Day by Day Daily Cartoon by Chris Muir

The Mad Scientist... Mwahahahahahahahaha

Sunday, August 23, 2009


Not just the title of a John Farnham song, no.

Most people have at least one or two in their lives. They call it puppy love, or crushes - it's more or less just an abandonment of your reason and usually at the start of your adolescent life, when you fall head over heels for someone. It usually doesn't amount to much, really, but it does cause a lot of emotional turmoil when you're in it.

By the time I was seven, I was already sexually aware (girls aren't icky, and never were for me), but really, my first crush was when I was 13, and starting secondary (junior high) school. What can I say, it was a classmate of mine yclept Joy, and she was indeed a joy to behold. The second one was my friend Brandon's younger sister, and oh yeah, she was something else as well. But you know, I guess I think that of all my crushes. The third was May Young (not her real name, but awfully close), in my college days, and if you have ever seen Azumanga Daioh's Sakaki-san, you have a picture of her, more or less. And then there was Kristen and Joanne from Uni. Joanne's married, so that's that, but the rest? You kinda live in hope, you know?

These things never really panned out for me. Primarily because I have the socialisation skills of a thermonuclear device, but also because approaching girls/women in a courtship mode tends to have me go all to pieces. Especially ones that I like a whole lot. And then, there's the unmistakable fact that I've the mind of a dirty old man.

What brings this up? Well, the second girl I've ever had a crush on, my friend Brandon's sister? Just met her quite by accident today. Betcha she still thinks I'm a gibbering, blithering idiot. Which, {sigh} is still what she turns me into, after all these years. My heart still beats about 50% faster, my metabolic rate goes into overdrive, and damn me if my face isn't all red after that encounter. It was pleasant, even if it was only small talk, and for all I know she was all like 'ugh, just hurry up and get out of my life', but lacking evidence of the latter, I choose to live in hope.

Argh. Those people who have parents arrange marriages for them? Lucky buggers. They can skip all this nonsense.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Author Review Intro - Lois McMaster Bujold

Okay, so this little disclaimer first. I'm not important enough to get sponsored or paid or opinions and stuff, so everything here is my take on the matter. The authors I put up here are those I personally like and have read - so you'll never get anything from J.K.Rowling here. I mostly read F&SF, Christian stuff, but back in the day I've read mysteries, children's books (so yes, you'll get Enid Blyton here maybe), detective-stuff, some mediaeval stuff, and even romance (although not much of that). I encourage people to purchase stuff they like; I do, although not as much as I should, maybe.

Well, I guess I should start with a short background. My family got into technology early - relatively speaking - as my father was an electrical engineer back in the 60s, and hence he was knee-deep in telecommunications and network gear. And computers that drove the electrical switches they had back then, of course.

Of course, our exposure to computers in the house started with the IBM PC. My cousin managed to persuade his parents to get him one. It was an incredible machine at the time; it had two 360K floppy disk drives, which meant you could boot DOS off one and play Karateka or Budokan off the other. You haven't lived until you played one of those games in monochrome, let me tell you.

In my primary (elementary) school days we had Apple IIs in school for the computer club and experimental lessons. Fun to play with Apple Basic back in those days, too.

My brother then managed to persuade my father to get us a 386DX-33. It was quite powerful back in the day; 8MB of RAM, 120MB hard drive, and we also had a second drive weighing in at 250MB. It came with DOS 5 and Windows 3.1 - and two floppy drives, one 1.2MB floppy and one 1.44MB microfloppy each. And a VGA screen, but no sound. it cost 5 bucks back then to copy a disk, and we had such classic games as X-Wing, Lemmings 2, and Wing Commander Privateer.

So, you know, when my father got a Toshiba Pentium-powered laptop, it was fully kitted with a 13' TFT and wow! It had a modem as well. Now, this was way back in 1995, so it was one of the very first ones with Chicago preloaded. Very expensive, and it had Internet connectivity through what was then known as the TM Intranet. Very cool, and so I made my first website at Geocities shortly after that.

Now, I had a bunch of book reviews on that site, and since Yahoo! decided to terminate Geocities, I figured, what the heck? I'm bringing it back now. And my first author to be reviewed here is Lois McMaster Bujold.

I'll keep this short. The MS keyboards are nice, but not conducive to very long posts, really. Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favourite authors, and for some reason I cannot fathom. Somehow, she writes like a man, and her heroes are men, true men - even the women. Their characterisations resonate with me somehow, and they seem real to life.

