Cold Dead Badge

Those who (for reasons of their own) enjoyed the cold dead fingers wallpaper I produced a week ago are invited to buy, if they wish, a Cold Dead Fingers badge!

Cold Dead Fingers badge

£1 to anybody who wants one. All proceeds will be donated to a local volunteer-run nocturnal telephone listening service. 14 available. The box is by my PC, so if you want one, just take it (and leave a shiny pound coin in it’s place, for those telephone stars).

If you don’t understand the reference, just ask, and I’ll tell you that I can’t tell you why I can’t tell you what it’s about. Just buy one, and wear it proudly, knowing that you’ve done A Good Thing.

Abnib v2.2

Abnib now supports “feed hiding” of the “community” feeds (RockMonkey, Troma Night, Gallery). Just click the “hide feed” link at the bottom of a post of the type you don’t want to see. This feature by demand of Jon.

In other news, Blue Dragon is proving somewhat popular, with 7 registered players (plus me, but I don’t play on account of the fact that sysops who play their own games tend to do well, even if they’re not cheating, and get accused of cheating regardless of how well they do), and a couple more about to sign up. If you’ve not given it a go yet, there’s still time to get in and cause some damage before the “top players” pull too far out of reach… and if you are playing, you’ll see that a few new areas just became available to you…

Legend Of The… Blue Dragon

Following up my thoughts earlier about old-school online games, I did some investigation into what became of fab old games like Legend Of The Red Dragon. It turns out that there was an effort to revive this particular one as a web-based game called “Legend Of The Green Dragon”. Well; as it was open-source I took a copy and adapted it with heaps of suitable “Aberisms”. It’s Abniberific.

Click here to play Dan’s “Legend Of The Blue Dragon”

Feedback appreciated. Usual address.

Additional: In answer to a much-anticipated question – when playing Blue Dragon, you’ll only have so-many turns in which to do things each “day”. However, there are two Blue Dragon “days” in each “real world” day: midnight in Blue Dragon will be occuring at (about) midnight and mid-day (GMT) each day, and between those times you have all the turns you need to do things in the game world.

What Is A Door And Why Do I Care

Geeky post with little value to most people: ignore if you don’t want to learn a little about the history of the BBS, “Doors”, and the subculture around them. This post is written for folks like Ruth, who seemed interested, and others, who seemed possibly-interested.

Before about 1994, even the few of us who had been on the internet hadn’t had much exposure to the (young, at the time) world wide web, but for a decade or more before then, there stood a great remnant of what had come before. And for years to come, still, when internet access was still something for which you paid both monthly and for your call time, and probably to a “local” rather than a “national” ISP, there was another option for getting your “fix” of cyberspace.

That fix was the network of independent bulletin board systems (BBSs) that existed across pretty much every Western country. The US was full of them – pretty much every small town had a young geek somewhere with a spare computer in his parents’ basement. And here in the UK, small BBSs flourished as their members logged on and off and passed files around over now long-dead protocols.

BBSs were small, usually-local, centralised computers with one or more modems (or even acoustic couplers – primitive modems that connected to existing telephone handsets using little rubber suction cups and “spoke” analogue signals to one another across the telephone lines), often operated by hobbyists. To connect to one, you would need to know it’s phone number, and lists of these could be found wherever geeks talked. You’d simply configure your dialler software to “connect” to the specified number, and, a few pips and squeaks later, you were in. A short registration process would give you access to message board, file trading facilities (ah; all that – ah; all that porn), live chat (on the bigger, multi-line boards), and sometimes even internet access – e-mail, newsgroups, etc. Later, some of the more successful BBSs would become ISPs, and some of these maintained a BBS, too, that provided software that you could use to connect to their systems. BBSs had all the benefits of the internet at the time – albeit with a smaller user base – but frequently also had a distinct local feel and a “community” sense of belonging.

Another feature that became quite popular on BBSs were the so-called door games. These were pieces of software installed onto the BBS server computer – usually games – which could be interacted with by the BBS server software through one of several standardised interfaces (e.g. Fossil, DOOR32). It’s almost certain that the writer of Wargames had seen door games in action before he wrote his “Global Thermonuclear War” game into the film script. A majority of these games – like the one in Wargames – allowed a single player to play against the computer, online, with perhaps a shared, centralised scoreboard that all players can access. Later door games allowed a degree of interactivity, sometimes even “live” interactivity, between the players who were playing the game simultaneously.

