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Saturday 7 September 2002, 23:40 BST
Crash Bonsai. The perfect accessory.
No passengers have been injured in CrashBonsai accidents, although some drivers have reported a brief, even euphoric loss of consciousness.
[Via Boing Boing]
Damn! Word has it that Farscape has been cancelled. There's one season left to see for those of us watching the show on BBC2, but since the announcement was only made as the final scenes of season 4 were being shot it's unlikely that the season finale will bring the story of John Crichton's adventures in the Uncharted Territories to a satisfactory conclusion.

Farscape may have lacked the name recognition of the Trek franchise, but at its best it was enormous fun. The show took more chances with the basic space opera format than shows like Andromeda or Enterprise, or any show this side of Lexx for that matter. (That's not to say that the aforementioned shows are necessarily bad, just that they're somewhat more formulaic. In terms of written SF, it's the difference between Peter F Hamilton's Night's Dawn trilogy and Iain M Banks' Culture novels.)

I just hope the finale the writers had planned for Farscape's fourth season didn't end on a cliffhanger the way season 3 did. That would be a horrible way to go out.
Google Cooking: it's the latest craze.

[Via kottke]
I thoroughly enjoyed The Rocketeer on Channel 5 this evening. It's not quite up there with Raiders of the Lost Ark as a homage to the 30s pulps, but it's streets ahead of junk like The Shadow. Bill Campbell was OK as the title character, but Jennifer Connelly (Mmmmm... Jennifer Connelly...), Alan Arkin and Timothy Dalton were all excellent - Dalton especially. The film looked the part, there was no attempt to be all ironic and knowing about the genre and its conventions, and even the special effects held up reasonably well. What's not to like?

This promises to be quite a film-heavy weekend for me. I killed time while waiting for a bus after work on Friday by wandering into my local HMV, and ended up getting sucked into their "Buy 1 DVD, get another free" promotion. I picked a couple of favourites from directors whose fortunes have declined in the last decade. The 2-disc special edition of John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China is pretty much guaranteed to please, being a very nice blend of action and humour and featuring a nicely judged performance from Kurt Russell as a hero who has no idea just how far out of his depth he is.

Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands is slighly more of a gamble, insofar as I haven't seen it since the initial cinema release, but the cast is solid, the script - as far as I can remember - was excellent, and Burton was in the middle of a run of really good films at the turn of the 90s. All in all I think it's safe to say it'll at least be worthwhile. And besides, it was free (sort of) so how can I go wrong?
When I'm not watching DVDs this weekend I'll be devouring Barry Hughart's Bridge of Birds, a fantasy novel set in an mythical version of China and telling the story of Master Li, who has a slight flaw in his character, and his companion Number Ten Ox. I'm only some sixty pages in, but I've already noticed that I can't help grinning like an idiot as Hughart's tale unfolds.
Friday 6 September 2002, 23:05 BST
In these days when copyright is such a touchy subject, it's entirely appropriate that Spider Robinson's short story about copyright extension Melancholy Elephants is available online free of charge.

[Via Boing Boing]
Bonjour. Mon nom est lying motherfucker. "Undermining literacy projects everywhere." Sheer genius.

[Via linkmachinego]
Thursday 5 September 2002, 22:35 BST
Superb Flash-based Air Hockey game. Very fast, but also quite tricky to control if you're using a mouse.

[Via linkmachinego]
Cutting words. Over at Mighty Girl, Margaret Berry notes a writer with a nice line in scorn:
In the June 2002 issue of GQ, Bob Drury writes of former George magazine editor Richard Blow's memoir:

"What is certain is that Blow types faster than he can write."
Contrary to earlier reports, it turns out that the Greek government hasn't banned all electronic games.

[Via pop-up toaster]
Kris pointed out a fascinating collection of Barbie Dolls repainted and costumed to resemble film stars. Cher looks especially lifelike (though it could be that's because she's had so much surgery she's more plastic than the doll!), but Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's is pretty fine too. I'm not at all sure about this rendering of Denzel Washington though.

[Via web-goddess]
Wednesday 4 September 2002, 23:35 BST
Q&A With Steve Wozniak. For those of you who haven't heard the name, just take it from me that this is one of the guys who shaped the personal computer revolution back when Bill Gates was still trying to get Microsoft Basic working.

The interview covers a lot of territory, going for breadth rather than depth, but it gives a really good insight into the mindset of the techies who built the first couple of generations of personal computers. Not that the likes of Steve Jobs and Mike Markkula didn't make important non-technical contributions to Apple's success in the pre-IBM PC era, but without Woz Apple wouldn't have been half as important.

As it happens, one section of this article links nicely with yesterday's post about Professor Kevin Warwick's plans to come up with a child-location implant. It turns out that Woz is currently looking at precisely this sort of GPS-meets-wireless-networks-meets-the-internet technology - albeit as a device you carry round on your person, rather than as an implantable chip. Woz versus Warwick: I know which one I'd bet on to crack the problem.

[Via MetaFilter]
According to a survey cited in The Register, email and internet "abuse" are the most common reason given for sacking employees in the UK. Apparently two-thirds of the sackings are because the employee has been viewing or distributing porn. I find this a quite staggeringly high proportion, considering all the other ways you can get the sack nowadays without the use of information technology.

