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November 29, 2002

Virtual Footsoldiers

Thanks to Tom@plasticbag for this link to an article about the new AI CGI combat software used by Peter 'showoff' Jackson in The Two Towers. AKA For A Few Rings More.

Apparently the characters only have the intelligence of ants, but I reckon they could still do pretty well in most of the meetings I go to.

Oooh, and stick it out till page 4 when they talk about the different behaviours exhibited by the humans and Orcs.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Involuntary Smile

Heaven holds few pleasures greater than watching a cat fight a cable-tie on a slippery floor.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 01:50 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

A coward among cowards.

For ages I've been stared at from my bookshelves. There's dozens of them up there, all looking at me accusingly as if to say "See, you thought you'd get clever just by *buying* us. And you're never going to read us. But here we are on shelves, looking bigger than the other books so friends can ask you what you thought of us. Mwahahahahaha!"

There's the books I've browsed but not properly read - like Julian Cope's 'The Modern Antiquarian' (3 years), the books I've repeatedly started and not quite managed to sustain momentum through - Robert McKee's Story (2 years), books of skills I really must pick up - Teach Yourself Irish (8 years) and books that were light enough to bring home but too heavy to hold and read - Neal Stephenson's Cryptomnicon (2 years).

But in the new house, with them all laid out in a much more blatant way, I felt ready to take on the challenge of John Diamond's 'C: Because Cowards Get Cancer Too. (18 months).

I remember feeling after Ben Watt's brilliant but gruelling 'Patient' that I never wanted to read another medical autobiography again, and the BBC's Inside Story documentary on Diamond made me far more inclined to pick a different book off the shelf each time.

But, you know what? It's really really funny. And incredibly optimistic. And really skilful in its acknowledgement of dramatic irony. Unlike the punchdrunk feeling I got from Watt's brilliant book, this is making me feel very inspired. Something I badly need at the moment.

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More Comedy Enthusing

I'm really going to miss Look Around You when it finishes in a few weeks time. There's just something so beautifully silly about it, that a half-hour programme would destroy. From last night's programme on iron, I think my favourite was 'a well-known experiment - you've probably seen it before' involving an iron pyramid being connected to the mains and a 9V battery. When they pyramid explodes, 'an enormous pair of scissors will appear in the sky above the pyramid, but they will fade over time'.

Beautiful compact madness.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 08:21 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 25, 2002

AIM, Fire

So, you see a friend online, twinkling away in your buddy list, and you think - "Oooh, you know, I'll drop them a line. Seem a bit off in their blog. Lets cheer them up. Start by finding out if they're still down."

And the message that comes back to you immediately is "You're on screen".

At which point your brain immediately runs riot thinking about *just* how many obscenely important people in this person's life you may have screwed up in front of.

You know who you are. Sorry.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Robert McKee's "Life" as opposed to "Story"

I recently went to the Robert McKee "Story" three day seminar. Aimed at budding (and successful) screenwriters, it talks through the principles of narrative structure, what makes a plot fulfilling to the audience, and how best to translate it to the flawed medium of the screen.

It's fab, if extremely gruelling, and I'd thoroughly recommend it. Not least for some of the insights he gives into the creative process. Sometimes he's a bit of a grumpy old git - railing against the crassness of us young folk, but it's worth it.

One of the key philosophical points for me - and one I've taken to the heart of what I'm doing with music now - was about why we get stuck when writing.

You've got something you've made, and there are a set of key scenes/sounds/chord progressions/blobs of paint that you keep changing things around, but are so in love with that you can't do anything to.

Because you're to scared that if you change them, you won't be able to come up with anything better.

There's a lot in my life that's like that.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 02:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 24, 2002

Why Scientists Suffer.

Okay, this is a theory in the gestation phase, but I thought it would be interesting to find out what people thought about it.

You go to school in the UK, and you study a whole bunch of subjects up until the age of 16. It's a mixture of arts, languages, sciences, humanities blah blah. All of which you accept and get on with until you've done your O levels/GCSEs/Superplusgood levels.

And then, when it comes to 6th form, in general, you split.

You're either an artist, or a scientist.

If you're a scientist, chances are you'll be focussed around either Maths or Chemistry. You'll gain a great understanding of tools and systems, and how to break down problems into manageable chunks.

