2008 Imported From Epistula


If you’re still reading this, Merry Christmas.

Maybe next year it’ll get content again.

2008 Current Affairs Imported From Epistula Poems Politics


In World War One

  • Forty two million people were mobilised for the Allies
  • There were twenty two million casualties on the Allied side.
  • There are less than ten people alive left who fought.

    If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
    Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
    Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
    Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
    My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

    In World War Two

  • Over 10% of the 1939 population of Germany were killed. 16% of Poland.
  • The soviet union suffered 10,700,000 military deaths.
  • The UK lost 382,600.
  • One of these was John Brunt

    The point of Remembrance day is not war. It’s not really peace, either, and anyone using it to push any political agenda is doing the Service a disservice. It’s the unspoken social contract between those who go to fight the powers that would attack our country and those who survive: That if you go and fight, and do not return, we will remember them.

    You may disagree with the current war, where the direct threat to our lands is diffuse and not really counterable – and possibly enhanced – by direct action in the lands of others, but this war is not all wars, and these reasons are not all reasons, and those that die of these decisions did not make them.

    And so we remember them.

2008 Current Affairs Imported From Epistula trutap


I should have posted this a while ago, but anyway.

This year I am not doing Nanowrimo. Writing an entire novel in november seems too much like hard work. I am doing something that will make me look equally silly, but will require significantly less work on my part.


Movember is a sponsored mustashe growing thing, with the money going to prostate cancer research and treatment. A number of people at planet Trutap are taking part (and it was weird to go into the office on Monday to see all the bearded geeks of various stripes cleanshaven. I hope a couple are carrying ID…).

It’s such a good idea, in fact, that you should sponser me to do this, by going to the movember site and doing so right now.

Every little helps. If people donate, pics will happen. Actually, if you donate enough, pics won’t happen, and the internet will be saved more silly photos of me on the internet. Go on, help 🙂

2008 Current Affairs Imported From Epistula internet Metablog MLP

Magic Trees, Level II

A while ago, I invented a concept of “Magic Trees”, named after the story of a vicar who chopped down a 140 year old tree and justified it by saying “A paedophile might have been hiding behind it”. This was later expanded to include invisible terrorists.

This morning a different story caught my attention. A social network site I’ve never heard of has recently banned a large number of its users over 36, possibly all of them, because:

Having discussed the use of our website with the home office and the police, and further some pretty serious crimes caused by older users, we were left with no option but to terminate a huge amount of accounts, and without notice, immediately. We understand that only a minority of older users are sex offenders, but you must understand that we cannot tell which – we can only delete all to make the site safe and we apologise for that. However, we are following the law and you cannot think we are wrong for doing that.

Basically, there is the the new legislation requiring sex offenders to have their details held by the government (Under the “But we would never let that data leave officialdom” clause we know so well) and there is a blindingly stupid proposal to require social network sites to validate against a pre-existing list of known email addresses belonging to sex offenders. The original database is scary in and of itself, I have enough trouble getting off SMS spam lists, and those have a documented legal procedure. If your address – physical or metaworld – is in that database you’re many degrees of screwed, but the blindingly stupid addition of requiring email addresses?

I have currently got three email addresses I look at on a day to day basis. Without thinking too long about it, I can think of a dozen that will get to me eventually, plus another few that won’t anymore (like my old uni address, or my Evolving Media or BrowserAngel addresses) I could have signed up for another dozen in the time it’s taken you to skim-read this article.

Not only that, but this proposal is just that, a proposal yet to go though the bad ideas filter. Now, the social network providing this story, which is known as “Faceparty” and I’m not going to link to, claims they were dived upon by “A gang of paedophiles” who attacked their younger audience. If I was uncharitable, and I’m tending towards so, I’d wonder if this actually happened, or is a pre-emptive strike, or – even less charitably – if it’s all an attempt to get people to realise they exist. Browsing their site as a non-user, it does appear that they enjoy pushing a reputation for “edgy”. Their front page featured article links though to a page using the current-most-forbidden word (Four letters, begins with C, Rhymes with stunt, as in “Publicity”) as punctuation, and it’s all… very…


Of course, it’s entirely plausable that this is a genuine over-reaction to a genuine problem they were having with paedophiles and my cynical analisis that it’s all a publicity drive under the pretext of chopping down a magic tree could be entirely off the mark, but I’m not linking to them anyway.

2008 Computer Games Gaming Imported From Epistula RPG

GameCamp London 2008

I went to Gamecamp. It’s becoming quite common in reports of this event to wax lyrical about the location for a little while first, so I’ll do that. It was held at 3Rooms (I’m sixth from the left in that photo), which is a PR venue belonging to Sony’s PlayStation division. Effectively, it’s where they take journalists to demo new products.

