random thoughts to oil the mind

Month: May 2008 Page 1 of 2

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

The Indiana Jones saga was complete. He had trumped the Nazis, saved his father’s life, solved one of the greatest archaeological mysteries, and ridden off into the sunset with his companions. At least, until now. The recent spate of late-coming sequels and series restarts no doubt to a large extent prompted Indy’s return to the silver screen, and whilst this is no bad thing by itself, it does however spoil the rather nice ending to the previous series finale Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade. Although Sean Connery declined to come out of retirement for the film, the late Denholm Elliott sadly missed, and there being no part for John Rhys-Davies, the film’s still alluring combination of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, John Williams and Harrison Ford will no doubt kick this film to the top of the box office. The problem is that the potential for disappointment runs almost as high as it did for Lucas’ own Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, and one imagines that The Crystal Skull will only suffer as a result.

Assaulting the Team Fortress

Team Fortress 2

Valve’s Team Fortress 2 is already over six months old, so now might seem like an odd time to write a post on the games merits, but with the recent release of the Medic Achievement pack, and the rather surprising (though not unwelcome) news that Valve intends to integrate some of its popular features and improvements into the ageing Day of Defeat: Source, I decided I’d jot down a few of my impressions.

The release of Team Fortress 2 came as something of a surprise, after so little news about its development, with virtually nothing concrete after the initial revelations in 1999. The finished version bears absolutely no relation to those initial screenshots, instead maintaining much stronger links to the original modification Team Fortress Classic, with a strong glossy coat of The Incredibles style graphics and an uncut, Columbian-strength injection of humour.

Daily Links

De Radio 4 Top 400 – The favourite classical pieces as voted for by Dutch radio listeners. Certainly a handsome proportion of religious works in the list. (PDF)

100 Best Last Lines from Novels – How great can a last line be? I’ve read some of the works on the list and can’t say any are particularly memorable, but here’s an arbitrary list of the top 100 anyway. (PDF)

The World’s Spookiest Weapons – Starting with the A-bomb and working through mind control, crowd control and animal manipulation, this little list illustrates some of the craziest weapons designed or researched in the years since the last war.

Boxhead 2play – While away some moments (hours!) with this mad flash-based zombie fest. Can also be played cooperatively or in deathmatch mode from the same machine.

In Preparation for the Bionilympics

Oscar Pistorius

Oscar Pistorius

Hard to believe that Oscar Pistorius, the double-amputee sprinter, has won his appeal to trial for the upcoming Beijing Olympics. The Court of Arbitration for Sport overturned a ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations, after the latter said his carbon fibre blades give him a mechanical advantage. Essentially the ruling rests on the fact that the IAAF did not prove sufficiently that Pistorius gains an advantage from the “Cheetah Flex-Foot” artificial limbs. Of course, Pistorius is allowed to compete in the Paralympics, and currently holds the world record in the 100m, 200m and 400m events. It would appear that he is looking for a chance to compete at a higher level, and many support his case as inspirational.

But therein lies the problem. As one Slashdot reader put it rather eloquently, “It might be inspirational to see a dyslexic child competing in a spelling bee with the aid of a spellchecker, but it’s hardly the point of the competition.” The decision is obviously a contentious one, and as someone who has no interest in the Olympics and very seldom sees an event, I would not normally have a point of view. However it seems that this decision places the Olympics in dangerous territory for the future. It may well be the case that the appendages offer Oscar Pistorius no advantage above what his normal capabilities might have been, however as no comparison is possible, that would be exceedingly difficult to prove either way. What is certain is that the decision opens the door to others in the future, who may well be afforded advantages above and beyond their natural capabilities. Athletes are made to perform within a fluid bubble of ‘natural conditions’, separated from drugs that would enhance their performance, and divorced from technologies in sportswear and sports gear that would give them that unfair edge, yet these rules exist to keep the playing field level, whilst this latest decision clearly attempts to level a different field. Mechanical advantage or no, Pistorius will have to train hard simply to qualify, and one can’t help but feel that were he already faster than the able-bodied competition his appeal would have failed. Instead this decision allows everyone to feel the cushy ‘aww’ factor of seeing someone disadvantaged compete in the Olympics, but the real result of this ruling, after Pistorius’ name is long forgotten, will be the precedent which allows athletes with mechanical replacements into the competition. There’s a future yet for the cyborg olympics.

Daily Links

If it’s good enough for Shatner – Old school computer advertising, as dug out of the back issues of vintage computer magazines. William Shatner, Roger Moore, and the cast of M*A*S*H all offered their images to promote various relics of the golden era of computing.

Is black the new green? – Do websites with black backgrounds use less energy than bright ones? The team from Dialogue Box tackle the issue of green web design and attempt to explode the myths surrounding energy usage and website colours.

Smaller than mp3 – Not content with shrinking music down to mp3 size, researchers at the University of Rochester have formulated a solution to recreate sounds through recreation of the physical attributes of an instrument and its player to store the sounds in files 1,000 times smaller than current mp3 standards.

Ten stupid ideas that earned a million – From pixel advertising to vegetarian wishbones, through HIV-positive dating and glasses for dogs, here’s a list of some of the most stupid ideas to have earned a fortune for their creators. (Russian)

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