Tuesday, December 23, 2003

The Sims Online

My kids (and to an extent, my wife too) are Sims fanatics. My pc has the original game, plus about 6 add-ons, which cover everything (well, the positive stuff) and more that you'd expect in real live. Then came The Sims Online, which promised to be an extension of the single player game, but with real people instead of bots interacting with the player. So far so good.

Since its release a year or so ago, I decided to read up on how the Sims online experience was developing. My kids are itching to get the Online addon but, as with anything to do with the internet, I thought it best to investigate first. First, I came across The Alphaville Herald, an unofficial online publication which acts as the local newspaper for Alphaville, the primary Sims Online city. The paper reports the major issues affecting players, which you'd think would be 'best wallpaper sources' or 'where to buy new pets'. To my amazement, the online communities activities would seem to be far more sinister than that, with reports concerning Alphaville's Bondage, Discipline & Sadomasochism Community, the Sims Shadow Government and even the alleged harassment of the newspaper by Maxis and EA!

This BBC report summarises the situation so far.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Blog Improvements

Fiddle, preview, fiddle fiddle, preview.....a few modifications have been made to the site, the most useful of which being the Shortnews ticker. Click on a headline and you'll go straight to one of the best news portals on the net (but, then, I am biased). For something equally exciting, I'd recommend you have a look at the Guardian newspapers 2003 British Weblog Awards which has some quite dreamy creations for your visual pleasure.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

Is she or isn't he?

Is she or isn't he? Another pint, Caroline?

One thing that has been bugging me for some time now is the true sex of BBC reporter Caroline Wyatt. While not being bothered whether she is male, female, or some shade of grey in-between, could someone please put me out of my misery and tell me which gender (s)he really is? I need to know for her sake, because whenever I watch one of her reports on the news (which I find as good as anyone elses btw) I find myself looking for stubble or staring at her rather pronounced adams apple. And in case you're wondering, no, I do not fancy her.

Public Service Announcement: Anyone who feels confused about their sexuality as a result of the issues raised above, please take this test immediately.

Friday, December 19, 2003

Stolen WMD

This story made me laugh. Its concerning a Chinese online gamer who had built up all sorts of weapons, etc while playing a game called Hongyue (aka Red Moon). Gamers first register and then buy cards from the operating company (in this case Beijing Arctic Ice Technology Development Co. Ltd.) to pay for their playing time.

Apparently, our man Li Hongchen had amassed enough bio-weapons to do quite a lot of in-game damage, but another player, known as Shuiliu0011, hacked the game and stole his bio stuff. The bastard. Anyway, despite denying liability and trying to argue that cyber property is basically nothing more than 1's and 0's, the game operator has finally decided to replace the stolen weaponry. Hurraahh!! Actually, if I were him I'd have had a quiet word with Donald Rumsfeld - he's always happy to part with biological weapons and isn't too choosy as to who he gives them to, as long as its kept hush-hush. ;)

With online multiplayer gaming interest booming, I suppose that server administrators need to keep security intact, otherwise it'll all degenerate into farce. Cheats and teamkillers in many mp games (Halo immediately springs to mind) are a pain in the ass, so hackers probably have the same effect, although RPG's and all that are not my bag. Give me Call Of Duty, Medal Of Honor or Unreal Tournament any day. Much simpler and nothing to steal.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

When In Rome.....

Religious intollerance in Saudi Arabia and Iran has been attacked by the US in a report recently published. This is one issue which doesn't sit comfortably with my instinctive views, since 99% of the time I'll fight for equality and human rights. But in reality, my attitude towards this subject really isn't any different.

Muslims demand that their rights are upheld and respect is given to their religious beliefs while residing in Western democracies, and yet the keystone of the Islamic world (Saudi Arabia, Iran and formerly Afghanistan) exhibit NO religious tolerance or cultural freedom whatsoever. No doubt we'll soon witness mass demonstrations by Muslims against the recent French decision to ban Muslim headscarves (along with symbols of other religious affiliations) from their state schools. What about the sacrifices non-Muslims have to make when they visit Saudi or Iran?

I am a big supporter of religious tolerance, indeed tolerance of most aspects of life, but its a two-way thing. Hearing Muslims in the UK campaigning for the introduction of an Islamic, non-democratic state is totally ridiculous. What the French are doing is attempting to preserve their traditional culture, in what I believe is a non-racially motivated way and thats what we should do in the UK, sensitively. This is why the more fundamentalist Muslims really need to learn to interpret the Koran in a far more contextual way, as they may find that there is more than enough scope within it to allow for the sacrifices required for successful integration into Western culture. This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about.

Anyone reading this probably thinks I'm just another racially-motivated BMP supporter, but nothing could be further from the truth. Its just that for practical reasons self-denial of some rights is necessary if we are to respect each other and not impose our beliefs on each other. The banning of headscarves may sound like a complete contradiction of that, but it isn't at all. It is a tempering and watering down of inflexible beliefs for the common good. Until somebody finds a better system than the present 'majority rule', we should all just get used to it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

No More Heroes?

