Thursday, 2 October 2014 11:02
claidheamhmor: (UnderworldEvolution)
My insurance broker popped round last night bearing pizza, and we had a good chat. Something we talked about was Celebgate, with all the leaked nude celebrity selfies. He was saying that people shouldn't be taking nude pictures of themselves, because there's that chance the pics will be leaked.

I'm of a different opinion. If people want to take selfies, that's up to them. If they want to store them on the cloud, fine. Obviously, take a few basic precautions - choose a secure location, enable the phone password, etc.

But there's more to the whole Celebgate leak than just pictures:
  • Apple let those celebrities down, by having an insecure "feature" on iCloud that let hackers repeatedly enter password attempts without blocking access.
  • Many of those celebs, I'll bet, had no idea their phones were being automatically backed up to iCloud.
  • All the focus has been on the nude pictures. That's only part of the story, because what the hackers got were complete iPhone backups. Not just pictures, but email, text messages, contacts, calendar, notes, documents, and more. In other words, if those users had a copy of their bank statement in their email, or any unencrypted passwords typed in, or any personal information, or email addresses or phone numbers of family, friends, or other celebrities, or personal calendar entries, or home addresses... that information has been hacked, and someone has it. That could be a lot scarier than pictures.
To say people shouldn't take nude pics implies that they also shouldn't have any other personal information on their phones (or email, or websites, for that matter). It's possible to live like that, but if you do, why bother having a smartphone? Just get a cheap Nokia.

Personally, I think there's a balancing act between the risk of such information being on your phone, and the convenience and utility of doing so. My opinion: go for it, but take precautions. Use a phone password. Use encrypted password storage apps (like LastPass, Password Keeper, et al). Use secure cloud storage (I use OneDrive and Box). And if your information is more valuable (if you're a celebrity, say), take even better precautions (hey, how about a more secure phone).

Best pilot ever

Tuesday, 7 May 2013 09:23
claidheamhmor: (F-111 in the Sky)
I reckon Eric Brown is probably the best pilot in history. I read his book "Wings of the Luftwaffe" in the early '80s, and met him when he came out to South Africa. I'm amazed that he's still around.


claidheamhmor: (Fiday)
The Bad Astronomer posted an article mentioning links to Science and Religion surveys. Fairly interesting, especially if you read the stats afterwards.

Here they are:
Science quiz
Religion quiz

I got 15/15 for the science quiz, and 14/15 for the religion quiz (I got the last question wrong).
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
World Wide Worx just completed a survey on mobile phone use in South Africa, and it's pretty interesting.

South Africans and their cellphones
Data dominates SA mobile trends

Some interesting bits:
84% of users are prepaid.
Most popular phone feature: FM radio

Cellphone (not smartphone alone) market shares:
Nokia: 50%
BlackBerry: 18% (up from 4% 18 months ago)
Samsung: 18% (down from 26% in 2010)
iPhone: 1%
(If you're looking at smartphone market share, BlackBerry has just over 75% (and increasing), with most of the rest split between Android and iPhone).

Social Networking:
Facebook: 38%
Whatsapp: 26% (up from 0% in 2010, driven mainly by Nokia)
BBM (BlackBerry Messenger): 17% (up from 3% in 2010)
Mxit: 23%
Twitter: 12%

QNX and car infotainment systems
For those still quick to write off BlackBerry, I suspect a lot of people have forgotten that RIM is not just about BlackBerry handsets. For example, the QNX software that is the core of the BlackBerry Playbook and the upcoming BB10 operating system is running on the infotainment systems of 30 million cars, 64% of the global market. The brands that QNX systems are in include Audi, Acura, Nissan, Toyota Honda, Mazda, BMW, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, Chrysler/Fiat, and General Motors. Soon enough, you'll be able to download apps from BlackBerry App World for your car.
claidheamhmor: (Witch King EE)
Last year a taxi driver drove on the wrong side of the road, past booms, and onto a railway crossing. A train hit his taxi, killing 10 children and injuring four. He was arrested and charged with murder and attempted murder; there's legal precedent for being egregiously reckless and causing deaths.

He was convicted of murder and attempted murder, and got 20 years. Good.


Next up, a drug-fuelled DJ and his friend who were racing each other on a public road, lost control, and ploughed into a bunch of school kids, killing several.

Gadgety news

Monday, 23 January 2012 14:24
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry Logo)
Some news in the mobile device market:

Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis step down. Thorsten Heins becomes new CEO of RIM. With luck he'll shake a few trees in the organisation. While they may have some good technology, it's not being delivered properly, and communications are poor.

How the U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work. A really interesting article on technology jobs, the US middle class, and Chinese manufacturing.
claidheamhmor: (Conan)
Interesting selection from this article:
10 Modern Must-Read Sci-Fi Masterpieces

Any discussion of science fiction invariably begins and ends with the masters of the genre. Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, Phillip K. Dick, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, H.G. Wells, Frank Herbert, Jerry Pournelle and so on. But what do all of those authors have in common besides their sci-fi prowess? They all did their most significant work before 1980. Ironically for a genre that’s so much about the future, much of our discussion of the great work done within it seems to center around things written in the distant past.

