31 August, 2005

The Prehistoric Mass Extinction

The BBC had an article on a mass extinction in prehistoric times. It isn't talking about the demise of the dinosaurs, but instead a much earlier die-off 250million years ago. Back 250million years ago, there were animals not unlike now: Insects, arachnids, crustaceans, amphibians and reptiles. It also had trilobites which were the species of the time (more information here) and are extinct now (as far as I know).

The difference between us and them is that they were the first of their kind. Earth had never before known the large herbivores and carnivores of this time period, and as a result, it was highly unstable. The Earth was also much more active then, and thanks to a ton of volcanoes erupting over a few hundreds of thousands of years the C02 levels rose to inhospitable conditions of 10% more then it currently is. As a result, 90% of the wildlife died out. However it is possible that the trilobites actually died out due to the appearance of sharks and other fish. In fact, it's possible that the rise in C02 isn't truly the cause for the mass extinction. Merely because a computer model says it could happen, doesn't mean it did (or even really could). However if it did happen, it's truly interesting.

Much like the die out of the dinosaurs allowed mammals to become dominant, the massive die-out of the Permian period allowed the reptiles to rise and fill the new empty niches, the reptiles evolving into the dinosaurs we all know about.

It's amazing to think that the Earth has known these three distinct types of life, and that each demise resulted in the rise of another life-form. It makes you wonder, which life form will become dominant once us mammals die out (and based on the past, it's only a matter of time for us).

30 August, 2005

Muslim Rights

I saw on the news yesterday that a couple of liberals want to ban Muslim headscarves from schools, because "it is a challenge to our freedoms and way of life" which is the biggest bit of rubbish I've ever heard. This is assuming that anyone who wants to be associated with the Muslim religion is a terrorist, which is so absurd it's obviously not true.

Once we begin infringing on the rights of people because of their religion or nationality, the terrorists have won. The terrorists don't truly care about gaining equal rights for Muslims in Australia*, and don't care if their actions cause the Australian government to retaliate against Australian Muslims (except to add fuel to their propaganda). The terrorists want power, and are using whatever causes they can to secure it for themselves. If the western world suddenly made peace with the Islamic nations and gave into all of their desires, there would still be terrorists, and a lot of the current ones would most likely still be terrorists. They would just move onto a new cause.

At least the French don't show such an obvious dislike towards one religion in their ban, and ban religious insignia in schools without prejudice. Thankfully though, John Howard (in one of the few decent things he's ever done) has publically disagreed with the liberals, as he's attempting to discuss with Islamic leaders about curbing extremists (which is what America should do instead of going around invading Islamic countries, but that's another rant).

It just angers me when I see this sort of narrow-mindedness, and from our country's leaders nonetheless. But it was most likely just a publicity stunt to get their names in the paper, and to get the lowest Australians who agree with them to like them.

Pro-polygamy Womans Rights Group

Today I saw at Eleri's blog that in Egypt a group of Arab women are saying that women should be encouraged to use their right to marry a married man. This is an interesting take on the issue, and is quite different to the Western debates, instead calling upon religious reasons to support polygamy.

It's a very interesting issue, but as a "decadent Westerner" I do feel that promoting polygamy for the reasons that these women are, will lead to more problems then it will solve (although I may be wrong because of my ignorance of the lifestyle and culture in Egypt).

In Egypt a women's rights group along with movies and pop-culture tend to stress the bad conotations of polygamy and the problems it cause. However this new women's rights group are claiming that it will fix social problems such as divorce, adultery, working mothers/wives and the stigma of being a single older female.

If people begin getting married instead of divorcing their wives or comitting adultery, I think that would cause many more problems then it would solve. It will cause resentment and anger along with fights and most likely eventual divorce anyway.

However this doesn't mean that marrying two women will inherently cause fights between the wives. If the both women approve of the marriage, it can solve problems. We're taught in Western society that it's impossible to love two women, but if it isn't (I don't think I'd be able to though) and the women agree, why shouldn't they? (Egyptian law does allow this, but America and Australia certainly don't).

A womens rights group activist claimed that it would be the same as displaying women in a slave market, which in my opinion is complete rubbish. I believe that for the most part, the women are agreeing to the marriage (whatever their reasons), so it's certainly not the same as having a slave market. The article also claims that polygamy is just to satiate a man's lust and pleasure. While I'm sure that's certainly true in some cases, as far as I know Islamic religion doesn't allow for adultery (this is a pure guess). By discouraging polygamy, Egyptian men are more likely to go have sex with strangers (as their religion doesn't encourage monogomous relationships) for lust. But polygamy can encourage men to marry for love.

However this goes back to the reason to marry. The article says:
Some women accept polygamous marriages out of loneliness, religious piety or fear of divorce. Others find it too humiliating and opt to divorce their husbands.

Nagwa, who asked to withhold her surname to protect her privacy, says she wedded an already happily married man rather than stay single at 40. She said he proposed to her with his first wife's consent because he felt a religious obligation to protect a Muslim woman.

In my opinion that's wrong and not healthy, and will cause more problems then it solves.

I personally think problems inherent in polygamy would be done away with (to a certain degree) if it was a marriage where everyone involved is married to each other. None of this "man with two wives business" or "woman with two husbands" but instead a relationship with three people, where each is married to the other two. The wife is married to the wife and the husband, the other wife is married to the first wife and the husband, and the husband is married to each of the wives. If the husband wanted out of the marriage, the two wives would still stay together.

Is it possible for all those people to love each other? I don't know, but if it is, why should we outlaw it? I know that such a set-up isn't likely in Western civilization anytime soon as it would involve allowing homosexual marriages (which many still outlaw), but I can't see any non-religious reason to outlaw it.

29 August, 2005

Now Stuff Sucks in colour

(click on the comic for full-sized colour)

Stuff Sucks has gone from black and white to colour. What's this comic about? Well so far, not much. It's been running since December last year, but an update schedule of once a week means that only 36 comics have been made so far. But what Liz Groenveld has done in those 36 comics makes for an entertaining read.

You won't find any insightful messages hidden within the panels. But instead you'll find a comic about the everyday things that happen in life, like talking to your mother on the phone, going to the local diner, chasing down a shoplifter and proposing to your girlfriend (okay, maybe those last two don't happen every day for most of us).

Most of the strips have a joke hidden away inside them, whether it's a crude breast joke or a situational one like today's. It's a nice little comic that will make you chuckle to yourself, and the artwork has only improved dramatically with the introduction of colour into the strips.

Myst projects

I was looking at Mystblogs (great little site for members of the Myst community) when I came across the Development Blog for Ages of Ilathid. Now to be completely honest, this is a Myst-fan project that I've been mostly ignoring since it started way back in January of 2004. There are no shortage of fan-projects for a Myst game, but as far as I know, none of them have actually resulted in an actual game. But that's fine, because people are enjoying themselves when they do it. But because there were so many, I didn't really pay much attention to it.

However this post in the blog got me interested in it, so I had a bit more of a look. And it looks pretty good so far. Will this be the fan project that gets completed? I don't know about that. But I do know one thing. They're making some great graphics and pictures and they have a good working knowledge of what it takes to make a game (if only in theory anyway, but they're doing what it takes to gain a practical understanding, making an actual game). And they're enjoying themselves as well, which is the most important thing.

Another fan project that I remembered to check on after not doing so for so long, is Aveara. This is a fan project that was begun in May 7th of 2003. Originally it was going to be an online "choose-your-own-adventure" but after completing their first chapter, they realised it would be much too difficult, so they scaled it back to simply a novel that was published online, with great pictures, music and a thematic website to accompany the story.

Unfortunately it went the way of most fan projects and hasn't been updated in over a year. I don't know what it was about Aveara that made me take so much interest in it (perhaps it was because at first I didn't realise it was a fan project, and because growing up I really enjoyed "choose your own adventure" books). Still, I think that when everyone was working on it, they all enjoyed themselves.

Category: Myst

Hard scifi and embarrassing parents

(click image for full-sized comic)
Today's comic is why I enjoy Freefall as much as I do. It's got hard sci-fi, but it's still funny. This could have been a simple "I want coffee" joke, but instead it's a relationship joke, it's commenting on the use of smells by shops to get customers to buy things, and it's making reference to the fact that the genetically modified wolf, isn't simply a funny looking human. She is differently physically and is aware of those differences, but she isn't afraid to show them with those she likes.

This webcomic has been running since 1998, and like El Goonish Shive it's covered a very short time period (a few weeks at the most). But unlike EGS which has grown and matured as a comic, this has consistently been funny and the tone of the comic hasn't changed at all. If you like today's comic, you'll like the archives.

Questionable Content
(click on the comic for full-sized embarrassment, warning: may not be suitable for younger audiences)

Today's comic has happened to us all (well, maybe not exactly as in the comic). We're reminded (normally in front of our friends) that before we were born our parents were actual people and, like us, they did many things that would be embarrassing.

This storyline has been shown a great dynamic between Martin and his mother, along with his friends. This is another comic that I read because it deals with relationships in an interesting way (although for the most part, it's set in our own world with very little strangeness), and it's great to see a new relationship being explored (however briefly). In the past Jeph Jacques has attempted to explore relationships between family members, and family members and friends. Each time he's attempted to do a family member storyline, it's gotten better.

Oh, and I definitely think today's comic though justifies the comic's name "Questionable Content" ;)

Category: Webcomic

28 August, 2005

Another Sunday Past

I finished most of my school work today. I didn't get as much done as I had hoped (mainly because they haven't put the information on the web yet) but I did get a fair bit done.

In comic news, the Myst V Comic from penny arcade is online, and amazingly enough, it has no swearing or gratuitous violence! Will wonders never cease?

