Thursday, May 31, 2007

Harry's No Help.

One of the things I do when I check my Statcounter stats is see what brought people here, as I find it amusing to see some of the search engine queries that people use. But thinking about this today I realised one thing that has not helped bring hits here is Harry Potter. I can't remember any hits that had something to with Harry Potter, so if there have been such hits they can't have been more than one or two. Prior to this four posts mentioned Harry Potter, as even though I have never read any of the Potter books or seen the movies it's such a pop culture phenomina that discussing it on a blog like this is inevitable. Given that you'd think I'd get regular Potter related hits, but that's not the case. It will be interesting to see if this post changes that in any way.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Will They Meet The Warlord?

It's amazing how some ideas persist, no matter how silly they might seem. An American physicist and futurist, Brooks Agnew, plans to lead an expedition next year to the Arctic in an attempt to find a way into the hollow centre of the Earth. As Richard Foot of CanWest News Service notes in the linked article this "nutty, yet persistent, theory"(hats off to Foot for this statement) is not new. Numerous Hollow Earth theories have been proposed over the last few centuries, but most people would have thought that modern geology, whose theories require a solid interior, would have put a finish to the idea. But it seems not.

Foot mentions a 2006 book called Hollow Earth, by David Standish, as generating recent interest in the idea. My exposure to the idea came from Walter Krafton -Minkel's 1989 book Subterranean Worlds, a history of various hollow Earth ideas that even includes infamous Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, who in the 1970s wrote a book under a pseudonym claiming UFOs were actually Nazi superweapons flown by Nazis who had escaped to the Hollow Earth when WW2 ended. I haven't read Standish's book, but Krafton-Minkel's tome is worth hunting up if you have an interest in the subject. The concept is also used in Mick Farren's 2002 novel Underland, where Farren's vampire character Victor Renquist is recruited by US intelligence to help deal with a group of Nazis living in a giant cavern at the North Pole.

The expedition Agnew will lead was originally planned by Utah based adventure guide Steve Currey. Unfortunately Currey died of brain cancer last year, leading to Agnew eventually taking his place. It's unclear if Currey actually believed in the idea or if he simply found an interesting excuse to lead some folks on an Arctic expedition, but Agnew would certainly seem to be a believer. He's the co-author of the book The Ark of Millions of Years: New Discoveries and Light on The Creation, a piece of New Age weirdness that blends the Bible with man was created by aliens silliness. So it's no surprise he'd believe the Earth was hollow. Personally I suspect Agnew's head is more than a little bit hollow.

"The Warlord?" you ask? He's a DC Comics character created by Mike Grell back in the '70s. US Air Force pilot Travis Morgan discovers the inner world of Skartaris when his SR71 crashes while flying over the North Pole. As the Warlord he becomes the champion of the people of Skartaris against various evils. The series ran from 1976 to 1989 and was briefly but unsuccessfully revived last year. Like Don Pendleton's Executioner and Joseph Rosenberger's Death Merchant Morgan carried an .44 Automag pistol during his adventures.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Mondays With Mike: Family Ties.

Like many artists Mike Oldfield has included his family and romantic partners in his work. In fact his first commercial recording was with his sister Sally as the duo The Sallyangie, who released Children of the Sun in 1969 to little interest. She has subsequently appeared on a number of Mike's albums, including Tubular Bells and Ommadawn. Their brother Terry also appeared on Ommadawn, and both Oldfield siblings have had long running music careers of their own.

Today's video is for "Innocent," from Oldfield's 1989 album Earth Moving. The vocalist is Norweigian singer Anita Hegerland, Oldfield's girlfriend at the time, with whom Oldfield would have two children. Earth Moving was the first Oldfield album not to feature an extended instrumental piece, consisting entirely of pop songs, and was an attempt to placate Virgin head Richard Branson's continual pressure for Oldfield to concentrate on songs. Disagreements over this and Branson's desire that any long future long composition be released as Tubular Bells II would lead Oldfield to sign with Warner Brothers in 1992 instead of resigning with Virgin when his contract ended.

Even without giving a release date for the album hardcore synth spotters might have reasonably guessed the release date given the prominent shots in the video of Oldfield playing a Korg M1. First released in 1988 the M1 has to date been the best selling synthesizer of all time, with some 200,000 being made before production ended in 1994. Not surprisingly the M1 has turned up on a tremendous number of releases, and still continues to be used by many musicians despite the release of more sophisticated "ROMplers."

A Note On Comments.

If you come here and you can't see the comments link for each post try refreshing the page. I just took a look at the blog only to find that there was no link with each post for making comments. Refreshing brought the links back. No doubt it's some glitch that will resolve itself, but it is kind of annoying.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

A Long Way To Go.