People didn’t suddenly stop writing science fiction novels in 1980. In the past thirty-years a new group of science fiction authors has risen to make their mark on the genre, with their own masterpiece entries into the sci-fi genre. This list is dedicated to those writers, the modern masters who haven’t quite yet taken their place in the pantheon of sci-fi icons, but probably should. If you’re serious about science fiction, or just looking for a great book to read without all the baggage of something written in a long since bygone era, make sure you own a copy of these must-read modern sci-fi masterpieces.

The Dark Tower (1982 – 2004)
Written by: Stephen King
King is best known as one of the modern masters of fantasy and horror but The Dark Tower series is as much science fiction as it is anything. It all started with the publishing of The Gunslinger in 1982, a story which opens with these unforgettable words: “The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.” He followed through seven epic books on a journey across dimensions and time and space. The gunslinger is named Roland and he’s a cowboy, sort of, from a dimension which is sort of like our medieval past merged with a Clint Eastwood movie. His world was destroyed by an evil force, and he’s on a mission to find a mythical place called the Dark Tower, which he believes is at the nexus of everything. He picks up companions along the way, and they develop a relationship with each other (and in the process the reader) that goes beyond mere words. Filled with violence and misery, and heart-wrenching beauty and joy, it’s one of the most emotionally moving works on this list. Read all seven books, and say thankee-sai.

Neuromancer (1984)
Written by: William Gibson
William Gibson created the cyber punk genre with Neuromancer. A story about a dystopian future where Henry Case is caught as a thief, has his brain interface with the virtual reality world of the “Matrix” removed, and is now a drug addict desperate to find a cure for his problems. What follows is a story of hackers going to battle, the effects of technology on mankind, and an exploration of what exactly defines reality. What really matters in geek culture is that Gibson developed the notion of the cyber punk world with this novel. The idea of AI constructs taking on humans, technology as a drug, virtual worlds where battles can occur, are all either originated or defined clearly within Neuromancer. The novel also established the noir tonal quality of the genre. Of course Neuromancer is most known as the blueprint for The Matrix, but has always been regarded as a seminal work in the sci-fi world.

Ender’s Game (1985)
Written by: Orson Scott Card
There’s never been anything quite like Ender’s Game, before or since. Not even the sequels. Orson Scott Card’s masterpiece tells the story of young children whisked away to a battle school for gifted minds where, humanity hopes they’ll be able to transform one of them into the military genius the world needs to save them from an impending alien invasion. It’s about kids but it’s not a book for kids. What happens in that battle school is brutal and brilliant, full of strategic thinking and mind games played the way they can only really be played amongst untested genius intellects. In the end all the kids involved are left warped, changed, and screwed up, but none worse than Ender. In a sense Ender’s Game is about how saving the human race ruined one little boy’s life.

The Liaden Universe (1988 – 2010)
Written by: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller
Agent of Change was the first book published (though not the first chronologically) in what would eventually become known as the Liaden Universe. The series contains nine books in all, all set in the same fictional future, but each book completely different from the other. Agent of Change, for instance, is an intimate spy novel focused on a small handful of characters engaged in a complex game of cat and mouse , set on a single planet. Balance of Trade, my favorite of the series, is the story of the crew aboard a massive, intergalactic merchant ship, making their way from one planet to the next. Others are romance novels and political thrillers, all set in the same fictional world. Best of all, it somehow all fits together. They aren’t random stories but larger parts of the same whole, each told in their own way and from their own angle.

Hyperion Cantos (1989 – 1997)
Written by: Dan Simmons
The Hyperion Cantos is actually four books. The first two, Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion tell one part of the story. The second two, Endymion and The Rise of Endymion tell a completely different part. Together they form one, contiguous whole, the story of a future where man believes he has conquered the universe, but really hasn’t. It starts with the story of a few pilgrims, journeying to a strange planet called Hyperion. There they’ll encounter an impossible and seemingly all-powerful being called The Shrike, who captures travelers and impales them on his tree of pain (which is every bit as horrible as it sounds). Rarely has anything more thoughtful, imaginative, and emotionally wrenching ever been written, outside sci-fi or in it. Dan Simmons’s story challenges the very nature of humanity and the universe, while delivering serious sci-fi adventure.

Jurassic Park (1990)
Written by: Michael Crichton
Long since eclipsed by the still great 1992 Steven Spielberg based on it, Michael Crichton’s original novel is still worth a read. It’s by far the best work the rockstar-level famous author has ever done and, if you read it you can seem smart in front of your friends when they’re talking about the movie. The plot actually deviates from the movie in some pretty key places, though it’s still about a billionaire who builds a park with live dinosaurs in it, which invariably goes wrong when “nature finds a way”. All the familiar characters are there, but the whole thing gets taken even further, beyond the special effects budget of even a Spielberg movie. Crichton’s book is far more dark and dire than the film too, filled with even more violence and a lot more things blowing up. Spielberg’s movie is the better version I suppose, but Crichton’s book is good enough to be worth a read in its own right. It’s a cultural touchstone which deserves its place in the pantheon of iconic modern science fiction.