Alright, I'm being a bit harsh. It's good to see that Gabe and Tycho are able to do something besides their usual shtick, and the lack of swearing was expected (considering the audience for Myst). I was actually expecting them to do a comic for Uru Live (or Uru Prime) when it came out as they had just recently begun doing comics for Ubisoft, alas they didn't. While the Myst V comic is much more toned down then what they normally do, it's also got no storyline or anything (as some of their earlier comics have). It's more of an advert then a comic, which I suppose is better then nothing.

I broke (and fixed) my greasemonkey installation (warning: do not update greasemonkey!) after installing an update. It's a great little extension for firefox, but it was a pain having to fix it in the first place.

In other news, I finished Lord Prestimion last night at 2:00 am. It was quite enjoyable, but I was beginning to get sick of having to use a big hardback paper-based book. I'll certainly be reading the next few books on my PDA. I read Flinteye's Vacation from Six With Flinteye by Sean T. M. Stiennon last night, and it was highly enjoyable. After reading the heavy Robert Silverberg book, it was nice to read a light-hearted romp. I've only got a couple more stories from the collection that I haven't read. But before I do read them, I've started reading Acorna. I've read it before, but I recently brought books 5, 6 and 7 (along with book 1 which had a 100% credit rebate) so it should be interesting to see how the cliffhanger from book 4 (if I'm remembering correctly) pans out.

As I've read in a couple of blogs, NanoWriMo is coming around once more, and Wes Platt of Join the Saga is going to be entering once more. Only this time it's going to be a little different, with him creating a novel with a partner creating another novel set in the same time period and involving some of the same events. They should prove to be interesting novels. He entered last year and finished with Red Eye Flight (which I still haven't brought yet). I read an excerpt of it and it was enjoyable, and I do plan on buying it. Wes Platt entering it, brings up the total of people I know who are entering to 2, with Sean T.M. Stiennon being the other. It'll be interesting to see if anyone else I know will enter it.

Star Trek Lives

I just saw on Slashdot that Walter Koenig will be reprising his role as Chekov once more. At first I thought this meant there would be a new Star Trek movie, but nope. He's going to be playing Chekov in the fan-made "show" New Voyages. I think it's incredible that someone like him, would agree to return to his role in a fan-made show. Sure, he might not have ever been one of the most favourite characters (although he was in the main cast) and his career might not be the greatest at the moment, but it's still incredible.

Not only that, but he also seems to consider it an honour! He's said:
“I had pretty well determined that Star Trek and Chekov were part of my past. I mean, who wouldn’t, it’s been nearly forty years since my first “Warp factor four, Keptin”. But then the folks from New Voyages approached and we started kicking around ideas for a Chekov story. It occurred to me that what we were coming up with was what every actor dreams of: a second chance to get it right. An opportunity not only to resurrect a role, but to make of that character a living breathing profoundly human - being. It is almost beyond comprehension that this is happening so late in my life! Talk about belated reward, talk about closure, talk about science fiction! I didn’t believe I could ever again be this excited about performing a part. I guess it isn’t so trite after all: perhaps, all good things do come to those who wait.”
While some of that is probably standard speak for any actor in any role. I'm confident that yes, he is quite excited about the role nontheless. At first the people making the fan episodes only managed to get extra's from the original series (along with backing from Gene Roddenberry's son). So one of the main cast is quite a step up.

Ron Moore of Battlestar Galactica said on his blog that with Star Trek: Enterprise cancelled and no plans on any future series or movies, that Star Trek had returned once more to its fans. I can understand now what he meant. Back when TOS was cancelled, fan run magazines popped up with fan fiction. Now, in the 21st century, the same thing is happening, only it's changed along with the technology we now have access to. And I can't think of any better hands for Star Trek to be in at the moment, then its fans.

27 August, 2005

Is there a bandwagon around here?

I've decided to finally hop on the blogging bandwagon (once more) after having this account for so many years. I'm currently reading Robert Silverberg's Lord Prestimion from his Majipoor series. It's actually quite enjoyable, it's mostly fantasy, but it does have a few sci-fi elements (and is technically classed as sci-fi). Quite enjoyable. Having just recently discovered Robert Silverberg, I've got quite a few good stories I can read.

One of the links I have in the sidebar is to Comic Nation. The webcomics I'm currently reading can be found here. Of them all, I'm most looking forward to El Goonish Shive, which will be updating with a proper comic on Wednesday. The reason I'm looking forward to it is it's had a birthday party storyline going since November of last year (time in webcomics seems to go for much longer then time in other stories, considering Freefall has been running since 1998 and by my estimate has only covered about 3 months at the most) and the storyline is finally reaching it's climax.

The reason I'm looking forward to Wednesday's comic in particular is that the party is a dress-up party with each person having a partner whose outfit they get to chose. One of the characters has a secret crush on the person whose outfit she got to pick, so it should be interesting to see what the outfit is (as all that's currently known is that it is very shocking and black). Funnily enough, while the comic has parrallel worlds, magic and all sorts of crazy things. The aspect that gets me coming back to the comic is the relationships between the characters.

Tomorrow's plan is to do lots of school work so I won't have much to do for the following week, like I did last week. We'll see if it works.