If you did arts, you'll pick up the bits of this you need as you go along. You can't write a 30,000 word essay with only one idea to back it up.

However, if you did arts, you'll find one truth that no-one tells you about on the other side.

It's most likely that you got it in English, where it was one of the key aspects of the course. But it may be that it came from History, or Politics, or any one of a number of similar subjects. And it's this.


People say things, and may mean something else.

Some of you reading this may think "dur, yeah, what's so strange about that?" But then you're probably part of that latter tribe.

Noone tells scientists this, and as a result, they are used to living entirely at the surface. Why would anybody say something that's different from what they meant?

No wonder life seems so confusing.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:47 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 22, 2002

Christmas Hit

Last night on 'Look Around You' they had a brilliant bit where technology wrote a hit song for scientist Jack Morgan (BSc). And it was just fab, with a really great video in the late-70s stylie.

It's just got to be the Xmas No1.

Have a listen to an edited MP3 on the Look Around You site.

Oh, and I recommend the music quiz at the bottom of the page!

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:10 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 21, 2002

Bad boy, down!

Just which of these two on the Sony AIBO Homepage is "the most advanced companion ever created"?

I think some women might have a view on this...

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November 19, 2002

Make A Shorter...Map

Fab though it is, I've become repeatedly frustrated with the huge URLs that multimap produces, so I've been tinkering with the key parameters to find out which ones do something useful, and which ones can be safely deleted from the URL before you send it to your friend. So here's what I've learnt:

When you put a postcode, it gets converted into a grid reference, but all that address information is carted around in the URL regardless.
The essential parameters after that are:

You can play with the 6-digit X and Y parameters in units of 500 to get the map centred the way you'd like it. Lower X coordinates go West. Lower Y coordinates go South. The point these refer to is the very centre of the map.

Similarly play with the scale parameter to get it zoomed in nicely. 5000, 10000, 25000 are the legal values you're likely to need.

Lose all the add1=, add2= etc parameters, they're not needed any more.
Similarly the up.x= and up.y, clientid=public bits.

So, here's a roundabout near me:

You can get the bit above from the 'web address' listed below the image. However, if you want a floating red circle around your house then play with the following parameters...
You'll notice these are 'fine detail' on the main X and Y coordinates given above.

So here's a nice pub near that roundabout...


Okay, it's not exactly beautiful, but it takes up a lot less space than the full version.

Anyway, enjoy.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

That's a weekend or two lost then...

Synthmuseum.com doesn't have an entry on the D-50, but I can compare notes on my JX10 and Poly 800.

And then just wallow in all those synths I really really wanted when I was a teenager.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 10:22 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 12, 2002

Thanks Euan!

A really interesting article on management techniques by the founder of Visa. As an unofficial 'mum' of my office, I was amazed by how often criticisms weren't over a particular manager's choice of strategy, or of the tasks they had set, but that it was inconsistent with the person that had set it.

Much of my improvement as a staff-herder has been from learning to lead rather than manage, so it struck a huge chord.

(Via The Obvious)

Posted by Tom Dolan at 07:45 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 07, 2002

Music Corner

Oh, and the Weekend Players album is just fab.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Abject Failure

I know, I know, I know. I haven't updated this thing for a good few days now, and the once-witty and well-argued posts have become random sparse jottings of no real consequence. And there's a reason for this.

I'm happy.

And fundamentally, like writing pop songs, it's a hell of a lot easier to do blogging about miserable stuff. A lot easier to get everyone on-side and cross linking in a 'I remember feeling that crap as well'. Because, in general, we tend to be much better at remembering the rubbish stuff than the great moments.

I can't help feeling that a blog full of joy would just end up sounding like I was showing off. Will my blogroll, and blogrollers, change as a result? What the hell am I going to do now I've got to the state I thought I'd never reach, so don't have a "and then..." plan?

So please pardon the radio silence while I try to work out what my new 'voice' would be.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

November 04, 2002

Better Omen

This morning, on the way to work, I saw *eleven* magpies.

Hopefully this means something utterly top, rather than going back round to 'sorrow' again because of some strange magpie-based integer arithmetic.

Posted by Tom Dolan at 12:32 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 01, 2002


I'm really looking forward to tonight's episode of Have I Got News For You after reading this account of the first recording without Deayton

Posted by Tom Dolan at 11:30 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack