Tuesday, 31 July 2007

I <3 ma box

I don't really know where this post is going to go, since I'm just kind of posting on a whim, but it's very rare I feel strongly about something, and I kinda feel like I should note down something when I do.

A little background first: My computer is generally great, no problems, no viruses, no hardware issues, no overheating (anymore), but it doesn't like restarting. I think it's because I've got my Windows partition on an SATA drive, which are kinda notorious for being slow to boot. Either way, it takes about 5 minutes to reboot Windows, much of which is spent with the screen ominously blank, and no real HDD or processor activity. Not optimal. In any case, usually it loads up fine eventually, and I've taken to leaving the room when it restarts so that I don't have to sit through what seems like an eternity of potential problems.

When I got home from work today, my computer was acting really oddly, freezing for several seconds at a time and not responding when I tried to close programs. I finally exited Windows, in about the least stylish manner possible (essentially shutting it down process-by-process). It finally logged out, but got stuck with the blue logout background on the screen and no cursor or keyboard response. "Gah", I thought to myself, "I guess I'll have to reboot it manually". I hit the reset button and went downstairs to make a sandwich.

However, when I returned, I found that the power was on, but both monitors were blank. Not good. Repeated reboots confirmed that this was not a glitch, but something more serious. Now, the point of this post is not necessarily the problem, or even the solution that I found, despite the amount of time and space I have spent setting it up. The point of the post, at least in my mind, is the effect that the appearance of the problem had on me.

Rather than calmly thinking through my alternatives and systematically testing out hypotheses and trying the possible solutions, as I would when faced with a programming problem, or a mechanical problem, or even a social problem, my brain shut down completely. If it had been a problem with my car, or my boiler or even my job, I like to think that I would have been able to calmly start thinking about what to do, but instead, I sat in my chair and stared at the blank screens. I really wanted to start solving the problem, but every time I tried to think about ways to test what was causing it, my brain started to blank. I distracted myself by thinking about how little I had backed up. I wished I'd spent more time clearing up old programs. I reminisced about the moments I'd bought each new piece of hardware, or particular moments I'd experienced using it.

Basically I reacted as though a close family member had been taken ill.

Whether or not this is a good thing, I'm not sure. I would estimate that I've probably spent more time using my computer since I first built it than I have interacting with any one person. Again, whether or not this is a good thing, I'm not sure. I know the structure and contents of the computer better than any person, and my interactions with the computer are easier and cleaner than with any person I know.

Part of the reason behind this comes down to my personality - I find it much more difficult to engage with people than others do. Part of it comes down to practicality - replacing/restoring all of the stuff on my system would take months. Finally, part of it comes down to the fact that for 7 or 8 years now, I have built, rebuilt, cleaned, added to, taken away from, broken and repaired it. I have spent a huge amount of money on it over the years, probably more than on any other single entity (apart, possibly from University). I have grown as it has grown, and changes in my personality have been reflected in changes in it's structure and contents. As I have found my directions in life, it has been moulded to my needs, and as I faced problems, it has helped me to overcome them.

While that was rather sentimental, melodramatic, and will probably provide me with huge embarassment to read back later, it does, to some extent reflect how I feel about my computer.

Imagine, if you will, that you had spent 8 years writing a book. Most of your spare time had gone into it. Some of it you are not proud of, but some of it you are. There are bits that reflect your lack of knowledge and there are bits that reflect its depth. It is your reflection in an imperfect medium, and though it is not you, sometimes the line blurs just a little.

Now imagine you came home and found it gone.

Now imagine you found it again.

Those are the emotions I have felt this evening. Please don't judge my melodrama harshly, if I did not write these things somewhere, they would be lost forever, and even if you feel that that would be no bad thing, some other poor soul may not.

N.B. My computer also has a lot of porn on it. That's probably part of the reason too.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

The world is boring

I receive A Word A Day email. Most of the time I find them interesting; every so often however, they provoke a response of more than just interest, but genuine intrigue and wonder. The most recent edition did this.

The word of the day appeared as follows:

supramundane (soo-pruh-MUN-dayn) adjective

Above or beyond this world.

[From Latin supra- (above) + mundus (world).]

Being both an English graduate and someone interested in words and etymology, my thought process went something like this: 'Hmmm, if supramundane means "beyond this world", does that mean that mundane, a word I, and I'm guessing most other people, associate with banality, can also mean "of this world"?' I decided to look it up in the nearest dictionary I had to hand. Sure enough, here is what I found:

mun·dane/mʌnˈdeɪn, ˈmʌndeɪn/ Pronunciation Key [muhn-deyn, muhn-deyn]


  1. of or pertaining to this world or earth as contrasted with heaven; worldly; earthly: mundane affairs.
  2. common; ordinary; banal; unimaginative.
  3. of or pertaining to the world, universe, or earth.
[Origin: 1425–75; L. mundānus, equiv. to mund(us) world + -ānus -ANE; r. late ME mondeyne, MF mondain, L as above]

So mundane does indeed mean both 'boring' and 'of this world'. Looking at the Latin that the word has formed from, it seems to me that a definition pertaining to the world came first, with the 'boring' meaning following.

'Where is he going with this?' Well, it just interested me that at some point it has become acceptable that something of this world is also boring, so much so that they now share the same word; indeed, as I said before, I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of people today, when asked for the definition of mundane, would say the one about banality, and might not even know the one about being of this world. I'm not sure I've managed to reach the crux of my point yet, so I'll attmept to get to it now.

The last thing I would describe the world as is boring. Yes, everybody gets bored from time to time, but to describe the world as boring when there is such a cornucopia offered to you in this life would just be ignorant. All you need to do is go and find it. Easier said than done in some cases, but still no reason to say that the world is boring. I'm not saying that during the formation of the word mundane over hundreds of years people consciously thought the world was boring, but the dual definition must have come about for some reason.

I'm not sure how cohesive this entry has been, as it was instigated by a stream of consciousness and slipped in and out of that throughout. But next time you're bored with (as far as you're concerned) nothing to excite you, remember the words of Bill Bailey: 'Mercury - nothing; Venus - nothing; Earth - fridge magnets, hummus, Spandau Ballet, anything you can think of'. Just remind yourself of some of the ways the world could potentially entertain you, and you can be certain you've only begun to scratch the very tip of the iceberg.

Starry Night

This is pretty insane: makes me glad I never tried to get any good at 3d modelling, because, quite frankly, I'd never be this good in a million years. The payoff at the end is amazing also:


Wednesday, 25 July 2007

I link therefore I am

I'm not going to restrict myself to posting long, badly thought out, arguments that start out going nowhere in particular and somehow get lost. I'm also going to post links. Partially because that's how the internet works, man, sharing resources in an integrated non hierarchical community structure and partially because it's easier than having an 'opinion' about a 'topic of discussion'.

Also, I'm at work, and it's not easy to type out anything longer than a paragraph without people around me getting suspicious.

Hence: http://thefunniest.info/top.html

Basically visitors to http://thefunniest.info are able to systematically compare pairs of pictures and have to decide which is the funniest. The site collates all of the answers and produces a ranking of those voted the funniest.

I would say NSFW, but I'm at work now, so clearly it is safe for some work environments.

Maybe Not Safe For Work Environments Where There is A Chance That People Looking Over Your Shoulder Will Find Boobs Offensive (NSFWEWTACTPLOYSWFBO). But that's a bit long.

So... maybe...
Breasts (Or Other Bodyparts) Shown
Partial Or Relative Nudity
Caution: Unsuitable for Nautical Trespassers

I'll stop there. That last one's to keep pirates out. In case you wondered.

Along the same lines:
http://thefairest.info/ and http://thecutest.info/ are both totally SFW, and hence not quite as entertaining.

Tuesday, 24 July 2007

My blog is stupid

According to the date on the first entry of my old blog, I began blogging two years and one day ago. My intention for my posts then seems to be different to what it has now become. I was happy then to write about what I had been up to in my life, mainly to keep a record for me to look back on and for friends to read if they wanted to know what I'd been up to. Having done that (albeit on and off) for two years and a day, I feel I've had mixed success. Looking back, it is nice to read what I was doing however long ago; however, by far the most interesting entries are those where I'm just writing about my opinion on something.

The main problem I found with writing a blog that records your life is that, if you don't post anything for a little while, you feel you should write a "catch up" segment at the start of your newest entry detailing what you've been up to. I never relished this, which put me off posting; this in turn meant that I would leave making a new entry for even longer, creating more stuff that I felt the need to "catch up" on, increasing my reluctance to write something. It's a vicious circle as I'm sure you can see.

So, starting afresh. A new blog. A new(ish) style. A new writing partner. My goal in posting here is largely the same as TheTelf's in that I will use this blog to write about anything of interest to me. Much like TheTelf, I'm unwilling to "define" as such my intentions here, partly because I don't want to restrict myself before I get started, and partly because I don't really know what my intentions are. If I end up typing a stream of consciousness for an entry, that's cool; if an entry is a rant, then it's a rant. As someone who's dabbled in creative writing on and off for some time, there's a chance some of that could very well end up here too.

I love opinions. I love my opinions, and I love hearing the opinions of others. There may be only two writers on this blog at the moment, but you can bet your bottom dollar you'll get a wealth of opinion here from the get-go. And with the potential for more contributors in the near future, this place could become very, very interesting.

Friday, 20 July 2007

Not another one...

I hate blogs.

Wait... let me start again.

I find writing a personal blog to be a very frustrating experience. Trying to spin the minutiae of my daily life into three paragraphs of interesting prose that will mean something to someone I've never met, provide interest for someone I have met and, God forbid, make an interesting point or two in the process is a difficult thing to do. At the same time, looking back on what is often quite detailed, personal information displayed in a public place can be more than a little embarrassing, especially when it was written in more youthful times and more naive moments. Finally, the blogs that I enjoy reading the most are not ones that talk solely about the writer's day to day experiences (though that is often a good starting point), but ones that give me an insight into their thought processes, beliefs and, yes, even their sense of humour, through a brief (or not so brief) monologue, discussion, argument or rant.

So, without getting too deep into ideas about what I want/don't want to write on here, I found myself dissatisfied with the personal-journal style, and more tempted by a more journalistic (or at least more abstract) structure. However, when contemplating such a change of direction, I remembered that it was difficult enough to motivate myself to write personal entries, let alone ones that might require innovation, inspiration or inventiveness, as well as an opinion or two.

The solution was to try and get more people involved. By reading entries written by friends, I could imagine myself becoming inspired to produce more myself, and, in addition, the use of the blog by more than one writer gives a greater variety, a more diverse style and, most importantly, an impression of activity to any strangers who wander in of their own accord. Though I suspect we will start with just two writers to see how the concept plays out in real life, I hope that there will eventually be several people posting.

In that spirit, I officially launch this blog, wish that good fortune might shine on all who sail in her, and that she may have many voyages to come.