I can't help wondering what the definition of "porn" is in this instance. Is "porn" being used as a catch-all term to cover not just pornography but also rather tamer pictures or messages which are deemed objectionable because they are considered degrading or to create a hostile atmosphere? Does it include cases where someone accesses a web page which isn't in itself pornographic but which sometimes runs ad banners advertising porn sites? Or is it just that there are vast amounts of hardcore material floating around my employer's intranet but nobody ever includes me in the distribution list so I'm working on in blissful ignorance...

I wonder what the other third of internet-related dismissals are all about? Given how easy it can be to drop a friend an email from work, the former trade union representative in me can't help but wonder how often management jump on a couple of innocuous private emails as a pretext for dismissing an employee who they've been wanting rid of but couldn't build a solid inefficiency case against.
Tuesday 3 September 2002, 22:25 BST
Osama bin Laden is alive and well and living in Utah. Barbara Mikkelson of snopes.com talks to Salon about the September 11th rumour mill.
The Register is seriously unimpressed with Professor Kevin Warwick's latest bright idea.

[Via Techdirt]
Tom of plasticbag.org has noticed something interesting about Six Feet Under. Had you spotted the resemblance between Dallas and Six Feet Under?

[Via 8[letters]]
Monday 2 September 2002, 23:25 BST
The 2002 Hugo Award results have been announced. I'm particularly delighted that Neil Gaiman's American Gods won best novel, not least because it's healthy for fantasy novels to win a Hugo every once in a while. Not to mention that American Gods was a tremendous piece of work in its own right.
Over at digitaltrickery.com, Paul points out a very neat feature I'd missed in Mozilla 1.1.

You can bookmark a group of tabbed browser windows using the Bookmark This Group Of Tabs... option on the Bookmarks menu, then open them all again later with a single click.

This isn't a completely novel idea - Opera has allowed you to open all bookmarks in a folder with a single command for quite a while now - but it's still very nice to see it in Mozilla, especially as you can drag additional URLs to and from the group bookmark later. I'll be using this feature a lot.
View from the left Banks. Iain (M) Banks interviewed for Scotland on Sunday:
FOR all I know Iain Banks may lead a private life as suave and sophisticated as that of a character in a Noel Coward play. After our interview, he may go home to North Queensferry and don smoking jacket and cravat, but somehow I don't think so. Bearded and bespectacled, he comes across as an eternal geography student with gingery whiskers. In plaid shirt and chinos, with bulging, black backpack worn strapped neatly onto both shoulders, he's a real-ale-quaffing boy who likes his toys - fast cars and computers.
[Via mssv.net]
Occult knowledge gleaned from watching movies.
Torches
Planning on any midnight traipsing through forgotten tombs? Bring matches. After five millenia, the torches remain kerosene-soaked and will burst into flame at the slightest spark.
Sunday 1 September 2002, 21:55 BST
Nine Men And A Little Lady. Mary Sue meets The Lord of the Rings.
Legolas' Journal

Western slopes of the Misty Mountains, January 2, 3019

It's happening again! Why can't anybody else SEE it?! She's watching me. Constantly. I can feel her eyes on the back on my neck, trying to get into my head -- any day now I'm going to wind up brooding in a tree and reciting love poetry. Just yesterday I was forced to save her from a random orc -- yes, a random orc. They tend to pop up around her. I had no choice! If I hadn't, she would have thrown herself in front of it and incurred some sort of nasty injury that would "require" me to nurse her back to health.

Ugh! I wonder if I could "accidentally" shoot her in the head the next time we get into a scrap. No...no, thanks to all the showing off I've already done with the bow nobody would believe that. Maybe I should bring Gimli into my confidences? Perhaps he would help...what am I thinking? Gimli doesn't even LIKE me until sometime past the middle of this book.

I don't know if I can hold out that long.

Augh! I'm chewing my right braid again. Bad habit. But...she's staring at me. Her eyes are violet tonight, and her hair is flame-red -- the colors clash, but on her it looks stunning...almost...irresistible...

Must not think that. Must not give in. Must not...be strong, man, be strong...
[Via rec.arts.sf.written]
Robin Williams Must Die says Sean Nelson. I'm not quite convinced that capital punishment is the answer - but then, I've never seen Patch Adams or Bicentennial Man, so perhaps I'm simply not familiar with the most damning evidence for the prosecution.

[Via Lots of Co.]
Charlie Stross is still getting used to being a Hugo nominee attending a WorldCon.
Freakish experiences of your life: having, say, Joe Haldeman come up to you and say "I really like your work" is, um, slightly disconcerting but gratifying. But when the experience is repeated with Greg Bear, Gregory Benford, Robert Silverberg, and Vernor Vinge, you start looking over your shoulder wondering when the guy they're talking about is going to show up and denounce you as an imposter. Weird.
I think he'd better get used to it. Lobsters, the novelette which earned him his Hugo nomination, is very good indeed, and his short story collection Toast: And Other Rusted Futures demonstrates that Lobsters was no fluke.

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