It’s pretty.

Level 1 is white. It’s a large loft-style space, split into areas with screens and curtains and shelves, with textures and soft furnishings everywhere, bright splashes of colour, Huge Sony Bravia TVs everywhere (all with PS3s attached) sunken sofas, shelves full of interesting-looking tat, bright and airy and absolutely glorious.

Level 2 is black. It’s a dark bar with mirrored surfaces and a (non-alcoholic) bar, with a raised area surrounded by sofas and a coffee table with board games. There are huge jars of Jelly-Belly scattered around, and a large projection screen with a PS3 attached.

Level 3 is green. It’s is a roof garden with views over central London, wooden tables and chairs, sofas and plants. Relaxing and bright.

The entire building is exactly where I would live if I didn’t have limitations of money. I am not in any way kidding, it’s wonderful, and designed specifically for me.

Enough about the venue.

Reports about the event are around from mssrs Gillen and Curran, and are entirely accurate and worthwhile. It was an “Unconference” style thing, in the style of Foo & BarCamp and other such events. I ended up going to a session on “Indy tabletop RPG games are flourishing. We’re not competing with computer games. Really. We mean it. See? They don’t scare us with their billion dollar budgets. Not even a little” and another on how to play a russian card game called Durak. After that I kind of got distracted by Echochrome and Rock Band. I went to a session on “The Revolution” in which under-21 gamers got shot, the Wii didn’t, and mandatory installs did. The sessions I did go to were fun, and though them I’ve become more interested in indy roleplaying games – since that was the aim of my first session, that’s probably a good thing – including Dogs In The Vineyard, a game about Mormon cowboys. I should set one of these up at some point. Also there was the inventor of the game Baron Munchausen, which various people in Cambridge were playing while I was Maelfrothing a couple of weeks back. The entire event was wonderful, and I look forward to the next.

The (video) games that I played:

Echochrome, upon which I’ve splattered forth fanboyism before is quite good, but doesn’t live up to the idea. The controls are a little slow – often you’ll fail a level because you simply can’t rotate the screen fast enough – and imperfect (Sometimes you’ll connect up a ledge but it doesn’t connect because it needed to be connected at the edge 90o instead). It may have been that the demo came from early code, though. Either way, since I have neither a PS3 or a PSP, it’s all distinctly academic.

Rock Band Rocks. There is little more I have to say. I spent more time on guitar than anything else, simply because there were two of them. Drumming is hard, singing is easy, YMMV. Guitar is the most polished of the experiences, fairly obviously, but the ability to declare both players as lead guitar fails on 90% of the library as it simply randomly assigns one to be the bass line if it only has one guitar track. I sang Creep, by Radiohead. I do that a lot.

GTA4 also rocks, but you possibly don’t need me to tell you that bit.

2008 Current Affairs Imported From Epistula

They say we want a revolution

I didn’t expect Alexander ‘Boris’ Johnson to be the new London Mayor. I hoped Ken would carry on, because I live in (the outer edges of) central London, and everything Ken’s done over the last eight years to join up the transport network has improved the live of me, personally. I am a fan of the congestion charge, and that it isn’t on account, because it means taking the car into London means you have to do admin, and so people don’t do it. It’s a simple tactic, but it’s made the transport network work, as the buses can get around.

I can’t help but wonder if Ken Livingstone would have been expelled had he remained Independent as he was when he first got elected. Whilst the righteous anger of the London suburb belt and South London waxed wroth, I’m not sure it could not have been overcome had Ken not also had to face the backlash against Labour’s first decade. The mayoral position, for all that Ken is a card-carrying classic breed Labour member, has never really been a party political one, until now, where the hopes and dreams of the Conservative Party now rest with the haystack who walks like a man. The London Mayor is now officially a beacon of politics for the rest of the country, where Ken’s strengths were always where he was just trying to get London to work properly. Capital though it is, the idea of my local government becoming a national issue, requestioning every little bikeshed decision to see if the Conservatives could possibly be allowed to run the country again.

I’d like to think people have a long enough memory to realise the parallels between now and ~1995, before we swapped the men with the blue ties for the men with the red ties, and tried something new. However, until either the Liberal Democrats tie their act together with a neat little bow and start actually getting press for policies, or another political party is formed somehow; we’re just going to flick back to blue in a couple of years mostly because we don’t like red anymore.

