Saturday, July 29, 2006

Rich Girl Not So Rich

I first heard Gwen Stefani's cover of If I were A Rich Man titled If I Were A Rich Girl while I was visiting my sister in Thailand last year while browsing in a music store. I didn't listen too much, but given that I'm somewhat of a fan of covers and parodies of songs, I was mildly interested.

It was a little while later that I found out who the artist was, and listened a bit more to the lyrics. When I did this, I realized just how much she and her collaborators had missed the point of the song.

In Fiddler on the Roof, the song starts out saying how if Tevye (one of the main characters from the musical) was rich, he wouldn't have to work, would have a big house, lots of animals, materialistic things. But then it turns to other things. Freeing his wife from the burden of having to do all the housework. Gaining respect from his neighbours, and them asking him for advice. And then finally he would be able to spend time to study the Torah, and spend more time praying. The song starts out materialistic, but comes round and shows that the main thing that Tevye would gain from it is being able to not worry about the mundane things like having food to eat and a roof to sleep under but concern himself with the more important (well, less materialistic, more spiritual) things in life.

In comparison, Gwen Stefani's version is about all the glittering things money can buy, and people wanting to know you just because you're rich. It does not look at other aspects of what having money can do for you. It's shallow, and misses the point of the original.

I could say that this is a symptom of the moral and cultural decline of modern society, but such claims have been made since the days of Socrates. And anyway, reality TV fills that role. I think my main point is that Gwen Stefani and co are shallow and missed the point of the song the were redoing. And the point of the original is a point worth making.

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Blue Sun

When I got my first chunk of cash from the work I did on Rent A Coder, one thing I did was to splurge on a t-shirt. And not just any T-short. I got me a Blue Sun t-shirt.

Now, I think most people who might read this will be wondering just what the hell is so special about a Blue Sun shirt. I will say that Blue Sun has a wikipedia entry, and those interested can look it up.

At the moment I'm still considering something big, and while having mostly made up my mind, am still a bit wary. More on that when I am more certain about the matter.

I bought a book on to read on the flight back from Townsville on Wednesday, The Great Philosophers. It's a series of articles on some of the big names in philosophy and what they were about. So far I've got through Socrates and most of the way through Plato, and next up is Descartes. Also in the list is Turing, which should be interesting. Look forward to a few more philosophical posts in the near future.

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Saturday, July 15, 2006

a Cool quote

Here's a cool quote from a slashdot poll for people's favorite pirate

"I've found that brothels make for a surer investment than merchant ships. Whores rarely sink, and when they're boarded by pirates, they come away richer instead of poorer."

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Return of the Extended Kingdom

While I was on the train back from Rockhampton earlier this week, I got motivated and did some writing on the Extended Kingdom (see previous posts here and here). Not so much a story as a what could be considered a rough wikipedia entry on the Kingdom. Anyway the following is a transcription of what I wrote with some editing. Some of it recaps material in previous posts on the topic, but that's the way things happen.

Notes on the Extended Kingdom

The Extended Kingdom is a spacefaring civilization whose government is a constitutional monarchy. It is located in a small star cluster with most stars separated by distances of between 5 and 20 light years.

The Extended Kingdom currently occupies 4 solar systems. In its home system two planets in addition to the home world are inhabited, along with a few moons and many space habitats. The other systems are less densely populated, with just the most suitable world in each colonized and a number of habitats supporting the colony.

The Extended Kingdom has possessed faster than light for about 600 years but has not been able to travel faster than 13 times the speed of light, and travel is only practical at up to 6 times the speed of light. At this speed, trips between systems take between 8 to 18 months. Communication between systems is much quicker than physical travel, the longest delays in signals being about a minute or so.

The government of the Extended Kingdom is divided into three levels. The Grand Parliament governs the entire kingdom. Cities and Habitats have a local government that is responsible for administrating local affairs. Between these two levels sits the planetary government. Each planet has a planet wide government that exists mainly to centralize tasks that are more effectively dealt with on a larger scale (e.g., long distance infrastructure).

The Grand Parliament consists of three houses. The first is the House of Locales, and it's members are elected by the citizens of allocated regions, with each region having roughly the same population. The second house is the House of Metropolitans, which is made up of two representatives of each city or habitat administration. The last house is the House of Numbers. The House of Numbers has the same number of members as the House of Locales, but members are elected by a proportional ballot from a single electorate that covers the entire kingdom.

Members of the Houses of Numbers, Locales and Metropolitans are elected every two, three and six years respectively. The Metropolitans are staggered so one member from each local administration is replaced at each election for the House of Locales. The method of appointing the Metropolitans depends on the local administration. In some they are appointed by the administration, some are put up for direct election, and some are chosen based on the outcome of elections for the House of Locales.

The monarch of the Extended Kingdom is largely a symbolic figure, but does play a role in advancing social issues, and the degree to which this has been done depends on the reigning monarch.

The Extended Kingdom has grown from humble beginnings, and the monarchy traces back an unbroken line to the founder of the Kingdom of Antarius, Brilthang the Gruesome. Antarius started out as a small city-state, which Brilthang took control of after overthrowing the cruel tyrant Frimbar. He was well loved by the people of the city, Brilthang led Antarius in conquering nine other nearby city-states over the next twenty years.

Antarius then existed as one of eight nations on the main continent of the kingdom's homeworld. For a few centuries various conflicts moved back and forth between the nations, with shifting alliances and much use of subterfuge as well as actual warfare. Antarius broke this equilibrium when it went on a massive offensive after suffering a sneak attack from one of its most trusted ally. This success is attributed to Tilan, later called the Magnificent, who was the king at the time. Tilan was the first leader to realize the potential of several new technologies at the time including that of gunpowder, which was just being introduced to warfare.

As Antarius was consolidating its control of the continent, explorers returned having reached several new continents, and having established relations with two nations on other continents, Gerem and Sevant. The three nations co-existed for a few centuries until Gerem and Sevant were not conquered so much as absorbed. The absorption of the other nations was prompted by the surge in economic power that followed from Antarius' change from a feudal government to a limited form of constitutional monarchy. It was at this point the Kingdom of Antarius controlled the whole of it's world.

That's it for now. It's only taken me about a year to write some more of this stuff.

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A Trip to Rocky

On Tuesday the internment of Mal's ashes took place. Mum and his family have taken some time deciding what should be done with the ashes. Just a few close friends and some family attended. I was mainly there just to give Mum support. I also did manage to paraphrase a quote from a volume of The Sandman. I'm sure Neil Gaiman got it from somewhere else, but that's where I got the bit I said. Things weren't made easier by the fact that Mal's mother had a few strokes the night before.

Monday was spent traveling up to Rocky in Mum's newish car. I did a stint of driving that day. I did pretty much all the driving on Tuesday, and a little on Wednesday (to the train station) before catching a train back to Brisbane.

Anyway, it wasn't really a fun trip, but it was good to see there are a lot of people giving Mum support.

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