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Saturday 30 December 2006

wiiiiiiii [spiny]

I busted my wii out of the box today. The sports games rock, call of duty 3 reveals that the wii is shit for fps games and the opera browser is very good - I even wrote this post from it!

Wednesday 27 December 2006

The consumerfest that is Christmas [Shedir]

Our family has had a really nice Christmas and boxing day, but how many others haven't because of this consumer culture? My wifey has a parttime job in a shop and worked on Christmas eve, shop was dead. The entire city centre was pretty much deserted.
But boxing day? Traditionally a day where money put in the church box was used to feed the local poor remember. *Sales* everywhere, now thats great for the buyers. But the poor folks who have to work on boxing day, how early do they have to stop enjoying themselves. AFAIK it's still down as a public holiday, not that its being adhered to.
I'm actually quite depressed by the whole thing now, we drove to visit a relative in a hospice yesterday and all along the main street easily two thirds of shops were open. Why can't we as a society just switch off for a couple of days?
There's still this rampant panic buying before Christmas, get loaves in the freezer in case they run out and so on. But now it's a one day holiday wheres the need for that sorta thing? New Year is heading the same way with happy Jack McConnel wanting to stop ne'er day being a public holiday, because the leftover tourists at Edinburghs hogmanay bash have nothing to do!
Money, money money. It's just shit frankly.
Then we have Cowell. Simon fucking Cowell. Who has bought that little piece of musical heritage that was the Xmas number one, but will for the lifetime of his franchise be the Xfactor number one.
What can compete with his grooming of the buying public for that individual song. No mothers collection of gifts for Christmas can be complete without that daft wee *FOUR QUID* single. I heard it shifted over half a million copies, not bad dosh for old Cowell.
I've no objection to people making money, far from it. But in 20 years are we're looking at Christmas compilation CD's or TOTP2 style look backs at Christmas....there'll be a long run of wannabes who's only real hit came at this time of year.
Bah humbug n all that.

Friday 22 December 2006

Anyone else an old sentimentalist? [shedir]

We all have skeletons, usually residing under our blubber, mine is I love rocky movies. A throwback to when as an angry youth I boxed, not to any 'level' as such but the training and sparring made me very very happy.
Rocky Balboa (6 by any other name).
Watched it tonight, got to say I really enjoyed it. As usual the fight is up there with the rest of it. But I'm what 24-25 years on from watching Rocky for the first time and that tune still gets to me.
It's not going to convert anyone to enjoying that style of movie and it plays very similarly to the rest of the series. But if you liked that stuff, it's more than worth a go its compulsary.
"Don't let the bastards grind you down" - even if it makes you punchy is the movies creed I guess.
Worryingly I've been eyeing up the boxing class at the uni gym, but doubt I'm as mobile as their heavy bag.


Vroom! [Spiny]

Congratulations ('grats' in Wowish) to teh Lurker for passing his driving test!!!!
Just be prepared for how frustrating driving can be:

Wednesday 20 December 2006

Ubi still suck [Pod]

R6:vegas hit the shelves on friday and after a quick play on warez in Single and lan play I went out and bought it. The single player is great, clever AI, beautiful visuals (You need a beast of a machine tho) and tense dogfights. Everything a R6 game needs. The game is a port of a console title through and through and while thats good in some areas (the planning phase is gone) its unfortunatly where it lets itself down. There's just so much that is broken its untrue.
Lets start with the general lack of any video options. Pc games always have tons of options and lets face it, with the vast diversity of the pc its needed. Well Ubi don't think so, no widescreen modes, no options to turn off most of the fancy effects, not even support for Shader model 2. That basically means that if you have a card that is less than a 6800 then you are screwed. Budget 7series also apparently run the game at sub 10fps so you're even more limited. Enough about that tho, most people in EED probably have a 6800 or better anyway so lets move on.
Where it falls down the most is the multiplayer side. Its just not finished at all and its where the game looks most like a console port. Gone are all the usual options you'd expect of a pc game. No password option, no option to specify a server name (just uses your account name). You can specify that you only want to allow your friends to join, that kinda gets round the no password issue but wait for it! Theres no friend list! (Obviously because the x360 has a dedicated friends list attached to your live account and no ones actually bothered to remove the option in the menus) Thats really fucking lame, you have to wonder if ubi fired all the work experience people that developed RavenShields multiplayer side (see one of our other blogs) and then hired some french hobos instead. Scratch that, they'd probably be too qualified to work for ubi. Anyway, I've not even touched on the fact that I and numerous others can't even get into the multiplayer setup screen (something I fixed by moving to wired over wireless but thats not worked for others), the game crashes alot (so far not for me but the forums are full of complaints), your characters equipment/armour/face/colours aren't used in multiplayer co-op so its pointless to set them up.
Well I think you're getting the point, theres more thats wrong with it that's not quite so bad. No key bindings for alot of stuff instead theres gay selection menus (console port issue again), the cover system allows you to see round walls in multiplayer making deathmatch/team games far to defensive and the completely pointless laser sight given that you always have crosshairs anyway. Ubi are wankers, its clear they've rushed this out for xmas and that its half finished and its a big shame because its actually a great game. I'd still recommend it with a warning of caution. A friend and I had a right laugh last night playing T-hunt and we're set to play again tonight. Its just frustrating knowing how good it would have been if someone other than the slack french **** had coded it. Roll on the EA buyout I say, they might be evil too but they're defo the better of two evils.