PZ Myers noted that he got a big traffic spike for his blog this week, going up to 140,000 hits for one 24 hour period instead of his usual 50-60,000. I'd be happy to get 140 hits in one day, although I have had at least a couple of 60 hit days. It would be interesting to know what the average hits per day per blog is. Presumably blogs like Pharyngula skew the results pretty heavily, as there must be blogs that go for days without visitors.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Another Week, Another Gas Price Increase.

As I write this Saskatoon gas stations are busy raising their pump prices. Gasoline is now 125.9 cents a litre, a five cent increase and an all time high for this city. Those of you in places like Europe where the price is equivalent to about 5 bucks Canadian a litre may not have much sympathy, especially since your prices may be going up, but it's rather disturbing for us. They're blaming US gas inventory concerns, unrest in Nigeria, a shutdown at a British Petroleum facility in Alaska, and the latest hurricane forecast. All these reasons ring a bit hollow for many given that (presumably) no gasoline sold in Saskatchewan comes from sources in any way effected by these problems. Unfortunately they know that too many people can't not drive, and that many people won't be willing to stop or reduce driving, and so they can get away with this kind of thing.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Room For Manipulation.

Currently on Canadian TV there are a series of ads running for Viagra. The ads feature people talking in made up words, except for the word Viagra. But one of the ads would be great fodder for a bit of manipulation. It shows two men talking about Viagra at a barbeque. But given the way they say their lines, the phrasing, and their facial expressions it wouldn't be too hard to add subtitles to the ad that translate the dialogue as being about something bad happening to someone who used Viagra, like a heart attack. In fact it wouldn't surprise me if someone actually does something like this, only shooting a fake ad and perhaps using a fake name to avoid getting into any sort of legal trouble. The ads are only airing in Canada as of yet, but if the campaign does well here I wouldn't be surprised to see it expand to other markets.

(And if someone comes across this post who does work for a comedy show and uses this idea I want a writing credit and some financial compensation for using the idea.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's Not Their Fault.

There has been a lot of talk of rising gas prices in the last couple of weeks as the price per litre has reached new highs. Here in Saskatoon it's currently 120.9 cents per litre, and some analysts say it will go up more before the summer's done. But please remember folks, as much as this is pissing you off don't take it out on the workers at your local gas bar. They don't determine the wholesale price of gas. They just sell the stuff. So getting angry and taking it out on them is unfair. Unfortunately I suspect we're going to hear more stories of gas station employees being victimised as the price rises. And don't even think about gassing up and not paying. You're not "sticking it to the man!" you're breaking the law. If you want to protest try driving less. If we stretch out the time between visits to the stations it will drive the price down as demand drops.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Online Poker And Me.

It turned out to be a not bad day for me at PokerStars. They're currently holding a series of $1000 Trivia Freerolls in celebration of dealing their 10 billionth hand. (Which should indicate how popular PokerStars is.) Of the three I took part in today I won 90 cents. Sure, that doesn't sound like much, but when you're competing against more than ten thousand players it's nice to win any money at all. I'm hoping to take part in at least a couple more and hopefully win enough to enter one of their bottom rung sit and goes, which will cost me a buck twenty.

Another place I play free poker online is ScorePoker, a site connected to Canadian sports TV channel The Score. This weekend they introduced a completely new set of software for their poker room. Unfortunately the new table is a bit of a pain for me. It's supposedly viewable with a 800x600 screen setting, which I normally use, but with my monitor at least it cuts the bottom off. And the bottom is where some of the controls to play are. So I've had to move to a higher screen setting when I want to use it and switch back when I'm done, which is an annoyance. It's too bad, because the new table is actually quite nice, with the chat function incorporated into the table. Previously it had been a separate popup that kind of got in the way of the top of the table with my screen settings. They've dropped things like player location and buddy lists, which some folks are complaining about. You can downloand their software here if you're interested. Although it's free they do have tournaments to win money and prizes.

Next month will mark one year of playing online poker for me. Have I gotten better? Yes, a bit. But I've stil got lots to pick up, and I don't intend to drop any of my own money online anytime soon, if at all. And who knows? Maybe I'll get really lucky one of these days and win an amount actually worth cashing out.

I play on the above sites, and less often Full Tilt, as saskblogger, so if you play freerolls on those sites you may run across me.

Monday, May 07, 2007

"They're on to us...."

People often make jokes about the term "military intelligence" being an oxymoron. But stories like this one do make you wonder: US intelligence officials put out a warning earlier this year after some US military contractors passing through Canada thought the Rememberance Day quarter released a few years ago, which features a bright red poppy on it, might be a nanotech spying device. Although this sounds like something out of The Onion it did in fact happen. I learned of this via James Nicoll's Livejournal, and the comments for his entry are rather interesting.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A Heads Up To Canadian Rush Fans.

If you haven't picked up the new Rush album Snakes & Arrows yet go to your local Music World. They've got it for $11.99, cheaper than HMV and CD Plus.