On Basilisk Station (1992)
Written by: David Weber
On Basilisk Station is the first book in author David Weber’s expansive Honorverse series, but I’m not going to recommend the entire series. Start with just this one book and stop reading them when its right. The first book is the best of the bunch and the quality dwindles as the series goes on, but that’s fine, because On Basilisk Station works even as a standalone novel. It’s about a female military commander named Honor Harrington and her ship, the Fearless on assignment, and in the heat of battle in a remote part of space where they’re the last line of defense against invasion. Weber’s depiction of Honor is one of the strongest female literary characters you’re likely to encounter anywhere, and his detailed yet entertaining grasp of strategy and tactics used in outer space is unmatched.

The Time Ships (1995)
Written by: Stephen Baxter
In The Time Ships, a critically acclaimed follow-up novel authorized by the Wells estate to mark the 100th anniversary of The Time Machine, British author Stephen Baxter explores the paradox unwittingly created by the original story. Picking up where the Wells classic leaves off, the Time Traveler returns to the future to save the girl he left to die at the hands of the Morlocks. Along the way he notices that time has changed. He stops to investigate and learns that he’s polluted the timeline and the future he left never existed. In trying to repair the timeline, he only makes it worse, even to the point of threatening his very existence and that of the human race. It’s a complex, thought-provoking adventure in true Wells tradition, questioning the moral obligations to one’s future and past. Baxter seamlessly slips into a nineteenth century “Wellsian” writing style while remaining as relevant to modern steampunk audiences as to fans of the classic Wells.

A Deepness in the Sky (1999)
Written by: Vernor Vinge
You can’t really go wrong with any of the books in Vernor Vinge’s “Zones of Thought” series and most people would probably put the older A Fire Upon the Deep here, but I’ve always been partial to Deepness. Both books are standalone novels, despite being set in the same universe, so pick either one and you can’t go wrong. A Deepness in the Sky is the story of what happens when an intelligent alien species is discovered on a planet orbiting around an anomolous star which causes their entire race to go dormant for long periods of time every couple hundred years. The story’s told both from the perspective of the humans in orbit, and from the perspective of the alien species as they prepare for their planet’s big freeze. It’s a great story, but it’s particularly noteworthy for it’s complex depiction of a completely alien species, the best I’ve read since The Mote in God’s Eye. Vinge’s approach is, however, completely different than the one used by Niven and Pournelle in Mote, instead he attempts to translate their completely alien thoughts and life into human terms… and it works.

Ready Player One (2011)
Written by: Ernest Cline
This is the novel that defines modern geek culture, and the impact of video games on our world. Although author Ernest Cline goes far beyond just extolling the greatness of classic video games, it’s within a virtual world that we get to love the oldies once again. Told from the perspective of 18-year-old generic everyman, Wade Watts is a kid who lives in a crime infested trailer park. He spends most of his time hiding out in a junkyard jacked into a school computer where he attends classes virtually. The novel mostly takes place within the virtual world of THE OASIS, a game that becomes so pervasive by the start of the novel in 2044 that it’s not just an online world but is really the whole Internet. Good versus evil, geek references to everything from Gundam to Ghostbusters, and a healthy dose of intrigue and action make Ready Player One not only a good bit of fun, but also this decade’s must read sci-fi novel.

Source: Giant Freakin Robot


Thursday, 13 October 2011 14:10
claidheamhmor: (Pentagram)
This was in the news the other day:

SAFA 'owe' sangoma R90 000
2011-10-11 14:09

Johannesburg - A sangoma [witchdoctor] claims the South African Football Association (SAFA) owes him R90 000 for providing the "magic" to beat France in the 2010 Soccer World Cup, the Daily Sun reported on Tuesday.

S'bonelo Madela said Bafana Bafana would not win any matches until he got his money, hinting he was responsible for the team's failure to go through to the Africa Cup of Nations finals on Saturday.

"If the national soccer team want to start winning, the SAFA bosses must settle their debt with me first," Madela was quoted as saying.

SAFA vice-president Mwelo Nonkonyane confirmed it had used Madela's services, but said he had already been paid.

"We are going to open a criminal case against this guy," Nonkonyane said in the report.

Neither Nonkonyane nor SAFA spokesperson Morio Sanyane and Gary Mojela could be reached for comment.

Source: Sport24
So SAFA actually used a witchdoctor, and paid him for his services?!!! *boggles*

(And before you lot in First World countries point and laugh, remember that the NHS pays for homoeopathy and other quackery in hospitals, and the US has its fair share too).


Tuesday, 11 October 2011 16:19
claidheamhmor: (EF-111 in the sunset)

So it turns out that Guy Gibson, leader of the famous Word War II "Dambusters" missions, was shot down by a Lancaster in 1944.

Revealed after 70 years: Dambusters legend was shot down by BRITISH airman who mistook him for German


Tuesday, 11 October 2011 11:27
claidheamhmor: (AthlonX2)
This comes as no surprise. Google+ was launched with great fanfare, but I think Google seems to have missed the mobile market. I don't know about other people, but I follow Facebook exclusively from my smartphone. Google+ has no BlackBerry app (not sure if there are iPhone and Android apps), and their mobile page sucks. As a result, I spend no time on Google+.

Google+ loses 60 per cent of active users
So much for the amazing growth of the Facebook rival
By Dean Wilson
Mon Oct 10 2011, 12:35

INTERNET SEARCH GIANT Google has lost over 60 per cent of its active users on its social network Google+, according to a report by Chitika Insights, raising questions about how well it is doing against its rival, Facebook.