I’m also – too many paragraphs beginning with “I” – not a fan of a number of Boris’ policies. The idea of building 50k affordable homes is a nice one, but given that he’s mayor of London and not, say, the Home Counties, where does he intend to build them? And with what money? As I understand it, any excess budget is – rightly – going to make sure the city doesn’t collapse under the weight of the Olympics; during the run up to which the administration will be running their reelection campaign, a fact which amuses me. He wants to put the congestion charge on account also, which misses the point somewhat. The money the congestion charge is – £5 to bring your car into the centre of London – isn’t much more than a token, really. It’s more the fact that you have to pay on the day or within a few days. It’s administrative faff, which puts people off more than the charge does, otherwise the city-boy types will just set up a direct debit to take the money out and ignore the thing completely. The reason the congestion charge is important to me, personally, is because it means that buses are suddenly able to get from A to B without a traffic jam, meaning they’re a viable form of commute. I’m in favour of people who actually have to go into London with a van and cannot justify a “Fleet” account (And here I mean things like plumbers, rather than those who cannot be bothered to drive to the nearest tube station. They can pay for parking with the money they save by living far from where they work. I’ve little sympathy for the people who complain that they cannot have their outer-suburbs cheaper housing/rent and keep their inflated London salary) getting a discount or something, but the point of the exercise is not so much to charge people to get into London. This is not to say that the outer-London transport network doesn’t need a great deal of expansion, it does, but inner London transport was actively broken and the money to fix outer London did not go – as the suburbs appear to think – to upgrade the Jubilee line with gold plated fire alarms, but to bailing out the private companies that almost caused the entire underground network to go bankrupt.

None of which is actually Boris’ fault, but his campaign policies did seem to mostly focus on capitalising of feeding money into the areas the previous administration didn’t have enough money to give to, balanced against mass-populist whitewash. Neither of which contained any reference to where they were going to get the money to spend on this thing. What’s the betting the rise in my – already high – council tax is higher this year than last?

If I sound panicked about this, it’s because almost all of the policies thus far explained are either going to require more money from taxpayers, or a poorer quality of transport inside the capital, or another inconvenience for me; all of which starts to drain on my ability to remain living in the city. And if I, an engineer with a reasonably good job, cannot afford to live on the outskirts of the city I work in, something somewhere is drastically wrong.

All of which ignores the other issue, which is Johnson himself. For – more than once – referring to Africans as “Picaninnies”, for being banned from various other cities any other person would have been shot at dawn. I see Johnson’s election as a triumph of celebrity over talent or policy or politics, as much as Schwarzenegger’s election was, and I’d prefer for this city, and this country, to be less of a laughing-stock than it already is.

Ideally, we’d also win the cricket, and while I’m wishing I’d like a pony.

2008 Humour Imported From Epistula

Mister Lehrer

On Youtube, there is an archive of videos of Tom Lehrer performing.

This is him performing songs you’ve not heard before, even if you have the full box set:

Part two can be found here

Tom Lehrer is eighty today.

2008 events Imported From Epistula music


A few hours before Jonathan Coulton performed his very first gig in the UK ever (And the first outside the states, I believe), he bought a Tenori-on which is apparently only available over here.

This means we ended up being the first people to ever see him perform playing with a new geeky toy. It looked very much like this:

I also, briefly, met Rory Parle.

We also ended up with covers of The Saturday Boy and “Do They Know It’s Christmas Time?” The latter of which doesn’t appear to have made it to YouTube yet. Most of the rest of the concert did, though

2008 Computer Games Imported From Epistula


So, I was playing City of Heroes, and a thought came to me. This game was released in 2004 (It’s had a few graphical upgrades since then, but this demo doesn’t really show them): – Gaming Videos

This morning, I turned on my own personal computer and logged into a 3D online universe on an international network of computers, where I chatted to people and played games. I pressed a button on the keyboard, and it recorded a full motion video of the experience, and once I’d finished another button sent it up to a place on the online network, which I’m now posting a reference to on my own personal publishing platform.

The future creeps up on you.

Charles Stross wrote about this a little while ago

2008 Current Affairs Imported From Epistula

Ten Years

Yesterday marked the ten year anniversary of, a celebration of the single most successful transition of a closed source product to an open source one. Arguably.

If you’re wondering why there’s been no announcement of a party, there’s a bug for that, and when JWZ offered his nightclub (for free) to host the event, it was rejected (by Moz Corp) on the basis that while it would solve the problem for a number of people, they couldn’t find a way to solve it for everyone, everywhere. So it’s not going to be solved at all.

Which sums up most of my problems with anything to do with Mozilla, actually.

Incidentally, you should “celebrate the whole year” instead. Good luck with that.