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Home > Weblog w/e 21.4.2001


Saturday 21 April 2001, 23:55 BST
Elite for EMACS. Oh god, now Microsoft will add Flight Simulator to Word 2002! (After all, there's already a rudimentary flight simulator Easter Egg in Excel.) [Via NTK]
The Robot With the Mind of an Eel. Next up: laminated mouse brain CPUs? [Via Metafilter]
Mark Van de Walle talks with Richard Evans about the AI subroutines in Black & White, the latest god-game from Peter "Populous" Molyneux. My favourite exchange:
FEED: Have you been surprised by any of the creatures' -- or villagers' -- behaviors so far?

EVANS: The first time the creature was put down in the game world, he just stared at his feet. I was puzzled, but after debugging found that the creature was trying to eat himself. He was hungry, and had spotted himself as a nearby convenient object!
Bruce Sterling on the European response to the Bush administration's refusal to sign the Kyoto protocol.
I find a definite upside here -- I'm feeling 18 years younger! We '80s cyberpunks always hankered to be heroic dissidents in a corporate-dominated dystopia. Cue those syndrums, maestro, it's war to the knife in the neon-lit backstreets of cyberspace!
[Via the null device]
"Be Irish. Be counted." That's the slogan used by organisations hoping to encourage the maximum number of people to use the new tick-box in this year's census. Brendan O'Neill ponders whether "Irish" means anything at all.
Douglas Adams isn't terribly impressed by the wonders of modern technology. [Via Techdirt]
Friday 20 April 2001, 23:40 BST
Workers lose three hours to net, reports BBC News Online. A new survey paints a dismal picture of management attitudes to employee internet access, but I don't think the real story is that awful. According to the same survey two-thirds of British firms have policies governing employee use of internet access, compared to only a third of French businesses. I'd say that's a positive feature of the British approach.

At my office we're permitted to use our internet access for non-business purposes before starting work, after finishing work or during our lunch breaks. (There are the usual caveats that we not download content that is offensive or illegal and we not download software, but that's hardly unreasonable.) Given such a policy, I at least know where I stand. The problem is offices which don't have any stated policy, where employees' use of their internet access is entirely subject to the whims of their supervisor.
Be careful who you brag to about your sexual prowess. [Via Haddock Directory]
What a nice company. Not all businessmen set their lawyers on web sites the second they see a trademark violation. If only a few more businesses would learn this lesson. [Via Metafilter]
Thursday 19 April 2001, 22:50 BST
Extreme Stick Death. This is popping up in weblogs everywhere today. Go and watch it, right this instant. You won't regret it.
New Scientist reports that Chinese researchers are developing temperature-sensitive paint that helps regulates your house's temperature by changing colour according to the ambient temperature. Neat. [Via As Above]
Note to all PR people: if you're working for a large company trying to spin the facts to suit yourselves, it's a Very Bad Idea to put your press releases up on the web as Microsoft Word documents. Just ask Alcatel.

Emailing people Word documents is an equally poor idea, for exactly the same reasons. Stick to plain text wherever possible, or RTF if you must have formatted text. Or even HTML, for goodness' sake. [Via rc3.org]
The Ageless Project. Proof that old fogeys can write weblogs too. [Via tired lil' brit girl]
The Jesus Food Network. Simultaneously tasty and tasteless... [Via The View From Here]
Wednesday 18 April 2001, 23:10 BST
Amy Benfer relates The Saga of the Bra Ball.
Being lazy is healthy. Yay! [Via Metafilter]
Battledress will be worn at the Miss Universe contest. [Via Plastic]
Greg Knauss is very observant. Not to mention fertile.
Anyone who's lived in the same house as a cat knows that our feline friends have a nasty habit of bringing their kill indoors and presenting it to their owners. The Flo Control Project details a rather nifty DIY solution to the problem. What can I say? This sort of thing presses all my geekish buttons at once. [Via web-goddess]
A modest proposal: could we please have the four day working week we were promised fifty years ago. [Via Plastic]
Tuesday 17 April 2001, 23:15 BST
Pamie mourns the passing of her beloved Tivo. Seems like there might be a business opportunity for someone to provide backup services, so that the bereaved don't have to spend hours training their new Tivo.
Not everyone agrees that Scott McCloud's sunny view of the future of online comics is warranted. Just ask Gary Groth. [Via linkmachinego]
Martin "qwertyuiop" Griffiths was very impressed by the Eden Project. It's a shame it'd be such a long trek for me: the web site makes it look like an extremely worthwhile use of lottery money. Perhaps I'll have to visit something a little closer to home, like the Magna Science Adventure Centre in Sheffield. Giles Worsley seems enthusiastic enough, but then he's primarily interested in the site's architectural merit. [Magna link via The View From Here]
Monday 16 April 2001, 22:55 BST
Foreign Fingers: "If you find yourself on foreign soil, it's always best to know how to properly enrage your host with a native insult." [Via timewasting]
Not everyone is looking forward to Steven Speilberg's much-heralded AI as much as Dan "Extenuating Circumstances" Hon, who has put together a very thorough web page itemising all the clues scattered around the various AI-related web sites I mentioned the other day.

Some sceptics - myself included - wonder how well a script written for the icily cerebral Stanley Kubrick will fit Speilberg's more saccharine, touchy-feely style of blockbuster film-making. Others, like Rian Johnson, are more concerned by the attempts to paint Speilberg as Kubrick's natural heir.
Find the Apricot. [Via NTK]
Auschwitz survivors sue US government for US$40 billion for failing to bomb the camp, or at least the rail lines which were used to supply it. [Via Metafilter]
writersblock. A concise summation of The Problem With Flash. [Via timewasting]
Sunday 15 April 2001, 23:55 BST
Riding a rocket up to Earth orbit. This presses all my geek buttons at once: NASA put a camera on top of the Mars Odyssey probe's launch vehicle, and put the resulting video up on the web. Breathtaking stuff.
Alternate AI. Steven Spielberg's film adaptation of Brian Aldiss' short story Supertoys Last All Summer Long will open later this year, hence all the hype that's started to build of late. Spielberg is working from a script originally developed for Stanley Kubrick, and it's likely that his vision of the story will differ from Aldiss' as much as Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey did from Arthur C Clarke's short story The Sentinel. Which is fine, because a film isn't a short story and the point is to be faithful to the spirit of the original rather than the letter.

However, Mark R Kelly, writing in Locus, reports that Aldiss has some ideas of his own as to how his original story might have been developed and wrote two further stories moving the tale on. Now Aldiss' sequels have been published alongside his original story, we'll all be able to look back in a few months' time and see which expansion of the original tale worked best.
Mastercard threatens rec.humor.funny over satire. Brad Templeton, who not only runs rec.humor.funny but is also chairman of the EFF, gives Mastercard's lawyers a short, sharp (and funny) response.

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