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Russell's Blurty

Below are the 25 most recent journal entries.

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  2004.03.02  13.37
Something else to read

By the late Douglas Adams - the first part is just a repeat of stuff we've all heard before, but it improves. Some - not new ideas per se, but very clever connections between existing ideas.


  2004.02.26  08.07
A web camera with a difference


  2004.02.23  05.17
A movie synopsis

Nope, not by me, I haven't seen the movie in question, nor do I intend to. My sole connection to this article is to have spent the last yea minutes nearly falling out of my chair laughing. If you need a good laugh, here it is!


  2004.02.21  01.43
A story

If you're a Lovecraft fan or you remember the Cold War, or better still both, you may enjoy this.

Advance warning: it's a little on the depressing side :)


  2004.02.02  18.59
7th Sea

Received the following request:

More Than Bob: well, if you know anyone interested in making that 7th Sea community
More Than Bob: lemme know
Russell: I can give people your contact number if you like - they'll probably want more specifics though; "making that 7th Sea community"? what community?
More Than Bob: like a coordinated 'theah' of sorts
More Than Bob: different RP groups within the same Theah
Russell: Oh. I'm not sure I see any advantage to that relative to having them in different Theahs, but I'll pass on the word.
More Than Bob: I think it'd be fun, and perhaps premoting the game a bit more in the online rpg world =P

The 7th Sea fans I know are pretty much all on my blurty friends list and vice versa, so this seems the handiest way to pass on the word ^.^ If interested, contact More Than Bob at 10852891.


  2004.01.27  03.15
Alone in the Dark: A New Nightmare (PS2)

Had a go at playing this game this evening... and it really doesn't seem very good. It's not even vaguely scary, the acting isn't great, the characters are a bit dumb and not particularly believable... the graphics are good by the standards of its time, I guess, but not good enough to make watching them an exciting prospect in and of itself. The dogs are funny. *grr, grr! bite!* "Bad dog!" *bang bang!* ^.^ But the combat with the monsters is a bit crap, they just seem to keep biting you until you die no matter what you do.

I've heard talk about how this is an amazingly exciting and scary game. Am I missing something?


  2004.01.19  19.39
The Last Samurai

An interesting movie, this... and hard to describe; there's more to it than appears at first glance. The action scenes are good, but they're not the main point of it. As for what is... if it could be described that easily here, it wouldn't have been necessary to make the movie :) I was impressed by their portrayal of Japanese culture... Salandra, if you read this, do you remember the themes I tried to deal with in the abortive Japan mini-campaign? This movie does something like that, except a good deal better. There was one of the most evocative one-line descriptions of a character's past and present state I can remember ever seeing... and the ending was something of a surprise, at least to me.

On the whole, recommended.


  2004.01.12  18.11
Freaky Friday

I was going to open this with something along the lines of "no, not my Friday, that was perfectly normal", except as those of you in my game will recall it actually was a tad freaky, so nevermind that...

...I ramble, I've been awake too long! Anyway, 'Freaky Friday' is a movie, basically the same theme as the old story 'Vice Versa' but in a modern context. The lead actresses do an utterly perfect job in both the normal and switched roles, the plot is beautifully written, it's full of scenes that make you want to laugh, cringe and cover your eyes simultaneously, and the ending is exactly right. And the music is good too! Highly recommended.


  2003.12.30  22.57

Random comments about movies and games I saw/played over Christmas...

Return of the King: the movie
This is an easy one: brilliant movie! Storywise I didn't think it was quite as good as the second, but still very good, and the special effects literally have to be seen to be believed... good candidates for _the_ best fear-of-heights, battle and bad guy death scenes in all of film history.

Return of the King: the video game
This is a little harder to comment on. The atmosphere is done very well indeed, to the extent of seamless integration of movie and game-engine footage. The combat system is good - not as good as Dark Cloud 2 or a decent fighting game, but still better than most CRPGs. It's a little on the short side and a lot of the levels are annoyingly enough designed to not merit replaying, so I'm not sure if it might make a better rental than purchase, but definitely worth playing one way or the other.

Unlimited Saga
There were a couple of translation problems with this one. For example, when the blurb on the back of the package said " you've never experienced before", they forgot to add "unless you're old enough to remember the type-in-yourself games on the Vic-20", and "free roleplaying" seems to be Japanese for "this is a freeware game we downloaded off the Internet and stuck on the DVD. A 1980s vintage freeware game" :P Thank God for EB's 10 day return policy! I picked up No One Lives Forever, Orphen and one of the Alone in the Dark games while I was there, for only an extra tenner after the exchange ^.^

No One Lives Forever
When people say this is an excellent game - they're right! It really gets the atmosphere of the old spy movies, and the game design is damn near perfect. Highly recommended if you haven't played it already.


