Friday, 2 April 2004

House of sand and fog; online game trading

Listening to:

Beethoven, string quartet, Op. 131 in C sharp minor. Played by the Quartetto Italiano.

A recent movie:

House of sand and fog. Starring Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly, this is an impressive tragedy, featuring great performances by the actors (Ben Kingsley definitely deserved that Oscar nomination), some stunning cinematography, and an edge-of-the-seat plot. This is a tragedy where disaster ensues because of personal intransigence and stupidity. My view is that the film is a study of stupidity clashing with ambition.

The film opens with a brief shot that we later realise is a flash-forward to the very end of the film. It doesn’t give anything away, and the rest of the film’s story plays out with a straightforward sequential chronology. There are no gimmicks; just the story of four or five people in a terrible spiral towards doom. And though the characters have their flaws, they are also pretty sympathetic on the whole, which makes the “doom spiral” all that more compelling. Highly recommended.

A couple of links on trading in online games:

Wednesday, 7 April 2004


Listening to:

Bach, partita #3 in A minor, BWV 827. Played by Wolf Harden on the piano. (Naxos 8.550312).

You may not have noticed, but I have recently been deluged by piles of noxious comment-spam. I delete it as quickly as possible (a task not helped by the awkward Movable Type interface), and wonder why anyone bothers. The ads don’t last long, so they can’t reach many eyeballs, nor can there be much chance that Google will see them and pay them much attention.

My theory is that people have been fooled into spending hours of their time placing ads in the desperate hope of some commission from the outfits being advertised. They were probably recruited by spam messages in the first place. Certainly, a number of the links being advertised seem to have been “personalised”. For example, they contain strings of digits in the domain name, allowing the site at the other end of the link to determine which sap-on-commission placed the ad.

This theory at least explains why what must be a very ineffective form of advertising continues. Why else would people waste their time? The large variety of IP addresses from which the spam comes also suggests that there are lots of people doing it. Nor does it seem likely that it’s being done automatically: an automatic approach would surely blanket every possible entry. Instead, it seems as if the spammers come to the site via a Google link, and hit an entry or two before moving on.

All depressing stuff. Still, this story from Ireland is heartwarming: it tells about a system-administrator in Ireland helping in the arrest of a 419 (Nigerian fraud) spammer. The other advantage of being comment-spammed is that it forces me to look at a whole variety of my old posts, from before I moved to corollary, and I often fix them up to use my new HTML templates properly.

Friday, 16 April 2004

The nutmeg of consolation

Listening to:

Beethoven, Lenora overture #3. The Philharmonia conducted by Vladimir Ashkenzay. (Decca 400 060-2)

Just read:

Patrick O’Brian, The nutmeg of consolation.

This is the fourteenth book of the series. Like many of its predecessors, it’s not very novel-like in its construction. Instead of a story-arc with a beginning, development, climax and denouement, we’re dropped into the company of a couple of 19th century heroes and get to spend an extended period of time with them as they go about their business. In a multi-volume series such as O’Brian’s this is fair enough, and it works well because the characters are appealing, and because they get to do cool stuff.

At the end of the previous book, Aubrey, Maturin and the crew were castaways on a desert island in south-east Asia. This next instalment sees them eventually escape this island, chase down a French enemy and then journey to New South Wales. Maturin takes a back seat in much of this action, but is always on hand to comment and describe things from his own perspective. Correspondingly, Aubrey acts, but we hear his voice less.

This volume ends with less of a cliff-hanger than the previous one, but I’m sure any number of exciting adventures are still to come.

Thursday, 22 April 2004

A viral blogging meme, and some internet humour

Listening to:

Beethoven, piano sonata in B flat major, Op. 106 “Hammerklavier”, played by Alfred Brendel.

  1. Grab the nearest book.
  2. Open to page 23.
  3. Find the fifth sentence.
  4. Post the sentence on your blog along with these instructions.

This relation will be generated by axioms.

Pretty dull-sounding, huh? It’s from The lambda calculus: its syntax and semantics by H. P. Barendregt (revised edition), published by Elsevier in 1984, and a real classic of the field.

Some pieces of Internet humour that amused me: