as people nick mail from my residental address (which is a rant you would have been treated to if I started blogging last year).
Eventually, Tuesday, a package for me turns up. Dumped by New Zealand Couriers outside the work dock/loading area and just left, only found because the mail lady was doing other stuff out there!
And there's no packaging inside the (rather large) box. Yes, the items themselves were fine, but the individual packaging could do with protection!
Long short, don't trust Ferrit, ShopSmart or NZ Couriers...
(*) Conversely, there was one book I got elsewhere which was half the store price, and a quater the Ferrit price!
Tuesday, 19 December 2006
Recently, Hell pizza (and they really are wickedly delicious) created a furor due to an advertising campaign where they mail dropped condoms to house in Lower Hutt to promote their Lust pizza. (And, apparently, draw attention to "New Zealand's high rate of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections", but mainly it's about the pizza.)
Catholics in the area protested, and now they are calling for a boycott of Hell. (Which you'd think they would do anyway as a matter of course.)
Now, I'm sure they are very serious, and I also doubt it'll impact on Hell's business, but the aspect they seem most outraged about is "What happens when you're seven years old and you find something in (the letterbox) and you ask your mother or father, 'What's this?"'
Yes, how dare you force me to talk to my kids about sex! I won't have it in my house! Really, talking to my kids, the very idea...
Monday, 18 December 2006
You ever play Commander Keen? In particular, Commander Keen 5? In that game, there's a secret area you can get to known as the Korath III base (because it's on the planet Korath III). However, there's a bug in the program so that when playing that area, sometimes you get the error "Goplat moved to a bad spot: 2114,1600" (which I have no idea what they mean).
All this leads me to paraphrase that line when something goes wrong (as it did with a computer program this morning) as "Goplat go bad place".
Sunday, 17 December 2006
Zeus Plug is a Doctor Who pubzine where in New Zealand, an A3 page folded down to A6 pages, and as such there is only so much room. In the recent #8, I had an article about one of my classic moments in Doctor Who, but this was trimmed. But since this is a) my article, and b) my blog, I can put the full entry here.
WHAT: Swords clash as two fighters pit against each other, one fighting in the name of honour, the other dedicated to the ways of evil. Ancelyn and Mordred lock swords, but are forced to push each other way, to get room for their next swing.
And then a mysterious figure steps through, looking neither left nor right, not acknowledging the two combatents in any way, and yet moving so perfectly that he enters at precisely the one moment when he can step through, and continues out of the way, just as Ancelyn and Mordred rush in to attack each other again...
WHY: This moment, for me, epitomises the nature of the Seventh Doctor, his dark manipulative side foremost as he is in complete control of the situation. Which, in this story, is quite a feat given that all the events of the story have been put into place by his future self from another dimension (aka Merlin).
But Merlin's plans have fallen over (Morgaine fled to another dimension, Arthur has crumbled into dust, and the side of right isn't exactly well suited to the fight, with only Ancelyn being from that same world), and so the Doctor has to step up and take over.
Which he does. The Doctor has twisted events and people around so much (whilst still allowing for the unknown such as Ace and the Brigadier) that he can enter a fight scene with swords and know exactly what is going on. When he steps through the scene above, he hasn't been waiting just off-screen for a break, he's just going on his way where he wants to go, and the universe is conspiring with him in order to make sure there is nothing in his way.
Ancelyn and Mordred don't notice him because the Doctor is tangential to their personal battle. The Doctor doesn't notice them because he is in charge here, and doesn't need to.
The Seventh Doctor, in perfect form.
Saturday, 16 December 2006
No, there is no such thing as a 'Holy Spirit', and for me simply typing that, I'm going to hell.
"Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." - Mark 3:29
But, hey, I'm hardly alone in this. In fact, there are many people denying this, as part of the Blasphemy Challenge. This challenge is to post a video to YouTube denying the Holy Spirit, and in return you will get sent a copy of The God Who Wasn't There.
You can find my damnation here. [I used the YouTube quick capture facility, and had to use a microphone (which, as you will see, I have to eat to make myself heard) because the in-built mic sucks.]
But hey, this isn't the first time I've denied anything...
Friday, 15 December 2006
I work (more or less) a standard 9 to 5 day. So do most people (hence 'standard'). Adn this includes, of course, people who work in stores that sell things.
Something that always seemed amazing to me that actually works is that stores selling things manage to make money when people who buy those things are working during the same hours that the stores are open during! (Yes, stores are also opened in the weekends, I know, but the majority are open during the week.)
I live in the capital city of New Zealand (for international readers) so I wonder, why I do take the occasional day off and go into town, where all the people come from that I see in town. People also taking days off? University students? (Although that wouldn't explain how stores make money as students don't have any.) Tourists?
But the main thing that really annoys me about everyone working 9-to-5 is when I need to get something delivered. "We only deliver during working hours." Somehow, the fact that other people work, and, moreover, work during working hours seems to escape them and it seems like they've never considered an alternative solution. (Depending on what it is, either I get it delivered elsewhere or make sure my "more or less" standard working day is "less" so I can be home.)
