Story Idea: The Author

I came up wiry this idea on the plane, while reading a book. I was thinking about the way sometimes I script what is happening around me in my head, and how cool it would be if I had a super power to make my scripts come true.

The basic concept is this: Have you ever considered yourself to be the protagonist of the world? There is I think a philosophical concept which implies that it is possible that the world revolves around the observer, what the observer cannot see does not occur but is filled in by the observers mind. Kind of like playing a video game I guess, the computer doesn’t bother rendering the bits of the game that you can’t see,when you visit an area the programming of the game and the script makes it seem as if stuff has been happening though

What if you had the super power to script anything in the world around you, you get to change the variables of the world, alter your story. The man who you are having an argument with who has just pulled a gun on you, as he pulls the trigger you silently will him to have forgotten to reload it, click…

The cute girl who just walked into the room, you make up a story about how she’s vulnerable and has just broken up with her boyfriend, you start talking to her, you script it so that you are her type and end up going home with her.

This may sound cool, if you had this power it would to be honest be awesome, but it would make for a rubbish story, mainly because there is no strife, you have created the ultimate boring story of wish fulfillment, and your story like the first version matrix in the Matrix series will fail.

So what can you do to add strife? Perhaps add a moral compass to the main character? Perhaps the character isn’t the only one with this power, those who possess the power are immune to being rewritten.

I think the main things have to that there are rules or laws to using these powers. You cannot rewrite that which you already know or have experienced, or that which has been experienced by someone else who has the power, in effect we are making the people with power gods among men (or women).

Another possible rule could be that even though you have this power of authorship, you are still mortal, someone could sneak up on you and kill you.

Also regardless of your power you only know what you could normally perceive, Ie you are not omniscient.
I’m sure there are other limitations that could make it interesting.

The idea in a way reminds me of what happens in Bill and Ted’s Excellent adventure where they say that when they get out of whatever situation they are in they will travel back and orchestrate something,except without the time travel aspect.

Another thing to wonder about is how you gain these powers,are just born with them,do you collect them highlander style by killing your enemies? The second option could lead us to a fairly naive protagonist who gets his power by accidentally killing someone, saw by running him over?

Anyway I need to put more thought into this idea,I’m on a train,so excuse the post being horribly formatted, will fix in hotel room.

The Mind Boggles… Cloud Girlfriend

It seems like only yesterday I was reading a story exposed about a guy who made up a Japanese girlfriend for himself on Twitter now I head about Cloud Girlfriend a site that will create a perfect girlfriend for you to interact with on your social media websites… The idea is one part genius two parts insane.

The sad thing is no doubt hundreds of people will sign up for this, and use it to fool people or themselves into thinking they have a girlfriend…

iPhone People…

Are smartphones killing polite conversation? Personally I find that my attention span seems to get shorter and shorter the smarter my phone is, when there is a lull in the conversation it’s sometimes easier to quickly check Twitter or Facebook than it is to try and re-engage the conversation. Perhaps there is a hope in the back of minds that something on Twitter will be usable as a starter for the next short burst of conversation. The cycle then repeats it’s self ad nauseum…

I acknowledge it’s rude, I’m not sure that there is an equivalent pre smart phone behaviour, I guess if you always carried around a magazine or a book and popped it open during a lull in the conversation that would be similar, somehow that is less socially acceptable though, I’d never consider reading a paragraph of a book midway through a chat with someone but for some reason I find siren song of Twitter almost impossible to resist. I’m sure there are studies that could be conducted on the subject of why in our heads we think it’s okay to glance at Twitter or Facebook despite that fact that it’s essentially telling the person or people that you are talking to that they are not worthy of your full attention.

Perhaps it’s something that has evolved around the way we use our phones? If you receive a text message, I’d say it’s perfectly acceptable to quickly glance at it and if required quickly respond, maybe in our heads that’s how we justify it? On the other hand I’m sure most of us have been in a situation where someone is blatantly having a really heated conversation with someone else via text message, I think there is a point where is just crosses the line, I’m not sure where that line is and I think that’s the issue. Is there a rate of text message replies per hour that makes it rude? I think it’s a bit subjective, but it’s very easy to slip from being polite to whomever has texted you by providing a prompt and swift reply to being rude to the person who you are physically with. Twitter makes it easier to cross that line I think…

Don’t even get me started on people who pull out their phones and play games in the middle of conversation…

Via Suicide Geeks.

The Clocks Went Forward on Sunday Morning… Or Did They?

On Sunday at 1AM the clocks went forward an hour in the UK, that is the official UK time changed from GMT to British Summer Time (BST) I was at a party at the point which lead to the inevitable is it actually 3 O’Clock or is it 2 O’Clock, has my phone automatically gone forward or not… I think these days most phone automatically set themselves forward if you are set to a timezone where that is relevant, computers likewise will automatically change the time unless you have told them not to.

To be honest those two devices are my core method of telling the time, sure I own a myriad of watches, but I’m one of those people who despite owning multiple watches forgets to actually wear them. I’ve also got a few clocks strewn about the house, one in the living room, one on the microwave and a bedside alarm clock among others. The thing is for almost all the clocks in the house I didn’t have to change the time. Not because they are super smart clocks that automatically change in synch with daylight savings though, but because I never bothered to change them when the clocks went were rolled back, so now they tell the right time again.

I view this not as laziness however but as a mental exercise, knowing which clocks are not telling the right time and by how much they are off keeps me on toes. At least that’s what I like to tell myself. Also it confuses any house guests I get, which provides me with no end of amusement.

I hazard a guess however that many clocks will not have been reset on Sunday, out of pure laziness either because they magically started telling the right time having been an hour off for 6 months, or because the people who own them are too lazy or distracted to remember to change the time on them. Then of course there are the clocks which no one can figure out how to change, like the ones in your car, inevitably when you are getting in your car you are doing so with the intent of using the car for it’s primary purpose, getting you from A to B. You don’t have time to sit there wondering about the inner workings of the in dash clock, which invariable requires you to hold down half a dozen buttons, put your car into the correct gear and drive forwards or backwards a number of metres equal to the number of minutes you want to change the clock by. It’s just too complicated most of the time and to be honest it’s easier to just remember that the clock is off by an hour.

Is choice a bad thing in consumer electronics?

I’ve been thinking about getting a tablet PC for some time now and I’ve been humming and hawing whether to get an Android tablet like the Motorola Xoom, the Samsung Galaxy Tab, or whatever one is getting the most media attention at the moment. My other option is to get an iPad 2; now I was initially skeptical about the iPad when it launched, it lacked several features that I thought were “essential” at the time, was too expensive, and was locked in Apple’s legendary walled garden etc.

As time goes on however I’m warming to the iPad, those essential features don’t seem so essential, the price although just as expensive seems to be the same as all the other tablets on the market, plus the iPad seems to be the only one that is available subsidised with a data tarrif in the UK. As for the walled garden… I have to admit having used an iPad it’s a really nice garden. I mean it’s no garden of eden, but… I’m going to stop that metaphor before I start talking about being chucked out of the garden for eating an Apple.

Anyway, I look at the Android landscape and it’s constantly changing, there are countless articles that compare the “best Android tablets” on the market, but by the time you read the article it’s already obsolete because bigger better more powerful tablets have been released.

Don’t get me wrong, I think this is awesome, I really like the Android ecosystem and I love my Android phone.

There is an implicit “but” in that last sentence though, the “but” is that my top of the line HTC Desire was obsolete 3-4 months after I got it, I’m not looking at all the cool Tegra2 powered smart phones with envy. Okay it’s a year later now, and my phone contract is nearing an end, but I wanted a Desire HD when that came out, and there has been phone after phone that I’ve thought hey that’s pretty cool I want that.

Before I went Android it was the constant Stream of Nokia phones that filled me with envy, not sooner had you bought a new Nokia phone then they would release a new one with a slightly better screen, slightly enhanced camera, or one cool new feature. They just kept on coming, no manufacturer should make you regret buying one of their products, but that is how I’ve always felt with phones, there is always a better one around the corner, so how long do you wait?

