Saturday, 30 May 2009

For informational purposes only

Here's another site to waste a lot of time at:

They've got videos on (by which I mean they link to videos on other sites, but organised by) such topics as Dating & Relationships, Pranks & Cons, Spirituality, Video Games, Weapons, Electronics, Family, etc., etc., etc..

The reasons I ended up there could be a long story, but the short version is that I was looking for padlocks, and found videos on how to break them open. By using a soda can shim. Or picking them. Or breaking the combination. Or... Yeah, this is the peace of mind security I want.

But wait, how about how to crack a vending machine? Or getting change out? Or hacking Google? Or...

But remember kids, this is for informational purposes only. For example if you forget your own lock key or combination, or need to help a friend. Or want to commit illegal acts on vending machines... I'm not quite sure how videos on that last topic are justified...

Either way, it's a great place to waste lots and lots of time browsing through videos on all sorts of topics, from any stranger with video equipment.


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Friday, 29 May 2009

Definitely divergent Dexters

Having now read the third Dexter book, it's hard to see anything in here that's in the third series. Yes, there is more about the buildup to the marriage, but... that's about it. No skin remover, no sudden extra cop, no Deb hooking up with a CI, none of that.

Instead Jeff Lindsay focuses on the origin of the Dark Passenger, as it is revealed that it is a distinct entity rather than just a twisted part of Dexter's mind (this is all revealed in the opening scene). Jeff gets almost philosophical about it, but it basically could be summarised (again, just off the opening scene) as "Evil From The Dawn Of Time!"

Not entirely sure about this sudden infusion of mythology, although Jeff definitely has done (at least basic) research and gets the references right to rituals although not entirely sure about other links (although it wouldn't surprise me that someone has already made up connetions and he just tapped into that as it suited his story). [Obviously, I'm trying not to give it all away here.]

There are ongoing developments with the kids, Cody and Astor, and the focus is definitely on Dexter rather than some other killer just happening to be in Miami. A decent book, but not sure if this is a direction Jeff intends to pursue further. (The next book is obviously ont he reading list, although I haven't picked up a copy yet.)


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Thursday, 28 May 2009

Women who love women, and the men who kill them

Sounds like a bad Jerry Springer episode right? (aka a Jerry Springer episode) But no, I am talking about the latest movie starring Paul McGann! It was great to see him on the screen again, really bringing a serious performance to such a role in the middle of... what the hell was that about again?

Interesting piece of Trivia: Writers Williams and Hupfield were challenged to think of the dumbest and yet most commercial title possible for a film, Lesbian Vampire Killers was the answer. They then went away and wrote the script.

That explains a lot. On the face of it, not a lot here that is new. Vampires abound, and some doofuses (doofi?) arise to battle them. The vampires are sexed up (and yes, there are bare chest shots), but this could be many other vampire movies.

It's definitely a comedy, with the corny dialogue (usually from Fletch) and spurting white goo whenever a vampire gets penetrated, and yet... it's not that overly funny. They are certainly trying, and there are comedic moments, but once you get beneath the face of it, there isn't a lot there. As it is unoriginal, it does get to the point of "and now get to this moment, hurry up".

I mainly went to see this because of Paul McGann. To be honest, that's probably about the best reason you are going to get.

(In an attempt to trigger NSFW filters, let me discuss the title. I was confused. Was it about Vampires who were Killers and also Lesbians? How about Killers, who are Lesbians, that kill Vampires? Or are they Killers of Lesbian Vampires? When I heard the title, I went for the first option, although speaking of Vampires who are Killers is like talking about Assassins that are Deadly.)


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Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Chronicles of a DM: Part VI

The last session was... interesting... While Alrick was around, none of the other ongoing characters were, but we had a step in from an old player who was in town, so we added in a human Monk named Yang. While I was planning to skip a bunch of encounters, I decided to back up and run a mini-boss fight.

Alrick and Yang entered further into the Teeth (a situation they didn't fully understand until I showed them a picture only the GM sees... this is a badly written adventure), and the air got colder. Very cold. One might say, magically cold. As if ice creatures were ahead. They arrived at a door frozen shut, which they shatter open to discover... ice archons! Chimeras! Fun!

[I'm lazy. And that is expressed in this case as when faced with two players, I don't bother changing the encounter (although I did that one time last time). As such, the party is half the size it needs to be to face this battle.