I'm not sure where in our social history the 'working week' became so formalised, but there are a few niggling problems still to be worked out...
Thursday, 14 December 2006
Yesterday I blogged about the new mouse and mentioned the NZ bird the Moa, completely failing to mention the number one bird that is associated with New Zealand: The Kiwi.
The Kiwi is a small flightless nocturnal bird. I've seen kiwis in the zoo, and they are quite cute, but that's about it. My best memory of the kiwi was when my (older) sister drew one for me with four legs... :) [No, that picture isn't there, but others are.]
Although the kiwi can't fly, it can dream, and maybe, just maybe...
Wednesday, 13 December 2006
There are a lot of cool birds associated with New Zealand, including the Moa (our version of the dodo), a large bird that was hunted to extinction once it was declared yummy! (Again, like the dodo.)
But there is a new find in a New Zealand lake bed that "stunned" scientists, and throws a new light on how mammals may have evolved, and on the history of animals in NZ.
This is, of course, amazing news for the picture of evolution, but... all that was found was "two jawbones and one thigh bone" of a primitive mouse that walked by waddling. How do these people infer to much from so little? Sometimes, you do have to wonder how much wild speculation is involved...
Tuesday, 12 December 2006
At the moment there is a pitched battle underway in the name of science. The Best Science Blog that is!
The fight is really between the forces of Bad Astronomy and some guy without a spine. We spiny people need to stick together, and show them who's the real boss. And that's Phil Plait! Not only is he the Bad Astonomer (and he even wrote a book to prove it!), he's also the Naked Astronomer! How cool is that?
This guy's blog rocks, so vote for him today, and every day up to Saturday! (Or Friday for those not in the right country...)
This was bound to happen sooner or later. PC'ism comes to Santa Claus, and there's no touching allowed.
Yes, there are probably some dodgy people who want to be Santa, and it looks like the school caught one, but this doesn't mean that all men are evil. (Actually, this reminds me of the airplane fiasco earlier in the year when men were not allowed to sit beside unaccompanied children... although I'm not sure if that was beneficial or not... perhaps the men should be made to sit in front of the child? That'll learn 'em.)
But no male teachers, Santa's a no-go zone... when do we stop men working in any children's store? Or stop men from being presenters on children's tv shows?? How about no men even writing children's books???
After all, there are no women child-molesters... right?
Monday, 11 December 2006
So why exactly is Mariah Carey bothering to battle Mary Carey?
I first encountered Mary Carey when I saw How Arnold Won The West, and it's obvious that exposure (of the press kind) isn't something she's worried about, so this certainly isn't going to bother her. And it's also likely that she chose that stage name purely because she wanted people to pretend Mariah really was in those videos... but, seriously... who is going to confuse them?
But now Mary is trying to trademark her name, and Mariah doesn't like it, because their names are too similar. Soon, people will be confusing Bing Crosby with Bill Cosby, Naomi Campbell with Neve Campbell, and Al Pacino and Robert De Niro! (Okay, that last pairing is a reference to a Billy Connelly joke...)
But my favourite part in all of this, of the picture they selected to go with this piece, who's showing more? :)
Saturday, 9 December 2006
I think it is no exaggeration to say that if we survive, science fiction will have made a vital contribution to the continuation and evolution of our civilization.
- Carl Sagan
Now, why aren't more people coming to our vital contribution? Read more!
Friday, 8 December 2006
(Warning: statistics talk ahead.)
The newspapers would have us believe that there is a "missing men" problem. The "sex ratio" is the number of men per 100 woman, and it is less than equality. This is true, but which number to believe? I've seen statistics place this at near 95 or 96 males per 100 females , although experts believe it to be around 98/99 males per 100 females.
According to the Census counts, there are 1,965,621 men and 2,062,328 women, or, if you like, 96,707 more women than men. Oh no! There are 5% more women! (The sex ratio here is 95.3.)
First note: we can only survey so much, with error. Consider the number of people overseas when we take the Census, for example. If lots of men are away and not many women...
Second note: women live longer, so there are more older women than men.
Third note: You have to live here a year to be considered a resident of New Zealand. If women come and stay (but men don't) then the number of women, of course, increase. (Although this should be observable in drops in women counts, or increases in men counts for that matter, in other countries, and this isn't true either.)
Fourth note: men count funny. Consider Mr C. He leaves to live in the UK, and so when he goes, he fills out the departure card to say "permanent stay overseas". So we subtract one man. However, he comes back within the year (as a "temporary visitor"), but leaves again for a "permanent stay overseas". Subtract one man.
As you can see, the numbers won't necessarily add up to reality. The "missing men" problem is a problem with the counting, not with actually missing men. It's an interesting question of statistics about how to measure it properly, but not one to cause great alarm to the nation (despite the attention grabbing headlines).
(Also, there obviously aren't enough missing men, 'cos no women are throwing themselves at me...)
Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Statistics New Zealand released the first outputs from the latest Census held back in March 06. Just high level results at the moment, but nevertheless these are the latest numbers of the number of people, where they live and what they are doing.