  2003.12.19  06.46
Strange puzzle

Wait about 10 seconds for the GIF animation to start - and note that not one pixel is added or removed during the (rather simple) translation. Took me half an hour just now to figure out exactly how it works.


  2003.12.04  19.06
Of mayonnaise jars and the meaning of life

Found this little anecdote today:

"Just a reminder about the important things in life!

When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar... and the beer.

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls.

He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous 'yes'.

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

'Now,' said the professor, as the laughter subsided, 'I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things - your family, your children, your health, your friends, your favorite passions - things that, if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

'The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else - the small stuff.

'If you put the sand into the jar first,' he continued, 'there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you. Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.'

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. 'I'm glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers.'"


  2003.11.22  23.38
An unsurprising movie!

Unlike the last couple of movies I've talked about here, 'The Matrix Revolutions' was just about as good as I expected it to be.

Which is to say, the plot still doesn't make much sense, but the action scenes are excellent and the style just has that overall coolness factor the first two movies had.

And... nothing more to say without spoilers, really. Go see it! It's one of those things you can pretty much unhesitatingly recommend for everyone.


  2003.11.02  00.16
Kill Bill

Saw this today... and I honestly can't see what all the fuss is about.

Let's see, where to start - okay, plot. That's simple, there basically isn't one. I wasn't expecting Shakespeare, but there's no reason you can't put at least a halfway decent plot in an action movie. Oh well.

Okay, on to the important bit, the action scenes. These were... well... honestly, they could have been a good deal better. Sure, there was plenty of swordfighting, lots of arms and heads and stuff chopped off - they must have got a bulk discount on fake blood. But where were the shuriken, ninja kung fu action, car chases, people crashing through windows on motorcycles, heroine ducking bursts of machine gun fire, fighting on rooftops and kicking each other through skylights, miscellaneous explosions for good measure? There were a few interesting bits (the first fight scene was the best in the movie, and the Japanese schoolgirl has a good scene :)) but mostly it was hack hack hack hack hack. It's a pity because they sure as heck weren't short of money.

And the lines. I mean, think of a good Clint Eastwood or Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, and what comes to mind? The witty one-liners! Pulp Fiction, that's got so many I was seeing quotes from it for years before I got around to seeing it. Kill Bill... well, the bit about the sake was funny, and the Japanese villainess's closing line wasn't bad. The rest... every time a character got a chance to say a witty line, they'd instead blather on for several extremely unmemorable sentences.

(Oh, anyone who's seen it, could you figure out what the bit with the lawyer was in aid of? I mean I know lawyers aren't amazingly well liked, but I thought that was overdoing it a tad? :))

You get this a lot: a writer makes it big on the strength of a few good novels or movie scripts, then nobody dares say no to him anymore and he gets sloppy. If anyone other than Quentin Tarantino had come up with this script, someone would have gone through it with a red pen. As it was... sigh.

It's not a terribly _bad_ movie, there are some good bits; maybe worth watching if there's nothing higher on your list at the moment. I'll probably watch part 2 when it comes out to see if it picks up a bit. But if you miss it, you're not missing an amazing experience.


  2003.10.19  20.54
PS2 games

Finished Grandia 2, and still highly recommend it. There was a point near the middle where the plot took a downturn - basically none of that particular section made any sense whatsoever - but it soon picked up again, and overall had more "holy shit!" moments than pretty nearly any other video game plot I've ever seen.

The combat, mind you, is a tad less challenging than the ones B'tara is running into in Baldur's Gate 2. A typical mid-game monster encounter went like this:

- Elena waves her hand, "Rise o flame!"
- All the monsters are instantly vaporized without ever getting an action.

The boss fights are fun though.

Now started playing Dark Chronicle. Which is an odd title - it's so generic you'd think it _has_ to have been used already. Maybe everyone else thought so too, which is why it wasn't :) It looks good so far! I'll post more detailed impressions later.


  2003.10.09  19.48

Saw this today. Was excellent! Combat scenes and special effects were brilliant, as I expected (think The Matrix for overall style), but rather to my surprise, the plot was quite a bit deeper than met the eye, as well as actually making sense! ^.^ Highly recommended (irrespective of whether you like Vampire: The Masquerade and Werewolf: The Apocalypse).

