Euro 2004

In this age of European integration and friendly competition on the field of play why not learn some offensive terms for your neighbours through the Wikipedia.

I’m just about recovered from the disappointment of England’s defeat by France in the last couple of minutes of play, but I’m optimistic of the team’s chances against the Swiss and Croatians.

Meanwhile as per usual the drunkenness of football fans has descended into violence.

Football violence descends upon Bath.

FRUSTRATION at England’s heartbreaking last-minute defeat to France spilled over into violence in Bath last night. Pubs across the city centre were packed for the opening game of England’s Euro 2004 campaign.

By 10.45pm the violence had shifted Bath’s railway station as people tried to make their way home by train. At one point, crowds were stopping others getting on to the platform and then a fight involving 15 people broke out on platform two.

Five youths clad in football shirts caused trouble by throwing pint glasses in the car park of the McDonald’s restaurant in Lower Bristol Road at about 11.05pm. At the same time, a woman was reported to be lying unconscious in London Road.

I was actually driving down London Road just about then and it was a lot more than just an unconscious woman I can tell you. It was a full on drunken brawl that spilled into one of the busiest roads in Bath and nearly caused a couple of crashes.

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Like whatever. It’s so not like life!

With the improvements in processing power of modern graphics cards the characters in video games are appearing increasingly lifelike but have now possibly hit a wall. Human beings have over the millions of years of evolution developed an amazing ability to recognize other human beings and are able to discern the difference between real people and fakes. No matter how good the waxworks are at Madame Tussauds they could never be mistaken for a real person because they lack the ‘spark of life’ that humans are somehow able to recognize. The same is true of video game characters and computer generated animations no matter how close to realistic they are they will probably always lack that je ne se quais. The characters appear like dead people that are moving, puppets made of human flesh.

This phenomenon has been termed the ‘Uncanny Valley’ by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori and is written about in the article The Undead Zone: Why realistic graphics make humans look creepy by Clive Thompson. Mori used the term in relation to robotics but it is equally applicable to any situation where a representation of life is produced.

The comic book writer and artist Scott McCloud tackles this same problem in his book Understanding Comics. People prefer art in comics where the characters are detailed enough that you can distinguish between the various people but also lacking sufficient detail so that the reader can fill in the blanks and imbue it with life in their minds. But when something is too realistic the reader has less work to do to add life and so focuses on the minor details that detract from the realism.

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Unleash the power of the BBC

Last August, Greg Dyke, the former director general of the BBC, announced that the BBC would soon launch its “Creative Archive” — a project to put much of the Beeb’s programs on the Internet, so that the licence-paying British public could have access to it.

This is the most ambitious project of its type ever conceived. A fully realized Creative Archive could transform the BBC’s precious, deep archive into a springboard for a new century of participatory creation by Britons. This project stands to make the BBC the banner-carrier for public service broadcasting in the information age, but if the BBC bends to pressure to scale back its ambition, the Creative Archive could amount to little more than brochureware and failed promise.

You can help: if you’re a license payer, you can join the Friends,, and there will be lots of opportunities in the near future to petition the Beeb, the Governors, the DCMS and Parliament for this — there’s an open letter now that you can sign onto.

Here are some of the elements critical to the creation of a real, useful, relevant Creative Archive:

* It must be broad: drawing from all areas of the BBC’s broadcasting from factual to light entertainment, from drama to sport, and everything in between.

* It must be accessible: files must be made available in open, standards-defined formats without “digital rights management” or other technology locks that will keep Britons from creatively re-using the BBC’s offerings.

* It must be free: Material should be licensed under conditions that do not restrict any licence payer from accessing, storing, modifying or sharing archive material for non-commercial use.

* It must be whole: Material should be provided in its entirety for non-commercial use, not only in excerpted form.

* It must be soon: the BBC’s own internally produced material should be released into the Archive as soon as possible, to prove to the world that the sky won’t fall if you relax your copyright stance.