That said, Alrick's new power of Evard's Black Tentacles proved very useful in tying down most of the combatants at almost the first turn, giving the two of them time to deal damage to one or two opponents. Which, by and large, they did effectively. Unfortunately, due to low rolls, they weren't able to deal that huge an amount of damage, and so the fight wore on, and wore them down. This is one of the most expensive, in terms of healing resources, that they've faced, mainly because there were only two, and only one could give out healings. (It didn't help that I didn't run the monsters entirely correctly, but I also forgot about their powers, and the Chimera's sucked on attacking and had crap defenses, so all in all the badness evened out.)

We very nearly had a TPK (as far as two players could be called a P to TK). It was only due to final rolls of 1s and a 4 from me that Alrick survived long enough to kill the last opponents. However, the Monk fell, and due to the Relic's whispering in his ear that Alrick didn't step up to help (and Alrick is evil, and Yang won't be back anyway).]

It was a long fight, and at the end Alrick decided that getting some rest was the better part of not dying. [Should be back to full complement of players next week.]


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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

It's all so Religulous

Documentary time, and you can get the basic idea when the title is easily explained (not in the movie) as a portmanteau of religion and ridiculous. Bill Maher's main point is that we need to outgrow religion before we destroy ourselves in its name (although he doesn't fully explain that point until the end). He does this by talking to various religious people and making fun of them.

Mainly by making rather cheap shots. There is a lot of editing in this movie, and I wonder just how many times their answers don't line up with the questions they were asked, and how many "embarrassing silences" are the product of plenty of spare footage lying around of them not saying anything. Not to mention many shots of other moments which reminded me of the Lord Privy Seal accusation leveled at Expelled.

Which isn't to say there aren't some accurate barbs in the film, where the interviewees put their own foot in their own mouths. (Such as a senator saying "You don't need to pass an IQ test to get into the Senate", and a Muslim pointing out that women are treated equally by indicating a woman praying in their own special corner.)

Certainly a quick paced 90 minute movie I enjoyed, but one with flaws and not for everyone.


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Monday, 25 May 2009

HC Again

A shorter game, with Abel as GMing. He did have another adventure planned for us, but we took a long time with this one, without really going anywhere that exciting, that we kind of ended up just... ending without excitement really. Laid Out.


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'Genesis Revisited' by Michael Shermer

*snerk* This is the final section from 'Why Darwin Matters' put to video (and spoken with a dry 'voice synthesiser' narrator).

(Full text of the speech available.)

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Saturday, 23 May 2009

The Tape Of Stone

Finally have watched quality television! By which I mean British television from the 1970s. More specifically, The Stone Tape by Nigel Kneale.

The basic concept is that scientists, moving into an old building for research space, encounter a ghost. Unlike your typical ghost story, they don't run screaming from the place, nor does the ghost possess anyone or go on a killing spree. What? Originality? Can't be having that. Instead they start investigating the haunting scientifically, although don't end up with results that would get them published.

There are many interesting points here, one of which is the character interaction that overwhelms the rational scientific study. Peter Brock, the leader, is a very domineering type, and this drives him and the team on past when most people woutl quit. This is contrasted with the more emotional Jane Asher who is able to tune in to the ghostly sensations more easily (because women are clearly more sensitive people), although it is noteworthy that even she turns to the computer to back up her intuition rather than running purely on imaginations. Roy Colinson, a manager rather than scientist, tries to keep everything running smoothly, hard to do as feelings interfere with interpreting results. [Fantastic acting by all concerned, this is an excellent production on all aspects.]

Then there is the actual haunting. As it is 1972, we are not talking bleeding edge special effects, but it doesn't matter. It's more about atmosphere than what we see, and The Stone Tape piles it on (did Nigel Kneale and P. J. Hammond ever collaborate on anything?). When they are in the room, it was getting to the point of me wanting the spookiness to happen, but also not wanting it at the same time. It's amazing just how effectively evocative this is.

It was released on DVD at one point, but good luck getting it now (or, at least, at a reasonable price). Definitely should be seen if you ever have the chance.


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Friday, 22 May 2009

Darling Dexter reDux

Second book read, and what have we learnt? (However, I haven't rewatched Season 2, although I have it on DVD, so may get a little confused.)

Firstly what haven't we learnt? That Dexter was found out! That's right, the big thing in Season 2 that Dexter's kills were found are absent here. Although Dexter doesn't kill one per episode in the books. Instead there's another killer, linked into Doakes' past, so Doakes is at the center of this story, and he is watching Dexter. The killer does call in a chap from Washington (we never find out the actual agency), who still hooks up with Deb, although the eventual fate of these two people I won't mention.

