Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Solstice is upon us...

Actually, it was on the 21st, but let's not quibble over a few days. But it's also a full moon, so please excuse my cynicism...

National headlines for Melbourne, Australia, Christmas day, 2007...

Christmas road toll climbs to 13
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd recalls his own father's road death in a plea for Australians to drive safely as the nation's Christmas holiday road toll climbs to 13.
Woman dies instantly in smash
No charges likely over death of child in car, police
The parents of a two-year-old Perth girl who died after being left in a car in 34-degree heat are not likely to be charged, police have indicated.
Haneef worried for safety in Australia
Former terrorism suspect Mohamed Haneef says he needs reassurance from Australian authorities that he and his family would be safe in Australia before he can consider returning to the country.
Christmas spending to hit 10-year high
Christmas spending set to break 10-year record, with Australian shoppers splashing out $36.5 billion.
All they want for Christmas are safety, rain and cuddles
Christian leaders urge people to tackle poverty
Brumby won't rule out spending more on tickets
Victorian Premier John Brumby has not ruled out giving transport ticketing company Kamco more money to deliver Melbourne's new ticketing system dubbed myki.
Stolen guns used to commit more crime: report
Latest figures show about 1500 guns per year are stolen in Australia, and authorities fear many of them will be used to commit more crimes.
Aliens might be watching us on Earth
As astronomers scan the universe for signs of intelligent life, a group of researchers predicts other beings just might be looking at us.
Solomons set to deport Moti
Australian lawyer Julian Moti sacked as Solomon Islands attorney-general and could be deported to face child sex charges in Australia.
Meningitis-death boy farewelled
Family of boy, 8, sent home from two hospitals expresses anger at his funeral.
Qantas 'offers $100k to strike-breakers'
Qantas is offering its former engineers, some made redundant as little as a year ago, jobs as strike breakers with a $100,000 salary for just six months work, a union says.
Wanted man's mum makes Christmas time plea
The mother of a man on NSW's most wanted list makes an emotional plea for her "Johnnie" to make contact, as police warn the 60-year-old murder suspect could be in any state.
Only one in 10 reported sexual assults is punished
Just three per cent of people who believe they are victims of sexual assault find justice in the legal system, shocking new government figures reveal.
The year that was in Victorian politics
Victorians who have forgotten most of the state's political events in 2007 can be forgiven.
16,000 child-porn pics charge
Melbourne man nabbed at airport after allegedly importing images on laptop.
Sharp shock for stroppy slasher
Police use Taser on man who turned violent after refusing to stop urinating on shop window.

Hmmm... We should probably see if we can do better next year...

Happy Soltice everyone....

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Monday, December 24, 2007


Is it golden? Perhaps, but there's a reason. A new FPS...:)

"Soldier of Fortune - Payback" has not been released in Australia, but that hasn't stopped me. The game has been banned here because the violence makes it an over 18 type game and we, in our infinite wisdom, refuse to have a game classification for over 18's. So, if your game requires an older audience, you are not allowed to buy it or sell it in Australia.

But that's ok, I'm not selling it and technically I didn't buy it in Aus. But isn't it amazing what you can achieve with a bit of bandwidth...:)

So how was the game? Well, if you are a practiced FPS player you probably won’t want to bother with this one in single player mode, except perhaps to get used to the weapons and movement. It’s very lineal, only took me two days to complete and that was with a restart half way through so I could get a better weapon selection. I restarted at about 5:00 yesterday afternoon and was finished by 2:30 this morning, with a number of hours off in the middle. I stopped to have dinner and watch “Hogfather” for instance.

It’s a little “arcadey” at times, especially with the ultra hard to kill dude at the end of each level, which is something I found a bit lame, especially for a PC game. That sort of thing is normally reserved for the console but if you’re going to do it, do it properly. At each stage in this one you had to shoot an unarmoured person that just wouldn’t die. Lame as…

Graphically however, it was superb, perhaps even spectacular. It has some of the best texturing work I’ve ever seen, but there are times when you will find a tyre or a shopping trolley hanging in mid-air in the street and no, they don’t make for very good cover.

I’ve only had a quick look around online, but it looks good so far. The couple of maps I’ve played in look to be larger than their single player equivalents, but I think I’ll wait until I’ve caused some serious carnage before passing judgement on the online playability. So there you go, that’s why I’ve been quiet for the last couple of days. I needed to concentrate…:)

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm back...