* It must be complete: the BBC should take steps to clear the rights to the independently produced material in its archive.

* It must be sustainable: the BBC’s new licensing agreements with independents should all include the right for the BBC to make the works available in the Creative Archive for full non-commercial use.

Link

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41st Known Mersenne Prime Found!!

On May 15, 2004, Josh Findley discovered the 41st known Mersenne Prime. It is 224,036,583-1. The number is nearly a million digits larger than the last find and is now the largest known prime number!

Find out more at http://mersenne.org/

I am involved in the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search and yet Bloody Hell this happened two weeks ago and somehow I missed it. My current stats are as follows.


LL P90* Exponents Fact.P90 Exponents P90 CPU
CPU yrs LL Tested CPU yrs* w/ Factor hrs/day
------- --------- -------- --------- -------
49.868 17 2.033 1 2628.03

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Is America held to a higher standard?

The following is a post from the 37 signals weblog called It’s good that you’re upset found via plasticbag.org

The world is rightfully disgusted by the treatment of some Iraqi prisoners, but the fact that the world is outraged is a good sign that America is still held to a higher standard. The Arab street remained mostly quiet when Saddam tortured for three decades or when American soldiers were dragged through the streets and hung to dangle in public a few weeks back. And how many leaders in the Arab world will be outraged that one of their own ruthlessly beheaded an American contractor after forcing him to name his parents and his siblings (and don’t forget about Daniel Pearl who had to admit he was a Jew before his head was cut off)? The world barely gave notice to the Taliban’s systematic and despicable treatment of women in Afghanistan or the destruction of ancient works of irreplaceable art and culture. The world was barely interested in stopping the carnage in Bosnia until over a half-million were killed (and then the UN still didn’t want to get involved). The world is still barely affected by the genocide taking place right now in Africa. But, when the US humiliates some Iraqi prisoners, people are outraged and are calling for resignations at the highest levels of our government. And that’s a good sign for America. We’re held up to a higher standard and it’s something we should be proud of. Not the vile treatment, of course, but the world’s response. We’re in trouble when people stop caring about how we act as a nation.

I don’t know whether America is held to a higher standard I tend to the opinion that it isn’t but that this belief that it is is born out of the American Superiority Complex. I think America truly did change after 9/11 but rather than move on it fell back to the position it had in the Fifties and Sixties before Vietnam and Watergate. I think the Bush Administration imagines itself to be in some Manichaean conflict against evil and is itself incapable of doing wrong.

The beheading of Nick Berg was horrific and was condemned by people all round the world including those in the Middle East as were the actions of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The torture of Iraqi prisoners though blamed upon a few bad apples does seem to have been if not directed from the top then at least permitted. The incidents of torture are not restricted to Iraq either but have been reported in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay the difference being is that we have photographic evidence of the abuse in this case. The outrage from the world is not for a single incident but for the US government policy, which has been exposed to be that of using any tactic to get the result wanted.

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More movie trailers: Incredible!

Pixar have released the trailer for their new animated feature The Incredibles. To be honest I didn’t like it as much as the teaser trailer, but then I was totally blown away by that.

The teaser was a beautiful masterpiece that could have stood alone as a short animated film. If Pixar are cunning they should submit it for the best short film at the Academy Awards as well as submitting the full movie for the Best Animated Feature award.

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Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

I saw this on Wednesday and loved it, the idosyncratic writing of Charlie Kaufman really gels with me. The film is a bizarre romantic comedy in many ways and Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet make a great couple in a difficult and turbulent relationship.

If only Carrey could make more films like this and Man on the Moon and I would be a very happy man.

The supporting cast were great as well particularly Elijah Wood who escapes from his hobbithood by playing a slightly creepy guy who is trying to seduce Clementine by using stuff from her memories that have been erased.

IMDb’s page for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Again questions are raised in my mind concerning memory and the importance of integrity of the memories in your head. Losing parts of your memory robs you of more than you might imagine. I think you lose a part of your personality with everything that is erased.

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