So, what does she write? Well, everything, really. Science fiction was where I got my introduction to her. She started with a heroine called Cordelia Naismith, following up with her offspring, Miles Naismith Vorkosigan. Miles is short, and a cripple besides, but man! I really, really get into his character. Bujold then went on to write fantasy, with what I call the Chalion series. This one switches protagonists in each book (although in the same universe), but Cazaril (the first book's protagonist) really captures how a man in his position would feel (and how I would like to think I would react, really). HEr next big series is the Sharing Knife series, which is published by HarperCollins and a whole lot more romance-ish in feel. Still, very good.

Enough of my blathering, I guess. Some information:

  1. She is a Baen author. Which means, she's on (a) the Baen Free Library and (b) Webscriptions
  2. If paper is more your thing, here are some sample publications to get you started. (Links go to Amazon; for a full biblipgraphy click on her name further above in the post)
  • A Civil Campaign. This is one of the later books in the Vorkosigan saga, and details Miles (now 30) trying to woo the woman of his dreams, Ekaterin Niles Vorsoisson. Only problem is, as the title suggest, this is a civil campign, and Miles is far more familiar with military campaigns, Sun Tzu and The Art Of War-stuff. It can work, but if the girl is question finds out, which of course she does, watch out for the fireworks...
  • The Curse Of Chalion. What starts out as a search for employment for the strangely humble but very capable Cazaril turns into the three most harrowing moments of his life as he seeks to tutor a headstrong princess and navigate her way through perils, political intrigue and Prophecy (not to mention my alliteration). No, he doesn't get the princess, but he does get a Goddess living with him for a while, that should count for something.
  • Beguilement. Lakewalkers and farmers are not supposed to love each other. Die for each other, sure. Friends, partners, business associates, no problems. But love and marriage and especially the baby in the golden carriage? Absolutely not! So what happens when Dag, a morose and seeming epitome of the Lakewalker ideal falls head over heel for a half-pint, pregnant bundle of energy who's also, by the way, a barely legal farmer girl? Find out...
  • Legacy. Well, Dag got off easy with the woman's side, and now he's off home to show off his new bride to his family. You know this isn't going to turn out a bed of roses for them - or does it? After all, roses are thorny...
  • Passage. Walking the earth with your bride by your side is a tempting idea, but when your brother-in-law is tagging along...? And now your bride wants to go down the river in a boat, and her brother has fallen for the engaged boatmaster - or should that be boatmistress - and you have somehow or other acquired two hitchhikers on the run from their village elders. Well, Dag, you know no one said life would be easy...
  • Horizon. From my previous descriptions, you'd think this was just a standard romance story. But the romance has a serious backdrop; Lakewalkers have access to abilities which they call 'groundwork' but which everyone else calls magic. And they need it to fight off Very Bad Things called malices. Dag's had a good run at 26-odd malices so far, but he's ever met them one at a time. What happens when you get two?
--Preview of my next Author Review post--
Now, there's no doubt I prefer electronic formats in many cases, but not all. Isaac Asimov came up with an essay on why we should prefer paper-based books; he's got a point. They last much longer in terms of physical medium (properly treated, manuscripts can last thousands of years; try that with even optical discs), super-portable, required minimal energy to use (sunlight works quite well), etc and so forth blah blah blah. But you can't beat free.

Baen gets this right. There is even a site out there that serves up almost everything Baen has ever published for free, courtesy of Baen.
--End preview--

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Linux vs Windows

Truth be told, I hate Linux. Or rather, I hate using it in any significant way. It's not the kernel I hate, or the distributions, or even the interfaces. No, it's the Linux attitude.

Here's what I mean. Take your average Joe, who's trying to use computers in his own way. He's not terribly technologically-inclined, but he finds his way around. He's just installed Ubuntu, and now he's looking for a way to play his favourite MP3s. For whatever reason (we do not know, and Joe has even less clue at this point), he cannot do so.

Now, under Windows, WMP comes with a fairly complete help system, but nothing in there helps, so off goes Joe to the Internet, and starts searching for WMP troubleshooting tips. He can browse through Microsoft's immense support library, and he can see a whole lot of third party sites that may offer some advice as to why he cannot play his MP3s.

What is the situation on Ubuntu? Well, first thing Joe sees, he sees a site that looks something like this. Wow! That really reassures Joe! Let's quote a bit from here...

Eventually you need to install a current totem-pl-parser too.
But a simple download, unpack, ./configure, make and sudo make install is sufficient.
Guys, I dunno about you, but a Windows user can simply download - and in many cases, the download can automagically install itself as well (if the user selected the option). But I'm being unfair - this is not really a troubleshooting site, is it? Let's look on further.