Tuesday 19 December 2006

The Trouble With Atheism [DrDave]

Last night, Channel 4 aired journalist Rod Liddle's documentary criticising atheism. Presumably, this programme was made partly to cash in on the success of Richard Dawkins's God Delusion, but also as a balance to last year's Root Of All Evil documentary, also by Dawkins. You can watch it here:
Part 1Part 2
Unsurprisingly, I found the programme to be annoying, though not without merit. I'll discuss its good points in a minute, but first it's worth covering where I feel it went wrong.
For a start, it was transparently cut to cast "atheists" in a bad light. I almost punched the screen when Dawkins was cut off mid-sentence just after suggesting that Marxist communism might naturally rise to fill the void left by a departing religion. Well, I suppose this is the nature of TV journalism. The name of the documentary isn't, after all, "The Potential Problems With Atheism Investigated With Fair And Unbiased Reporting". Liddle has an agenda, and he's not alone in using his art to support that.
Second, his choice of scientific experts was a touch suspect. I was tickled by the physicist who drew the sacred "pyramid of complexity" on a black board before comprehensively dismissing multi-verse theory and implying that the notion of a designer was far more likely. I'd like to see his working for that calculation! Similarly, Darwin's evolution by natural selection was cast in a far weaker light than it deserves. Liddle ominously asks the question "how long will it be before Darwin is comprehensively rewritten?". "It could be rather rapidly", is the triumphant reply - from the scientist who thinks that punctuationism is a new and threatening idea. Worst of all, was the implication that change, or "paradigm shift", is something that scientists don't welcome.
This is where Liddle's main thesis runs into major difficulty. He relies far too much on the old stick that atheism/science (one and the same in this treatment) is a religion just as much as Christianity is. I'm tired of this viewpoint, it is old and flawed. Yes, science is eventually reducible to axioms, and yes scientists have to accept these on faith, and yes we are forced to take research on trust because the universe is simply too vast for every researcher to start from scratch. But there the similarity ends - no matter how many flawed parallels you draw between Fermilab and temples, Dawkins and gurus, the scientific method and religious doctrine, you simply cannot get away from the fact that science is essentially mutable and invites questioning. Nothing is sacred, neither theory nor personality. You have an alternative to Darwinism? Brilliant, suggest it, present your evidence and if it fits the observations better you win yourself a Nobel prize.
All of these are fairly predictable criticisms for a documentary on this subject. However, I do come away with the sense that Liddle, no matter how loathsome he might be, has a rather good point.
"New atheism" seems to be the popular fad at the moment both in terms of a position to adopt and a movement to criticise, largely thanks to Dawkins. Really though, there's nothing "new" about it, other than a new found vocal confidence. It is still an absence of belief in a supernatural creator. As I've argued before, this is not the same as a belief in no creator. God is not the default position that will rise to fill the void the moment atheists stop believing, it is merely a hypothesis that has no compelling evidence.
Ultimately, in a pure sense, the only honest position to take is that of agnosticism. You simply cannot rule out a creator and anyone who claims they can is just plain wrong. Agnosticism, however, implies more theism than most rationalists can bear, so the name "atheist" is adopted by convention. "Agnostic-atheist" is a better way of describing the true rationalist view though: a God may exist, but I see no evidence for it and will live my life as though it didn't. This is the position we, as rationalists, should be adopting - open-minded but honest.
Liddle's documentary does not attack this way of thinking though. Liddle goes for the pure atheists, and he is perfectly correct to do so. In this context, his painting of atheism as a religion is entirely justified. The fashionable atheist that spouts unjustified hatred and intolerance towards religion is just as contemptible as a lorry load of Ted Haggards. And just as wrong.
It should be noted that I'm not suggesting a return to the bad old days of meekly kowtowing to religious idiocies. One of the most important accomplishments of Dawkins, Harris and Dennet is that they've overturned the taboo of criticising theist thinking. But we need to be very careful to ensure that the rationalism we defend is actually being deployed correctly. Saying "there is no God" is an indefensible position and equally as absurd as saying "there is a God".
Similarly, evoking morality to damn religion is asking for trouble. How can we ever reverse the damage caused by Stalin and Mao to the rationalist cause? I've long thought that the morality issue is a red herring for both sides. Theists claim that religion provides a moral code to live by - but they can't explain why atheists and different-flavour-theists have just as good morality. While atheists claim that religion causes evil, but can't explain why the two great experiments in removing religion have resulted in countless millions of deaths.
Ultimately, the cause of rationalism is sound only as long as we remain, forgive the pun, rational. Demanding evidence for bold claims is not at all unreasonable, nor is defending the right of children to approach the world with a questioning mind. We shouldn't be trying to make atheists, we should be trying to make thinkers. We shouldn't condemn those who reach theism by rational means, while equally we should condemn those who preach atheism with irrational claims.
To sum up Liddle's documentary, I was tempted to write that it is easy to prove a point by picking extreme examples - the atheist nutjob crying no-Gods outside the church or the frankly frothing Peter Atkins spring to mind. But then I realised, Liddle's work is guilty of exactly the same tricks as Dawkins' Root Of All Evil. So what right have rationalists got to criticise one and not the other?

