Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Fan-fic 1, RPGs 0

One of the things promised by "proper" role-playing, deep character immersion, beyond the initial hack'n'slash rush, is the emotional involvement. I've not checked it recently, but nearly a decade ago, this was the sort of thing being discussed on r.g.f.advocacy, with tales of players reduced to tears by the death of their PC's favourite (NPC) uncle or some such.

I trust people to recount their experiences — but I can say I've never encountered such in 25+ years involvement with the hobby. Anger at how the PCs (or players) are treated is about the only emotion beyond ennui.

Meanwhile, having written a chunk of Evangelion fan-fic, mainly to exorcise the gloomy nature of the concluding movie, the first other reader that I know of was actually moved to weeping. (and, I admit, I'd had to stop for the occasional snuffle-break while composing it).

It's not as if writing is easier than GMing — characters are just as contrary as players, when all is said and done — but I think it does allow one more easily to approach matters with defences of cynicism and distance lowered.

It also makes me wonder how many real *paid* authors have a quiet snuffle when writing the bits that have that sort of effect on me…

A generation gap

Although the news was sad, I was heartened to hear yesterday the coverage that the death of Anthony Buckeridge occasioned on the radio. The Jennings books were a part of my childhood, and so, it would seem, for others of a similar age.

It is actually in the comparisons between these books and *spit* Harry Potter that the latter comes off the worse. JK Rowlings really didn't get the fundamental point that the hero of school stories isn't supposed to be particularly good at sports - one of the things that inclined me against the Potter bandwagon, even before it became the phenomenon it is, and sheer lack of editing started to drag the books down.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Be warned

A while back, Blogger advised bloggers on the topic "What to do if your mum reads your blog" - well, it was my dad who read the first of Friday's entries, and he got despondent about the effort required to put his own pages of memoirs and reminiscences on-line. So I've renewed my offer to him to do the heavy lifting, HTML-wise...

Friday, June 25, 2004

Many favicons on one site

I've been playing with this recently, in a bit of tidying up my main site (along with putting in better typography - things like “” rather than "" or — instead of parenthetical dashes. And also putting a different favicon on each sub-section.

My heuristic discoveries are that

  • You need to have a <site root>/favicon.ico to start with
  • you need to put the <link rel="shortcut icon" href="whatever" > last in the <head>
  • In Firefox, the subordinate icons will show in the address tab, but in the address only if you refresh the page.

Web page editor woes — bad tools let down hobbyist pages

In some entirely frivolous browsing last week-end, I encountered a hobbyist site which had clearly seen a lot of hard work put into it in terms of graphical design - colour scheme, layout, decorations - and was let down by having been implemented using Yahoo PageBuilder.

Not only had it laced the entire page with <font> tags, it also did all its layout using CSS absolute positioned <div>s with in-line style declarations, each containing a one row, one column <table>, adding up to 20% of the html file in dead weight. And, worse, images and later insertions into the text had been placed into new <div>s, with the underlying text having <br> and &nbsp; inserted to make room. WHich only worked if you use the exact same set-up as the author. Given that Windows lays out text differently depending on the graphic driver, let alone any other variable, this meant that I saw text over text, and image over text. As I wanted to read the page, I had to slurp it down and rework the mark-up myself.

Worse, when I did so, I found that all the mark-up was presentational - no <p>s (just <br>s), no <h#>s, not even any <ul>s when the page contained a contents list, that should have been a list with sub-lists and each <li>s containing an in-page link to the appropriate section header.

This reminds me of the nasty code generated by Serif PagePlus which is the tool my father has used to put together a trial page (not on-line), which managed to combine this abuse of CSS positioning with ending up with something that looked like "my first web page. c.1993", without even the grace to contain purely structural HTML2.0 tags like <h1> and <p>.

Is there, I wonder, a free, hobbyist level (not geeks like myself) editor that actually produces well structured code?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Anime — Noir

Having doled this out in a measured pace, averaging a disk every other week, I finally got to the end of the tale last night. And it did not disappoint, unless you really want irrelevant levels of detail in character back-stories to have been expounded. We learn all we need to know, and there is closure.

Disk 7 also gives us some of the fan-service that we'd been missing to date. And a poignant scene when we see that Kirika has finally achieved peace and happiness - and we know that it cannot last.

If I have to pick nits with the series, it's that it was dub-titled (in about four places sub-titles appeared without matching Japanese dialogue, presumably reflecting the English voice script). In all but one of the cases, it was just adding some suggestion of "noises off" for a distant crowd, so could be ignored. The last, however, changed the tenor of a scene - whether one character calls another's name in warning or not. And in a series - and an episode in particular - that relies heavily on subtle nuance as to what the characters are feeling and how they are reacting, that's a big change to make.

Having been put off the American voices and mispronunciations on the first disk, I can't comment on how that version developed.

Slow progress

Well, after 3 months, and 1400 miles, I think I'm just about to the stage where I'm comfortable with the new car. A lot of it has been learning to relax again after the skid at the end of Feb. that wrote off the old one. To the extent that with the weather almost as bad now as on the day I bought it, driving to work was not a completely terrifying experience.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Manga Review - Planetes #3

I gave the first couple of these a good review a while back; and from other sources had expected this to be the final volume, culminating in the Jupiter expedition that has formed the running motivation. But it isn't.

What attracted me about the first two volumes was the not-quite business as usual future, with its attention to plausible technical, social and psychological issues, reminiscent, as I wrote, of the young Arthur Clarke. This volume is a continuation of the previous two, adding some more back story, without even reaching the launch of the Jupiter expedition. But the thing about continuations is that they by definition don't stay in the same place. And this one drifts from psychological to nigh-mystical in a way that feels like it's copping out.