This is where I think Apple may have stumbled onto something, with Apple you know where you stand, they will without fail release a new iPhone every year, and it seems that this policy is being extended to the iPad. this new phone/Tablet will provide an incremental upgrade to the previous one, so if you are a gadget whore you will want to get the latest and greatest but if you aren’t it’s okay if you skip a generation. This works well with the 18-24 month contracts that carriers are pushing these days, you can comfortably buy on release date and be happy with your phone/tablet for two years before it’s time to get the next iteration.

Apple also subscribe to the Highlander “There can be only one” strategy, all iPhones are created equal, the only difference is the size of the solid state drive, you don’t have to worry about getting the one with the better processor or the one with or without GPS or Bluetooth, or WiFi or whatever other sparkly feature, they all have the exact same features. The same applies to the iPad except that you have the choice of 3G or not, although arguably if you wanted a non 3G iPhone you can get an iPod touch (Don’t call it an iTouch, Apple employees hate that).

So yeah, from a consumers point of view there is something comforting in the knowledge that there isn’t going to be a bigger better badder, more sparkly phone/tablet coming out in a months time to make your once shiny but now quite dull one look like a turd with a touchscreen.

From a manufacturers point of view Apple’s iPhone team have a year to focus on building the best possible iPhone they can without being distracted by releasing half a dozen different other phones in the interim, they have one product one live version of the OS and one dream (okay I just like having things in three’s because it sounds better they probably don’t have one dream).

Whether or not I get an Android tablet or an iPad 2 is still up in the air, I’m probably going to play the waiting game a little longer, but how much longer? I don’t know.

How to really get people to quit smoking…

I write a lot of story idea’s here, and as I doubt that this is the type of policy that would never see the light of day I’m going to file this under story ideas, as it would provide some interesting colour to a dydtopian/utopian science fiction/alternate present story…

I just had an idea that would probably never work or be implemented but could stop people from smoking. I’d like to point out at the start that I am not and never have been a smoker.

At the moment the way I see it the government applies a tax on every packet of cigarettes that you buy, I don’t know the rate of tax I don’t care to be honest, but supposedly that tax is in part supposed to artificially inflate the price of cigarettes to the point that people are less likely to buy, in the mean time it raises money for the government to spend on missiles… Sorry the NHS…

My proposal is to remove that tax completely, but instead make purchasing cigarettes something you need a license to do, applying for a license costs say £100. When you go to the shops to buy your cigarettes you have to not only show your licence but also swipe it so that there is a record of the purchase. At the end of the year you get a bill for your cigarette licence which is adjusted for every cigarettes you’ve bought.

The license would stop under-agers from buying cigarettes, because they wouldn’t be granted a licence, it would also make it impossible for people who didn’t smoke to buy cigarettes for people who did.

The other advantage of this plan is that being hit with a big one off bill is a lot scarier that whittling away at your money with a tax you barely notice.

I’m normally against the government, or any other body for that matter collecting and storing information about me, but in this case I think that since you are doing something which has been proven to damage your body I think that how much you smoke should be recorded in your NHS records, it should also be given to health/life insurance providers so that they can raise your premiums…

This is all hypothetical, I’m aware that you could replace “Cigarettes” with unhealthy food, or alcohol, but this isn’t a blog post about making people have healthier diets or stopping people from drinking, it’s about smoking…

If you did hypothetically want  to extend this to food, you could give people credits whenever they ate healthily, if you ate nothing but salads and fruit all year maybe the government would actually owe you money…

I’m not sure how you’d modify this for drink, I’m not sure I want to broach that topic, I don’t drink but I know far to many people who do and I don’t want to be lynched by my drunken friends…

As far as I’m concerned Nintendo has lost the Handheld “Console War” for this generation…

TL;DR: Battery life and touch screen on 3DS sucks. I think handhelds are dying out and are going to be replaced with more generic devices, probably not phones, but probably tablets.

A report from Arstechnica about the battery life of the 3DS confirms my worst fears. The 3-4 hours was not a conservative estimate, apparently if you turn off 3D WiFi and sound you get a whopping 5 hours, assuming the game you are playing doesn’t require these features.

Contrast this with the DS’ battery life, of 10 Hours (Wikipedia), it’s just not good enough. If your handheld can’t keep a child occupied playing Pokemon for most of a trans-Atlantic flight then there is little point in it being a handheld.

Also having tried out the 3DS the 3D aspect of it wasn’t much to write home about, sure it looked cool, but I’m not sure how much it adds to game-play, I’m one of those people who doesn’t like 3D movies, so I may be  a little biased, but it strikes me that the addition of 3D has hamstrung the console by taking away one of the core advantages that Nintendo handhelds have always had; battery life.

Game Boy Vs. Game Gear, DS Vs. PSP, GBA Vs. Well there was no viable competition for the GBA…  Nintendo have always had the edge when it came to battery life, and they’ve just sacrificed that edge for a gimmick.

The DS’ other novel feature the touch screen seems to have been ignored in the 3DS, I had a go at using the 3DS at a Nintendo open day and the touch screen was terrible, it’s a resistive touch screen, so you have to use the stylus. While this may have been acceptable when the DS was released in 2004 it’s not acceptable now. Everyone and their monkey has a touch screen smartphone with a capacitive screen, meaning you can use your fingers, the 3DS feels like a step back after using that.

As far as I’m concerned the jury is still out with regards to whether the Sony NGP will be the clear winner in the handheld battle, it certainly has every feature under the sun… But it’ll probably come with a price to match. I’m starting to think that the hype about smartphones and tablets usurping the handheld gaming market might be true, for one thing they can be subsidised by phone contracts so it feels like  they cost less, and for another they seem to have the raw power that handhelds lack.

The issue fails back to battery life though, my Android smartphone barely lasts a day if I use it for texting, calls, and checking Twitter. Add gaming to that and I’ll need an extra battery.

The iPad manages 10 hours of use, and if you do deplete the battery you aren’t cutting your self off from the world, which is why I think there is a market for tablets in gaming. The processor is powerful, the screen is huge and the battery life is awesome. Plus you can do other things on it like browse the web, check social networks etc…. You may be locked into Apple’s walled garden but what a garden!

There is the option of Android tablets, I’ve yet to try one aside from playing with a Galaxy Tab in a shop, I wasn’t impressed. I am impressed with Honeycomb, or at least the videos I’ve seen of it online, but I’ve not had a chance to play with it yet and I’m going to wait till I do before I formulate an opinion.

This is turning into a rant…

Via Arstechnica

Ryu Murakami Chimes in On the Crisis in Japan

I love Ryu Murakami’s first reaction to the quake:

The earthquake hit just as I entered my room. Thinking I might end up trapped beneath rubble, I grabbed a container of water, a carton of cookies and a bottle of brandy and dived beneath the sturdily built writing desk. Now that I think about it, I don’t suppose there would have been time to savor a last taste of brandy if the 30-story hotel had fallen down around me. But taking even this much of a countermeasure kept sheer panic at bay.

I have an awful lot of respect for Ryu Murakami (not to be confused with Haruki Murakami who is better known in the west) and I’ve read a few of his books, in this New York Times article he chimes in on his opinion of what is is going on in Japan at the moment.

In short: The Japanese people are openly helping each other out and standing together, but some people are being a little selfish when no one is looking by hoarding food and petrol. But above all the attitude of the people seems to be one of hope.

Via Amid Shortages, a Surplus of Hope –

A Series of Catastrophes Leads to a Drastic Changes of Plans…

So this time last week if you asked me where I thought I was going to be today I would have told you I would be in Bahrain at my fathers university reunion. If you’d asked me where I thought I’d be in three days time I’d tell you I’d be on a plane making my way to Tokyo in preparation for my brothers graduation.

Neither of these things have happened due to recent tragic events in both Bahrain and Japan. Both events are really tragic, one man made political crisis and the other a natural catastrophe followed by a nuclear disaster, and my heart goes out to the people of both those countries. No matter how you look at it having my holiday cancelled pales in significance to what the people of those two countries are experiencing, it’s just been a minor inconvenience for me.