Well that was interesting. All of a sudden everything started crashing, especially Media Player. An entire night of scanning for various problems didn't reveal any issues, so I decided a re-grind of Windows was in order. I had visions of needing a new video card which would have really annoyed me, but the rebuild seems to have done the job and everything seems ok so far.

As to the jibes about my online gaming exploits, rest assured that I wouldn't bother with fibs, I'd just go quiet. But it'll be a while before I'm back in action in that arena. I now have about 30gig of games to re-install, plus all the updates, mods and add-ons which I'd neglected to save anywhere... Sigh...

One thing I've changed though, I've moved to Office 2007. Now that's a bit different...

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I might be out of action for a bit. There seems to be an issue and I need to rebuild my computer. I'm hoping it's not hardware.......

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

A whale of a time

I don’t get it. When three or more countries are in accord, we’ll quite happily walk into someone else’s country, killing innocent people and stealing valuable resources, but when the whole world is in accord with only one notable exception, we can’t stop a goddamned whale hunt. Odd…

The solution as I see it is simple. The world gets together and agrees on the sea as it has in various meeting rooms, someone provides a couple of ice breakers, we gather just a small portion of the world’s sea going fire power, stock it with food, fuel and marines, find the whaling vessels, board them, take the pirates prisoner, sink the ships, hoist the “jolly roger” and head back to port happy in the knowledge of a job well done.

Then, when they cry foul, as they most assuredly will, tell them to shove it or we won’t give the prisoners back. Someone could make faces and say “ner, nerny ner ner!” too. They deserve it…

But seriously, I’d like to know why it is we allow those we elect to serve in the corridors of power to be so damnably stupid. Or is it that we allow ourselves to be duped into electing such stupid people? I can’t work it out, they seem reasonable enough on the hustings after all. Yet we allow international terrorism on a grand and almost global scale, but only where valuable recourses and commodities are at stake.

Lets face it, we all know that if we really wanted to do some good we could do something like help Africa into the 21st century. Perhaps the U.S. could take on Mugabe as they did Saddam. Now there’s a bloke that could use a lead enema, if ever there was one. But the way I see it, if the killing of a couple of hundred thousand innocent people is the trigger, then Mugabe and Zimbabwe should probably have been first.

But what’s in Zimbabwe that the U.S. could possibly want? Well it has some of the best farmland in the world, no doubt. But if they help to develop that, they’d create themselves a competitor in the world food market, not good for the average U.S. farmer, so strike that one from the list.

Or even at a diplomatic level, perish the thought, simply allowing African nations to burn coal or gas to make electricity would help. Currently, the WHO does not allow this. Oh yes, it’s perfectly ok for “developed” nations to pollute the world’s atmosphere while we smugly trade carbon points, and we can have energy, development, progress and a first class, “first world” civilisation, but Africa is not allowed to I’m afraid.

I don’t know. Sometimes our leaders seem so clever and strong but when you take a closer look, a weaker more lily livered bunch of cowardly and hypocritical sycophants you will not find anywhere else on the face of the planet. That’s not to say that governments and organisations like NATO, The WHO, The United Nation, etc have a monopoly on stupidity, oh no, but it certainly seems to be where the cream of the crop congregates.

There’s so much that could be being done to stop the killing, but at every stage we fail to take the opportunity. It’s probably because we’re way to interested in keeping and protecting our way of life; the partner, the kids, the house, the lawn mower and the family bloody barbeque. We use fossil fuels and guzzle energy at insane rates and rape and raze whole nations at the drop of a hat to protect it all and get more, but do we care? Of course not, so long as the killing and abuse is happening beyond arms length in another country on the other side of the world, why would we?

Personally I’m of the opinion that we should wake up to ourselves and clean up our act, but the kids just bought me a new wiz bang four burner BBQ for chrissy, so that’ll have to wait until next year now…

Thanks to Dikkii for reminding me that sometimes a good “rant” is just the tonic…:)

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Holy Smoke

Humans like smoke, there’s no denying it. From the production of food to the performance of ceremony, smoke pervades nearly every aspect of our lives. Carbon is produced on a daily basis, that serves no other purpose than to smell good or taste good. In fact, I’m burning incense as I type. Not because it helps me type, but because I like the smell. It’s amazing that we still allow it, what with all the hue and cry about carbon emissions. But carbon based carcinogens are tasty, so don’t expect us to give them up anytime soon.

