Saturday, 28 February 2009

Everywhere I go

People are putting out variations of "It's beginning to look a lot like Fishmen" by the HPLHS. There's plain, giffed up, a capella even WOW.

This version is a quite impressive one, where they have actual fishmen effects.

(Thanks Foo!)

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Friday, 27 February 2009

Who's that girl?

Well, that's quite the question, isn't it? When a certain someone went to poke around Madame Tussauds (now there's a blog post we'll be waiting some time to read), he came across this strange creature sitting on the couch, couldn't place her and had to ask who it was! Can't really get at all offended as this is a terrible replica. Did she not stick around for the modelling or something? (Still, he got a lot closer than I probably will...)


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Thursday, 26 February 2009

The Skeptics are coming to town!

In particular, the next New Zealand Skeptic's conference will be held in Wellington over Sept 25-27 (just before the school holidays) at the Kingsgate Hotel. At last my laziness will pay off, and I can go to a local conference!

And because this post would be rather short, I'll repost their message about ear-candling:

Chris Laidlaw gave an hour of his National Radio Sunday show to natural health remedies, with a 20-minute informercial to a Wellington naturopath, including an ear candling session with the reporter.

The naturopath used the standard explanation that putting a candle in the ear and lighting it creates a vaccum to suck ear wax out. They did this and the credulous reporter was duly impressed by the "teaspoon" (!) of wax extracted and apparently reported clearer hearing.

He clearly wasn't aware that not only does ear candling NOT produce any vacuum (this has been tested) but even if it could, the negative pressure needed to pull wax from the canal would have to be so powerful that it would rupture the eardrum in the process!

Laidlaw used the candling episode in his programme promos, but neither he nor his intrepid reporter appeared to do any basic research on the topic or raise any questions about it. It's not hard to find out that not only does ear candling NOT work, but it can be downright harmful:

A 1996 survey of 144 ear, nose, and throat physicians, found that 14 had seen patients who had been harmed by ear candling, including at least 13 cases of external burns, 7 cases of ear canal obstruction with candle wax, and 1 perforated eardrum. Alaska Fire Marshall Gary L. Powell reported two instances of significant fires associated with ear candling., one of which led to the user's death.

No doubt there will be people who will see such uncritical reporting
as indicative that this natural remedy is worth the candle...

The rest of the show was more interesting, and you can catch it here.


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Wednesday, 25 February 2009

She's Sticky and Sweet

I really hope Madonna puts the Sticky and Sweet tour out on DVD. These fan videos don't quite capture the experience properly.

You'd think that'd be an obvious revenue source, especially from someone who aggressively markets herself, but not all her concerts are. Her Blond Ambition tour was recorded fully, and even broadcast on TV. I recorded it, but managed to lose the tape. And yet the only DVD copies I can find are not legal ones. (I thought that was a great concert.) And I'll tell you this, no matter what I did manage to get my hands on, I would buy the proper versions, so don't worry about money loss due to me. Just get me the merchandise!


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Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Chronicles of Risan: Part the Twenty-Fifth

Skirting around the edge of the ghost-infested market place, we ended into the temple housing Mistress Ulvaine (or whatever her name is). The entrance was grandiose, and the minions at the door were uppity, but we bore our way in (without killing anyone strangely) and got an audience with the Mistress. She wasn't that interested in just handing over the treaty document we came all this way for, but said she would do so if we killed the vampire drow dude and gave her the sword (this being the same evil sword that whatshername that hired us wanted). After been given some money, we agreed, even though we fully expect to be killed if we turned back up.

Anyways, we were given instruction that in a nearby building would be someone we could talk to, his second in command named Laverne or something. It was an interesting building with gossamer spider-silk hanging curtains and undead drow. They weren't really worth bothering with, but the Laverne woman herself, the two wraiths and the ghosts (or maybe two ghosts and a wraith, still can't keep them straight) were a harder fight. (Not to mention the extra minions stored behind a secret door.) A real beat down of a fight, with more domination of people (I was barely dominated this time), and there was much talk of killing her when we were supposed to be talking to her.

She was rather ungrateful. We bet her unconscious, and then brought her back to consciousness, but all she did was teleport away then jump through a portal. We are presuming that the portal leads to the big bad vampire drow dude, and although we were rather drained of more powerful abilities, we paused long enough to draw breath, then prepared to jump through before he could have more preparation time...


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Monday, 23 February 2009

HC Again

Yep, I played HC, but not as Terry. Pete's main character took some time off, and he went to a secondary character. To make a point, I did as well. The point was that the idea of that there was no levelling in Cthulhu's system is a lie, of course there is levelling/bonus for experience/yadda yadda.