Google+ was originally invite only, generating significant interest as all and sundry attempted to join what many believed would be the next social networking craze. This frenzy continued when Google opened the doors to its social network to everyone on 20 September. This resulted in a massive influx of new members, with traffic growing by a whopping 1,200 per cent.

However, despite the clear interest in an alternative to Facebook, it does not appear that the people joining are staying around and actively using the web site. On 22 and 23 of September traffic appeared to peak on Google+, but it began to drop soon after, back to pretty much the same level it was before it opened to the public.

Google's problem is not getting users in the first place, it seems, but rather keeping them after they have arrived. For now it appears that a lot of users are merely curious about Google+, but return to the tried and tested format of Facebook when the lustre fades.

Chitika Insights argues that, despite this lack of staying power, Google+ could still become a competitive alternative to Facebook, providing it continues with its fast pace of adding new features. The problem is that Facebook is not going to rest on its laurels while Google attempts to get the advantage. Already it has added features inspired by Google+, particularly in terms of improving the transparency of its privacy options.

While the jury is still out on which firm will win this battle, there's no denying that the intense competition could make both social networks considerably better than they were before.

Source: The Register
claidheamhmor: (Conan)
NPR's survey of the top science-fiction and fantasy books was interesting. I was gratified at how many of the top 100 I own. There are a good number I didn't like personally, but acknowledge how influential they were. There were a good few of the newer books too - Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn, for example, was deservedly there. Some I missed - Earthsea, The Hobbot - but a good list.

Here's the list. I've bolded the ones I particularly liked. There are some suggestions for me too; I must pick through my ebook collection.
Cut for length )
claidheamhmor: (Vendetta 2)
I had to laugh at the wry humour in Hayibo's latest poke at the British riots.

Africa to send troops, food parcels to UK as riots spread

ETHIOPIA. The African Union today adopted a unilateral resolution to deploy army troops and care packages to England as looting and violence spread from London to other major cities. Spokesperson Charity Khumalo said “We can no longer stand by while these savages tear themselves apart.”

The AU, meeting today in an emergency session to discuss the ongoing rioting in the UK, has declared that they will do “everything in their power to help bring civilisation to England”.

“It’s just so sad, you know?” said Khumalo, speaking from the organisation’s HQ in Addis Ababa. “Sitting here and watching them on TV while their society implodes. We cannot in good conscience remain idle and let it happen.”

The AU has announced a range of initiatives that Africans can get involved with to help alleviate the misery of the English.

“For instance, we have launched an ‘Adopt an English child’ programme,” Khumalo explained, showing journalists brochures featuring the faces of English kids. “If you donate a mere R50 a month, you can see to it that sweet little Johnny from Peckham receives a basic education, a pack of condoms and a pair of pimpin’ Nikes.”

Khumalo also said that the AU would be parachuting in dentists along with army troops as part of a ‘Feel better about yourselves, Brits!’ initiative.

“You can understand why they’re turning on each other,” the spokesperson told journalists. “You look in the mirror and you see teeth untouched by modern dentistry. It’s heartbreaking enough to make anyone put a brick through a Starbucks.”

The organisation also plans to air-drop care packages on major UK cities.

“Vegetables, mainly,” Khumalo confirmed. “We’re sending them vegetables and toothpaste.”

The AU’s flagship event, however, will be a star-studded rock concert to be held in Johannesburg, with all proceeds going towards the establishment of mobile libraries around the UK. Artists ranging from Mafikizolo to Steve Hofmeyr have pledged to perform at the show.

“As a humanitarian, it’s the least I can do,” Hofmeyr said yesterday. “I look at those photos of the adorable little beasts knifing each other in fights over looted X-Boxes and I want to hug them and give them a nice hot cup of Milo.”

Meanwhile, the week’s events have seen terrified South Africans in London and Manchester packing their bags for home.

“This country is going to the dogs, dude,” said Werner du Preez, a gap-year student from Johannesburg. “I’ve been offered a nice little two-bedroom place in Hillbrow where I can feel safe again.”

Source: Hayibo
claidheamhmor: (EF-111 in the sunset)
This was sad to see.

Vintage B-17 Flying Fortress crashes with seven people aboard
The seven people on board were all OK; those B-17s had a reputation for bringing crews back.

claidheamhmor: (Vendetta 2)
The things annoying me today:

Deep jars
Companies that sell stuff in containers that are too deep to be practical. Hot chocolate containers are far too deep to use a teaspoon with.

Pronunciation on radio
Whoever reads the news on 702 Talk Radio keeps saying words like "thitty and "Pitoria".

Mobile websites
Websites that are not properly set up for mobile access. m.news24.com, for example - the fonts are so small as to be unreadable unless the phone is held close-up. And their weather defaults to Cape Town - there seems to be no way of setting it to anywhere else and having it stick. m.iol.co.za, by contrast, has the font size right.

Multi-page articles
These websites that display multi-page articles really annoy me. I can read more than one paragraph at a time; I don't need a medium-length article broken up into 11 separate pages.
claidheamhmor: (Cylon Raider)
Ever wondered whether punctuation goes inside quotes, or outside? I've always used it outside, because that seemed logically, but I gather the US preferred it inside. Well, here's an article discussing it:

The Rise of "Logical Punctuation".