Other interesting points: this could be where they draw the inspiration from for TV Dexter dropping off bodies in the ocean (as one killer does), and TV Dexter injecting people (which another killer does). In the books, he partly strangles them as he does in the pilot, and merely buries the bodies.

More interestingly, he ends up engages to Rita! As we know, this was one arc in Season 3 (at least, I hope we know), yet it doesn't take up focus like it does in the TV version. Also the kids are completely different to their onscreen counterparts, and have more interesting connections to Dexter.

As the two media go their separate ways, on to book three!


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Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Star Trek Assumption

Sicne the people have clamoured for it (ie Foo posted a comment asking), let's take a look at the "recieved wisdom" of odd numbered Star Trek films are crap (which seems to be the thing du jour). This was giving voice by Simon Pegg himself back in Spaced, although in this interview, he gives it a bit more context.

Although this was the geek view, let's get some data. In particular the ratings on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. (Damn HTML coding doing weird things with tables.)

The Motion Picture6.250%
The Wrath of Khan7.890%
The Search for Spock6.576%
The Voyage Home7.384%
The Final Frontier4.921%
The Undiscovered Country7.282%
First Contact7.691%
Star Trek8.595%

According to the interview, this was about the first seven movies, so let's start with them. For the odd movies, the mean is 6.0 / 57%. For the even movies it is 7.4 / 85%. Certainly the evens are better than the odds. (Overall average is 6.6 / 69%.)

How does this extend to the rest of the series? Firstly, let's drop the recent reboot, and just look at the first ten. Odds are 6.1 / 56%, evens are 7.3 / 77% (overall 6/7 / 66%). Odds are still crappier than evens.

Once we throw in the last movie: odds 6.5 / 63%, evens 7.3 / 77% (overall 6.8 / 69%). Erm... although it scores really high on its own, it's currently not enough to drag the reputation of the odds out of the gutter yet.

(To be fair, I also tried medians. No change in conclusion, although the overall ratings were just above the odds ratings.)


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Wednesday, 20 May 2009

HC Again

And day of HC playing. Up first a standard CSI type case, which we tackle in our standard CSI type way, namely over analysing everything and generally taking a very long time. Not helped by pausing to pick on a team mate that really deserved more than what we gave him. Still, we were quicker than the last lot to do it. Boat Redoux.

Then we continue to look around the building and try to get a handle on the new unfolding campaign mission, and get to find out more about its unfinishedness. And meet a bunch of old guys that we fail to do anything useful with, for which I blame the other players. VWF.


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The Chronicles of a DM: Part V

After seeing off Moyshanna last time, the crew then turned around and begged her back when only Valdour and Alrick were available to head into the teeth. Ha! Their first challenge... a door! Recently I had just heard a D&D podcast about skill challenges, about how they are supposed to be balanced for all party members and there was the question of whether or not you tell players they are in a skill challenge. Me, I am in favour of telling mainly because they can then help me run the stupid unbalanced thing (indeed, it was pretty much down to one player to make the required rolls... see below for more).

Once past the door, they are into a fight! With nearly a dozen foes! Woo! With most of them being minions. Well... they didn't last long, but the non-minions... [This fight highlighted a very odd (stupid!) rule set with D&D. One of the players is a Drwo rogue, with the ability to drop a cloud of darkness, and the Hide In Plain Sight, which means he is basically invisible (given his high stealth), in the middle of the fight, and can snipe with combat advantage. Moreover, he still occupies a square which enemies can't walk through, and can't detect him when they try. Wha? And then the Warlord gets his blur on so that he is invisible when more then four squares away. This left only one person visible... Moyshanna. And when wights hit, they take healing surges. NPCs are not designed to be in the party with PCs, a point made very clear when Moyshanna lost her two healing surges, and the way D&D healing works meant she couldn't heal herself that day. Of course, that didn't bother the two evil party members, and when she dropped, they didn't try to heal her (didn't help that the Skull relic Alrick had was urging him to let her pass to the realm of the Raven Queen). But short version is, they stood there while MOYSHANNA DIED! Boo! I decided that she got a fair share of that fight's XP though...which would have been enough for her to gain another level.]

So they passed on without mourning her passing on (and, moreover, looting her body). They then skipped the next encoutner because a) it was boring, and b) we still have far too many encounters to get through. I don't want to still be playing this next year!

