July 2003

Everyone seems to be doing this survey, so here goes.

I just updated this with the missing bedroom question.

<lj-cut> What facial feature do you find the most attractive on others? Smile, eyes.

Would you vote for a woman candidate for president? Yes.

Would you marry for money? No.

Have you had braces? No.

Do you pluck your eyebrows? Er, no.

Do you ever cut or hurt yourself? No.

Could you live without a computer? Yes, but it’d be less interesting.

Do you drink enough water? I think so.

Do you wear shoes in the house or take them off? Take them off.

What is your favourite fruit? Not really into fruit. Apples are nice.

Do you eat wheat bread or white? White

What is your favourite place to visit? Hrm… I don’t really have one. It’s more about who I’m with than where I am.

Are you photogenic? No.

Do you dream in colour or black and white? In colour.

Are you wearing nail polish? No.

Do you have any dimples? Buggered if I know.

Do you remember being born? No. One of my earliest memories is of visiting my sister just after she was born, though.

Why do you take surveys? Why not?

Did you like or do you like secondary school? I did well academically but I was awkward. Sixth Form was better.

When you are asleep do you like being kissed? No idea.

Do you think women should be expected to shave their body hair? No. Except for ones with moustaches. 🙂

Do you like salty food or sugary food the most? Sugary.

Is a flat stomach important to you? No.

Are you tolerant of other peoples beliefs? Largely, although I’ve been known to go like a terrier after loonies who imply that they always know better than anyone else.

When you watch a movie at home, do you like the lights on or off? Off.

Do you believe in magic? No, I believe in sufficiently advanced technology.

Do you have nightmares frequently? No.

Do you like your nose? It’s fine by me.

Do you listen to music daily? Yes, either Radio 4 or Radio 2. And VibeFM courtesy of my housemate.

At what age did you find out that Santa Claus wasn’t real? Don’t remember.

How many pairs of shoes do you have in your closet? 3 or 4

Do you like to wear the same shoes everyday or do you like a variety? The same ones.

Do you write poetry? No.

Do you snore? No.

Do you sleep more on your back, front, or sides? Side.

Do you lick stamps? Yes.

Do you use an electric can opener? No.

Have you ridden in a hot air balloon? No.

Which hurts the most, physical or emotional pain? Not comparable: they hurt in different ways.

Do you think balding men should shave their heads? Yes.

Do you know anyone who is clinically depressed? Not that I know of.

Do you prefer a piano or a violin? A piano.

Do you know someone who has cancer? No.

Do you like to hunt? No.

Do you have a middle name? What is it? No. Tiberius.

Are you tired? Yes.

Did you drink anything with caffeine in it today? Tea, tea and more tea.

How long is your hair? Fairly short, but needs cutting again.

Do you get along with your parents? Yes.

What colour of eyes do you prefer? No preference.

Are you a virgin? <clinton>I did not have sex with that woman.</clinton>

What medications do you take? Azathioprine, pentasa and questran.

What does your bedroom look like? Clothes on the floor, and books too. Blue curtains and lampshade (replacing the fetching floral curtains and “Forever Friends” lampshade which came with the house). Books on a couple of long shelves around the walls. Quite a big floor space when there’s nothing on it.

Had a bit of a quiet week last week, but a fairly busy weekend. Made it to GD on Friday for the first time in weeks. I enjoyed myself, although it was a bit quiet, with many regulars absent. Had dinner at pbolchover‘s on Saturday, and had a bit of a gossip. Don’t think I gave anything away I shouldn’t have 🙂

terriem took me to lunch today, at the tapas place on Bridge Street. The food was good, better than the Bun Shop’s tapas, I think. Terrie was treated to me ranting about my ex, but dealt with this with good grace. We wandered around town a bit and looked at books and so on. Decided that a MUD based on concepts of heaven and hell would be a cool thing. I ought to find a working MUD server thingy or write one. Borrowed a few books and left Terrie to make a start on her purchases. Came home and watched “24”, because I’m addicted.

That’s about it. And so to bed.