It didn't come across, but I still had fun as Doctor Von Scott. The set up was quite familiar to a mod I've read, but it isn't an entirely original hook. Brainwashed Redoux: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.


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Technology features!

According to the many pieces of paper that came with the computer, some model versions have a finger print reader (not this one, sadly)! Now that'd be cool to have. Did lead me to wonder if you had some kind of scanner like this (either finger or eye or...) and had an operation or lost the appendage or similar, what would you do then? (I presume there's some kind of override you can have, but if there isn't...)

The computer itself is an "entertainment centre" and does have a neat interface to what is called "Quickplay" (this allows various files or DVDs etc to be access and played), with lots of Christmas Tree lit touch buttons. No fast-forward or rewind buttons though (just chapter skips). It also comes with a dinky wee remote that's about the size of a credit card, but awkwardly shaped. It's a cute thing, but I feel like I'm going to break it whenever I hold it.

(And speaking of lights, there is a light right beside the power cord that stays on as long as that is plugged in, which is annoying overly bright at night. Do we need to know if the computer is plugged in? May be in extreme diagnostic circumstances, but why for every day use?)

And if that isn't all... it does come with TV, but considering the computer thought it was in Singapore when I started it, I'm not thinking it accesses local station. That said, I also picked up (because it was on sale) a USB TV Tuner, which can allow me to access Freeview! (Fine, yes, I don't watch TV and I'm still hooked into Saturn, but Saturn doesn't do Freeview, and now if I entirely drop Saturn, can still get into lots of things.) Admittedly, I haven't tried it yet, due to other things to deal with, but it's a nice accessory.

There might be other stuff going on as well with this, but I'm mainly glad I have a machine with decent grunt.


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Saturday, 21 February 2009

Fighting technology

Way hey, I got me a new laptop (with suped-up-ness)! (No, haven't heard about my old laptop yet.)

I prepared by downloading lots of install files, because I knew there was one thing I had to do immediately: Uninstall Nortons. (Don't want it, they want to charge me, and it's largely a virus on the system of itself. I had AVG and Zone Alarm ready to roll...) That proved to take a while as it seemed very reluctant to give it up.

However, I am now using Vista, and it's a damn fight to get everything loaded. Aside from the updates the software on there already wants, I need to Administratively approve everything. And then I need to put all the add-ons and switches I want, and try to recall all the places I go to and relink in everything, and redo the patches... not to mention lost all my email addresses and emails...

Still, it should be a lot more powerful, and give me such a better experience... and yet I'm thinking I want Windows 7 to arrive sooner rather than later...

(Lastly, I thought it was a 320G drive... Why is it telling me I have 260G of 288G free? (And yes, I see the "recovery drive" but that's only 10G.) Where did the rest of it go?)


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Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Into the Dollhouse

It has begun! The next project from Joss Weadon is now on our screens. Written for Eliza Dushku, and it's easy to why any actress would want it, but she's the one in


Premise is simple: take a person and implant them with any personality you want. No, don't go straight to sex doll, that's too obvious. How about teacher? Assassin? Loving daughter? Hostage negotiator? Anyone you like.

Which is why it's a great gig, never playing the same part over and over. In Angel, Joss had to have Fred taken over by a god to give Amy Acker (who's in this show too!) a change, but in this series there's something different each week. Nice work if you can get it.

But because it's Joss Weadon, it's not that simple. The personality is supposed to be wiped, but what happens when the memories don't quite all go away? There should be a slow buildup, but, yes, I can see this show getting canceled again and thus everything needs to get revealed all at once. Here's hoping not, but... And there's some agent guy trying to find out the truth who's career is also going to pieces, but his plot line isn't quite developed yet.

As it is Joss, I would have expected more humour, but it hasn't shown up yet. The premise is a lot darker, yes, but still Joss isn't shy of the wisecracks either, but we've got none. I like his kind of humour, so hope it comes back.

That aside, solid first episode, and something else to make sure I don't miss each week.


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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The Chronicles of Risan: Part the Twenty-Fourth

From the slave we saved (who will be hiding until the area is more clear) we found out that there was a mushroom farm just beyond, which housed spiders that attack people who get to close. We decided to avoid that.

Also, there was an embassy further on, which had been attacked. However, it was likely that the human mage in charge was still there. To the rescue! When we got there, we found wights and spiders and some other creature that politely asked us inside before attacking us. I got smacked around by a few wights, but gave my own back. After getting rid of them, the Warlord found a back room that was locked, behind which was whimpering. Lots of pandering finally got the mage to come out (although I did unlock the door), and we agreed to escort him past the bridge for some money, which was likely a fraction of what he had on him, but whatever...

