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Saturday 16 November 2002, 19:20 GMT
Star Links is a general-purpose version of the Oracle of Bacon, designed to allow you to figure out how many links separate any two film actors. It's surprising just how close seemingly disparate actors are: Not a new concept, I know, but fun to play with.

[Via rec.arts.sf.written]
Is a 60ft lava lamp your idea of a tourist attraction? I don't know how far I'd go out of my way to see one, but if I was passing I'd certainly stop and take a look. (Especially at night.)

[Via Windowseat Weblog]
Sculptor gets the lead out with miniature carvings. Astonishing sculptures, carved directly into the graphite core of an ordinary pencil. Without the aid of a magnifying glass.

[Via scrubbles.net]
Friday 15 November 2002, 22:30 GMT
Despair Inc's Demotivators Calendar for 2003 is now available. Hilarious stuff. My favourites this year are Indifference, Intimidation and Motivation.
Steven "FEED" Johnson now has a weblog. This one is going straight on my Daily Reads list.
Lords of risky programming. A couple of years ago US TV networks went through a spell where they imported any number of quiz show and reality TV formats from the UK. Now they're repeating the process, only this time they're looking to produce localised versions of comedy shows like The Kumars At No 42 and Coupling.

As it happens I'm not a fan of either show, but the general question of how far it's necessary to translate concepts for the US market intrigues me. Despite all the clever people working on the job and the masses of experience of what works and what doesn't, I have the impression that there are a lot more failures than successes. This applies as much to simply importing shows as it does to attempts to create a localised version of an imported show. Look at all the US sitcoms and dramas which end up being shown on weekday afternoons on Channel 4, or at 2am on ITV. "Two nations divided by a common language" indeed.

I'd be fascinated to see what would happen if a US network tried to come up with an americanised Spaced or The Book Group. I suspect that I wouldn't appreciate the results. But then, I doubt I'd like an ITV version of Buffy much. Just imagine: Robson Greene as Angel. Ross Kemp as Spike. Denise Van Outen as Buffy. How terrifying is that? (Not in a good way, obviously.)

[Via I Love Everything]
Princess Leia's Metal Bikini. Yes, it's about exactly what you think it is.

[Via parallax view]
Thursday 14 November 2002, 22:45 GMT
What happens if you bring together a barcode reader, a wireless internet connection and Google? The future of consumer activism, or a perfect excuse for companies to redouble their efforts to control what people say about them on the internet?

[Via Blog.org]
Do you remember the news stories earlier this year about the nine miners who were trapped in a flooded Pennsylvania mine for 77 hours?

It turns out that the Quecreek Nine are distinctly unpopular in some quarters nowadays, primarily because the accident has prompted a number of official investigations of the way the mining company operated the mine prior to the accident. One potential consequence of all these inquiries (at least as the company, and some of the remaining employees, see it) is that the mine could go out of business, devastating the town's economy. And that's before you consider the possibility that the miners - who almost died in the incident, after all - might sue the company.

Somehow I doubt that the forthcoming TV movie will include this story as a coda to their tale of heroism.

[Via MetaFilter]
Stu over at feeling listless points out a homage to My So-Called Life in Cameron Crowe's Jerry Maguire. Actually, make that two homages. Very cool indeed. (And yes, I'd love to see Cameron Crowe direct an MSCL movie.)
Wednesday 13 November 2002, 23:55 GMT
I haven't got any links to post this evening, but I think I've got a good excuse.

When I got home from work I found the Extended Edition DVD of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring waiting for me, courtesy of those nice people at Amazon. Naturally, I had to devote 3½ hours of my evening to watching it.

If you've seen the theatrical version of the film then I don't need to tell you that it's about as good and faithful adaptation of Tolkien's epic as you could reasonably hope for. The additional footage is definitely worth having, particularly the gift-giving by Galadriel. I haven't even begun to work my way through the two discs of extras, but judging by the contents list there are plenty of treats yet to come.

