Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Double Dose of Pratchett

Last Thursday I indulged in a greater than usual amount of the works of Terry Pratchett. I went to see the Brisbane Arts Theatre's production of Maskerade, and afterwards finished reading the latest Discworld novel, Unseen Academicals.

The Brisbane Arts Theatre has a bit of a regular thing putting on plays based on Terry Pratchett novels (one or two a year, at least), and this is the third one I've been to. I initially found out that this one was on through one of my coworkers during my short career as a telemarketer who had a small role in the play. The crowd was a lot smaller this time compared to previous ones, but it was a Thursday and I used to usually go on Friday evenings. There was around 15 or so people in the audience. The play was pretty good, not much suspense as I already knew the story, but the acting was good, especially the witches, and it's a very funny story, and seeing it acted out allowed for the introduction of a bit of physical comedy as well. All round a good night out.

Unseen Academicals however, was a bit of a let down. The Discworld novels all have a concept, an idea or a theme that forms the core of the story even though it's not always explicitly stated. Unseen Academicals however seems to be two almost ideas tacked together in a way that doesn't add up to one big idea. Each of the two ideas with a bit of work could have stood on it's own and been a better novel for it.

Actually, now that I think about it a bit more, the football side of the story seems to have been tacked on to the much better and deeper story of Nutt and co, and stole too much of the time and energy from that story. Even with this though, the themes of rising above misconceptions and getting along with different people has been done by Pratchett before.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Last Saturday I went and saw Surrogates. The initial plan was to take advantage of the Magnum Gold Class offer, but a few hours beforehand I checked online if there were still seats available, and alas Gold Class was already booked out (Before asking why I hadn't done that, with the offer you couldn't book online for that screening, but you could buy tickets on the day), so with a bit of texting and calling, we relocated to the Southbank cinema.

Surrogates has an interesting premise, although I did have a tough time accepting some of the changes to society that had happened as a reaction to the introduction of surrogates.

For those who haven't seen the movie (in other words, those who don't care that spoilers follow), a surrogate is a pretty life like robot that you can control remotely through a virtual reality interface. And since you get to choose what it looks like, there are no ugly people anymore. In the movie, almost no one goes outside in person, they just use their surrogates to go out and about in the real world. This is the first thing that's a bit hard to accept. The near universality of surrogates, and the high end ones at that does not seem likely. At one point the movie does show a cheap model that is a bit rough around the edges and still in the uncanny valley, but this is the only time you see such a model. Everyone else has a top of the line model that looks beautiful. I can understand vanity pushing people to spend more, but for something so widespread throughout society, surely there are going to be a lot of people who either won't or can't pay for the good looking models.

Of course these might have been the people who lived in the exclusion zones. These are quite frankly something that would never happen. In the world of Surrogates, there were people who didn't like the idea of surrogates and were aggressive about it, and so in most cities there were set up exclusion zones where surrogates weren't allowed in. I can kind of understand this, but they took it too far. Not only are surrogates not allowed in, the exclusion zones are essentially a lawless zone where police, in person or in surrogate, are not allowed in and they are essentially a separate nation (at one time in response to a policeman entering an exclusion zone, they threaten war). Set up the zone, sure, but it's still part of the country and the law still applies.

There were a few other holes in the story I won't go into, but I will say that the makeup on Bruce Willis was done very well, as when he was in his surrogate he looked just like his younger self. I would recommend seeing it as it is a good watch, even if you do leave debating about the ideas in it.

One cool point for Red Dwarf fans is the brand of Bruce Willis's refrigerator: Smeg.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Today I went to an event called Barcamp. And no, it wasn't all about drinking. It's bar as in foo, bar, baz and all those other funny words IT types use instead of nice and sensible x, y, z, and so on. The basic idea is different people contribute small talks on different topics in an ad hoc fashion. The schedule was a large sheet of paper with a bunch of post it notes on it.

The talks I listened to included a bit on Search Engine Optimisation, which since it went long nearly everyone left half way through to go to the Google Wave demonstration (if anyone reading this has an invite to Google Wave, I'd be grateful if you sent it my way), a brief run down of different corporate structures by an IT lawyer, a break for lunch, then more talks including one on a new engine for MySQL that stores data as a graph (a graph theory graph) rather than a table, a brief rundown on the different features of Amazon's web services, and then a more informal talk on a 3D printer intended to be able to produce copies of itself (in parts, but assembly isn't too difficult). One of the people there actually has the parts for one but has never had the time to build it, and there were a few others interested in getting together to build it, so I may get involved with that.

Overall it was a bit more professionally themed than I anticipated, but it may end up being one of the better things I've done in terms of job hunting. I met a few people there who were looking for people to work for them, and I was the first person who put my name on the job wanted sheet (and not the only one, I think there were about three people all up). I'll definitely be following up on a few things from today.

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1967 is calling, and they want their parochial attitudes back

So there's this guy in Louisiana who issues marriage licenses. And apparently he doesn't believe in mixed race marriages. This guys seems to be quite behind the times. The US Supreme court said this was OK in 1967, and quite frankly the debate has moved on since then. I'm sure back then that there were people like this guy who said that these marriages don't work, are immoral, against nature, etc, much like there are people today using these same arguments about gay marriage.

Fortunately, this guy has been called out on it this time.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


A group of Somali pirates have made a poor choice for their most recent victims. They attacked the Somme, the flagship of the French contingent patrolling the region. The pirates were a little surprised to find bullets flying back towards them. We need to see more of this sort of thing.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Preparation is Key

A successful political campaign, like all things, requires preparation, and these days the amount of time spent on preparation continues to grow to the point where politicians seem to be perpetually campaigning.

This seems to have been taken to heart in Kenya where the two main ethnic groups are already making preparations for the next presidential election, which is to be held in 2012. Given the disruptions that occurred following the last election, surely this can't be anything but good news.

Well, not really. They're buying up guns, and since both sides are saying that they're doing it because the other side is doing it, I can just see this escalating over the next three years. Election by tank does not sound like a recipe for fun.