A quick glance at the folder where my computer puts stuff it thinks is spam shows I’m getting a lot more of it lately (about 5 or 6 spams per day, right now, with more at weekends). The amount coming into the “spamtrap” addresses which report spam to the Distributed Checksum Clearinghouse for the benefit of the world at large seems to be going up too. The DCC works by counting how many times a particular message text has been seen in the wild. Messages with a high count are either spam or legitimate bulk email, so you need to whitelist the mailing lists you’re on so as not to filter them by accident. Every other bulk email that you didn’t ask for (and whitelist) is spam, by definition.

I’m actually doing some good with the spamtraps, as my computer is getting stuff which doesn’t already have a high count and maxing out its count as it sees it.

I can’t imagine what it’d be like for someone whose address appears somewhere on the web or Usenet and who doesn’t have any filters. It looks like it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

Lise’s mention of her Tarot reading a while back made me think of this K5 story, which kind of suggests that there might be exploitable holes in the consistency of the universe, and that there are Things which have learned to exploit them. It’s a neat idea, whether it’s true or not.

The author, localroger, is an interesting chap. As well as writing a series on casinos and gambling, he’s also done some reasonably good SF. His novel, The Metamorphosis of Prime Intellect, is available online, as well A Casino Odyssey Online, a short story set in the same universe. Both stories have something to say about what humans would do if technology meant they could basically have anything they wanted. Neither of them are particularly pleasant though, be warned.

<lj-cut text=”in other news”>

Had a fairly active weekend. I was back at Churchill for another bop on Friday. Not sure I enjoyed it as much as the 50s themed one, as the music was a bit dodgy. I went to 7a Jesus Lane with Lise, Terrie, Viv and Brian + Brian’s friend Darian on Saturday. Ended up in the Maypole, St Eds bar and then at T&L’s. Spent Sunday sat at the back of the Regal trying to answer quiz questions from Darian and failing abysmally. Popped into Clare’s BBQ on the way back. Dancing last night as usual. And so it goes.

Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.

The idea of the Singularity comes from an article by Vernor Vinge. Vinge says that, what with the progress in genetics and computer hardware (such as the trend computer people know as Moore’s Law), it’s likely that we will eventually create entities with greater than human intelligence. When this happens, those entities will know how to create entities even more intelligent than they are, and so on. With ever increasing speed, the curve of intelligence against time will move upwards, and our successors wlll pass beyond our comprehension (the name “Singularity” comes from the mathematical term for the place on a curve where an infinity occurs, such as at x=0 in the graph of 1/x). As Vinge writes:

This change will be a throwing-away of all the human rules, perhaps in the blink of an eye – an exponential runaway beyond any hope of control. Developments that were thought might only happen in a million years (if ever) will likely happen in the next century.

<lj-cut> The essence of the Singularity is a change in human nature which is incomprehensible to those who, either by choice or lack of opportunity, are not part of the change.

In my wanderings around the web, I came across various sites belonging to people who would like to bring about the Singularity. Now, Vinge’s original article is mostly about how the Singularity could go wrong. Evil computers could take over the world, or the aggressive evolutionary heritage of enhanced humans could bring them down (though I’d like to believe that even a superintelligent being which was as selfish as a human would have a better idea of what was good for it than we do right now). So this enthusiasm was a little surprising at first.

I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”

When I look at the pages advocating the Singularity, I see something like a Christian eschatology for techies. Not for nothing has Charles Stross called the Singularity “The Rapture of the Nerds“. I’m an engineer, of sorts. I make things. I look at the world and want to fix it. Things which are broken and could be fixed if only someone would think frustrate me, and apparently others too.

