2 minutes for thinking

March 23, 2008

Following several disturbing incidents on the ice during the ’07-’08 season, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman recently took steps in order improve refereeing. All game officials have now received special training in order to better assess a player guilt’s when handing out penalties.

Boston Fans were the first to witness the new technique during Friday night’s game between the Habs & the Bruins. After a minor scuffle late in the second period, referee Bryan Murphy used the Vulcan mind-meld to peer into the mind of Boston defenseman Mark Stuart and determine if he was provoked by an alleged slashing incident moments earlier.

Vulcan mind-meld
“My mind to your mind…”

“I’ll take Antarctic pedophiles for 200, Alex.”

March 22, 2008

One of the revered figures of what has come to be known as the Heroic age of Antarctic exploration (1895-1917) is Lawrence “Titus” Oates, a 32 year-old cavalryman and veteran of the Boer war who joined the famed Captain Robert Falcon Scott on his doomed expedition to the Antarctic.

Oates came to dislike Scott intensely, considering him a poor leader and blunderer; in spite of this, both men eventually numbered among the 5-man party that attempted the final, glorious push to the South Pole. But their hopes of being the first men to reach it were dashed on January 18th 1912, when they discovered that Norwegian explorer Amundsen had beaten them to the objective by a whole 35 days.

On the way back from the Pole, the British party faced numerous obstacles : dwindling supplies, injuries and bad weather; their situation soon grew perilous.

On the morning march 16th 1912, badly frostbitten and weakened by scurvy, Oates refused to jeopardize the lives of his companions any longer; he uttered the now famous words : “I am just going outside and may be some time.” Scott’s diary records that Oates then left the tent and vanished in the blizzard outside, never to be seen again. His sacrifice, along with Scott’s last diary entries, went a long way towards establishing the myth of the heroic Englishmen explorers; closer scrutiny of the events leading up to the disaster later revealed Scott’s many shortcomings as expedition leader.

More stunning, perhaps, are the allegations of biographer Michael Smith, who unearthed written testimony suggesting that dashing officer Oates fathered a child with an 11 year-old Scottish girl named Ettie McKendrick years before his departure for the Antarctic (!!).

Though not yet substantiated by DNA analysis, the findings have been deemed credible by several historians.

One of the supposed descendants of Oates is quoted as saying : “It rather takes the gilt off the gingerbread.”

All these worlds are yours

March 18, 2008


Arthur C. Clarke, dead at 90.

Clarke’s three laws
  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

The last of the ‘Big Three’ is no more, a great loss for real-life visionaries everywhere. Arthur C. wasn’t merely known for his great contributions in the realm of science fact and science-fiction — he was perhaps one of the first humans (along with Olaf Stapleton) to fully grasp the impact technology would have on the future of our species. While most SF writers of his era happily focused on rocket ships and rayguns, Clarke examined the evolutionary implications that would come with the harnessing of science and the colonization of space. Childhood’s End explored themes of transhumanism and evolutionary ascension. His First Contact novels such as 2001 and Rendez-vous with Rama hypothesized greatly advanced civilizations that exemplified his Third law.

He also predicted that apes would function as house servants by the 1960’s.

Oh well. You can’t be right all the time.

Facebook faux pas

March 11, 2008

I feel like I just stepped into a pile of dog pooh.

It’s a strange thing considering all I did was send out a funny video clip to 53 of my Facebook friends, but there you have it. I have an aversion to mass-forwards. The reason for this is simple.

Well, maybe not so simple.

See, I first got ‘net access back in 1996, when I was busy getting my Master’s degree in Library/Information Science. Back then I connected with a 56k modem via the University server, and came to discover the joys of e-mail and unlimited web access. Those were the days, lemme tell you. The information highway was uncharted territory, stretching out to all corners of cyberspace. I joined mailing lists, discussions groups, and online forums. My inbox filled with all manners of jokes, spam, and newsletter updates.

Then the strangeness began.

In 1997 I received a message from a nice little old lady in Tucson, Arizona, who complained about a 250.00$ charge on her credit card after she’d requested a cookie dough recipe from the waitress at a local coffeehouse. The Evil Franchise (*cough* Starbucks *cough*) had swindled her, and the best way for her to get even was to make sure every %&*@ inbox in the world got a copy of that recipe.