For the parents

Friday, 13 May 2011 11:01
claidheamhmor: (EF-111 in the sunset)
This will resonate with the parents of young kids. A new bedtime story:

Go the F*k to Sleep

Canary Sky

Thursday, 5 May 2011 16:07
claidheamhmor: (EF-111 in the sunset)
This video of time-lapse pictures taken from Tenerife in the Canary Islands is absolutely beautiful. Watch it.

From the creator's webpage for the video:
"El Cielo de Canarias" "Canary Sky"

Project produced by Daniel Lopez. elcielodecanarias.com

Scenes taken from Tenerife, more than 2,000 meters above sea level and over a year to capture all possible shades, clouds, stars, colors from a unique landscape and from one of the best skies on the planet.
First in a series of videos nocturnal and crepuscular Time Lapse taken in the Canary Islands trying to capture the beauty of each island.
To capture the natural movement of the earth, stars, clouds, sun and moon TimeLapse technique was used, Dolly vertical and horizontal rails, spindles with horizontal and vertical movements. HDR data collection.

Some scenes of the video:

- "The Cathedral" in the plain of Ucanca, night shot with the planet Jupiter across the scene.
- El Arbol de Piedra (Roque Cinchado) with a Tajinaste pointing to Polaris.
- Tajinastes "night", The Red Tajinaste, endemism Canario blooming in spring.
- The "hat" in the Teide. Formation of a cloud known as cap at the peak of Teide.
- "Waterfalls of clouds crossing the mountains and rivers of multicolored clouds.
- Sea of clouds crashing against the mountains as it did the sea.
- Large pool of water in the plain of Ucanca lenticular clouds where stars are reflected.
- Tajinastes night with the Milky Way taken out on the horizon with a dolly track.
- Video of the sun setting and a double green flash. "
- Pleiades and the Andromeda galaxy between rocks in the mines of San Jose.
- Scenes spectacular sunset in the Teide National Park with clouds and moving dolly.
- ArcoIris from the Teide National Park.
- Multicolor Halos around the moon.
- Clouds remain stationary hours at the site are changing their colors as the sunset

Daniel Lopez is a photographer / astrophotographer based in Tenerife . Works by photography and video, specializing in evening using many techniques, from camera tripod grasp heaven and earth in the same photo, amateur telescopes to take pictures of astronomical objects to professional telescopes to capture details and high resolution. It also performs and produces videos about nature, landscapes and interesting places in the draw is always something new and take another different view and "magical."

Via [livejournal.com profile] bablogfeed

Zoo City

Wednesday, 4 May 2011 15:30
claidheamhmor: (Aes Sedai)

Many years back, one of the D&D players that played in one of my many D&D campaigns was a pretty teenager named Lauren Beukes; she moved on to university in Cape Town, became a journalist, and then started writing books, first Moxyland and then Zoo City.

The blurb for Zoo City reads:
"Zinzi has a talent for finding lost things. To save herself, she has to find the hardest thing of all... the truth. Zinzi has a Sloth on her back, a dirty 419 scam habit and a talent for finding lost things. But when a client turns up dead and the cops confiscate her last paycheck, she's forced to take on her least favourite kind of job – missing persons. Being hired by famously reclusive music producer Odi Huron to find a teenybop pop star should be her ticket out of Zoo City, the festering slum where the criminal underclass, marked by their animals, live in the shadow of the undertow. Instead, it catapults Zinzi deeper into the underbelly of a city twisted by crime and magic, where she'll be forced to confront the dark secrets of former lives – including her own. Set in a wildly re-imagined Johannesburg, it swirls refugees, crime, the music industry, African magic and the nature of sin together into a heady brew."

Last week, she won the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award for the best science fiction novel published in the UK during 2010, for Zoo City. That's certainly moving up in the world! Incidentally, the artist who did the cover, Joey Hi-Fi, won Best Art at the British Science Fiction Awards.

Lauren Beukes Talks (Channel24)
The Arthur C Clarke awards: why Lauren Beukes deserved to win (Guardian.co.uk)

I read Zoo City last year, and I must admit that I had some rather mixed feelings about it. On the one hand: it was really, really innovative, with its focus on Johannesburg slums and society, and many of the concepts were fascinating. The research done was extensive, and one could really get a feel for the environment. In many ways, it was very gritty and very real.

On the other hand, I found it very choppy and confusing (even for a native Joburger who understands a lot of the slang), and very difficult to get into. Reading it was quite hard work. [livejournal.com profile] ereneth, what did you think? Have you lent it to [livejournal.com profile] ihlanya yet?

My tweets

Wednesday, 27 April 2011 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)

My tweets

Wednesday, 20 April 2011 12:00
claidheamhmor: (Default)
claidheamhmor: (Blackberry)
Here's an interesting article on smartphones in South Africa, and the relative market numbers of each. BlackBerrys have been very popular, partly because they have a range of models from the cheap and functional 8520s up to the more premium Torch or Bold, and because the costs of data in SA have historically been very high, making a R59pm (under $9) flat rate for on-device data usage very attractive. RIM has stated that South Africa is their fastest-growing BlackBerry market in the world.