When I ran Dice BBS (from my bedroom at my mum’s house), I had a selection of door games running on it, selected for their inter-player interactivity: P:TEOS (space trading sim), Legend Of The Red Dragon and it’s underrated sequel (all from Robinson Technologies, who still write computer games to this day), and a MOO (an object-oriented MUD [multiplayer text-based adventure] often with an emphasis on social interaction [like a MUSH]). Later, after Dice BBS’s closure (the internet had become too ubiquitous; too cool; there was no need for it any more), I hacked Legend Of The Red Dragon 2 to pieces and wrote a Pascal front-end to allow it to be played in a protected network environment, developed L2:PC, and deployed it to the Preston College network, where it became so popular that several players rarely did anything else, and one person was even thrown off their course, their grades suffered so badly.

Nowadays, door games are a bit of a forgotten breed. The MUDs and the MUSHes grew up into the MMORPGs of today (think “World Of Warcraft”, “Everquest”, “Ultima Online”, “Puzzle Pirates”). The need for the other games to be played in a centralised manner was negated by high-speed internet links and modern, multiplayer games. But there are still special places where BBSs run (usually adapted in such a way that you can reach them using the telnet protocol, over the internet), and there will always be a home for them in the hearts of those of us that lived aboard them.

Thanks for listening to a bit of nostalgia.

Further reading:

Another Meme!

Don’t you hate those tried-and-tested “quiz” memes and things. Well, here’s a variation on the theme.

1. Post this meme to your weblog or journal.

2. Stick a nail bomb in a rucksack.

3. Blow yourself up on a London bus two weeks after I do.

“These aren’t suicide bombers – they’re just cry-for-help bombers!”

This content shamelessly stolen from the london_hurts LiveJournal community.

An Interview With Gary McKinnon

There’s a stunning interview you can listen to on BBC World Service with Gary McKinnon, the Briton who hacked into US military and research computers in order to hunt for evidence of UFO activity. In the interview he talks about how he did it, what he found, and how he was caught, as well as his feelings over the fact that he may be extradited to the US for up to a 70 year prison sentence for something which, in the UK, he couldn’t get more than four years. It’s well worth listening to. You’ll want a copy of Real Alternative installed (like Real Player, except good).

Thai, Catan, And Gantz

Claire and I cooked thai food for Ruth, JTA, and Bryn last night. Paul, too, but owing to a communications breakdown he didn’t know about it, so he missed out. Unable to decide between making a sweet red Thai chilli and a black bean dish, I decided to make both, which immediately compounded into a problem when I realised that I was cooking both meat (for us normal people) and a vegetarian dish (for Ruth) of each.

So, hot-desking (hot-hobbing?) six pans later on, we all got fed – about 40 minutes late. Got to steam some pak choi over the noodles: I’m not sure that I’ve ever knowingly tried pak choy before – Claire pointed it out in Morrisons and said, “what’s this?” and I had to confess that I didn’t know, save from what it said on the packet (“ideal for stir-fry”). A quick scout around the web revealed what to do with the thing. Anyway; it turns out to be a fab-tasting vegetable.

After this, Bryn left, and the remainder of us had a game of Settlers of Catan, which Ruth won. Again.

My torrent of the entire first series of Gantz, a wonderfully destructive anime series we’ve been watching at Naruto Night, has been making good progress over the weekend. The numbers keep fluctuating, but we could have a copy of it within as little as the next 30 hours or so. It feels a bit of a waste having to download the entire series just to collect the two episodes I’m missing, but this was the only working torrent I could find that included these episodes at all.

I’m kinda impressed how tightly the TV series hugs the comic books (I’ve gotten hold of them, too). Dialog, framing, everything. Not so impressed as I was, though, by the stunning Sin City I had the joy of seeing last week, which didn’t even have the benefit of being animated to help the director to get the feel of the hand-drawn work from which it stems. See Sin City.

Meandering now, but should be working.