Also in 1997, I heard from little 9 year-old Billy/Jonathan/Samuel, who had a terminal case of Lymphoma/Creutzfeldt-Jakob/ADD. Little Billy/Jonathan/Samuel was asking me to please forward his touching and courageous e-story to all my friends, so he could live to see his name into the Guinness Book of World Records/Fund research to cure Mad Cow disease/Afford the pretty blue pills. Oh the kids nowadays.

In March 1998 I learned to my great surprise that I had dead relatives in Congo, represented post-mortem by a helpful chap named Mr. Mobotu, a highly credentialed international attorney. His e-mail was very hush-hush, but he did promise to forward my legal, tax-free inheritance of 120 Million Euros (tchatching!!) to a secure Swiss bank account if only I could provide him with the modest sum of $15,000 US to finance the secure transfer of funds through a reputable Belgian law firm.

Right. So I learned early on the importance of good inbox hygiene. High on the casualty list was that accursed, heretical scourge known as “the chain letter.” I deleted so many of these (and thereby accumulated so much bad luck) it’s a miracle I’m still alive today. Hell, by all rights I ought to be permanently confined to a hospital bed somewhere, wrapped in a full body cast, hooked up to a double catheter, possessing barely enough brain function to suck prune purée from a straw.

I also learned to filter my messages when I forwarded them to acquaintances. I began to debate who among my friends would get what. Soon I developed a supernatural, mutant-like sense of propriety – a keen and infallible intuition… an animal-like instinct that allowed me to deduce that my prissy boss might not enjoy the one about the sexy redhead, the donkey and the blind gynecologist. I was better off sticking to safer subjects, such as newsletters on the evils of alcohol, or lists of reasons why one should not trust a catholic.

So mass e-mails became unthinkable. I just wasn’t one of those guys… one of those fiends who sent bawdy jokes to nuns and grandmothers on his list. Monthly pin-up shots of ‘Chicks on Motorbikes’ were also out. The plethora of Penis/Breast enlargement opportunities posed a significant problem, requiring me to entertain the possibility of maintaining gender lists in my address book. And those anonymous free-trial advertisement with the subject heading “Watersports”? Well, I treated those with great suspicion after one accidental forward to my thesis adviser, a woman who professed a great passion for snorkeling.

(“Oops” is quite inadequate an expression when your name appears on a restraining order).

Well, those days are long past, and now we have Facebook, with its new opportunities for mass-forward chaos… with applications and games and invitations to god knows what virtual horrors dreamed up by the diseased minds of programmers everywhere. Alas, I foolishly believed myself immune to further slips. After years of being careful, of scrutinizing every e-mails, of evaluating the appeal and relevance of invitations to forums and websites, of weeding and selecting content before sending it out to shrewdly chosen individuals, I’ve finally done it again.

By a dumb click of the mouse, I have accidentally mass-forwarded.

Yes, yes, I know what you’re all saying. “Dude, it’s just a dumb e-joke.” Fiddlesticks! The Internet should come with an “I TAKE IT BACK!!!!” button.

Just for us control freaks.



Oh. Btw. That recipe from the old lady in Tucson, AZ?

The cookies taste like shit.


Sadly, he missed his CON check

March 6, 2008


Gary Gygax, dead at 69.

To nerds everywhere, he’s THE original DM, the man most responsible for all those long Sunday afternoons spent in dark basements, rolling odd-shaped dice and drinking Coke. In the early 1970’s Gary Gygax co-authored “Chainmail” and “Dungeons & Dragons” by making several critical INT checks. His high CHA among medieval aficionados also allowed him to bring many friends together for the very first Gen Con, where he cast a Charm Gamer spell. Then he founded the “Game designer” class and accumulated a great deal of XP. The rest, as they say, is history.

With the advent of TSR, Gygax cemented his central role in the development of RPG’s. In those years he made several levels and gained many hit points in the process. He also opted for multi-class development, becoming a 10th level Corporate Manager and a 7th level Editor. In 1977 he acquired a Plume of writing +3, which greatly increased his output as a producer of modules which were impossible to survive. Unfortunately, not even his -2 Armor Class could protect him from the blows of competitors and partners in the nascent and cutthroat gaming industry. In 1983 Gygax had to Save vs. Corporate Takeover at a minus 2 penalty; he rolled a 3 and was forced out.

For years afterwards he wandered the Astral plane, teleporting randomly at conventions and casting Mass Nostalgia spells, or announcing he would conjure new game systems. His untimely death leaves a great power vacuum on several planes of existence.