|Being ill has given me a chance to plough through some books, though;
I finished off Matt Ridley's
Origins of Virtue over the weekend - nicely-written insight into how
human society can exist as it does, in spite of the selfish nature of
all of its inhabitants. Explaining the evolution of trust and
reciprocity, through war, trade, gift-giving, ecology and religion,
it gives a nicely-written history of all these aspects of our
species, constantly littering the chapters with memorable examples
and explanations (including impressive demolition of the "noble
savage" myth), and drawing or destroying parallels with other
members of the animal kingdom.|
The other was Rupert Thomson's Soft,
a tale of fizzy-drink advertising taken too far, of a particularly
dangerously piece of memetic marketing. Told from the perspectives
of three very different protagonists, their hefty chunks of
narrative overlap and converge towards some very unsettling
plot turns. Besides the superb plot, the book's quite thoroughly readable
for its style alone - although Thomson goes rather over the top
with descriptive similes, at times, they're all quite beautiful,
giving a very real and varying London backdrop to the majority of
the book's events. Must read his other stuff.
|Unnerving how physical illness can emphasise the connection and
disconnection between mind and body so heavily. I've been lolling
around nauseously for most of today and
the weekend, thoroughly aware of the superfluousness of my
consciousness - my mind feeling listless and detached, and
constantly being told that it might as well just go to sleep and
let the body get on with sorting things out. Diversion of
physiological resources, and all that. Strange how automated and
unconscious it all is. And depressing how much of a metaphor it can
seem, for myself in relation to the rest of life. Tch.
|I haven't seen this for years; the Plumb
Design Visual Thesaurus is quite a nice piece of Java that
lets you wander around a huge network of floating words, interconnected in
(actually quite meaningless) three dimensions. Hypnotic, though. And
impressive how it often throws up quirky, tenuous synonyms; it's quite reminiscent
of the Hipbone
Games in that respect...
|"Crike" - coined accidentally when the relevant part of my
brain fell between my frivolous mainstay "Crikey" and occasional
bold-markup "Christ", I think this may have some potential as a
middle-ground exclamation. Although it possibly sounds a bit too
much like a mediaeval farming implement or cruel Victorian landlord. Hmm.
Foldover Game has been polished a bit and is producing
some sterling nonsense, incidentally.
crumples, which seemed a bit inevitable, really - blog-creation
software can be simple enough for any half-decent programmer to produce,
and if one of them feels they have to start charging people to use it,
enough users will migrate elsewhere for the pay-per-whatevers to falter. As
says, good thing.|
The downside to a proliferation of home-grown blogging
tools, though, is that people aren't going to be overly keen to put
time into writing design and content (and, indeed, handing out FTP
access) for blog-tools that might be brick walls by morning, or
treacle-slow bug-ridden monsters once their memberships increase. But
I suppose it's all just natural selection. I'll be watching with
interest, albeit from outside.
Personally, I suspect the next big wave of Weblogs are going to be via
the likes of Yahoo Geocities; built-in blogging pages that
already know where to FTP things to, and which can be set up and
maintained with no difficult questions whatsoever.
If any quality self-hosting free-of-charge blog sites
should spring up elsewhere and get a good following, I imagine
Yahoo will be quick to attempt assimilation, banner-advertising at the
|I've been rather enjoying BBC2's series of ten-minute programmes about
the solar system - a refreshingly eclectic
soundtrack between the vox sci snippets, and there's something
particularly nice about the CGI shots of a receding Voyager, music
fading tinnily away as if they've strapped a radio to it.
|I've wondered this for some time - why does Marmite
label itself as 100% vegetarian? Are there people who base the
meat content of their diet on such percentages? Should pork pies be
marked as 23% vegetarian? Etc.
|Some distracting little Java games of the "Okay, that's enough, I'm
bored now" variety at popcap.com - most notably Seven Seas,
an elegant implementation of Daleks,
and Psychobabble, an amusing fridge-magnet-poetry competition
where players throw together sentences and then vote for the best. A few
lazily hypnotic symbol-matching puzzle games to be had, as well.
||Hm, this should be interesting - WikiNomic merges the
of having a load of Web pages which absolutely anyone can modify and
add to, with the Nomic concept of having a
game whose rules you're allowed (nay, encouraged) to change as you go
along. Play in WikiNomic hasn't yet started; I suppose we'll have to see who's
interested and then decide what sort of an initial ruleset we think
it needs (the traditional Suber
ruleset always seems a shade too concrete and fearsome, to me).
|(Mm, I can't get to Yahoo
either; presumably some central giblet has failed and
all of its tentacles - including the assimilated remnants of eGroups, hosters
of my favourite mailing lists - have gone limp. One of many
irksome things about a single entity taking control of others that were
working perfectly well beforehand.)
Inheritors last night; an impressively strange book. Telling the
story of a group of neanderthals having their territory invaded by
written from the point of view of one of the former, which makes for
quite a challenge in deciphering what's actually happening, often
complicated events being described in uncomprehending terms.|
An ultimately rewarding effort, though, the simplistic, slightly puzzled
narrative giving an effective window into a less developed brain, and
making for some particularly striking "camera pulling back" shifts
of perspective towards the end. Memorable insight into a piece of
pre-history, however fictionalised, and a sobering portrait of mankind.
|News coverage of the
Hey business has all seemed a bit alarmist and exaggerated, to me - not
once has anyone pointed out that the organs removed without consent were
used to save people's lives, or that the money received from drug
companies was presumably used to fund worthwhile hospital things. Yes,
it's shameful that nobody thought to ask the children's parents, but it's
not as if - as the general feeling of the coverage seems to imply - doctors have been sacrificing body parts to elder gods and
blowing all the pharmaceutical funding on cocaine and prostitutes.|
But having said that, the following bit of mad science was
rather disturbing, although probably complete nonsense:-
"One detail expected to be revealed is that Professor Dick van Velzen,
the pathologist at the centre of the Alder Hey controversy, kept a
child's head preserved in a jar."
|Buy online access to three of someone's favourite death
spells, for a mere $13.95. "You can print them off your computer,
or, just bookmark them!"
'can reduce brain power' says a report - the conclusion
seems to be that the body needs to divert 'physiological resources'
away from the brain to bring hot or cold ingested liquid to body temperature.
Which seems reasonable enough, and is a vaguely unsettling reminder of our
minds' reliance on the rest of the body. I wonder how it compares to the
resources needed to digest food or breath cold air, though. And what office
watercooler people make of all this.
||If you have no loose change and are unable to make decisions, you can
always flip a virtual coin.
|Hm, a tentatively larger font for As Above, as well as some minor
CSS gubbins, which I've been meaning to start playing around with.
Better? Worse? Say something.