Walking through the outer fortress, they hear a draconic whisper up ahead, and move forward to see a draconic whisperer. A Dracolich whisperer to be precise. But rather than leap into the fray, the dragon engages them in discussion. [This encounter could either be a skill challenge or a fight. I found the skill challenge to be the more interesting tack, and it also meant the two party members might survive. I was slightly more lenient towards not recording failures than strictly I should have been, but this was another occasion where only one party member could really make the rolls, and I wasn't interested in devolving into a fight.] After getting the Dracolich onside, they gained valuable intel about upcoming battles, including the next fight with Porapherah [give me pronouncable names, dammit!].

And lo, they did walk on, and see a pair of doors that would give them great difficulty to open... and also a secret door they had no problems with. [This fight was a lot like the first one above, but with two wights and a Nightwalker instead of three wights. Well, one other difference was that previous minions (who have 1HP) are suddenly sporting 150HP! With just two PCs that would have just been a stupidly long fight, so I downgraded them to minions and reduced the XP accordingly. Still was a decent fight and the Warlord was very nearly put out of my misery. It took a beating, but eventually the PCs won.]

They also found another secret room, with an altar dedicated to goodness. Ha! None to be found here. (One thing I didn't mention, they asked the Dracolich if he was hiring! Unaligned? I don't believe it.) [They got quite an XP haul out of this, and another level for Alrick at least!]


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Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Star Trekked

Yep, eventually saw the next big sci-fi geek film (more or less, small problem that the projector failed for about five minutes during Spock's very important (I'm sure) backstory, but... didn't miss it. They didn't give us free tickets to compensate either. Huh).

Now, I'm no Star Trek uber-fan, so I wasn't going to be that bothered about lack of continuity, but I was disappointed by the plot. The source of Nero's ship is unoriginal (and for a while I was reminded of Star Trek: Nemesis), especially having seen the New Star Trek Voyages fan episodes in which that sort of thing seems to happen every other episode! And it was largely interspersed with The Wacky Adventures of James T. Kirk... why? Was it a producer demand for that large creature to appear? (Spatterings of the giant spider in Wild Wild West!) Not that impressed, really.

On the other hands, I did enjoy the characters. Chris Pine as Kirk wasn't that impressive, with better acting plaudits going to Zachary Quinto as Spock and Karl Urban as Bones (and they got far better lines). Simon Pegg's Scotty was... underwhelming, and, I have to say, Leonard Nimoy... really? Did he really need to be dragged into this? Eric Bana was passable as Nero, and Bruce Greenwood delivered a great performance.

(Should I mention such plot strangeness as "why does the ship have a windy twisty tube of water that doubles back on itself?" or "if you only need a small bit of red matter, why carry around so much?", and so on, or is that just being picky?)

My review isn't going to encourage or stop anyone from going to see it. My main recommendation: make sure you have a stable projector when you do!


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Monday, 18 May 2009

Music these days

I don't get kids these days with their music (with their hipping and their hopping and their biping and their bopping). When I look a the latest music charts, all I can think is "what crap". There basically seem to be two kinds of songs (a generalisation I contradict by including a third category later).

First is the "woman = bithes" song. Male singers are like "hey, you such a ho girl, let's have sex". Female singers are like "I'm so sexy, you want to have sex with me."

The other is the "emotional love" song. Male singers are like "hey, I'm so emotional and sensitive over love, let's have sex." Female singers are "I'm so in love, ooh yeah, ooh yeah... ooh yeah."

The main problem I have is that I don't believe in the sincerity of any of them. They all sound fake and constructed and more exercises in sentimentality in order to get the sales. While sales are important, it would be nice to have a song that actually means something than another exercise in applied pop psychology.

(Another category is the dance song, which is more about creating a thumping beat than the lyrics, but at least that doesn't have pretenses of real emotionality.)


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Sunday, 17 May 2009

Discussing different Dexters

I've started reading a Dexter omnibus, which contains the first three books, and also just recently rewatched season one. I find it interesting the difference between the original story and a visual adaptation so will be discussing it here. The rest is below the fold (which completely fails to hide anything on the rss feed).

The first thing to note is that the book is a lot shorter and far more direct that the TV series. Obviously Jeff Lindsay is not trying to span 12 episodes, it is a large credit to the ability of the producers to actually spin it out, add a lot more, and make it seem a natural part of the story.