In particular, looking at the Occupation counts, I see there are 624 statisticians. (I can't remember if that's exactly what I put, but that's probably where I ended up.) Not so much one in a million as one in around 6,500.
Tuesday, 5 December 2006
What happens if a jury member falls sick? (While I'm not the former, I am the latter today.) Do they get in a replacement? Who has obviously missed some of the trial. Do they wait? Awfully inconvenient, especially in the extreme case of, say, hospitialisation or worse. Do they force the jury member to attend anyway? "You wuss, it's only a collapsed lung."
Or do they go ahead with only 11 members? Which raises the question, why 12 members in the first place? Why not 10 or 14? 23 or 7?
Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?
Monday, 4 December 2006
This week I have Jury Duty. Not just any petty crimes either, High Court Jury Duty. I was called up for District before, but the closest I got was a challenge. This time...
Well, to put myself into the proper frame of mind, what better than to watch an episode of Dexter, that fun-loving show about a serial killer who works for the police. Oh yeah...
Update: Case called on account of rain...
Sunday, 3 December 2006
Okay, I'm going to mention something here that is usually not discussed in polite societies... at least, not those that deal with viewing programs via methods other than as they are aired on TV. That's right, I'm talking about that system that starts with torren and ends with t.
I love the series House. Fantastic show and Hugh Laurie deserves all the accolades he can get (as do the other actors). So, of course, I want to see Season 3. The first nine episodes have screened, so I have some catching up to do...
The last three are not a problem. Easy to get for me, and so this leaves eps 1-6. I turn to the aforementioned torrential method, and start episode grabbing. Obviously, I'm going in order, but here's the first problem. Just because a link is 'healthy' doesn't mean that anyone is actually around for me to grab the file.
Still, I manage to get 1, 2, 4 and 6. 5 I get... 91% of. And there ain't no more. So, eventually, I get 5 from another link, and finally manage to get 3. Now everything is dandy. I can enjoy the first nine episodes...
Aha! That would be too easy. Firing up ep 1... it won't play. Not in Winamp, not in WMP, nothing. Crud. Ep 2 is the same way. Fortunately, the others are all right, but now I need to redownload the first two, and ep 1 is damnedly sparse out there. After much annoyance I reget 1 and 2. 2 is fine. 1 is another corrupt non-playing file!
Back to the sites, and trying to get another copy of ep 1. I have a data cap on my account (and I am considering switching...), and this is a quick way to smack into that. Not that I mind downloading the episodes (as I said, I really want this series) but I do mind re-downloading them, and then re-re-downloading them!
...now on download take 3...
Update: Third time worked!
Saturday, 2 December 2006
I don't know what it is, but American movies just cannot do horror properly! (To borrow from Scott Adams' blog: BOCTAOE(*))
At the moment, I've just watched Saw and Saw II. These movies are, basically, slasher flicks. American horror movies are all just slasher flicks! One by one, people are stalked and killed off! There is no real horror, just scares as something jumps out at people, and random death.
Now, Japanese movies on the other hand... I give you Ringu (no, I do not acknowledge the American version. Bad American versions of other culture's products is a blog post all of its own), and, more importantly, Ju-On. These movies have one key extra factor: atmosphere. There's a build up of tension that the Americans just can't manage to capture. Compare the creeping horror of Sadako and Kayako with the plodding Jason or Michael Myers.
American horror can make you jump. Japanese horror can make you afraid to have the lights out...
(*) But Of Course There Are Obvious Execptions... although I can't think of any off the top of my head. Anyone?
Oh, just remembered one! Se7en! But even that is trying to be a lot more psychological thriller than pure horror.
Friday, 1 December 2006
Everyone else seems to be blogging about TSV 41 (the latest online archive), so I may as well as well. (Hmm... interesting construction in that sentence.)
However, I'm only going to talk about what I did. Which, as it happens, wasn't much. Just some book reviews. (Gee, what a surprise!) Still, I suppose one question is: do I still agree with what I wrote? (Or possibly, do I even remember that book?)
First up, Legacy, in which I bitch about lots of unnecessary plot devices. Remembering back on it, the book fairs fairly well in my memory, so I would agree with my overall assesment of "this book is good", but not sure I would go as far as "but could have been brilliant".
Justin Richards either is great or is rubbish, and in Theater of War, it looks like he was great. A lot of this has fallen from memory, but I would like to go back and revisit this (especially in light of what he has subsequently contributed to the Benny range), so it certainly can't be bad. (Unlike certain other books I could mention that make me shudder with dread just remembering their titles.)
I have read All-Consuming Fire more recently that that review, from which I remember it working well until they go off planet when it largely falls apart. My review then would read the book as being more even and well done overall.
The Paradise of Death has faded from memory, overtaken by The Ghosts of N-Space. A more wrong statement couldn't be made with "I hope The Ghosts of N-Space is better than this."
Looking ahead, there are plenty more reviews. I don't do anything else until #52. Ye gods! How many reviews does one person need to do??