I have had it. I have had it with crack houses, dictatorships, torture chambers, disease, old age, spinal paralysis, and world hunger. I have had it with a planetary death rate of 150,000 sentient beings per day. I have had it with this planet. I have had it with mortality. None of this is necessary. The time has come to stop turning away from the mugging on the corner, the beggar on the street. It is no longer necessary to look nervously away, repeating the mantra: “I can’t solve all the problems of the world.” We can. We can end this. — Staring into the Singularity, Eliezer S. Yudkowsky

Cory Doctorow writes that the Singularity idea gives you that tingly, numinous feeling when you read about it on the web because the Google guided flow of the net puts you in the right mood for the experience. I don’t agree with his other objections: there’s no reason why you can’t simulate the body, glands and all; Penrose might be right, but, unless I’ve missed out on some very big news, there’s no particular reason to think so right now; and there’ll be another fad in AI when genetic algorithms have paid out. True, the AI cheque always seems to be in the post (allow 30 years for delivery), but biotech, and so what Vinge calls IA rather than AI, might be going places.

Could I say truly that this generation will not pass away until these things have come to pass? I’m not sure I quite share the Singulatarians’ beliefs: Doctorow is right in saying that it sounds too good to be true. The dot-bomb should have taught nerds caution when extrapolating trends which seem to be good for them. But sooner or later, if we survive, I suppose I or my descendants might face some questions about whether to join the change.

And being a bit of a techie, I find it easier to believe in a transformed life beyond that particular veil than in Heaven (though both of them have the problem of not quite being able to imagine how I’d still be me). I don’t believe that suffering is essential to humanity (if I was the protagonist at the end of Greg Egan’s short “Reasons to be Cheerful“, I’d have cried for a bit and then moved the sliders: some emotions are best experienced in small doses). And, Dr Asimov, although it’s true that eyes do more than see, their successors should be better yet. So, if I’m still around, sign me up.

Came back from Center Parcs on Friday.

<lj-cut text=”What I did on my holidays”> After spending ages in the opticians trying to get new contact lenses in and then out again, I picked up Ed and jacquic and headed off for Sherwood. The days have all jumbled together somewhat, so here are some highlights:

Paintballing on the Sunday was good. Got hit a few times, including in the face, but it didn’t hurt much. I think the worst bruise was received by Clare, who was shot at close range by a member of her own team who’d left his safety off. I’ve a feeling the other team were being less middle class about keeping to all the rules, so we lost abysmally, but had a good time anyway. Chris’s impersonation of Rambo was fun to watch: I think he must have spent about 60 quid on extra ammo in the end.

Not having to drive anywhere, I was able to have the odd glass of wine now and again. Got a bit sloshed on Sunday night when we all went to the Tex-Mex place, but I don’t think I did anything too embarrassing.

I played badminton and enjoyed it. I think I’m another person who was put off raquet sports by tennis. Unfortunately I was wearing sandals while playing (don’t own trainers and I joined the game unexpectedly, having gone to spectate) and ignored a pain developing in my left foot. I’ve ended up with a nasty patch of missing skin on the bottom of that foot, which has made me limp a little ever since I did it. Silly me. Still, badminton was fun. Also did a bit of table tennis.

terriem lent me new Harry Potter book (with strict instructions not to fold, spindle or mutilate it), which I spent one day reading. I liked it. Will read the next one.

The big swimming pool and waterslides under the dome were fun, although the rapids were not very.

Played a reasonable number of board games and the like. Jacqui appears to be addicted to the Lord of the Rings Top Trumps cards, so I can see her having to buy her own set soon.

We got on reasonably well for a group of people spending time at close quarters for a week, although there were some spats from time to time.

All in all, I’d go again next year and do some more badminton and paintballing (with trainers this time).

I was diverted from General Dancing by a invite from lisekit to a 50s themed bop at Churchill. Whole lotta jiving went on. Good fun was had by all. It was nice to see the old place again. Not much seems to have changed. Returned to Lise and Terrie’s and left rather late, so feeling somewhat tired on Saturday. I went to Tom’s barbeque but not to the fireworks/film showing in town afterwards. Feeling somewhat more rested today.

The Song of Sidney made me laugh. You probably need to have read the original to get it.

I still get Christian sub-culture jokes, despite God’s absentee landlord behaviour and the serious diplomatic incident resulting from the misbehaviour of one of his ambassadors (why yes, I am watching a lot of Babylon 5 lately). If only there were a way to keep that sense of shared community and lose the obsession with blood, sex, sin and death which seemed so inseperable from it.