One unfortunate effect of watching the DVD is that I'm now even more impatient for the opening of The Two Towers. And then I'll have to wait another 12 months for The Return of the King. It's not fair!
Tuesday 12 November 2002, 22:55 GMT
101 things that the Mozilla browser can do that IE cannot. Some of the entries on the list would make the average non-geek go "huh?" whereas others are rather vague ("Easily installed" is a value judgement, and in any case it can be said that Internet Explorer is "easily installed" on your average Windows system since it requires no effort at all to install a program which is already present) but there are a fair number of solid plus points for Mozilla too. And you can't argue with number 101:
101. Giant lizards are cool
Much more exciting than a blue e.
[Via rc3.org]
Have you ever wondered how John Cleese would tell the story of Superman? Wait a little while and there'll be no need to wonder:
"John and his partner, Kim Howard Johnson, have come up with a Superman Elseworlds called True Brit," said Carlin. "It's 'What if Superman's rocketship lands in England and the tabloids chase him away.'"
It promises to be an ... interesting ... enterprise.

[Via Bookslut]
The Terkezi Oasis in the Sahara desert, as seen from Earth orbit. Yet another spectacular Astronomy Picture of the Day.
Joss Whedon is TV's Cult Hero. Yet another Joss Whedon interview, this one giving a decent overview of his career to date.

(NB/- the article contains spoilers for all Buffy viewers based in the UK, and especially for BBC2 viewers. There aren't any significant spoilers for Angel and Firefly.)

[Via The Sideshow]
Monday 11 November 2002, 22:25 GMT
Ghostzilla is the browser of choice for people who aren't supposed to be browsing the web at work.

Although it won't stop your sysadmin from spotting your browsing in his log files, it will make it harder for colleagues looking over your shoulder to notice that you're browsing the web. (It's also a really neat trick for Mozilla to disguise itself like this.)

[Via MetaFilter]
HTTP 404 Porn Not Found.
The porn cannot be displayed

The porn you are looking for is currently unavailable. The Web site might be experiencing technical difficulties, or your cramped, sticky fingers may have typed in the wrong URL.
Please try the following:

* Click the Refresh button, or take a cold shower and try again later.

[...]
[Via dutchbint]
Davezilla lives in a lovely neighbourhood.
Sunday 10 November 2002, 20:30 GMT
An amazing video of a round of Tetris from the 2001 Japanese Tetris Championship.
(NB/- 13MB MPEG video file.)

[Via Boing Boing]
Far Side cartoons Made Real. Madness, I tell you. Utter madness!

My favourites are If we pull this off... and Tether Cat.
Over in rec.arts.sf.written, Elf Sternberg gives us all an insight into the high-precision marketing tactics used to signal just what type of romance novel you're buying:
[...] Consider your favorite scenario: A clock means that the protagonist finds the man of her dreams in a whirlwind romance that proceeds from introduction to love scene to marriage proposal within a weekend. A stork means that the woman finds the man of her dreams, love scene, marriage, and gives birth to a perfect baby before the book ends. A carriage, on the other hand, indicates the "unwed mother" scenario. A badge means that the protagonist wants and needs a protector, a strong man who can defend her against something, and usually he's a perfect lover and companion and ultimately husband as well.

It's as targeted, as direct, and as cynically manipulative of the reproductive instincts of the human female as "Three hot bi babes do it all for you!" is of the human male's. And many women buy it as readily as guys do porn.
I can't say that I've noticed similar tactics being used on science fiction readers - at any rate, not with such precision-guided targeting - but the question is whether my subconscious is getting the message loud and clear. If anything, I'd say that the problem with the cover art on many SF novels is that it bears little resemblance to the contents of the book.

As it happens I buy such a high proportion of my books online nowadays that all I usually see of a new novel's cover art is the tiny image on the Amazon web site. The only times I've ever bothered to look at the larger version on the site are when someone has told me that the image is spectacularly tacky. (The most common offenders: Baen Books, whose covers for Lois Bujold's Vorkosigan novels are usually dreadful.) I suppose an artfully designed cover might reassure me that I've made the right choice, but I find that cover art is more likely to put me off a book than make me think it's worth buying. (At least, that's what I keep telling myself. There's probably someone in a romance newsgroup posting right now about how carefully the artwork on SF book covers hints at the content within.)
An elderly Belgian who was estranged from his family was killed by one of the boobytraps he set up in his house. His intention seems to have been to ensure that whoever came snooping around his house wouldn't survive the experience.

I don't know about turning it into a Hollywood movie, but I can certainly see it as a video game.

[Via MetaFilter]

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