BBC and the Ipswich Killer [Lurks]

In the closing weeks of 2006, one of the stories which you'd doubtless been following is the Ipswich serial killer, a (presumed) man who has notched up five murdered woman in an unusually short period. In itself this is tragic development but the issue I'm forced to comment on is the media's coverage of developments and in particular, the BBC.
Tom Stephens is a man in the locality of the murders and who knew and engaged the services of all five dead prostitutes. He hasn't made much of an effort to hide, far be it he's a prime suspect due to his aquaintance with all of the murder victims. I can only speculate that in an effort to be up front and clear his name, that is why he gave the BBC permission to release his name before he was charged for any crime.
He also engaged in an interview which was recorded with the verbal understanding of the BBC to be a background information interview and explictely not for broadcast. The BBC decided that since the man's name came out into the public (more on that later), that it would be in the public's interest to broadcast the interview expressly against his wishes. They did so on the televised news with an emboldend 'BBC EXCLUSIVE' flash across the screen.
Today I find the BBC editors defending their decision on the BBC news editors blog. What is most remarkable is that in the 30-odd comments found on that page, not a single one is buying the BBC's line that this was done in the public's interest.
What is further puzzling to me is that the BBC itself was held in at least one newspaper (Chicago Tribune I believe) as the source concerning releasing Tom Stephen's details. Since they had interviewed him, that doesn't seem inplausible although many newspapers merely claimed 'sources' when it came to outting the man and printing full details including his MySpace web site.
Let's be clear, no newspaper or media outlet should have released his details much less a full interview such as the BBC has. This vacuous claims of being in the public interest don't carry weight with me, the police or any other third party of note in this country. The media have a continued history of acting incredibly irresponsibly and have cost the tax payer large sums in the past due to court cases being abandonned due to the inability to deliver a fair trial free of media influence.
So while the BBC ineptly flounders to justify this action, Suffolk Police are taking no chances and have actually written to the editors of a number of newspapers specifically warning them not to publish the details of a second man arrested in course of the investigation so far.
I think Tom Stephens demonstrated shocking naivety by communicating with any member of the press before seeking legal advice. Nevertheless, the media know full well that their coverage can seriously detriment the feasibility of a fair trial and they firmly ignore this when they act in this way. They have a responsbility to behave correctly and that is especially true of the BBC who we rightly hold to a higher standard than the horrendously politically biased red-top trash. In the past, and indeed this time around also, most of them just point to eachother and say "well they released this information first" as some sort of justification. That's just not good enough and clearly if that's the way this stuff continues in future, that'll be how it always is. A little unwritten rule just to collaborate on such leaks and the media covers it's collective arse.
Enough is enough. It's about time some contempt of court proceedings were issued to the entire blasted lot of these editors and thereby demonstrated once and for all that it is justice which takes precidence here and not some lofty concept of the public interest. Their so-called 'public interest' will not save the lives of further women by apprehending the murderer, only their own ratings. Time to get tough and the BBC would be a damn good place to start.

Wednesday 6 December 2006

fun n frolicks in digital age [shedir]

So. I don't have sky sports extra, so can't see my beloved Celtic tonight. Maybe as well as we got fucked by a shitheap of a team from Denmark, but are through to next stages of the champions league.
Wifeys works xmas doo tonight, retail eh no sense of the calendar, so I had kids to deal with and no pub for game option open.
I sign up through eufa's webby and get the game from sky, the princely sum of £5 is visa'd (for only the second half, damned scouts for eldest night).
By fuck the hassle I had getting it to work. WMP 10 said my DRM was knackered, so install WMP11. WMP 11 no workee in FF 1.5. Revert to IE 6, WMP 11 decides to play in IE6 but the colours are shite. I've noticed that since I got the new monitor tho, vid playback is too red tinged (full screen. Will need to look at it.
Blog is really all this stuff should just be EASIER. I was more than happy to pay for this stuff, but I lost out on 15-20 minutes of the game trying to get all the windows crap too work.
At one point I thought about firing up the xbox and seeing if it's web browser would handle it. Other than this is mainly a bleat. BLEAT!
Severly tempted to use some of the freebie alternatives, but it is the size of a postage stamp and about 5 mintues delayed. We're through anyway, but it was just a faff I coulda done without.