He did give us a contact of a shop owner that might be able to help us get to Matron Whatshername, so we headed up to find him. We did find some shops getting looted, and a big hulking beast. The paladin and I took the beast on, and while I got a few decent hits in, I completely failed to connect a lot of the time too. Bah! While the others mopped up their fight, I found a huge abyss thing that would have attacked us, but the gods forgot about it. Looked to be very nasty.

With the area now clear, we settled down to rest before considering where to next.


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Monday, 16 February 2009

DW: The Eyeless

Last of the books... until April! This time long term writer Lance Parkin steps up with: The Eyeless.

Eh... I'm not sure what went wrong. Lance Parkin is a great writer, with a lot of high caliber books, but this... The main thrust of the book is "Doctor must shut down bad weapon", and most of the first half of the book is just sticking obstacles in his way, coming across as jerks, and reading like a whole lot of forced padding. The second half reads a lot better, and on reflection the first half isn't so bad, and fits with context of building the background up, but it was still painful to read through.

Character-wise, the focus is on two characters (aside from the Doctor), Alsa and Dela. Alsa is, however, annoying and I don't care about whatever happens to her. And Dela's focus was hidden by another character, so it took a while for me to realise that I was supposed to connect with her. Hmm.

And then there's the Eyeless themselves... frankly, they are presented in a dark light to begin with, whereas they could have been passed off as good guys, at least for a while. When the mass fighting starts, I'm not seeing any sympathy, even from the author, for them. Not sure what the point about that was.

A fumble for Lance, then. The smaller page/word count a hamper? Wouldn't have thought so. But something here leaves a disappointing taste in the mouth.

Order: Unsure if before or after The Next Doctor.


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Sunday, 15 February 2009

HC Again

Hey, wasn't GMing this weekend! Not quite completely back to normal though, as we had a guest GM. Instead we had car chases, neo-mafia, Indians, and a helicopter! Called Shots: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.

(Unfortunately, I was busy today and until to get more gaming in as I had to miss WARGS.)


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Each time she breaks my heart

What's that? Why is it here?

Ever since I came across a stash of "rare" Madonna songs, I've found out more about my favourite singer. This song was performed by Nick Kamen "Each Time You Break My Heart"... written and produced by Madonna! And it was his debut single and launched his career. (Such as it was. Anyone remember him?)

Note that she also did her own version, which wasn't released.

(She was also involved in Patrick Hernandez' "Born to be alive".)


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Saturday, 14 February 2009

Laptop down!

My laptop broke last night, and while it is still in warranty (yay 5 year coverage!), I do need to update sometime and won't be surprised if now is the time.

Now, I have some ideas as to what I want:
4G of ram (Windows being a hog)
Vista Premium (if I must go with Vista, need something decent, if not Ultimate)
300-500G drive
15" screen
Quad-core CPU would be nice
Not too worried about graphics driver and co as don't go for games.

There is one computer at Noel Leeming that seems to fit most, although there are much cheaper ones. Hmm...

Anything else I should be looking for? (Yes, I could switch to MacBooks but have even less idea of what I would need.)


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Friday, 13 February 2009

Sing with friends

Aside from an important message, there's a surprise guest from around 1.45 to 2.15.


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Thursday, 12 February 2009

DW: Beautiful Chaos

I'm not sure why we are getting these cod-Missing Adventures, as opposed to just some Donna books, but this DoctorDonna story is framed by Wilf and Sylvia getting on with life afterwards. Still, the rest of the book is Beautiful Chaos by Gary Russell.

It's obvious by page 43 exactly who is behind it all (at least, obvious for any DW fan), so I'm going to reveal that the menace is… the Mandragora! This is intended as a sequel to Mask of (there is a reference to Mark of), but is mixed up with System Shock/Millennium Shock with the computer aspect. Plot-wise, there is a lot of build-up, although the climax is over amazingly quickly. Not that impressive, really.

But if there is one thing Gary does, it's characters. Lots and lots of characters. And this is no exception. For a long time we got another slew of characters almost every other page, and although most of them died off quickly, it was hard to know in this onslaught if each new batch were a group we were supposed to care about or not.

Donna is also well characterised, but more by going "Oi!" every other line than more substantial depictions. Similarly the Doctor is oft going "Aw." which gets rather annoying to read after a while. Some of their performances shouldn’t be captured on the page. Wilf is... better played by Bernard Cribbens than written about. And... there are other characters around, as well.

A decent book, but the ending is mixed as Gary wants a more intimate scene than 'I pushes some buttons and saves the world', but just undercuts the power of the bad guy. A sour note to end on.