But given the relationship that humans have had with smoke over the millennia, especially when you consider the flavoursome aspects smoke can bring to a meal, I ask you, is it any wonder that Raleigh decided to roll up a leaf, stick it in his gob, light it and puff on it? I think not! And kudos to the man for doing so!

Yes, I smoke and I enjoy it. The funny thing about smoking though, is that although I enjoy a product that’s perfectly legal and sold in every milk bar and convenience store across this country, I’ve become a pariah in my own society, the modern day equivalent of a leper. I’m relegated to the back alley where I must join my fellow lepers to puff away in blissful denial of the dangers of our actions while we complain vociferously about new legislation that ostracises us even further.

Oh for the halcyon days. You know, there was a time that I could smoke inside a moving train, not just on the uncovered section of the station platform. We even had “smoking” and “non-smoking” carriages. On the old “W” class trams, the bit in the middle that was open to the weather was the smoking section, restaurants had ashtrays on the tables and every bar in every pub had a foot rail and ashtray that ran the full length of the bar and I could smoke with impunity. Bliss…

We had ads too. Who could forget “Join the Escort club” or “Marlborough Country” or “Anyhow, ‘ave a Winfield”, classics all of them. The cricket was sponsored by Benson and Hedges, the sailing by Rothmans while Marlborough took care of the cars. It was a smokers paradise that knew no bounds.

But no longer… Over time, the companies have been legislated out of advertising spaces, the smokers into the dark and uncomfortable places that society sees fit to provide, rather than just make the product itself illegal and be done with it. But that won’t happen because about 70% of the price of a packet of cigarettes is tax. Consequently, the government (any government) wants for me to smoke and for you, dear non-smoker, to suffer mercilessly because of it.

So if you are a non-smoker and happen to be languishing in a “smoking” area (say the uncovered part of a station platform) when I light up, don’t complain. Instead, remember who’s idea it was that I should only be allowed to smoke where you’re waiting for your train and suck it up like a good little princess.

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Sunday, December 9, 2007

The Science of Ology - Pt 1

“Space Opera as theology” or OT III, as they say in the business. It sounds a bit strange, but that’s what L. Ron Hubbard, one of the greatest pulp fiction writers of all time, called it.

At this point, some may take issue. I will extol you however, to put your thoughts of scientology aside for a moment (we’ll get back to that) and see the man for what he was in the early days. Let’s face it, “Battlefield Earth” was one of the greatest classic sci-fi novels of the 20th century and there’s very little denying it. If you’re a sci-fi fan like me though, you’ll also have read much of his contemporaries; John Wyndham, H. Beam Piper, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, E. E. Doc Smith, Phillip Jose Farmer, Larry Niven, Gerry Pournelle (together or separately), Patrick Tilley, Stanislaw Lem, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Morecock and many more besides. You’ve probably also read some that have succeeded in matching that brilliance since; Ben Bova, Peter F. Hamilton, Gentry Lee, Timothy Zahn, etc, but ol’ Ron, he had it over all of them.

It all started - as the rumour goes - with a conversation with another author. Some say it was Phil, some say it was Bob, but most agree that it was one of that distinguished bunch above that forged the way for Science Fiction. The topic was the making of money and how much a “best seller” helps in that pursuit. As the rumour goes, Ron was of the opinion that although a best seller helped, if you wanted to make real money you needed to start a religion. Just look at the tax benefits! The rumour mill being what it is however, also says that the other party disagreed and money was laid on the table and a bet was made that he couldn’t start a religion and make more money than he could with a best seller.

Whether the rumour is true or not hardly matters. The evidence would suggest that Ron’s idea was sound enough and if the purported $5 bet actually took place, whoever it was lost their money, big time.

And so it was that “Dianetics” was born. A bigger load of clap trap you’ll never read, and I don’t care what you may think of the Bible or the Koran, Dianetics takes the biscuit, with icing. If there was an “Iced Vovo” award for stupidity that takes the biscuit, I’d vote for Dianetics. But as if that wasn’t enough, Dianetics grew and evolved. For those that have read Dawkins “The God Delusion” and can be bothered looking into the history of this, you’ll definitely find evidence of his “memetic evolution” here. Scientology is what Dianetics eventually became, and scientology is what it remains today.

Now it’s time to take a little look at OT III (pure Scientology that incorporates Dianetics) and to have a little poke at what it is these guys believe. The image below is authenticated by the church of Scientology to be in L. Ron Hubbards own hand. Believe it or not, this document is the underpinning of Scientology’s entire theology and is what the likes of Tom Cruise and John Travolta actually believe. So, meet Xenu:

Data (1) (1)
The head of the Galactic
Confederation (76 planets around
larger stars visible from here)
(founded 95,000,000 yrs ago, very space opera)
solved overpopulation (250 billion
or so per planet) -- 178 billion
average) by mass implanting.
He caused people to be brought to
Teegeeack (Earth) and put an H Bomb
on the principal volcanoes (Incident 2)
and then the Pacific area ones
were taken in boxes to Hawaii
and the Atlantic Area ones to
Las Palmas and there "packaged."
His name was Xenu. He used
renegades. Various misleading
data by means of circuits etc.
were placed in the implants.
When through with his crime Loyal Officers
(to the people) captured him
after 6 years of battle
and put him in an electronic
mountain trap where he still
is. "They" are gone. The place (Confed.)
has since been a desert.

Now you have to admit, that’s a pretty good start for a huge space opera. This is real “George Lucas eat your heart out” stuff if he ever gets rolling with it.

But this is no ordinary story. What he meant by “packaged” is that the soles of those unfortunates that Xenu slaughtered here on Earth, now inhabit us. Body Thetans (BT’s) is what they’re called and nasty is what they are. But not to worry because for a fee ($100,000 or more), that most charitable of organisations, The Church Of Scientology, will help you exorcise them, one at a time (yep, there’s a separate fee for each one and they tell you how many you’ve got).

Is it any wonder then that Tom Cruise jumps around on Oprah’s couch like a fool and giggles incessantly like a raving lunatic the rest of the time. But how does John Travolta manage to stay so calm, cool and collected with all that crap in his head? It’s a conundrum and no mistake.

Now it’s because of all this money and charging that’s involved that the poor buggers no longer enjoy the tax advantages of most religions. When you charge your members to join, then charge them separately at each “level” to be subjected to a peculiar brain washing process, then I guess you can probably expect your government to take a dim view if you don’t pay up on time. And so it was that a ship called “The Enchanter” was purchased (in 1967 I believe) and set sail with Ron on board so he could escape an investigation into his activities by the British authorities. It was also chased at various times by the CIA and the FBI, but they never caught it.

It still exists today though and houses a special group of scientologists called “Sea Org” where you can go to be a slave and learn about scientology all at the same time, but more about that next time…

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Saturday, December 1, 2007

More nuts to Mohammed

Well, it’s happened. The decision has finally been handed down.

The Age didn’t carry anything on the day so I looked further abroad for a different perspective. This is from The Washington Post

LONDON, Nov. 29 -- A Sudanese court on Thursday convicted a British schoolteacher of inciting religious hatred by allowing her pupils to name a teddy bear Muhammad and sentenced her to 15 days in jail.

She’ll serve 10 more days because she’s already been in custody for 5 days. That’s big hearted of them isn’t it? But, so it is that a woman is being punished for letting a group of 7 year olds name a teddy bear, and an educator has been jailed on religious grounds, once again. I feel for the kids because it seems they’ve lost a good teacher, and a caring one at that. Teachers like that are not always easy to find so the travesty is all the greater.

What’s more disturbing about this story though is the crowds that gathered in Khartoum, calling for the death penalty. Well, I said in my original post that it was “twisted”, but to call for the death penalty for the naming of a teddy bear is way beyond “twisted”, it’s completely insane.

But the article continues:

"This is unbelievable, a travesty of justice, a disgrace -- what planet are they on?" said Asghar Bukhari of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, a group that advocates greater Muslim involvement in the democratic process.

"Things like this make our differences seem like they are unbridgeable," Bukhari said. "If you don't really know another community, and all you ever hear is these outrageous, alien, unjust things they are doing, you are going to think, 'We've got nothing in common.' "

Mr. Bukhari makes an impassioned plea. It’s a plea for understanding and as amateurish attempt at an argument from ignorance and authority that I think I’ve ever seen. When you think how often you see and hear about travesties like this in the muslim world (or worse if the “criminal” happens to be an adulterer, a woman with a non-muslim love interest, an author or a cartoonist), you soon realise that in strict muslim communities, these are NOT outrageous, alien or unjust things, they are common occurrences and are simply the result of the law being applied.

I won’t be surprised to see an exodus of non-muslim teachers from the Sudan and other muslim countries that employ foreign teachers because of this too. I’d certainly be packing my bags. It will be a shame though and will only serve as a set back to education in those countries, but I doubt that anyone will take any notice. Ignorance takes precedence where religion reigns supreme…

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