A lot of the 'killer of the week' is gone, there is still the first kill, and the guy who stripped the copper out (Jaworski), but all the rest were invented. That includes the Cuban-smuggling couple, which seemed so integral, and the kid who was like a new Dexter.

There was no Tony Tucci, and no Neil Perry. They are combined in the form of Daryll Earl, who worked at the ice rink and "confesses" to the crime. But hang on, that’s how Deb meets Rudy, who turns out to be...

There is no Rudy. The killer, still Brian, does kidnap Deb, but only appears onscreen at the very end. And the very end, who lives and who dies, is very different, but I'm not revealing that.

Other characters, eg Angel and Vince, get fleshed out far more in the TV series, and some characters are more "based on" rather than actual. Rita has far less of a presence in the book, and no sign of Paul.

As I said, it I extremely impressive how the producers reworked the story and I gather than later seasons are even more divorced from the books. Definitely a different experience and an enjoyable one!


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Saturday, 16 May 2009

The Classics of Pompeii

When I saw that there was going to be a Doctor Who inspired classics lecture nearby, I had to go of course. It was a presentation by Dr Fiona Hobden about the episode The Fires of Pompeii, how the BBC put it together, and how it presented extra material.

The first section was about the episode itself, that the episode borrowed from the recent series Rome, that the family was more sit-com that historical, and that historicity gave way to fantasy. (Really? This was something that needed to be pointed out? Doctor Who is always precise and accurate in its portrayal of places it goes in the time machine with the alien Time Lord.)

The next section focused on the extra material, available on the website (it wasn’t pointed out that the videos were only accessible to a British audience) and in the Confidential, in particular the material emphasised the difference between the actual historical event and the made up monsters and sets. (Again, yep, that's what they do. This could be said about any Doctor Who historical, if not any episode in general.)

The last section was more general observations on the nature of television and its portrayal of history, more a mass agglomeration rather than the fractured picture of scholarly study.

Interesting stuff, but more for the Classics people than, say, the Doctor Who hardcore fans. Certainly some comments seemed to resonate with the rest of the audience than with me. I think analysis could have been helped by someone who did know the reality of Doctor Who production, however it's a bit late to speak up now. This presentation is from a paper that will be published in October (in Greece and Rome), although it will not be publically accessible (however buyable for 10 quid).


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Friday, 15 May 2009

Cold comfort

In a recession, times are hard… unless you are in a church or the astrology business apparently! Then activity is going up!

It does come down to the need to know there is some form of control going on, rather than events being random, either a god or the stars or... just something! People don’t randomness, we're pattern seeking creatures, and need to know there is a pattern somewhere. Couple this with a need for security that leads to the idea of higher authority, and mix in the stress of hard economic times, and it's no wonder business is good (for some businesses).

While seeking solace is nice, there are those who prey on those who seek solace. Now, while this is in the same piece as me mentioning religion and astrology, I’m not saying everyone in those occupations are out for the kill. But there definitely are some. There are people who prey on misery, and astrology, medium and other new age delusions often do well in those times, and those who, as it were, market themselves aggressively and really turn the screws can make out like bandits (as the expression goes. Presumably not bandits that got caught).

Not just in economic times either, but any trying times, particularly medical troubles, or relationship troubles. (This is why cold reading works so well, people have a broad range of common problems.) In short, at emotional times, there are those who earn their living well.

And because of the emotionality, it is hard to show that there is a problem. The scientific method has demonstrated time and again that astrology is bunk, but it bobs along like the proverbial unsinkable rubber duck.

We'll recover from this recession, which we have done before irregardless of the imaginary power believed in. And we’ll do it facing reality.


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Thursday, 14 May 2009

A secret told to everyone

I've been on a few courses in which has been invoked the Chatham House Rule. It's interesting in that one can get a sense of what it means without having it explained, but basically it's "here's some stories I have that don't tell people you heard from me".

It's nice, and it's useful, as on those courses the stories people tell help illustrate whatever point is being discussed. Or, at least, help amuse. All in all, CH is useful to make the course more productive.

Then there's using it causally in any old meeting. Often (well, not that often, but more than once) someone has "under Chatham House, let me tell you...". Some of the time, this is helpful, and other times...

It really feeds into the want to gossip, the desire to show off what you know and to pass on interesting tidbits. Even if there was no Chatham House, this would have come up anyway, and even if not, I think people would talk any way.