The Libertines may be without a frontman for a while, after their singer/guitarist Peter Doherty admitted to breaking into co-frontman Carl Barat's house in July last year and nicking a load of his gear. He's been warned that a jail sentence is a distinct possibility.

The Libertines really grabbed my imagination with the superb album Up The Bracket which was released about 18 months ago (?). Just when I thought proper English music was dead, the death rattle stops, the corpse gets up, grabs a guitar and rocks its tits off. Although probably destined to remain a cult phenomenon because of their limited international accessability, I'll always love them for that 60's bohemian feel to their music and the times-past lyrics (they often pay homage to Pink Floyd starter-upper Syd Barrett, amongst others). I know that nostalgia ain't what it used to be, but the public weren't about to go for another Oasis-esque pastiche, so really you've got to admire their balls. Its just a shame that Doherty may have screwed it up for everyone out of a rush of shit to the brain. Rock and roll. Don'tcha just love it?

Late News - The band would appear to be conducting business as usual according to this Guardian review. Somebody explain whats going on with these guys. Its a beautiful relationship that Doherty and Barat have, but so unstable and unpredictable.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Calling All Smokers. There is a new site that documents how advertising campaigns used by tobacco companies got (and presumably continue to get) smokers hooked on cigarettes. The Tobacco Papers website looks pretty extensive and I've only had the chance of a quick look at it, but hopefully this evening I'll be in a position to really start trawling - cigarette in hand, no doubt.

The Other Big Catch Of The Week

Got him. Ian Huntley has, as most people expected, been found guilty of the murder of 10-year old friends Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. How that animal thought he would get away with it (by declaring that it was an accident) is anyones guess. How I feel for the parents of those two girls. As a parent myself, I can imagine in some form what the Wells and Chapman family have and are going through. We can only hope that they can use Huntleys conviction as a watershed and start to put their lives back together again. The will to carry on must take such a bashing when someone experiences all of this, but I'm sure friends and family pull together when they most need to.

Its just a shame that Huntley, who has a long life ahead of him, will be sitting around a prison cell that looks more like a room at a Travel Lodge, with TV, video, en-suite bathroom, computer and telephone (like the Lockerbie bomber has, the poor murderous asshole) - unless he's more successful next time when he attempts suicide. Some would say let him do it, I say no. He wants to die, so don't give him what he wants. Make his life a slow, miserable, meaningless process, where he suffers for what he's done and has time to contemplate his evil. I'm not a believer in getting some sort of sadistic revenge on him, and I certainly don't believe in the death penalty, but I DO believe in justice and punishment. He better not ever be released. For once, make life mean LIFE.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Know Your Nuts

Did you know that its possible to get totally wrecked on peanuts? If you didn't, join the club. I love peanuts, especially the little pip-thingies - does that bit have a name?? Anyway, back to the thread. The following is an extract from the Kankof website (thanks to them for this information):

The thin brown skins found around the average peanut contains psychoactive substances. The only raw substance needed for this procedure is a bag of peanuts, it is better to choose fresh peanuts that have no added chemicals such as preservatives found in the commercial 'peanut bags', these could be harmful to your health. Remove the skins from the peanuts, a handful will be enough, and if they are salted soak them in a glass of water so that the salt is dissolved. Dry the peanut shells by placing them on a towel underneath a lamp. For use roll the crumbled shells in rolling paper and smoke.

Monday, December 15, 2003

Attention All Bloggers

I've been browsing other peoples established Blogger-stylee weblogs and was expecting every other one to look like mine, assuming that most ppl would adopt one of the standard templates. How wrong I was - some of the sites were excellent, not only in design but also in functionality. If any of you blog-meisters can afford some time to advise me of tools or tips for souping up this newborn blog, I'd be really grateful if you'd leave a message or email me. Thanks in advance, guys ;)

Those Pesky All-Singing, All-Dancing Mobiles

Mobile technology is getting (quite literally) out of hand. I remember when mobile phones were primarily for making telephone calls, but it appears that the likes of Nokia aren't satisfied, they need a further challenge. Recently we've witnessed the release of the Nokia Ngage, a mobile which you can play multiplayer games on. Its like a Gameboy but you have to make yourself look a fool when it rings and you have to hold it to your ear and talk to it. Now, Toshiba have announced a phone with a hard drive fitted to it (thanks go to JFury for the story). What is going on? If you want to listen to music, you buy an mp3 or CD player, for games you invest in a Gameboy or a similar gadget, and for telephone calls you buy a mobile phone. Combinations of the two or three should be outlawed as a misuse of cutting-edge technology.

Please don't encourage these greedy manufacturers by spending your hard-earned cash on things that you don't need, or think that you do but later find how impractical they are. End of pet-hate rant ;)

The Blog Of Revelations

The hidden relationship between G.W.Bush and S.Hussein is becomming much clearer now.
More pictures have emerged which seem to blow the lid on the whole thing.