Of course, things may change a bit, with cheaper Android devices appearing, and with cheaper data costs (Vodacom just launched a new 43Mbps 3G data service, with low pricing), the flat rate is not as attractive. Of course, on the flip side, the more BlackBerry users there are, the more synergistic the BlackBerry Messenger service is; I know people with hundreds of BBM contacts on their BlackBerrys.

BlackBerry vs iPhone vs Android in South Africa )

On writing

Tuesday, 12 April 2011 14:04
claidheamhmor: (Witch King EE)
A couple of interesting links:

When Hari Kunzru met Michael Moorcock
Via [livejournal.com profile] erudito, an interview of Michael Moorcock, the British author who wrote the Elric and Hawkmoon books. I enjoyed those when younger, I must admit, but they were rather unusual, as fantasy goes. Here’s a quote from the article:
"On the other, he has a strong anarchist streak and is deeply hostile to the Christian pastoral fantasy tradition of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. His own fantasy writing has always delighted in ambiguity, in contrast to the nursery-school morality of much of the genre. In a 1978 essay he skewered The Lord of the Rings, calling it "Winnie-the-Pooh, posing as an epic." He derided Tolkien's "petit bourgeois" artisan-hobbits, who are portrayed in the novel as a "bulwark against chaos", standing for "solid good sense" against the evil industrial-worker orcs. Tolkien's work, he writes, is nothing more than "a pernicious confirmation of the values of a morally bankrupt middle class", something not so far from the fascism he had agitated against as a young activist."

Then [livejournal.com profile] montecook wrote a post on writing, Writing for Dollars, Part 1, which touches on 2010’s top-earning authors, and discusses writing quality vs. earnings from books (hello, Stephenie Meyer...). Interesting stuff.
claidheamhmor: (Pentagram)
A church in Australia is trying to get more bums on seats, by appealing to fans of fantasy literature.

Conservative Christians slam fantasy church service in Romsey
By Shannon Deery
From:Herald Sun
April 06, 2011 9:12AM

A CHURCH service where the angels and saints make way for wizards and warlocks has been damned by conservative Christians.

Fans dressed as Wookies and vampires will be among the throng to hear passages from those bibles of fantasy The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter at a "Sci-Fi and Fantasy Friendly Church Service".

The Reverend Avril Hannah-Jones is behind Sunday's service at the Uniting Church in Romsey, north of Melbourne, which is aimed at getting more bums on pews.

The sci-fi enthusiast said the service would explore parallels between fantasy and Christianity, taking inspiration from Dr Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Star Wars.

But traditionalists have slammed the service's irreverence and lack of emphasis on scripture. Sources close to the church told the Herald Sun the plan had split locals.

"There are some that aren't very happy about it, especially because it just sort of happened out of the blue," a parishioner said.

Other church leaders said it was blasphemous and could encourage witchcraft and supernatural ideas.

"I don't have a problem with people enjoying sci-fi, but church isn't the place to encourage escapism and fancy dress," Mentone Baptist minister Murray Campbell said.

"It is the time where real people with real lives need to hear the real God speak his word, the Bible.

"We really ought to get our theology and world view from the Bible, not Frodo Baggins - as cool as he is."

Catholic priest Gerald O'Collins said: "There should be no need to dress it up.

"There is a magical story there already - We just have to start selling ourselves properly."

But Australian Baptist movement spokesman Rod Benson said the service was a unique opportunity to introduce more people to Christianity.

Mr Benson, an ethicist and public theologian, said the innovative approach was commendable.

"Baptists affirm the biblical teaching condemning occult practices, but this Uniting Church congregation's sci-fi/fantasy theme is commendable if it connects with the community and serves its purpose well," he said.

"What matters is how the church leaders frame the cultural theme within a Christian context.

"The supernatural is not the sole domain of malevolent forces. Indeed, Christians affirm that every aspect of life has a spiritual connection."

Mr Benson said familiar stories, such as Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Buffy, and Dr Who involved people wrestling with moral choices.

"(They) show the triumph of human virtue and the good over all kinds of moral and spiritual challenges," he said.

Uniting Church moderator Isabel Thomas Dobson said Sunday's service had the full support of the church authorities.

"We're always looking for ways in which we can connect the community with the truth of the gospel.

"We're talking fantasy, not reality," she said.

"It's a once-off."

Source: Herald Sun

I must admit, I find the irony palpable.

For example: Catholic priest Gerald O'Collins said: "There should be no need to dress it up. There is a magical story there already - We just have to start selling ourselves properly."

Or: "We're always looking for ways in which we can connect the community with the truth of the gospel. We're talking fantasy, not reality."

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Friday, 11 March 2011 22:54
claidheamhmor: (Morgan Bay)
The pictures I've seen of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan are horrifying. You can't easily get an idea of the scale though, watching footage shot from a helicopter.

This picture, though, puts it in perspective:
Cut for image )

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claidheamhmor: (Conan)
I had forgotten about it, but a recent episode of Darths & Droids reminded me of the Wandering Damage table that was in one of Dragon Magazine's April Fool's issues.

How To Use The Wandering Damage System

First there was the wandering monster. They serve well when applied in hordes, but why not cut out the middleman and just deal out damage to the characters directly? It makes for a smoother, faster-paced game, and if you want to kill off characters quickly, it can only be beaten by divine intervention by Cthulhoid godlings.

Instructions: Whenever a player annoys you in any way, by wearing tasteless clothes or eating the last corn chip, ask him to roll a d20. He may become worried that he's rolling a saving throw. Ha, ha!!! Little does he know that he just rolled on the Wandering Damage System matrix!!! Repeat the roll as often as desired.

The Wandering Damage System Matrix
Roll Result
1 Your character has fallen down a flight of stairs; roll his dexterity or less on percentile dice, or else consult Limb Loss Subtable.
2 The monster your character just killed gets up and attacks him, doing 8-80 points of damage.
3 Your character smells smoke; his right arm is on fire. Take 14 points of damage and save vs. gangrene.
4 Your character cuts himself while shaving; consult Limb Loss Subtable.
5 Your character's nose hairs catch fire and he dies of smoke inhalation.
6 Your character stumbles backward into a yawning chasm and disappears from view.
7 The next time your character says something, he eats his words, chokes on them, and dies.
8 Something cuts your character's nose off, doing 2-12 points damage and really messing up his charisma.
9 Your character steps on a piece of glass; consult Limb Loss Subtable.
10 Your character suddenly catches a severe case of brain death.
11 Something invisible chews on your character, doing 6-36 points damage.
12 Your character develops an incredibly severe case of arthritis and can grasp nothing with his hands; he drops anything he's holding - and if that happened to be a sword or an axe, consult the Limb Loss Subtable.
13-20 Consult the Random Damage Subtable for no reason whatsoever.

Limb Loss Subtable (roll d6)

1 - Left leg gone
2 - Right leg gone
3 - Left arm gone
4 - Right arm gone
5 - Head gone
6 - Torso cut in half

Random Damage Subtable
Dice roll Result
01-05 Take 10 hit points damage.
06-10 Take 15 hit points damage.
11-20 Take 30 hit points damage.
21-25 Take 10 hit points damage and consult Limb Loss Subtable, modifying die roll by +5.
26-30 Take 10 hit points damage and roll again on Wandering Damage System Matrix.
31-35 Take 15 hit points damage and then take 30 more.
36-40 Roll every die you own for damage.
41-45 Take 17 hit points damage.
46-50 Take 42 hit points damage.
51-55 Multiply your character's age by 5. Take three times that much damage.
56-60 Take 24 hit points damage and then take 31 more.
61-65 Take 1,000 hit points damage and roll again.
66-70 Roll every die within 30 feet for damage.
71-73 Add up the total hit points of everyone in the party. Take that much damage.
74-75 Take 3 hit points damage and consider yourself very lucky - for the time being.
76-00 What? You didn't get hurt? That's impossible - this system is foolproof. Roll again.

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  • Wed, 06:58: They're using "bukashi balls" of microbes to clean up Bruma Lake's gunk. Fascinating... #fb
  • Wed, 08:16: RT @gussilber: Johannesburg feels cleansed after the rain, the sky aglow, the streets strewn with purple blossoms. Love this city. #fb
claidheamhmor: (Pentagram)
XKCD nailed this one perfectly: The economic argument on quackery.

It's along the lines of something I've argued: if something works, it changes the way things are done. Sterilisation worked in medicine, so it got used. Antibiotics worked, so they got used. If faith healing worked, it would be part of all hospitals' standard procedures.
claidheamhmor: (Pentagram)
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life in the US conducted a 32-question survey on religion (specifically, knowledge of the Bible, world religions and what the Constitution says about religion in public life), and polled 3400 Americans.

Some interesting results: atheists and agnostics scored highest (no surprise there). Bible-belt Southerners scored lowest. Only half of Catholics were aware of transubstantiation. Educational level was the best predictor of results.

CNN: Don't know much about religion? You're not alone, study finds

News articles

Wednesday, 15 September 2010 10:46
claidheamhmor: (Aes Sedai)
Some interesting news articles this week.

Horror video shocks parents
Basically, parents of children enrolled at a child care centre saw a video which showed children being abused. Naturally, most parents withdrew their kids from the place immediately. What I found interesting was this:
When teachers register their children at the school, they sign a document which states "I give permission for my child/ren to be disciplined within limits".

"Within limits means a whack on the bum. It's not a blow with a wooden spoon on the head or across the body," said the mother.
Apparently even parents aren't too clear on the law: a "whack on the bum", technically speaking, is illegal. From my point of view, there absolutely no way I would give any school permission to punish my child physically.

Why Belgian Catholic church is ignoring hundreds of abuse victims
The Belgian Roman Catholic Church is afraid to give a full apology for the sexual abuse of children by its priests. Bishop Guy Harpigny said: 'If we say "mea culpa", then we are morally responsible, legally responsible, and then people come wanting money'

I think this is symptomatic of the whole problem. The Church, by protecting abusive clergy, is morally and legally responsible for the abuse. If it had handed abusers over to the police and cooperated fully, no-one would have been able to fault the church; by protecting and concealing the abusers, and moving them from parish to parish, the Church becomes an accessory to the crimes. Monetary compensation and an apology should be the very least the Church should be doing to atone for it.