I don't worry about hearing things under CH, as I have a lousy memory. More importantly, I think if the story really was that interesting, it would have leaked anyway. Secrets are very hard to keep secret if they are known to more than one person, and as I mentioned above, people like to talk.


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Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Scarf-Eating Moths!

Finding my Tuesday freed from GMing once again, I was faced with possibilities. Go off to the latest Star Trek movie? Go home and eat pizza? Visit the library for several hours?

Or meet up with friends to see the opening night of Moths Ate My Doctor Who Scarf?

Currently playing at Bats, this is just over an hour of Tony Hadoke doing what is basically a monologue act about his life and his interaction with Doctor Who, with occasional asides on other fandoms and a free rant on the intelligence of viewing audiences.

Yes, it is fun. There were many laughs, coming free and easy. That said, there were tougher laughs, almost like an inside joke that he wanted us to share but had to explain to us first. And then there were the jokes that we (being more the hardcore fans) could see as funny, but was absolutely hilarious to people to have to deal with us with DW obsessions.

There were some more English jokes in there that some people might get, and only a few jokes specificially for the New Zealand audience. That said, this was the first night here, and he was a little frenzied, and jet laqgged, so might calm down and get more local as the show goes on. Auckland goers should report.

I'm not going to give away any of the jokes, and this is certainly different to the CD. Definitely check it out if you have the chance.


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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

HC Again

Lots of role playing this time. On the Friday, we did an adventure already run by the others. We take half as long (but with half the distractions), and just gone on with it. In this case, just going for it is the answer. A Restoration of Evil Redoux.

But then I got in on the Saturday as one of the other players didn't turn up. I entered in (at hour four) on a standard CSI case. Even without the other distractions of the SS stuff, we still took far too long to get on with it. When it is redone on Friday, I expect it will be a lot quicker (even with me being on a No-Brainer). Campaign.

Then we had some time, but not really enough for a full on case. However, there were developments with the KBC building to look at, and a chance idea by me suddenly uncovers plot that Logan didn't expect us to get to until it was too late. In the words of HC: Surprise, bitch! Lead Poisoning.


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Sunday, 10 May 2009

Hollaback Girl Overexplained

You remember Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani? If you don't, here's the video. This is the video, the "Super Clean" version, by which I hope they are referring to the audio and not the video which is fairly blocky.

Anyways, I recalled coming across an explanation for the lyrics in the video a while ago, and decided they should be linked to. Not that easy to re-find. Plenty of links explaining what Hollaback Girls are in general, but check out this explanation posted on Orange County Music. Now that's some analysis!


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Thursday, 7 May 2009


So here we are with the biggest sci-fi geek movie of the year evah! (Until Star Trek was released a week later.) Once again we gather to see Hugh Jackman slice and dice his way through another no-brainer action movie.

Oh. Ah. Look at the movie. Just look at it. Certainly not much point trying to pick up on who is doing what as that relies on knowing the story continuity before even seeing the movie. I didn't (have read the Wiki entry now), so I could only appreciate it at a superficial level. Which was… fine. It was a pretty movie, there was some attempt at a character development (which involves death, as most movie character development seems to), and there was an ongoing plot arc involving Wolfy and his brother. (Who was apparently the same character as was in the previous movies, although that wasn't clear from the movie, and didn't seem to matter anyway.) The brother bit was nice, although it's not clear what resolution (if any) was reached.

We also get treated to lots of young X-Men (the most noticeable being Cyclops), but most of the time they are only meaningful to the hard-core X-Menites, and look just like random mutants to me.

Hugh Jackman gets to do lots of brooding acting, and Liev Schreiber gets as close to acting as he ever does. Danny Huston has a great screen presence, and there are other people on screen to. And CGI. Lots and lots of CGI. But it's a superhero movie, so that's to be expected.

Ultimately a movie to be watched if you like X-Men, or merely adequate sci-fi action movies. Wouldn't say 'must see', but I suspect most of us will see it anyway.


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Wednesday, 6 May 2009


Is it action? Is it a thriller? Is it a crime movie? Is it just rubbish? What is it about Evil Corporations? This isn't the Quantum, but nevertheless, The International BBC is just as invested in gun running, which looks to be the area of money growth.

Apparently this film was reshot to make it more actiony. I can believe that, as there are large sections which are, simply, dull. And then there are action sequences. And the film flits between the two like they were badly stitched together. Which they were.

In the non-action bits of the movie, the heroes (as such) wander around until they trip over huge slabs of exposition. In the action bits, the heroes run around... and that's about that. It's a movie about a corrupt bank, and this isn't James Bond, so there's only so much "who's the next connection?" the audience can stand. Not to mention that although they seem to have fingers in every pie going, they are still extremely incompetent.

Clive Owen I knew I had seen somewhere, but didn't pick Inside Man (they're making a sequel? Of course they are making a sequel, why wouldn't they make a sequel?). Naomi Watts doesn't get the screen time of King Kong, but also fails to irritate. And then there was Armin Mueller-Stahl, what a great actor, I could watch him in anything, and he did make this movie so enjoyable (although there were moments even he couldn't save).

The International looked at least nearly interesting in the trailer, but is only worth seeing if you haven't got anything more interesting showing.


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Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Giving up the ghost

Apparently in order to prove that no-one can take a photo properly, readers sent in more ghost photos. What the...?

At the time of writing, there are six new photos. Aside from the easy answers of either photoshop or accidental image corruption in memory.

1 - cave shot - that picture is so blurry I can't tell what is supposed to be a ghost, but given the amoutn the camera was moving, I'm not surprised there are strange images!

2 - barbeque - ... what? I don't even see anything strange!

3 - car defrost - water spreads out, makes an image we immediate read as a head.... and? Again, pareidolia.

4 - uncle - again camera movement creates strangeness.

5 - house light - I'm thinking in camera reflection of main guy.

6 - ski resort - camera movement plus pareidolia.

See here for how various everyday objects and camera movements can create ghostly photos!


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No vaccination here

Disclaimer: I'm not a medical practioner, or other health specialist, nor am I a young woman. However, there are plenty of other people with those same lack of credentials speaking on this topic, so I shall as well.

The big news is that there are some schools not offering to vaccinate young woman (and by that, we largely mean girls) against HPV, the human papillomavirus, aka cervical cancer. There are a number of reasons cited, although there is no information on why schools pulled out, and there is one in particular I want to rail against (go on, see if you can guess which one I take issue with).

One reason is for logistical reasons, that some rural schools might not be able to practically offer it. I'm not sure what the logistical reasons are, and note that in the article the person commenting said "The number could include schools that chose not to take part for logistical reasons, such as small rural schools," thus that there are any schools at all is a guess. There could well be issues in this area, so that cause is fair enough. (As the comment was an off-hand guess, it's not clear if such girls could get the vaccine from their doctor.)

Another collection of reasons is that this vaccine was rushed to market, consent may be an issue, and there have been adverse reactions. And by adverse reactions, this includes reddening/inflamed injection area and worse. The worse is bad, of course, but I've had an inflamed area. It's a vaccination. This happens, including extreme reactions. As for the rushed to market and consent issues, this is more a political issue and gets into an ethical area. The Woman's Health Action Trust is referred to here, and they have linked to more information on this topic.

But then there is this line: "The programme has been controversial, with moral campaigners objecting to vaccinating girls against a cancer they can get only through sexual activity." The only time I have encountered this argument is in the phrasing "if girls get this, it will promote them into sexual activity". This is the same logic as "making abortions available will increase sexual activity". Not to mention "abstinence-only education is the only sexual education young people should get". All from the same source: religious-based morality. Moreover, religious-based morality from men who think they have the right to dictate what happens to women’s bodies.

Nope. Wrong. People will have sex, vaccinated, educated, or not. Putting your fingers in your ears and leaping to tall conclusions from standing starts is... too many degrees of stupid to enumerate.

This vaccine will protect women against a disease they may get. On that ground alone, it is a good thing to do. That this may not be the best vaccine should be a topic that is discussed, but do not refuse treatment because "they will then go out and have sex". As I mentioned, there is no information in the article as to why the schools refused, but I hoped it is not the latter reason.

(And there is some discussion as to why boys don't get it. As far as I am aware (and that isn't far) it isn’t available/suitable for boys. If it is, then I agree they should also get the vaccination.)


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Monday, 4 May 2009

HC Again

Once again, for some reason, I am crazy enough to GM a game. Moreover, I stupidly give the players time before the actual mission to do stuff. Any fears I had about the game not lasting disappeared as they immediately decide to create a massive traffic jam. Right, okay.

Cut to the mission, and don't tell me that "if the players don't know about [plot elements], it never happened". They skip three of the four points I had where they could have gotten information, and it's not until I throw in some neon signs that "something odd is going on" that any notice is played. (Although if they hadn't noticed, I knew what was going to happen.)