Order: Technically after Journey's End, but the story proper is between Forest of the Dead and Turn Left.


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Wednesday, 11 February 2009

The Chronicles of Risan: Part the Twenty-Third

The Warlock wandered off in the night (impressive considering the door was Arcane Locked), but we didn’t worry about him, and I instead got Reed to make me some nice bracers to help my fighting ability.

A banging at the door drew our attention to the presence of interested parties, in this case another troll with two minotaurs (apparently the way all trolls are kitted out), and they demanded entrance. Forcibly so. And then proceeded to demonstrate their disapproval that we weren’t an evil Drow scum necromancer.

On the one hand, they were reinforced by some wights. On the other, we got reinforced by the swordmage and the Dwarven fighter. It quickly became a real slog (during which I found out that I wasn’t fighting as well as I could have been all this time... bah!). Although it took time, we beat them all done, although the Dwarf approached death’s door...

Moving on to continue clearing the area, we moved on to the next structure, and found some ghouls (I think they were ghouls, might have been wraiths... or possibly ghasts. Too many undead critters) eating something surrounded by a pool of blood (a Warlock something? We’ll never know). While they were only a minor irritation, they were joined by some demons that were tougher combatants. I did my impression of an archer-style ranger, but eventually got stuck in, flashing steel and complete misses a plenty.

But we can’t stop for chatting now. After freeing a slave, there’s more yet to conquer today.


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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

HC Again

One more round of GMing from me. This time putting another piece in the overall campaign picture (which I have a vague idea about). Aliens are Grrreat! Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7.

Then, with Daylight Savings switch-over coming, I take a last chance to get in on a full day's gaming the next day, not GMing this time. We start with a case that puts us up against one of the stupidest monsters of all time. Kandy Kane Klan: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.

Then we do a form of a transition as we deal with the remains on that case, and look into helping another PC, before we are put into another case. Random Remote Rabbis: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Then we get to deal with a haunted house. Now there's a classic idea. But this time, with Nazis for that added flavour! And I get a role-playing challenge. Black Guard: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6.


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Bubbling trouble...

You Scored as Yog-Sothoth!

You are Yog-Sothoth! You are a know all, you know too much perhaps, but you hate people knowing your business unless that is you want to gossip or share it with a close friend. Youre also rather snoopy to get the knowledge you aquire!

Yog-Sothoth 65%
Azathoth 60%
Shub Niggurath 45%
Cthulhu 45%
Hastur 45%
Nyarlathotep 40%
Nodens 30%

Which cthulhu mythos charactergod are you?


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Monday, 9 February 2009

The Disappointment Bowl

I've had the comedian Patton Oswalt recommended to me, with the following clip. I tried the bowl he's talking about when it was here... and, yeah, not that great, so I indeed found this... amusing, if not the most hilarious thing ever. What do you think?


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Sunday, 8 February 2009

AVG 8.0.233 Update memory error

For those fraction of people who use AVG and have been getting an error when updating "Update failed, general error - not enough memory, write error". I have been having this problem for a while, and am pretty sure it had nothing to do with not enough memory. Did consider to be a general problem that they'd update and it would go away... however, it didn't.

And the threads on their forums haven't helped either. Yay.

But I have found a solution, so am putting it on the web, hope it gets some kind of hit on google so others can find this option. It was really easy.

Go to their update download area. Download the AVG update for Jan 15. Put it in a directory somewhere. Then, in AVG, go to Tool, Update from Directory (as the instruction on the page say), select the directory where you put the file and... cross fingers (if you like that sort of thing)... wait... wait... wait some more... and update without error! Need to reboot, but it's now good.



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Saturday, 7 February 2009

Playing MiSTie for us

Shout! has taken over from Rhino in producing MST3K DVDs (still four-per-packs, thankfully... makes for about five packs per most seasons, leading to about 40-50 packs in total).

Volume 14 is coming out with another range of episodes (of which I've seen two), but they certainly aren't scrimping with promotions as they have a range of trailers for the movies and the pack as a whole! Nicely done!

(Now all I need to do is buy it!)

( for all your TV shows on DVD news...)


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Friday, 6 February 2009

SJA's Mad World

I'm currently watching the first season of The Sarah Jane Adventures on the DVD, and for some reason the music in the main menu reminds me of this song...


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Thursday, 5 February 2009

A Needle by any other name

While reading various news stories, I read this one about the upside-down cheerleader.
Lot of work, she's doing well, good for her.

However, there was one line that caught my interest: "I wore a brace around my hips and had to have dry needling every week where a physio inserts a long needle into tense areas to release muscles."