Metro police hunt PigSpotter
There's a Twitter user called @pigspotter who is tweeting the whereabouts of police speed traps and roadblocks in the Joburg area. The the police want to track him down and catch him for defeating the ends of justice. Personally, I don't see what the problem is: he is making people slow down where there are traps. Isn't that what the police want? As for roadblocks - I'm all for the police catching criminals and drivers of unroadworthy vehicles at roadblocks, but I'd like to know where they are so that I can avoid the resulting traffic jams if I'm in a hurry.
claidheamhmor: (EF-111 in the sunset)
[livejournal.com profile] modernmechanix posted an interesting one: WHAT I WANT NEXT, from a 1947 issue of Science Illustrated.


SI readers come up with a few tough assignments for the scientists and inventors

RUFFLE IRONER. If some nice man of science would invent a ruffle ironer, I would gladly mention him in my will. You’ve no idea how much help it would be for ironing curtains, aprons, and dresses. It might be made as an attachment to an ordinary iron, or it could be a special little plug-in gadget. Either would suit me, but if it is hard to operate, I’ll cut the inventor off without a cent!
—Mrs. W. H. Fulker, Colorado Springs, Colo.

OUT, DAMNED SPOT! I would like to see a handy device, small enough to fit in a pocket or purse, that would remove any kind of spot from one’s clothing in a few seconds. This would certainly relieve the embarrassment of spilling gravy or other food on the “best dress” while dining out. With the device I have in mind, it would be possible to retire for a minute to the powder room and return with the dress as fresh and clean as before.
—Harriet Sherman, Atlanta, Ga.

HAT CIRCUMVENTER. What I want next is a motion-picture theater seat that will raise itself at my pushbutton command so that I can view the screen clearly above some lady’s mad hat or hair-do. This might be done in barber-chair fashion. At least persuade the theater owners to supply a pair of shears so that I can snip off whatever is obstructing my vision.
— William A. Berns, New York, N. Y.

LIGHT LITERATURE. I want next: books printed with luminous ink so I can read at night in barracks, after “lights out.”
—Pvt. Thomas Thornhill, Boca Raton, Fla.

EVERLASTING RIBBON. A typewriter ribbon that won’t wear out! This shouldn’t be so difficult as it sounds. Possibly a durable and effective ribbon could be made of glass, plastic, or steel. It should have a constantly renewable ink supply, which might be rolled on by a small absorbent roller attached to an ink cup at one side of the machine. Such a system would be much cleaner and quicker, and far less exasperating, than the present method of wrestling with a yard of smudgy tape. A few drops of ink would probably have to be added at intervals to the supply in the cup.
— Charles Feger, Chicago, Ill.

WHISKER CHASER. I want a cream or similar preparation which, when applied to my face and neck, will remove my daily growth of whiskers without the use of a razor or electric shaver. The cream should effectively remove beard or whisker growth without harming the skin. I realize that for the scientists this is a tough one— but so is my beard. Think of all the man-hours that are wasted every day because men have to fuss with shaving soap, razor blades, or electric shavers.
—Edwin A. Lind, Reading, Pa.

DRAINCOAT. I want a raincoat with a trough or gutter of some sort that will carry the rain to some place other than my trousers legs or into my shoes. Why protect one part at the expense of another?
—J. R. Guinn, Culpeper, Va.

I WANT NEXT: Some way of tuning the radio in my car without taking my eye off the road or my hand off the wheel.—R. Strauss, New York, N. Y.

Reader Strauss doesn’t know it, but a steering-column radio control appeared on a few 1942 Chevrolets, will reappear on 1946 models. It turns the set on and off, controls volume, and—when pushed—gives push-button tuning of selected stations.—Ed.


SCIENCE ILLUSTRATED will pay $10 for every suggestion published. Send them to What I Want Next, Science Illustrated, 330 West 42nd Street, New York 18, N. Y. If an acceptable suggestion is duplicated, the first to reach us will be used. No contributions can be returned.

Which of those have been invented, which haven't been yet, and which are no longer necessary as the need has passed us by?
claidheamhmor: (Fiday)
A few interesting links.

OK, who here is prepared to trust homoeopathic contraception? It's made from genuine babies!
Dr Kendall's Homoeopathic Contraception

Are you left-handed?
What are the Perils of Being a Lefty?

Paul Thurrott reviews iTunes 10. Lipstick on a pig?
Apple iTunes 10
claidheamhmor: (Cylon Raider)
[livejournal.com profile] montecook (one of the D&D game designers) reposted a 2005 essay of his on the topic of Star Wars. It's interesting reading - go and take a look:

Star Wars and Me
claidheamhmor: (Pentagram)
I read a rather interesting post on the topic of "subjective validation", which is the term for why people are more vulnerable to suggestion when they are the subject of conversation - and thus more vulnerable to falling for biorhythms, iridology, phrenology, numerology, tarot, and astrology.

The Misconception: You are skeptical of generalities.

The Truth: You are prone to believing vague statements and predictions are true, especially if they are positive and address you personally.

Subjective Validation )
claidheamhmor: (F-111 in the Sky)
Nigel Davies, historian, posted an interesting article, on comparing military technology in World War 2 (for example, with respect to things like the capabilities of the US and British navies at the start of the war, when "start of the war" was 1939 for Britain and 1941 for the US). Good reading for the military buffs.

World War Two Naval statistics - Comparing Apples with Oranges

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] erudito for the link.


claidheamhmor: (Default)

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