Saturday, December 31, 2005

A game for the holiday season

ome time ago, I told you about Samorost, a mysterious game where you have to figure out what to do. The sequel has been published recently, and I've been playing it intermittently. It took me several attempts, but I've now completed the first part.

I've enjoyed it, but it's more of the same, so there isn't the same sense of exploration as the first game. That's why I haven't shelled out to play Chapter 2. Still, it's enough of a challenge to maintain interest. Let me know what you think, and whether you attempt the second chapter. It's only £5.60 after all.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


veryone has forgetful moments - walk upstairs then can't remember why, return from the shop without an important ingredient - but the other day I experienced a new level of blankness.

I was trying to think of a word which I knew began with the letter 'a'. Not only could I not remember the word, though, I found that I couldn't even describe the concept I was trying to remember. It felt like there was a smooth, polished, rugby-ball-shaped hole inside my head, neatly excising everything connected with this word, except its initial letter.

This sensation was so strong it was like an itch or a pain, and I started to panic. I tried to think of something else as a distraction, but that was like trying not to breathe. The word was entirely incidental to whatever I'd been thinking about, but suddenly it was crucial that I remember it.

Lisa talked me out of it, thankfully, but it left me feeling shaken. My brain must still have been thinking about it, though, for ten hours later I suddenly realised that the missing word was 'apathetic'.

A quick look at the checklist of warning signs on the Alzheimer's Association website shows that I am unlikely to be suffering from that form of dementia, but I suddenly have a bit more understanding of what it must be like for people who do.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Coincidence or bad taste?

n one of the Freeview channels recently, the NSPCC has been running an advertising campaign, asking people to donate money to help stop child abuse. It consists of several children, alone and upset, each of whom has been suffering a different kind of harm.

All very laudable. Is it an unfortunate coincidence or deliberate bad taste, then, that several times the advert has been followed immediately by an ad for Knorr stock cubes asking us to end the misery of vegetables left alone and abandoned?

Monday, December 26, 2005

The day after

o how was it for you? We had a lovely, leisured breakfast followed by a stroll in the cold, crisp air. Bliss.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The day today

erry Christmas, one and all!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Becoming a geek

s part of my research into Web 2.0, I've been fiddling with Technorati and Feedburner. It's all worryingly geekish. The result has been some minor changes to the column on the right over the past week or so.

By 'claiming' my blog with Technorati, updates on my blog are now automatically included in Technorati blog searches. I can also tell how many blogs link to mine (just one, apparently - Tony's. I don't know why it doesn't include Penny's blog or yclepta.)

Registering with Feedburner and adding the orange icon to the column on the right means that people can add the RSS feed to their aggregators so that they are notified whenever I update the blog. I can keep track of how many people subscribe (i.e. link) to that feed. It's currently one: me, for testing purposes.

According to Steve Rubel, everyone should adopt a common feed symbol so that the coming wave of RSS users will recognise it. So far, however, Feedburner doesn't offer that symbol as an option.

Update: The icon is now available for download. I'll be adding it to my site shortly. If you don't like the orange colour, you can customise it.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Lost Worlds

n Tuesday I wrote about my difficulties with my blog's theme of Loss. They probably arise from the combination of not wanting to write anything deeply personal and my fortunate postion in not having lost much in my life.

In that light, adopting the theme that I did now seems like a poor decision. I still find my eye caught by the word 'lost', however, so it was almost with a sense of duty that I used the BBC website 'Listen Again' facility to hear the first part of this week's Book of the Week: 'Lost Worlds: What Have We Lost and Where Did it Go?' by Michael Bywater, read by Stephen Fry.

I enjoy Stephen Fry in QI , but somehow the broadcast left me cold. Almost in desperation, I turned to Amazon and used for the first time their 'Look Inside' feature, where you can read a few pages of the book.

This was far better, as the writing was much more enticing (and a good example of how Amazon, as a Web 2.0 site, sets itself apart from its competitors). The price of the book has been reduced to £3.99, so I may well invest in the physical version rather than the time-limited virtual one. The glimpse given already, however, suggests that Mr Bywater has tackled the subject far better than I could ever hope to, so I may just abandon the blog's theme, and continue writing on anything that grabs my attention.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Minor Oracles

short while ago, I wrote about anagrams of my name. Lisa posted a comment with anagrams of hers, which she had generated at Wordsmith. I particularly liked 'A bald jeer ruins' and 'A bra rends Julie'. You could rearrange the latter so that Julie is the one doing the rending, but that would lose its surreal quality.

I ran my name through the anagram finder, and came up with a lot more that would never have occurred to me. My favourites are:

- Minor oracles
- Moronic earls
- Marine colors (yes, I know, it's the American spelling)
- Racoon smiler
- Romancer oils
- Moraliser con
- A slim crooner (could also be coroner)

The anagram creator generates literally hundreds of possibilities, some of them rather weak, but there is an advanced option where you can control the results, such as specifying the maximum number of words or the minimum number of letters in a word.

Here are just a few of the rest for my name:

- A limo scorner
- A micro loser
- No calories Mr
- Ion clamorers
- Or iron camels
- O corneal rims
- No mica sorrel
- Or manic roles
- Masonic Errol
- Colorman rise
- Miser on coral
- Corral monies
- Re social morn
- Cram snore oil
- Or acorn slime
- Car rinse loom
- Realism croon
- I scorn morale
- Or sonic realm
- Seminar color

I could spend a lot of time at that site.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Turning Point for All

or or those of us in the northern hemisphere, today is the shortest day of the year - wiinter solstice. For everyone else, of course, it's the summer solstice.

