Super Happy Fun Chat

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Krissa: did you hear about the armed standoff?
on a bridge in jersey
he's like surrounded by cops on the bridge,
with a gun,
and a woman and a baby in the car.
Stuart: shit!
Krissa: totes.
Stuart: wow
I hope no one gets hurt.

6:05 PM

Krissa: HOLY SHIT
nano just let off.
the
THE
DOG-FOODIEST-FART EVER
holy CRAP
WOW.
jt's... uhhh
it's like WOW.
Stuart: cor
So glad I'm miles away
Krissa: WOW
i just turned the fan on
and it's still hanging around
SPIKE
!!!!
is on smallville!!!
Stuart: spike?
Krissa: stupid SMALLVILLE.
Stuart: AS?
Krissa: god!! what do i DO!?
it's the smelliest...
god!!
Stuart: open the windows
did he FOLLOW THROUGH?
GOD
Krissa: you think the FAN on HIGH
Stuart: IT's ALL HAPPENING TODAY
GUNMEN
Krissa: what
Stuart: DOG FARTS
THE WORLD'S GONE MAD
Krissa: ahahaha
are you making fun of me?!
why! why won't the fart go away!!!
Stuart: did he poop?
Krissa: even NANO looks like he can smell it
Stuart: a little?
Krissa: EW
and
no.
i just checked.
Stuart: good
and
no idea what's going on then
windows!
Krissa: too lazy!!
Stuart: suffer, then!
:)
Krissa: christ.
Stuart: mmm yummy
tasty dogfart.
Krissa: maybe he's just farting over and over again
tiny little farts
like a MACHINE GUN OF FARTS
Stuart: RATATATATATATATATATATATAT
Krissa: i've just shoved a pillow in my face
and it smells like DAVE'S HEAD
which honestly
is preferable to CASTOR AND POLLUX FARTS
Stuart: "Newman's Own Farts"

6:22 PM

Krissa: it's fading.
very.
slowly.

Labour Of Love

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"I suppose it's moved from 'hobby' to 'passion'" sighed Krissa, at the dinner table with Dave and Sam, who were staying with us for the week.
I frowned at her a bit.
"When did you get the impression it was just a hobby?" I said.
She scowled at me.
"So, Dave," I said, "fancy a bit of Guitar Hero?"

After tormenting my delightful lady wife by merely playing them all the time, I am now doing videogame reviews at videogamesblogger.com as well.
This is the site I won Halo 3 from last year.
(On a side note, bungie.net tells me that I've played 798 online matches of Halo 3. Crikey. I thought it got a bit intense there for a while, but I assure you I've slowed down a bit now)

Anyway - reviews! I've done two so far, both retrospectives - The Getaway: Black Monday, and Grand Theft Auto.
The Grand Theft Auto review is the first part of a series of retrospective looks at the GTA series in the lead up to the release of Grand Theft Auto IV on April 29th. These won't be your average reviews - while I will be talking about how good they are (or aren't) I'll also be looking at the way the gameplay, style and environments developed over time, comparing the virtual and real worlds.
Hopefully I'll be reviewing GTAIV too (hint hint, Mr. Editor, sir).

After all the GTA retrospectives I'll be concentrating on more recent releases, but I expect there will be a series of retro-reviews for the Splinter Cell series when the next one comes out, too.

So...yeah! This is why I was compiling the list of all games I've ever owned.

Commute

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This morning my subway train and another pulled into the station simultaneously. The doors opened and on the other train across the platform from me a guy was standing with headphones on. He stared at me intensely, completely deadpan, and mouthed ?LA LA LA LA LA!? while rocking his head and doing a little dance. The doors closed and the trains carried on their way. I cracked up and everyone in my carriage thought I was crazy.

I love this town to tiny, tiny pieces.

The Back Catalogue

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For reasons I'll keep to myself for now, I have just compiled a list of all of the computer and video games I've ever played.
Running through the 1700-strong PlayStation 2 game list, I came away realizing I have at some point owned a staggering 58 of them. After listing the Xbox 360 games, I realized I could also list the few PlayStation 1 and Xbox titles I have because they're backwards compatible, and then it seemed sensible to maybe list the Mac games, then the PC games seemed logical and before I knew it I was staring at a complete list of video and computer games that I've ever (EVER!) owned.

I feel both old and very very immature because looking back at this list makes me feel so gleeful.

So in reverse chronological order, ladies and gentlemen I proudly present; my wasted youth:


Xbox 360:

Assassin's Creed
Bioshock
Blazing Angels: Squadrons of World War II
Call of Duty 2
Call of Duty 3
The Godfather: The Game
Guitar Hero 2
Guitar Hero 3
Halo 3
Saints Row
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Rogue Agent
Xbox Live Arcade Unplugged (compilation):
-Texas Hold 'Em
-Bejeweled 2
-Wik: Fable of Souls
-Outpost Kaloki X
-Geometry Wars
-Backgammon

PlayStation 2:

Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War
Beyond Good And Evil
BMX XXX (don't judge me! I got it from a friend who didn't want a bunch of games any more)
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds
Bully
Colin McRae Rally 3
Devil May Cry 2
Driv3r
Driver: Parallel Lines
Enter The Matrix
Futurama
The Getaway
The Getaway: Black Monday
God of War
The Godfather: The Game
Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec
Grand Theft Auto III
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories
Harry Potter: Quidditch World Cup
The Italian Job
James Bond 007: Everything or Nothing
James Bond 007: Nightfire
Katamari Damacy
Knockout Kings 2002
Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy
The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers
Mafia
Max Payne
Max Payne 2: The Fall Of Max Payne
Medal of Honor: Frontline
Medal of Honor: Rising Sun
Midnight Club Street Racing
Midnight Club 2
Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition Remix
Onimusha: Warlords
Prince of Persia: The Sands Of Time
Project Eden
Return To Castle Wolfenstein: Operation Resurrection
The Sims
Spider-Man
SSX
SSX Tricky
SSX 3
Star Wars: Jedi Starfighter
State of Emergency
Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent
True Crime: Streets of L.A.
True Crime: Streets of New York
We Love Katamari
Wipeout Fusion
XIII (Thirteen)

(TOTAL: 58 games holy freaking crap)

Mac:
Civilization III

Xbox:
Halo 2

PlayStation:
Grand Theft Auto
Grand Theft Auto: London 1969
Grand Theft Auto 2
Dukes of Hazzard: Racing For Home (don't ask)

PC:
Civilization II
Douglas Adams' Starship Titanic
Half-Life
Half-Life Blue Shift
Hidden and Dangerous
Need for Speed: High Stakes
Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
Quake II
Thief II
Unreal

Now we get seriously retro.

Master System 2:
Alex Kidd in Miracle World
Asterix
Golden Axe
Land of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse
PGA Tour Golf
Prince of Persia
Sonic The Hedgehog
Taz-Mania
Wimbledon 2

Atari 260ST
Er...I'm really confused now. I had a moment about ten minutes ago when I remembered that I had a computer between the Master System and the BBC Acorn...I could have sworn I played Magicland Dizzy and Fantasy World Dizzy on something but I'll be buggered if I can remember what. Bang goes my nostalgia trip...

BBC Micro
System description and chuckle-worthy picture here. I can't believe that around 1988 I sold that on to some young couple who thought it would be good to have a computer...for the sum of ONE HUNDRED ENGLISH POUNDS. It didn't even have a 5 1/2" floppy drive...just the tape deck.
You couldn't so much play games as sit and copy complicated BASIC programmes from a book until you hit >RUN and a tricolored thin-framed butterfly juddered across the screen and you went to get your parents to show them what you did.

I did, however, play Repton on the BBC.

If you've never heard of Repton, and the odds are high, as the BBC Micro it was a pretty much Europe-only computer, and this was the 80s...well. Here's a video of its manifest genius. These are the earlier levels where the puzzles to get the diamonds are quite easy (and the player obviously knows all the tricks) but the later levels were fiendish.



That music is like primary school coming back to haunt me.
Marvellous.

---

After all that, after all those hours playing, all those finished stories, all the completed games...nothing stands out as an achievement more than my father's epic (and successful) quest to complete Sonic The Hedgehog in one sitting WITHOUT LOSING A LIFE.
He was unemployed at the time, and it was during the UK recession of the early 90s. He took to the challenge in an almost scary way. Looking back I know he'd set himself this crazy goal so that he could say, "If I can do this..."
And he did it.
I remember coming home from school to find him sitting in the kitchen with this enormous grin on his face.
I was thrilled and told pretty much everyone at school how great my Dad was.
I've only ever seen him that dedicated two other times...when he was going for his Karate Black Belt, and when he was working on his degree.

Anyway.
There you go.