War Of The War Of The Worlds

Last night’s Troma Night was War of the War of the Worlds night, in which we’d planned to listen to the War of the Worlds radio play, watch the 1953 film (which is very, very good for it’s age), listen to the Jeff Wayne musical adaptation (which, in my opinion, remains most true to the original story), and watch the new (2005) version of the film. Not many, if any, people took up Paul‘s offer to read the H. G. Wells book in advance.

Was it just me; or was the pizza particularly good last night?

Running out of battery power on Paul’s MP3 player during “Dead London” (close to the end), in the Jeff Wayne version, threatened to end the night early. Quick thinking from Paul enabled us to get “back on track” with freshly-downloading copies of the final three tracks within a few minutes, but we were still unable to watch the final, new, film. Perhaps some other time.

Claire and Ruth had a little too much to drink, one suspects, which is at least partially responsible for them wittering through some of the second half of Jeff Wayne’s musical, until Paul and I got pissed off enough to tell them to stop (bad), but, much later on (after we’d run out of Troma Night material) collapsed into a happy drunken post-tickle fight giggling heap on the sofa(better). The absinth(e) my sister Sarah brought back from Benidorm smells like aftershave and tastes like petrol. But if you knock back a shot of it, it’s impressive how quickly it hits.

We drank plenty of the absinth last night, too, at Geek Night. JTA found it difficult to count how many sheep he was trying to trade (Settlers of Catan), before going home and bashing out a drunken blog entry. Paul watched from afar, ocassionally stopping to add a little to the RockMonkey page on Absinth, which remains, complete with spelling mistakes and other messy bits. I got excessively giggly, and ended up debating with Ruth the merits of snorting spirits (thankfully we had the sense not to try this with absinth(e)). And Ruth, despite spending most of her time laughing the small stuffed toy pig I keep on my desk, managed to pip me to the post and win the game just before I executed my master plan. The bitch.

Claire’s dad was visiting this weekend, but hasn’t come to see us this morning: instead, he’s gone straight home, and we’re not sure why.

Rain in Cambrian Place

Looking at the weather, I think the chance of a barbeque tonight is somewhat reduced. Any other suggestions are welcome.

Wild Haggis

"According to a survey released on 26 November 2003, one-third of US visitors to Scotland believed the haggis to be a real creature."

Thanks, Wikipedia.

Edit; 5th July 2007: Thanks, Wikipedia. Thwikipedia.

Next Week’s Terrorist Attacks

Here’s our predictions:

  • Terrorists detonated a pollen bomb this morning in Birmingham City Centre, spreading chaos amongst hayfever sufferers throughout the area. Four people have been treated with antihistamines, one of also has asthma. “I was scared for my life,” she said in an interview with our correspondent.
  • Simultaneously, two suicide bombers from different terrorist factions attacked one another in a field in Cornwall. A cow was injured in the resulting explosion, and police have sealed off the area.
  • In an unexpected attack this afternoon, a terrorist group has let all of the air out of the tires of the buses in Daventry bus station. This is believed to be the a follow up attack to the brutal assault on Daventry police station last week, in which seven police officers found their shoelaces tied together. Chaos has ensued in Daventry: at least one guinea pig went hungry as his owner, who was due to bring home some broccoli on the bus, was delayed by four hours.
  • And we’re just receiving word that the missing garden gnomes from Mrs. Evan’s garden in Hampshire is being treated as a kidnapping. A tape delivered this evening stated that the group responsible was going to execute the gnomes and send recordings to news agencies.


Ruth wrote:

Something surprised me today. I was looking through the various blog-posts relating to the nastiness with the Union, and I was quite shocked to realise how many of the people that I (certainly now, probably always) think of as nightliners are now, in fact, ex-nightliners.

And I thought about the influence that those people had had on me, on who I am and how I answer that phone, and I realised something that hadn’t really occured to me before: even though we have a high turnover, and people aren’t normally with us for more than three or four years, that doesn’t mean that the org ‘loses’ them. Each successive generation of nightliners is built on the last.

And whilst, to the people answering the phones in ten years time, our current struggles may seem distant (if they aren’t forgotten entirely), hopefully we can achieve the kind of changes in our relationship with the Union which will mean that they are free to get on with doing what we’re here to do.

Aye. I still think of myself (and other ex-‘s) as still being “Nightliners”.