...what? Dry needling? What's that then? Never heard of it before, but suddenly I'm suspicious...

I found this article on Dry Needling, the writing of which was helped by the people on the South African Skeptics forum.

Basically... Dry Needling = Acupuncture! Aaahhh.... oh.... um....

There are lots of people who claim acupuncture works, but there are many people who claim all sorts of things work. The evidence for acupunture is... inconclusive. There is some effect from acupuncture, but there is the same effect from sham acupuncture, putting it largely in the placebo effect. Whatever is going on, it has nothing to do with meridian lines, chi, pressure points, etc., etc. More study might uncover some effect, but there is a large amount of woo.

If Dry Needling has anything real, it's that it's about jabbing the muscle knot directly, not poking into "ancient pressure points". But there is entanglement with woo that needs to be sorted out.


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Wednesday, 4 February 2009

DW: The Story of Martha

Wow, the BBC snuck out an anthology. During the year on Earth between The Sound of Drums and The Last of the Time Lords Martha walked the Earth, telling stories. This is The Story of Martha, and here are her stories.

The main story, by Dan Abnett, is about Martha coming to grips with having to walk the Earth, and being chased by some UCF people. It's a lot of smaller stories by itself, and (to me) seems a rather easy story to write as he's fitting in to what has already been established. And yet, he manages to make everything pear shaped at the end when in Japan... sigh... It's barely worth acknowledging.

The Weeping by David Roben is almost too simplistic, even for Doctor Who. They turn up, go to the tower, go back to the TARDIS... and that's it! This reminds me of a classic Who story, but I can't say which one without giving it all away, but it is quite obvious once you get there.

Breathing Space by Steve Lockley & Paul Lewis is even briefer than the previous one! The Doctor is boasting about solving it in half-an-hour, but that speaks more to the simplicity of the story than anything to actually be proud of.

The Frozen Wastes by Robert Shearman is... a decent story, but doesn't really go anywhere (figuratively or literally!). Not really sure what the point of it is...

Star-Crossed by Simon Jowett is... an interesting idea, but in this case it is crippled by being so short. I can see this being the most that could be developed more, and even turn up on TV (assuming they ever get away from Earth again...).

Overall... meh...

Order: The obvious place for the main story, not clear for the sub-stories.


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Tuesday, 3 February 2009

HC Again

I continued my GMering last session to finish off the mod I was dealing with.

It ended up taking a bit longer than I thought, but we eventually got there. There are some definite things that I had to adapt, but the writers didn't exactly take this group into account. Face Off Continued: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.

With time to spare, I launched into a short mod idea I had, which basically comes down to "this is a puzzle for the players to solve", and no rolls were going to solve it. While the players did indeed solve it, unfortunately Logan's connection collapsed before we got there, and I had to continue the game without him and without cards. Colour Blind: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Then I did actually get to play! Nearly missed the call, but managed to get in. Note that I am not playing Terry as I will most of the August game month so am doing something else. Enter... Doctor Von Scott! Intelligence Gathering: Part 1, Part 2. Alien Nazis: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4.


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The Chronicles of Risan: Part the Twenty-Second

Emerging from under the bridge, we found two... three surprises. One, we had lost our dwarf. Two, we found our old paladin (and now he was old). Three, we found a new human warlock by the name of Djenie (or something). Huh.

We moved into the city, and decided to start in on the old slave area, and headed to the first building, merely a cliff climb away. It was a mini fort, with battlements, complete with goblins! Wow... goblins... that's really classic... I head up the battlements while the others go into a nearby room. While I'm dealing with the goblins and get shot at by a troll from inside (who had two minotaurs with him), the others are dealing with something that has tentacles for a face! We finish and rejoin around the same time, and turn our attentions to the three inside.

Have to say that the Warlord somehow can bust out this great ability where he creates these two hands, which grabbed the minotaurs (one hand each) and smashed them together. Pretty much dealt with them entirely by himself. I was shooting the troll from afar, and finally decided to head in for some contact beating up. Unfortunately he died before I got there. Damn him. Oh well.

Moving on to the next building, we open the door and spy a statue, some tanks of dead things... and a Drow Wizard Necromancer (whom I greet cordially, being the only Elvish speaker, with "What are you doing there, Drow scum?"). Yeah, another fight. Complete with another Gloomweb beast and a Web Golem. I concentrate on the Drow Necromancer (there's nothing good there), and smack him around... a lot... although I don't get the killing blow in. After some rounds of smacking, we manage to collapse the forces quickly within each other.

We are progressing really slowly, and after moving to these two buildings and... a minute or so of combat, we turn in for the night...


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