A Glass To The Wall

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I've been watching the progress of the US domestic wiretapping saga with interest.
After the politically motivated surveillance forays of previous administrations and the security-justified activities of this one, it seems the issue isn't going away; there exists the need to find a balance between national security and the right to privacy that is democratically satisfactory.

At the moment the telecommunications companies that complied with the administration are not commenting on the matter publicly, citing national security concerns, and while they do not yet have immunity, they have the right to defend themselves in a closed court. As far as I gather.

So what of a government monitoring its citizens?
'An honest man has nothing to fear from a policeman,' only stands true if you assume the policeman is also honest, and no one wants to make that assumption without assurances. Which is why a widespread program of warrantless wiretapping is a frightening prospect. There is an epic potential for misuse of information gathered through insufficiently controlled channels. Even Presidents of The United States are not immune from these temptations..

A government that demands complete transparency in financial, political and social practices would provoke outcry, and a government with no electronic intelligence gathering capacity would be a crippled entity indeed in the 21st century, regardless of geopolitical standing.
I don't wish to comment upon what kinds of surveillance are suitable, but I think intelligence agencies are a useful and valuable tool for a nation when tempered with adequate checks and balances. I do not want anyone eavesdropping on my personal communications unless an adequately independent third party has deemed it necessary for criminal or civil investigation. That's my tuppence.

Where can we look for an established balance of privacy and the interests of society as a whole?

As an engineer I like to take things down to nuts and bolts, and physics has a great tradition of established thought experiments where the unknown is concealed. Let's set ourselves up with a thought experiment.

Let's take a man carrying out some sort of activity in a box, and say that that there is a probability he is doing something damaging to society.
What do you want to do about it?
Because there is only a probability he is doing something damaging to society, we have to factor in the possibility that he's just going about his own business when we select our strategy.
From a security standpoint we can either watch him or listen to him, and because he could do something silently, I think watching is preferable.
So let's cut a hole in the box so we can see what he's doing.
From an ideal security standpoint we'd like to get rid of the box entirely, but the man in the box has his own interests, his own motives for going about his business, and he doesn't want to be constantly watched.
So we need a hole, and we need to come to a socially acceptable agreement about how big this hole should be. Naturally, how big the hole is will depend on the relative importance of security and privacy - how likely do we, as observers, think that the man in the box is up to no good? If we think it highly likely we should push for a big hole. If the man in the box resents our intrusion and passionately demands his privacy, he will push for a small hole or no hole at all. This balance can be seen as a product of the priorities of the people involved - or, extrapolating, the society where the experiment takes place.

There is an analogy for this process we're describing, and socially acceptable balances have already been worked out - differently for different societies, and America has settled on a solution. It might seem utterly ridiculous, but bear with me here.

I'm talking about toilet cubicles.

In our hypothetical situation let's exchange national security for morally acceptable behaviour, our metaphorical box for a physical box, and the man's private business for the man's private business.
Now we have a very real desire for privacy on the part of the man, versus an external societal standard of what is and isn't acceptable behaviour (which might be the only spot where this analogy falls down, but run with this) - and a box.

In America the average toilet stall or cubicle wall starts a good 12' off the ground and proceeds for five feet upwards, where it stops. It is impossible to do anything in an American toilet cubicle without your neighbours being aware of it. And when I say 'anything' I mean anything - ranging from sending a text message to reading a newspaper to using the toilet cubicle for the purpose it was installed. All of that 'information' is shared, but it doesn't seem to be a problem for people. Coming from the UK, where floor-to-ceiling toilet walls are common, American toilets take a lot of getting used to. It's not pleasant, having all this information. It's certainly not pleasant receiving it, but it's also unnerving to know that your movements are being so clearly broadcast as well; it is unpleasant to have less privacy.

Then, after a while...you stop thinking about it.

This pitch of mine might seem a bit wacky but it's not that far fetched. An invasion of our personal privacy in the toilet is something we would find distasteful and makes us uncomfortable. It's not a man from the government with a clipboard and a tape recorder outside the toilet cubicle, but our peers and fellow workers, or fellow restaurant patrons. But privacy in our personal actions gives us security and comfort, and once it is removed, we feel the lack of it. And then, gradually, we adjust to our new normality.

So taking all this on board my prediction is this: the telecommunications companies will receive no censure for cooperating with the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program. After a while a bill will be proposed that allows domestic surveillance of US citizens without a warrant with limitations such as a time restriction - surveillance cannot continue for longer than a month without a warrant or a signoff from another independent body. After a swell of sound and fury, that will get signed into law and it will become completely normal.

Completely normal.

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