One quibble, though: What is it with female characters and those pairs of dinky pistols? Come on girls, if you're going to engage in extended firefights, please use guns that at least look as though they might hold a decent fraction of the number of rounds you're firing between reloads ^.~


  2003.09.30  20.24
Old news

Came across this article recently:


It was exactly 20 years ago last week a Soviet military officer, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, averted a worldwide nuclear war. This account from the PRWeb Newswire tells of the incident:

September 25, 1983, is a date that could have been burned into the history books forever. On that day, against overwhelming odds, a Soviet military officer averted a worldwide nuclear war. What almost happened would have dwarfed into near obscurity any wars or terrorist attacks or natural disasters in memory.

News of this incident first surfaced in 1998 in press interviews with Stanislav Petrov, a retired lieutenant colonel, who described the chain of events that nearly led to the massive devastation of much of the Northern Hemisphere.

In a military bunker near Moscow, in the former Soviet Union, Petrov was in charge of an early warning system that used computers and satellites to alert the Soviet Union if there were ever a nuclear missile attack by the United States. The Soviet Union's strategy at that time was to fire its arsenal as soon as possible after receiving indications of an attack, according to Bruce Blair, a Cold War nuclear strategies expert and nuclear disarmament advocate with the Center for Defense Information.

It was just after midnight Sept. 26, 1983, Moscow time - still Sept. 25, a Sunday, in the West - when something went wrong. Suddenly the computer alarms sounded, warning that an American missile was heading toward the Soviet Union. Petrov reasoned that a computer error had occurred, since the United States was not likely to launch just one missile if it were attacking the Soviet Union - it would launch many. So he dismissed the warning as a false alarm.

A short time later, however, the situation turned very serious. Now the early warning system was indicating a second missile had been launched by the United States and was approaching the Soviet Union. Then it showed a third missile being launched, and then a fourth and a fifth. The sound of the alarms in the bunker was deafening, Petrov said. In front of him the word "Start" was flashing in bright lettering, presumably the instruction indicating the Soviet Union must begin launching a massive counterstrike against the United States.

Even though Petrov had a gnawing feeling the computer system was wrong, he had no way of knowing for sure. He had nothing else to go by. The Soviet Union's land-based radar was of limited usefulness since it was not capable of detecting missiles beyond the horizon. And worse, he had only a few minutes to decide what to tell the Soviet leadership. He made his final decision: He would trust his intuition and declare it a false alarm. If he were wrong, he realized nuclear missiles from the United States would soon begin raining down on the Soviet Union.

He waited. The minutes and seconds passed. Everything remained quiet - no missiles and no destruction. His decision had been right. Those around him congratulated him for his superb judgment.

It had indeed been a false alarm, and a subsequent investigation determined that the early warning satellite system had mistakenly interpreted sunlight reflections off clouds as the presence of enemy missiles.

Petrov felt an enormous sense of relief, but now he faced another problem. He had disobeyed military procedure by defying the computer warnings, and as a result he underwent intense questioning by his superiors about his actions during this ordeal. Perhaps because he had ignored the warnings, he was no longer considered a reliable military officer. Presumably in the military it is understood that orders and procedures are to be carried out unfailingly, without question.

In the end, the Soviet military did not reward or honor Petrov for his actions. It did not punish him either. But his once promising military career had come to an end. He was reassigned to a less sensitive position and soon was retired from the military. He went on to live his life in Russia as a pensioner.

The false alarm involving Petrov occurred at a time of severely strained relations between the United States and the Soviet Union. Only three weeks earlier, the Soviet military had shot down a Korean passenger jet that had wandered into Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board, including many Americans. The KGB sent a flash message to its operatives in the West, warning them to prepare for possible nuclear war, according to CNN.

Blair said the Russians "saw a U.S. government preparing for a first strike, headed by a president capable of ordering a first strike."

Reflecting the tensions of the time, the American leadership had referred to the Soviet Union as an "evil empire."

With conditions so volatile at the time of the false alarm, if Petrov had declared the nuclear attack warning valid, as his instruments indicated, the Soviet leadership likely would have taken his decision as fact. A mistaken massive nuclear attack by the Soviet Union would undoubtedly have been followed by a devastating response from the Pentagon. Because of Petrov's actions, however, the risk of nuclear war was stopped well before it reached this point.

Petrov has said he does not regard himself as a hero for what he did that day. But in terms of the incalculable number of lives saved, and the overall health of the planet, he appears to have emerged as one of the greatest heroes of all time.

There is something else unsettling about this incident. Petrov was not originally scheduled to be on duty that night. Had he not been there, it is possible a different commanding officer would not have questioned the computer alarms, tragically leading the world into a nuclear holocaust. As it turned out, this incident ended fortunately for America and for the world. But unfortunately for Stanislav Petrov, it ruined his career and his health, and it deprived him of his peace of mind. This is one debt the world will never be able to repay.