Either way, it's a significant time. From now on, days will start to grow longer (or shorter). In some ways, it's really the start of the new year. A time to reflect on the old one, and look forward to the new.

The solstice has been a time of festival and ceremony for thousands of years. Maeshowe in Orkney and Newgrange in Ireland were both built to line up with the sun on this day. I visited Maeshowe many years ago, though not in winter, and it was very impressive. It's not nearly as good as physically going there, but there are webcams now so anyone can see the view.

To visit Newgrange on the solstice, however, there is a lottery, drawn in October, for the 20 places available. Last year 24,000 people applied.

Whether you're one of the few who are there today or not, greetings and best wishes for the new year that's just beginning.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005


hose of you who have been following this blog from the early days (July 2005) or who have consulted the archives will know that the first few posts had some connection with loss, as befits the title. Somehow my intentions to continue that format didn't quite keep up with the material I found that I wanted to write about.

A couple of weeks ago, however, I followed up one of my potential subjects by borrowing 'Lost in Translation' on DVD from the library at college. Perhaps I wasn't paying enough attention, but I failed to see why it gathered such critical acclaim. I didn't even dislike it enough to write about it.

I also recently caught up with 'Lost' on Channel 4, now on episode 20 of 24, and found that I haven't missed anything by failing to watch many of the preceding attempts to create back stories for the characters. I will probably watch the final episode to discover the explanation for the castaways' predicament, though I won't be impressed if they all died in the original plance crash or if they've been abducted by aliens.

More on this tomorrow.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Scorsese or Kubrick?

uite unexpectedly, I've found myself in the role of film director recently, something I could quite easily get used to. I was testing some shots for the Hamlet stop-motion film, and although my fellow students found it hard to be serious actors for any length of time, I really enjoyed experimenting with angles and heights in the two-camera set up.

I've settled on using pixillation as my technique because my experiments with plasticene didn't work well. I'd love to build a couple of models using latex round properly-jointed armatures, like Wallace and Gromit, but that's beyond the time and budget available. Sometime in the future, perhaps.

I've also settled on a metaphor to epitomise the play's themes: hands. Hands will hold Hamlet's ankles to represent his prevarication, and Laertes and Hamlet's father's ghost will both point to Claudius to indicate his guilt. Laertes doing this will be the signal that releases Hamlet and he charges (apparently sliding across the floor) towards Claudius and stabs him.

There are some performing arts students I hope to use as actors instead of people on my course, and I'm making masks to complete the transformations.

After I'd finished the tests, we started trying some other ideas. One was based on a technique used by Norman McLaren, where an actor repeatedly jumped up into the air, bending his knees while off the ground, and a single shot was taken at the top of each jump. Since the actor moved sideways slightly between each jump, the end result looked like he floated through the air. It was much easier to time the shot than I'd expected. The only drawback was for the poor actor, who was exhausted by the end.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Catching Up

haven't been posting much recently, mainly because I've been so busy. In the interim, I've been accumulating lots of interesting but trivial topics to write about, so I may write an 'odds and sods' post or two in the next few days.

What's stimulated me to resume posting today was meeting Tony again. I haven't seen him for a while, and he's been a bit quiet online, so it was lovely to have a chat with him and catch up. Thanks, Tony!

Monday, December 05, 2005

The good and not-so-good of Web 2.0

an you be definitely ambivalent about something? If you can, then that's what I am, at least for today, about this whole Internet/Web 2.0 thing.

First, the good stuff. Late last night, I was preparing for today's stop-motion animation (more on this later) when I discovered that my camcorder automatically powers down after six minutes to prevent damage to the miniDV tape and to save power. All very laudable, except I want to film over several hours, and I refuse to stand beside the camera to switch it off and on again every five minutes.

After a quick search on the Internet, I found the Panasonic 3CCD Users Group, registered and posted my question. Six minutes later, the topic's administrator had posted the solution. Where else could I get instant help at midnight on a Sunday? Brilliant. (And although it doesn't look like a Web 2.0 site, its value derives entirely from user contributions.)

So today, my camcorder is able to click away, twelve times an hour, recording the street outside and the arc of the sun across the sky. (Actually, it's just a grey murk becoming slightly paler, but never mind - the forecast is for a dry spell later.) I'm using Framethief, a programme I downloaded from the Web that I can use free for thirty days, and if I wish to continue using it I can pay a small fee to do so. Also brilliant.

Now for the not so good. Feeling grateful to the Panasonic Users Group, I did as they asked, and added myself to their Frappr map of the world, to show my location. While doing so, because it's a Web 2.0 site, I created my own Frappr account, with my own homepage, the opportunity to invite friends to join and the ability to add my own photographs and identify their location on the world map.

I know it was only an automated message, but it's not nice to be told "Currently, you have no friends". It merely rubbed salt into the wound of trying to join the social network Orkut last week, purely in the name of Web 2.0 research, only to be told that I couldn't because nobody had invited me. I know I'm not part of the MySpace generation but at least I was invited to get a GMail account.

The rest of my ambivalence is my own fault. The number of RSS feeds that I'm tracking each day has crept up to 70, though fortunately not all of them provide updates every day. It's all just too interesting, and I spend far too much time following links and discovering the weird and wonderful. I tell myself that when I've finished this research project on Web 2.0 then I can delete most of the feeds, but I probably won't. And anyway, a large number of them are connected with photography and animation rather than Web 2.0, so they're stimulating and challenging as well as useful.