We find this site on Fedora. But it does mention Rhythmbox (Ubuntu's media player, amongst many), and MP3s, so yahoo! However, the first few sentences say getting it to play MP3s is one hellaciously difficult task. But at least we're getting somewhere!

Now, Joe's not genius-level smart, but he figures, hey, I downloaded this Ubuntu, so maybe the people who let me download it know something about this issue. So off he goes and does what he should have done in the first place, right? Now he's at, maybe that will get him somewhere. And it kinda does, really. Joe may have to dig around, but some persistent work and he will get the answer (in this case, the MP3 decoding libraries were not installed, so Joe has to install them)

Okay, so after a bit, we can say that someone with a bit of tenacity can get somewhere. What will happen, though, if you tried to post this issue in a Linux user forum? I'll tell you what. RTFM, GTFO, STFU, RTFM, did you RTFM, you luser? Go back to Windows, you n00b!

Yes, I think Joe will be taking their advice.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

An open letter to RapidKL

Like they will ever read my blog, right? But I shall do it nonetheless.

Dear upper management of RapidKL;

It is said that in China, ministers used to have to work for some time yearly in their area of expertise. Hence, if you were the Minister of Mining, you would have to spend a week or a month digging for coal or somesuch.

Perhaps you should consider such an exercise - or at least you should take public transport for a month or so exclusively. That way, you may better understand the frustrations of us who have to do so.
  1. It is ridiculous that you still cannot provide us with anything resembling accurate timetables after FOUR years of operation. The best you can do is "uh, we start at such a time, and we run every X minutes" and even then you cannot guarantee the timings, not even to within 15 mins. I have personally had to wait 90 minutes - that's ONE AND A HALF HOURS - more than once for a bus that's supposed to be on a 20 minute frequency.
  2. Have you had a look at the websites of many public transportation systems in the Western world? Just take a look at them, please. Not only do they have timetables, but they have ROUTE PLANNERS, inclusive of maps and detailed instructions. The technology is not difficult to implement; heck, you can ask Google Maps or Microsoft to help you out here. And they keep the information up to date. Your website, on the other hand, stinks. We have to use JavaScript, it is not viewable in alternative browsers such as Opera, you still boast of all-day tickets when you will be changing it over NEXT MONTH - in short, there is no value-add to your website at all. Tell me again, what the heck do you have it for?
  3. You ask us to carry small change - worse, to carry EXACT fare. Why? Why can't you allow your drivers to have some facility for making change? Are you afraid of fraud? Can't your drivers count? I am not asking that your bus drivers change for RM100 bills - obviously, there needs to be some limit to this sort of thing. But for crying out loud, if I have an RM5, you should be able to give me back RM4.
  4. I don't even want to discuss the LRT, which air conditioning is lacking at the best of times, which is perennially packed to the brim during peak hours, and where the rides are as smooth as using a Jeep to go across Taman Negara.
We are trying to achieve industrialised, First World status as a nation over the next decade. I fully realise that the general public have issues, but surely some measures can be taken towards resolving some of these problems with the public transportation network. For Malaysia, please.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi

Now, I've been watching (and reading) a series called Suzumiya Haruhi no yuutsu (and as you can tell from the title, that's what it means in Japanese).

Most people think this is a great series, because you cannot really narrow down the genre. Is it SF, or F, or is it a slice-of-life, or with a mythic arc? Yes, pretty much all that and more.

Suzumiya Haruhi is God - except she doesn't know that. This is the premise of the entire series in a nutshell. If Haruhi wants something, Haruhi gets something. Which is a really neat way of explaining omnipotence. She has the ability to rewrite all of existence, so when she wanted to meet up with aliens, ESPers, time travellers and sliders, she meets up with them.

The anime adaptation was done some years back, mid-2000s, of one or two of the light novels. This year, the news that they would be adapting a second season was met with hails of great joy, because the studio had been trolling the fans for years now concerning the second season.

Guess what? They're trolling the fans again, and in Magnificent Bastard, grand-scale, Haruhi-style trolling of epic proportions. They started off with repeating the first season, but then they slipped in a new episode. But after that, 6, count 'em, SIX entire episodes of the new anime was pretty much the same episode repeated over and over.

Now, the storyline they're adapting actually specifies that time has been looping August for 10k+ times, due to Haruhi not wanting to finish summer vacation. But the storyline only exposes the last loop. The anime has gone through 6
loops, and shows no signs of abatement.

That's how you troll, guys!

Edit: Make that seven. 7 loops. Of the same day. Over and over. This is trolling to incredible heights. It had better be worth it. You hear me? Make it worth it!