I remember the Korean airliner incident, but I didn't know about the false alarm at the time; nobody did. Helps put today's troubles in perspective.


  2003.09.28  09.14
This survey looks fun, here's my attempt at it

Who did you last get angry with?
Haven't been angry with a lot of people lately. There was a bunch of bozos I was debating with on Usenet the other week who I eventually basically told to sod off.

What is your weapon of choice?
Nuclear warheads! Big ones! Sadly, real life shares with most roleplaying games the drawback that you're not allowed have them :(

Would you hit a member of the opposite sex?
Only if I really had to, in self-defense or defense of another, and even then I'd try to use minimum force.

Who was the last person who got really angry at you?
Again, haven't been in a lot of arguments lately, see above.

What is your pet peeve?
Hmm... Americans saying "I could care less" when they mean "I couldn't care less", or geeks saying "app" when they mean "program"? :)

Do you keep grudges, or can you let them go easily?
Normally I can let them go; if someone does something to piss me off, these things happen, I'm not generally going to build up long-term resentment about it. The main exception is when someone behaves in a slimy fashion, such that they manage to convince me that it's genuinely in their nature to be slimy. I haven't much time for people like that.

What is one thing you're supposed to do daily that you haven't done in a while?
Exercise, I suppose.

What is the latest you've ever woken up?
Sometime the following night :)

Name a person you've been meaning to contact, but haven't?
*scratches head* I'm sure there are some, but I don't remember who, which is probably why I haven't contacted them :)

What is the last lame excuse you made?
Does the above count? :)

Have you ever watched an infomercial all the way through (one of the long ones...?)
What's an infomercial?

When was the last time you got a good workout in?
Long enough ago that I forget exactly when :)

How many times did you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock today?
I use the phone alarm call service, precisely because it doesn't have a snooze button ^.^ Well, that and the fact that it doesn't use batteries. Batteries suck. Why can't someone invent some that last longer than five minutes? (Yes I know the technical answer to that, I'm just griping :))

What is your overpriced yuppie beverage of choice?
I can truthfully say I don't really drink overpriced yuppie beverages.

Meat eaters: White or Red?

What is the greatest amount of alcohol you've had in one sitting/outing/event?
Well, when I was young and foolish, I used to drink tequila; regarding quantity, suffice it to say that I was by no means always wont to observe a seemly moderation :)

Have you ever used a professional diet company?

Do you have an issue with your weight?

Do you prefer sweets, salty foods, or spicy foods?

Have you ever looked at a small pet or child and thought, "LUNCH"?
Heh, nope! I'm quite happy to let other people worry about the process of converting animals into food ^.^

How many people have you seen naked (not counting movies/family)?
A few, I guess.

How many people have seen YOU naked (not counting physicians/family)?
A few.

Have you ever caught yourself staring at the chest/crotch of a member of your gender of choice during a normal conversation?
No, though there's been the odd occasion when I had to spend a Willpower point on this :)

Have you "done it"?

What is your favourite body part on a person of your gender of choice?
Depends, but I'll admit to being partial to a shapely pair of ankles ^.^

Have you ever been propositioned by a prostitute?
I think so. At least, there was one time when I was walking to a games convention in Dublin and a woman said something like "looking for business" when I passed her in the street, which I can only guess was a proposition of this type; though I remember it because I recall thinking that I had no idea what approach and wording was customarily used, but if I had to guess, that wouldn't have been my guess :)

How many credit cards do you own?

If you had $1 million, what would you do with it?
Keep it to live on while I got on with my quest to invent Skynet ^.^

Would you rather be rich, or famous?
Rich. From what I've seen via the news media of famous people, being famous sucks. The news media seem to be like a pack of pit bulls with incipient rabies - they mightn't appear unfriendly at first glance, if you're lucky, but it's only a matter of time until they turn on you.

Would you accept a boring job if it meant you would make megabucks?
Maybe. I'm not sure... honestly, that's a sufficiently implausible scenario that I find it hard to connect it to the real world enough to figure out the answer.

Have you ever stolen anything?
Not that I remember.

How many MP3s are on your hard drive?
Who's counting? :)

What's one thing you have done that you're most proud of?
Not sure... I've created some good games, written some business software of complexity that's normally done by multiple roomfuls of programmers, hopefully/perhaps talked someone out of repeating a suicide attempt, played and run interesting roleplaying campaigns, figured out the answers to some important questions... well, questions I found important, anyway ^.^ I'm not really going to try and set relative values here.

What's one thing you have done that your parents are most proud of?
Writing some cool software, getting a college degree, getting a string of A's in my Leaving Cert, I guess :)

Do you get annoyed by coming in second place?
I do if there were only two people in the contest! :P

Have you ever entered a contest of skill, knowing you were of much higher skill than all the other competitors?
No, I wouldn't see the point.

Have you ever cheated on something to get a higher score?

What did you do today that you're proud of?
Came up with a good character concept for a campaign I might be joining! ^.^

What item (or person) of your friends would you most want to have for your own?
I've drooled a bit at some of the new Pentium 4 computers; this old Pentium 3 is getting a bit long in the tooth :)

Who would you want to go on "Trading Spaces" with?
Never heard of it.

If you could be anyone else in the world, who would you be?
Well if I was someone else I wouldn't be me. Which means it wouldn't be me being them, it'd be them being them. But they already are them. So if I was someone else, things would be exactly as they are now.
(I could digress about how nobody seems to realize that this is the refutation of the anthropic 'Doomsday Argument'. But everyone would probably start falling asleep. So I won't :))

Have you ever been cheated on?

Have you ever wished you had a physical feature different from your own?
Sure, who wouldn't like to have 100% perfect health, vision, reflexes etc?

What inborn trait do you see in others that you wish you had for yourself?
Being born the heir to a large fortune? :)

Finally, what is your favourite deadly sin?
Lust is definitely the most fun ^.^


  2003.09.26  00.21
In the Blink of an Eye

Just finished reading this book. An annoyingly large number of errors, but overall pretty good! It's about the time 543 million years ago when complex life appeared on Earth, and the mystery of why it happened, and particularly why it happened so quickly, and the author thinks he's found the answer. I don't know whether he's right or not, but he makes a good case.


  2003.09.24  23.08
See? That's a bit more accurate.

find your element


  2003.09.24  23.02
By the book? Come on! :)

What Type of Villain are You?


  2003.09.24  17.48
Just because I kill gods now and then...

Find your Role-Playing


  2003.09.24  17.42
What Type Of Anime Character Are You?

You're An Intellectual!
You can always be found reading or on the computer.
People always come to you when they need
information. You don't really care about love
at this point, your only goal is to improve
your mind. After all, knowledge is power!

What Type Of Anime Character Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Good enough for government work, I guess ^.^


  2003.09.19  01.45
Nostalgia isn't what it used to be

There seems to be an astonishing amount of hype about a new PC RPG called 'Temple of Elemental Evil'. Curious as to why, I read some of the literally hundreds of Usenet messages. Do people have the idea that it's going to have a great story, interesting setting or what?

Nope. Apart from apparently implementing almost the entire AD&D rulebook (bleah), the big selling point seems to be that it's a computer version of the original (human moderated) ToEE module from back in the old days.

I was around in the old days. I played that module.

It was a boring, munchkin, hack and slash dungeon crawl. Even teenage me who'd never seen anything _but_ munchkin hack and slash dungeon crawls wasn't impressed with it.

People claim the computer version is a faithful recreation of the module. I believe them!

*le sigh*


  2003.09.17  17.54
And another

The tribal wisdom of the Dakota Indians, passed on from generation to generation, says that when you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

Modern organizations (education, government, military, corporations, etc) often employ a wide range of far more advanced strategies, such as:

1. Buying a stronger whip

2. Changing riders.

3. Threatening the horse with termination.

4. Appointing a committee to study the horse.

5. Arranging to visit other countries to see how others ride dead horses.

6. Lowering the standards so that dead horses can be included.

7. Reclassifying the dead horse as "living impaired."

8. Hiring outside contractors to ride the dead horse.

9. Harnessing several dead horses together to increase the speed.

10. Providing additional funding and/or training to increase the dead horse's performance.

11. Doing a productivity study to see if lighter riders would improve the dead horse's performance.

12. Declaring that because the dead horse does not have to be fed, it is less costly, carries lower overhead, and therefore contributes substantially more to the bottom line than do some other horses.

13. Harnessing the dead horse in a six-horse team, thereby raising the dead horse's average output to equal the other horses in the team.

14. Re-write the expected performance requirements for all horses

15. Promoting the dead horse to a supervisory position.


  2003.09.17  16.39
A quote I came across

A surgeon, a civil engineer and a software engineer were chatting at a bar. The discussion rolled around to whose profession was the oldest. The surgeon said that his was, since in the book of Genesis, God created Eve from one of Adam's ribs, and surly that involved surgery. The civil engineer countered by saying that before God created man, he created the heavens and the Earth from chaos, surly a feat of civil engineering. The software engineer just smiled and said "Where do you think the chaos came from?"


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