And there's a teaser for the next volume at the very end, which is a spoiler of the worst sort, one that retroactively casts a shadow over the whole series to date.

Effective, well written and drawn, but drifting away from what I liked about the first parts. Bummer!

[Now playing - Lullaby - Yuki Kajiura]

Friday, June 18, 2004

Creatures from the 4th dimension

Unpacking a piece of equipment returned after being sent off for repair, I was startled to find no evidence that the tape I'd used to seal the box had been disturbed. Having cut my way in, I found that the defective part had been replaced - but that the thing had been folded in such a way that in order to deploy it, it needed to be partially dismantled and re-assembled.

Hence the titular hypothesis as to what must have affected the repair!

Nature notes

Last night about 22:30 - just as it was getting properly dark - I went downstairs to fetch coffee, and check whether any of the cats wanted to be on the other side of the door : and for the first time in several years, I saw a hedgehog snuffling around on the back lawn, only a couple of yards away. To encourage this, I put out the bowl of meat-blob that the cats had disdained at supper-time, and was rewarded this morning by finding it well polished.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Nature Notes

Yes, it was a thrush - having heard it tapping away at the doorstep yesterday, this morning I identify it by sight - a limp corpse in the jaws of a Burmese cat who snuck out of a window that have been open for fresh air. Nature red in tooth and claw. *sigh*

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Refreshingly different…

On the way in to work today, I noticed that amongst all the flags of St. George (and the ones that are sur-titled for no readily apparent reason) that one house was flying the PRC flag. Way to go!

Monday, June 14, 2004

Senior moments

With the US getting sniffy about other countries' passports starting in the autumn, and with the occasional need to travel there for work, I decided that it was time to get my passport renewed, albeit a little early, to save visa hassles. So off I trudge to the Post Office for a form and new photos.

And the nifty digital photo booth preview screen serves me up four pictures looking like Nelson Mandela! Something is well off on the contrast, since I'm not that white haired, or heavily tanned. So I pick the best (least worst) of the bunch to print.

It'll the new pic on my profile, for the ghoulishly curious - when Blogger lets me edit the profile once more.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Nature notes

The garden always used to be plagued with molluscs, great fat slugs on every surface in warm weather after night fell, and snails hiding everywhere. Buts since we dug a pond and the frogs moved in (we counted 30+ last time we drained and refilled), the slugs have almost vanished.

Not so the snails. So I was delighted to see a whole mess of smashed snails, and splattered snail-juices on the doorstep this evening, left by no human agency - we must have a thrush who has discovered that there are a lot of easy pickings in this garden.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Civic Duty

The local elections yesterday, and I did my bit. In the local elections, I ignored the futile national level posturing of the parties - voting LibDem for the council won't get you any closer to having a local income tax, for example - and voted for the known incumbent as a safe pair of hands and someone known to me.

In the European elections, I went into the booth as a "Don't Know" - while usually voting LibDem myself for Westminster, I took Charles Kennedy at his word about making a vote for them into a referendum on an issue that the European Parliament has no influence over, so couldn't vote for them; and while the overt Tory policy on Europe is about where I stand these days, I won't vote for them because of all the other baggage associated. For the first time I had the chance not to vote for the BNP, as well as a lot of single issue parties that I won't vote for on principle just because they are single issue. This was why I wasn't particularly worried when I missed the previous set being in France at the time.

Fortunately there was one candidate I could vote for without holding my nose, so it wasn't necessary, after all, to spoil the paper with a "None of the Above".

[Later - of my picks, Liz Heazell (LD) held the local seat with a convincing majority. Martin Bell (Ind.) came top of the list of those not over the minimum vote to get elected, beaten by the big 3 and UKIP.]

Road Rage

Six months on after it was made illegal, and still most days I see one cerebrally challenged driver chatting away on a hand-held mobile. Please will these people go kill themselves on some other bit of road.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

And that's all, folks!

The little black dot fades into the limb darkening. Something I shan't see again.

Sic transit…

Yes, I'm watching the transit of Venus - it's amazingly clear just projected with a pair of binoculars onto a piece of card. A black dot about 1mm across near the top of the (inverted) solar image, when the disk is about 30mm across. You can tell that it's solar minimum - apart from that, there are no other blemishes, just the limb darkening.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Catch up

Bank holiday Saturday - down to London for economic therapy; but apart from coffee, didn't end up buying much at all. Walked the Regent's Canal from Regent's Park back to King's X, stopping at Camden Lock for lunch, in the one sprinkle of rain we had. Cygnets on the canal, but no ducklings.

Monday, I mow and rake and mow the lawn again, half filling the green bin.

I've taken the week off as it's half term, and for the end of the week we go over to Salisbury for a short break. The cats get their first visit to a new cattery (Angelite in Hardwick) as our long-term standard place has closed after several changes of owner. Smoke is greeted as being the ghost returned of one of the owners' cats who died earlier in the year.

I spend a lot of time just roaming the Avon valley, with occasional pauses to sit and write (back to low-tech pencil and paper, as my Handspring's colour display just doesn't hack it in bright sunlight, even with the wick turned up) more of the current fan-fic endeavours. And stopping at convenient local hostelries for refreshment. There are plenty more cygnets - and ducklings this time - on the river here. One time, I'm sittign scribbling, and a few enterprisign ducklings come and sniff around for crumbs - but I have to disappoint them.

In the afternoon, the Cathedral close is a nice place to linger under the shsed of the trees, and listen to the concert rehearsals.

In the evenings, we see Sidi Goma - the devotional music of an African-descended Indian Sufi community, music that starts off soft and slow and then builts into a frantic beat; and by total contrast, the performance Shooting Shakespeare by Forkbeard Fantasy - a manic play/film/extravaganza, loosely based on the early days of cinema and its rivalry with the theatre.

I would recommend either of them.