Even so I’ve been glued to the TV/Twitter/Various new sites whenever possible following what’s been happening to the people of these two countries. Bahrain is a third home to me, I may have grown up in Saudi Arabia, and I may now live in the UK but Bahrain has always had a special place in my heart. Ever since the King Fahad Causeway opened when I was 6 it’s became the place that we went to for a bit of sanity as a respite from the madness of living in Saudi. And it breaks my heart to see whats happening there, my Dad is currently as far as I can tell trapped in Bahrain, they aren’t letting anyone use the causeway to get to or from the country and my dad happened to be in Bahrain when they decided this. He’s safe, he is with family and far away from the protests, at least as far away as you can be in a country which you can drive the entire length of in an hour. My mum on the other hand, and I never thought I would utter these words, is safe in Saudi.

I’m not sure what the general sentiment in Bahrain is I would assume it’s one of apprehension and probably also fear, my dad who grew up there says that the anti-sectarian sentiment is the worst he’s ever seen it, he also seems to be of the opinion that the news are blowing some of it out of proportion, and that the western media are portraying the situation in a very one sided way. I don’t have enough information to back this up, but from his point of view so long as you stay away from the “bad areas” you are fairly safe. Though the last time I spoke to him the roundabout was still occupied so that may have changed as the protesters have dispersed.

What I’m seeing from Japan on the other hand is both devastating and inspiring. If ever I had any doubt about the safety of nuclear power it’s been erased, a 30 year old power plant has managed to survive not only a 9.0 magnitude earth quake but also a 7 meter tsunami, as well as a multitude of aftershocks, and at the as far as I can tell it’s still relatively safe. The damage, or lack thereof to the buildings in Tokyo is a testament to the engineering prowess of the Japanese people, and the reaction of the people of Japan has nothing short of inspiring. I think had something like this happened anywhere else in the world there would have been riots for food and resources. Not in Japan, the Japanese people seem to be forming orderly queues for fuel and supplies, they are helping each other out and just getting on with it.

My brother has been studying in Japan for the past 5 years, he was not in Japan when the quake hit, he’s currently safe and sound with our cousin in Houston TX. He missed the quake by a few days as he was supposed to be arriving back in Tokyo on the 15th, he’s cancelled his flights and will stay in Houston a little longer before heading to Saudi. I assume his graduation has been cancelled or at the very least postponed, but he doesn’t seem to have bothered to check.

My friend Jamie is in Tokyo and was there when the quake hit. His first hand account of the quake is just scary. I’m so unbelievably glad that he, his wife and 2 week old baby are safe and sound despite all the chaos that is surrounding them.

I sure know how to pick my holiday destinations… I’ll give you fore warning the next place I intend to visit is York in early April, lets hope nothing bad happens there…

People seem to keep on telling me that they are really sorry for me, all I’m losing out on is a holiday. I’ve reclaimed my Annual leave, I’ve got a refund on my flights, I didn’t have to book a Hotel as I was staying with friends so I’ve not had to cancel that, and I’m getting a 90% refund on my rail pass. There is nothing to be sorry for when it comes to me, and while I appreciate is, they should save their sympathy for people more deserving, the people of Bahrain and Japan are both a million times more deserving of any sympathy you might have directed at me.

I’m not sure why I wanted to write this but I felt that I should say something.

Katamari Hack

Some people have way too much time on their hands… This is pretty neat however, a bookmarklet that turns any webpage into a “Game” of Katamari Damacy allowing you to roll a ball round and collect all the elements of the page. Just copy and pate the following javascript into your url bar:

javascript:var i,s,ss=[‘’,’’];for(i=0;i!=ss.length;i++){s=document.createElement(‘script’);s.src=ss[i];document.body.appendChild(s);}void(0);

Or drag this link Katamari! into your bookmarks bar, click on it while on any website and let it roll…

I love these little javascript hacks, much like the asteroids one I posted some time ago.
Katamari Hack.