June 2003

It was board games night last night. Ended up playing Taj Mahal all evening. As it was the first time anyone had played, we spent some time setting it up and listening to Lise critique it for linguistic, historical and geographical accuracy. It was also necessary to go into the “Don’t Mention the War” routine after we discovered that the German author of the game had provided a rule about precisely how to place the cards you’re bidding with down on the table. Julie pipped me to the post in the end, with PaulB shockingly trailing both of us. Surely a sign of the emminent apocalypse. Unfortunately you get nothing for a close second, so my ranking won’t improve.

Afterwards, we ended up listening to old CFD CDs. Apparently it stands for “Computerised For Dancing”: all these years and I never knew. A whole generation of people learnt to dance to covers of pop music standards, produced by some chap with a MIDI machine putting in the requisite cheesy beats behind them (in strict tempo, of course). We resolved to have a retro General Dancing at the earliest available opportunity.

For quite naff music, it was surprisingly evocative. I largely avoid the danger of seeing university as a mythical golden age by reading the emails I wrote at the time. But I do have happy memories of cycling into town to quickstep to Walking on Sunshine , waltz to If You Don’t Know Me By Now, and to chase girls from the women’s colleges. In one of Adrian Plass’s books, he talks about how for him, Heaven would be one eternal cricket match. For me, it’d be twirling round that hall. Those were the days. Things are different now: these days, I drive.

Spoilers for The Matrix Reloaded.

<lj-cut> So, who spotted the paraphrase from the Book of Daniel when the Nebuchadnezzar blew up? Morpheus’s line “I had a dream, and that dream has gone from me.” See, CICCU did me proud after all. Not sure whether that’s particularly significant to the plot, but it’s probably one of those hidden reference thingies (Nebuchadnezzar is one of the kings in Daniel).

The Drogon Arch-Wizards’ Idling Club discussed a page about that mysterious bit with the Architect, which goes some way to explaining what was going on, and argues reasonably convincingly that Zion is not in a second Matrix. That page links to a Salon.com article about it, which explains a few more things, mostly about how the machines seem to need human choice. Both of these pages are speculation, of course, but interesting speculation at that.

Someone also pointed out a short story by Neil Gaiman on the official Matrix site, which I rather liked.

Of course, no Matrix discussion would be complete without mentioning this.

It’s nearly midnight and I’ve not watched the next Alias tape yet. The lovely Syd will have to wait til the weekend now, by the looks of things. (If terriem is allowed to be gooey over French bloke, I can do the same over Sydney, I reckon. Turnabout is fair play, and all that).

Couldn’t sleep last night, even without the thunderstorms we had on Monday morning. Feeling quite good after dancing so no obvious reason for it. I woke up to a fading dream, and thought “so that’s what it was about” (it was the obvious thing, for those that know me). The odd thing is I didn’t realise this during the time when I was lying there the previous night.

Someone I read recently (either Dawkins, or the Guns, Germs and Steel guy) suggested brains naturally do lots of things in parallel. This is as opposed to computers, which fake their ability to multi-task by switching between tasks very fast: computers pretend to be female but are actually male. Dawkins suggests consciousness is about picking out a consistent thread from all the things your brain is actually doing at the time. Everyone has the experience of the solution to a problem popping in to their head when they thought they’d stopped thinking about it. The little narrator in our heads is just surfing along on top of a sea of other things, occasionally noticing something that’s going on. Now I think of it, the idea of the sea as metaphor for the unconscious pops up in a lot of places, from the interpretation of the calming of the storm in The God of Surprises to Clive Barker’s Quiditty.

Enough. I was discussing with the Matrix Reloaded with the Drogon lot last night. They came up with some interesting links to interpretations of the story, which I’ll post when I get home. Dancing was fun. Finally getting the hang of the evil Paso Doble, and there was an easy but interesting Samba routine as well. Pub afterwards with the usual crowd, less those who had to run off to revise or some other such nonsense. Looks like we might get a gang together to go to Darwin Ball, where I hear there are pole dancers 😉

If you have a LiveJournal, you’re a blogger. It’s short for “web logger”, you see. The Register writes that most bloggers are teenage girls. “Teenage girls of all ages”, they add, pointing to examples of grown men throwing tantrums, dieting, experimenting with alcohol, and, for all I know, giggling and going gooey over that bloke from Alias.

The Register is a tabloid, and as such they love to build things up, buttercup baby, just to knock them down. Blogs never deliver what they say they will, the Register says, pointing to the exciteable speculation of the professional bloggers, who apparently think they’re the vanguard of a revolution in communication in which the centralised corporate meeja will be the first against the wall.

This is all pretty reasonable. The number of people on the Internet is very much larger than the number of people who care enough to read any given web log, and the number of people on the Internet is very much smaller than the number of people. So the revolution will not be blogged, fair enough. But then it all gets a bit nasty.

…blogging is a solitary activity that requires the blogger to spend less time reading a book, taking the dog for the walk, meeting friends in the pub, seeing a movie, or reading to the kids. The reason that 99.93 per cent of the world doesn’t blog, and never will, is because people make simple information choices in what they choose to ingest and produce, and most of this will be either personal and private, or truly social.

Maybe blogs are a way of keeping the truly antisocial out of harm’s way. So if you know a middle-aged sociopath, for heaven’s sake, point him to a computer and show him how to start a weblog.

At least it will keep him off the streets.

This is going away from the worthy task of pricking the pretensions of those blogging advocates and getting close to the old Saturday Night Live sketch about how some people need to “get a life”. The Register’s problem is that it fails to differentiate between people trying to get attention for their revolution and friends who are just quietly doing their thing. No-one thinks any step away from talking face to face is an absolute improvement. But given the constraints of distance and free time, alternatives like the telephone, email, instant messenger, and even a LiveJournal might be the next best thing. Every time some new way of taking that step turns up, people regard it as slightly odd. Back in 1994, it used to be that knowing email addresses off by heart was “sad”, but knowing telephone numbers wasn’t.

Letters, phone calls, email, Drogon, and this blog thingy are useful as long as there are friends using them. It’s not a revolution, it’s more of the same. Blog like no-one’s watching, because to a first approximation, you’re right.

I had a barbeque yesterday. The weather was ideal: hot and sunny. Lots of people made the trek out here to lie in my back garden and eat food. It did separate into the dancing lot and the Churchill lot a bit, but I think everyone enjoyed themselves. So that was nice. I’m very lucky to have so many friends.

The plan for today is more mundane: washing, emailing people and possibly cranking up Powerpoint to write a lunchtime talk on one of the tools I’ve written (the company has talks on a Monday lunchtime, which people can go along to if they feel like it). I’ve got an appraisal goal to do the talk and my next appraisal is coming up. Might also do one based on the article I wrote for Kuro5hin on spam filtering, if I have time.