There were some timed aspects to the mission, so now I need to develop the next section taking different elements into account than I was thinking would be around. Fun!

Keep on Trucking.


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No ghost of a chance

There are times when you have to comment on something that crops up in the day. For example, these Ghost Photos. (A fuller set here.) Interesting comments too. Not so strangely, I agree with Vicki Hyde.

No, I am not thinking these are evidences of ghosts. Yes, I am thinking Pareidolia.

My quick takes:

Scottish castle - my immediate thought is that someone placed the figure there, and someone else happened upon it and snapped it. No proof of that right this second, of course.

Fire faces - definite pareidolia.

Pub - there's a face? Reflection + pareidolia.

Head in basket - explained in article.

Linwood College - I'd like to see a picture of the area without the people there. Don't quite accept Vicki's "someone mugging" answer. Thinking more of a knotted tree in the background. (Note also that the image is on an angle, which doesn't help interpretation.)


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Quick and Irate

Another $9 ticket, another movie I wouldn't have bothered with, a sequel to a movie that already had two. Still, Vin Diesel knows how to turn in an action movie.

The basic staples of car movies are here: fast car chases, women in skimpy outfits, lots of machismo, and a pretense of a plot. Classic elements, all checked off in this movie. The ostensible plot is that there is some bad guy running drugs who just happens to get himself some drivers that these drivers can get in on. Much hilarity ensues as hero law guy and hero criminal guy alternatively join forces or combat each other in an effort to get to their goals. And at the end... well.. there are car chases.

Acting-wise... there are people in the movie, and the camera is pointed at them, but acting... there are people in the movie. Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster... there's a reason the tag line is "old model, new parts", lots of old models here.

It's all right if you like action car movies, but nothing incredibly amazing here.


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Sunday, 3 May 2009

Walking down the street

There you are, just walking down the street, minding your own business, when all of the sudden BAM! You realise you just encountered something related to Lawrence Miles. It's not something you expect to come across, and I'm sure something of a shock.

This experience happened to our reporter in London, aka Foo, who found himself on Henrietta Street. As in The Adventuress Of...

(And can you spot the photographer's name in the bottom right hand area? Especially now I've primed you to see it?)


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Saturday, 2 May 2009

Harper's Island... of jerks!

A new series has hit the screens, which goes by the name of Harpers's Island. (Note: the page records who survives, or not, each episode, so is severe spoilers if you haven't seen the episodes.) It follows the vein of Ten Little Niggers (or And Then There Was One, if you are politically correct) of people slowly being killed off. That said, we are now three episodes in, and I have two problems with it.

The first is that no-one is noticing the deaths. Fine if Joe-Bob the nobody gets it, but these are supposedly friends and family members that are getting it, and yet no-one is going 'where's Kate?' or 'what about Bob?' Some of them are covered up, but there are still some killed off that definitely should have been noticed, but nope. It's as if the characters are completely oblivious to what’s going on, which brings me to point two.

None of the main cast is likeable. The non-murder bits revolve around a bunch of rich kids (a la OC… which I have admittedly never seen) involved in a wedding. It's almost soap operatic in the ins and outs that are going on, suddenly Derek turns up, or Victor will suddenly be revealed as Wilma's brother, or... bah, I don't care! Get on with killing them all! Can't happen fast enough for me. (Although, for some reason, I think the core main cast will survive the longest. Weird that.)

Big name wise, I spotted Bobby from Supernatural and the testicular cancer girl from House. Undoubtedly there are others, some look familiar, but no really BIG names.

Despite the two points, I'm still watching. Fortunately, there are only thirteen episodes, so I'm thinking they’ll have to pay attention soon.


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Friday, 1 May 2009


Over on Armor Games(*), there have been a bunch of weird, albeit slightly odd, series of games where the point is to escape from a particular room in a house. Some of the puzzles haven't been obvious in their answers, but it's fun and cartoony, so that works.

The Great Kitchen Escape
The Great Living Room Escape
The Great Bathroom Escape
The Great Basement Escape
The Great Bedroom Escape
The Great Attic Escape

But why? One might ask. Why are you continually being trapped in a room?

Well, okay, not sure anyone asked, but there is an answer. To find out, you need to try The Great House Escape! (There's a plot, of sorts. Whoduthunk?)

(Interestingly, these puzzles are six of the nine most popular puzzle and skill games, and the others are fun too, especially Achievement Unlocked.)

(*) Free flash games!


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