Who Will Be In The Dock?

Sorry to keep banging on about Middle East-related issues, but the more I find out the more I want to post ;)

When Saddam is put on trial, if it is a fair one we should hear evidence dating back to at least when Saddam became President of Iraq. If this is the case, we should also hear all the facts concerning Donald Rumsfeld, Haliburton, Bechtel and all the other players who traded, protected and generally turned a blind eye to genocide when it suited them.

Have a read of this article and also this one. Both make interesting reading and are the sorts of articles that make you re-evaluate the people who you've taken for granted as being the 'good guys' for all these years.

The Odd Couple

Now that Saddam has been captured, personal possessions that include old photographs have been recovered from the pit in which he hid. If you ask me, serious questions are going to get asked when they see THIS:

Happy Days
'So who've you been gassing THIS time, Saddam you old rogue!!?!

Tony Blur

Ahhhh, those lovely throthy-mouthed Fox News fans over the pond have set up a website for everyone to thank Tony Blair for supporting the US in its war on terror. This isn't enough for some apparently - they want Tony to stick up for Israel too. Now they're pushing their luck. It dawned on me today that there have been few suicide bombers in Israel for a while (none for over a month in fact) and yet over a hundred Palestinians have died within that time. I thought that the Israelis said that they'd stop the killing if the Palestinians did first? Just today on the news there was a story of two unarmed Palestinians being shot dead as they tried to climb over a fence and get into Israel. It all seems to be a bit of a turkey-shoot to me. And people want Tony Blair to support that on my behalf? Nah thanks, Tony, keep your mouth shut and don't get involved, unless its to bring about peace in the region. You've got enough blood on your hands already, mate.

We Got Him (With A Little Help From Our Friends)

The Saddam thing is still bouncing around every TV station, radio programme and website on the globe. Its interesting cruising the various Western, Arab and far-flung sites to see what their take is on the capture and its repercussions. Apparently the Palestinians are pretty pissed off about the whole thing and cannot believe that someone who they respected as a fighter was caught without a shot being fired. For the US its the best possible outcome, although there are complaints already of how, as a prisoner of war, Saddam shouldn't have been paraded in front of TV cameras, not least while he was having a medical examination. Personally, I'm not sure what rights he deserves after the way he's treated people over the years, but in a democracy fundamental rights cannot be removed, no matter how much of a greaseball the guy is.

I can see all sorts of things hitting the fan when he goes on trial, too. Will he be tried by an Iraqi court, or an International Tribunal? From what I can tell, Iraq has no death penalty, so they'll have to reintroduce it pretty damn fast if they want to use it on Saddam. If its an International Tribunal, we're going to get countries who do not support the death penalty (out of principle) not accepting a verdict of death, plus the usual Arab nations who do have capital punishment disagreeing anyway because Saddam is a Muslim/Arab. One Arab commentator yesterday was saying that Milosovic went on trial in the Hague rather than in Serbia because he was white/Christian and that if Saddam is treated any differently then it'll because of his Arab/Muslim-ness. And of course should Saddam be executed he will instantly turn from a humiliated tyrant into a martyr, which is all we need. What a strange religion Islam is where no matter how horrible you are, fellow Muslims will always support you. I must be missing something somewhere.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

JFury Goes Solo

One of the Shortnews channel cops has launched a Shortnews off-shoot weblog (this is NOT an official Shortnews publication and is in no way connected to Shortnews) and I strongly suggest you get your wobbly butt down to JFURY's Shortnews Blog and lend him your eyes.

A Public Service

The War On Terror has had a dramatic impact on Londons tourist industry, so I thought I'd do my bit for Queen (Elizabeth, not Charles) and country by posting this new edition London Underground map. Thanks go to Craphound for the image :o)

Hairy Potter

Wow, so Saddam has been captured, intact and with a pulse. It'll be interesting to see what effect the news has on the people of Iraq, especially the ones who have thus-far been afraid to stand up and be counted, for fear of a return to power or retribution from their former leader. He looked like 'Saddam with a beard', which means nothing when you consider how many lookalikes he's used over the years, but DNA tests will no doubt prove his identity beyond any reasonable doubt.

And what now? He'll probably go on trial in an Iraqi court for crimes against humanity and other equally serious charges, but will such a court hand out the death penalty? Would countries, particularly Allied countries, who do not use the death penalty, allow such a sentence to be passed? Whether Saddam deserves to die or not is not necessarily an issue, but whenever the Americans have had a UK citizen on death row the British government has diplomatically appealed for the death sentence to be lifted.

Will we see an elevation in anti-Allied terrorist attacks, in an attempt to diminish or reduce the impact of Saddams capture (and all that it symbolises)? Or will the support for insurgents actions reduce along with the number of willing suicide bombers?

(For the conspiracy theorists)
Isn't it strange how you never see these two in the same place at the same time: