Friday, January 30, 2004

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Taiwanese Exploding Whale

The new taste sensation hitting the streets. Literally.


As the Hutton Enquiry grinds to its inevitable conclusion, clearing Blair and the government of any wrongdoing despite the resignation of the Chief Coalition Weapons Inspector who says that WMD were probably never there in the first place and that admission that the 45-minute claim was "a crock of shit" after the informant who made the claim in the first place admitted it wasn't true.

Nothing sticks to Teflon Tony, does it? So, Dr Kelly was responsible for his own death. Fine. No sacrificial lambs, no ministerial resignations - just a pile of blame heaped at the doorsteps of Dr Kelly and the BBC. Quelle Surprise.

Right, now that's all sorted, can we have an inquiry as to why we went to war on bullshit intelligence now?

Monday, January 26, 2004

How to speed and get away with it

I spent roughly nine hours on the country's highways and byways this weekend, mainly on the M25 and the A1. I've been driving for quite a few years now and unlike most of my peers, I've never picked up a speeding ticket, whereas one of my workmates Mark, was clocked at an average of 119 mph on the M3 just last month.... Ooops!

I rather value my driving license, so I've devised a simple set of rules that allow me to follow the spirit of the law, if not the letter of the law.

1) Never, *ever* speed in urban areas. It's simply not worth going over 35mph in a 30 zone or 45mph in a 40 zone. You're usually driving very short distances when you're restricted to 30-40mph, so sneaking an extra 5mph (which will incur you a fixed penalty fine and 3 points) doesn't really save you more than 1 minute on a 20 minute trip, and you're most likely to get caught speeding in urban areas. Ask yourself, are you *really* in that much of a hurry?

2) Never speed at night. Think about it - if you're driving really late at night, the roads are clearer, there aren't so many cars about, so it's tempting to really put your foot down, right? WRONG. After 11pm at night, practically the only cars on the road are either taxis or police cars. That means the statistical probability of those shining white lights in your rear view mirror being those of a police car are disproportionately high. Therefore, you're far more likely to get nicked for speeding at night. Besides, if the roads are so clear, do you really *need* to break the speed limit?

3) Safety in numbers. The logical extension of the previous point is this; If you're on a road where *everyone* is speeding, you're much less likely to get picked up for it. You either have to be the poor sap at the tail end of the queue or really unlucky to get caught.

4) Use the 10% rule to your advantage. If you must speed, the key is not to speed too much. Anything over 35mph in a 30 zone is not only risking getting a ticket, but also highly dangerous, due to the high density of pedestrians, etc. Likewise on motorways, anything over 80 will not only make you risk a speeding ticket, it's also making you risk your life. Beyond 80mph, you need the reflexes of a fly and the brakes of a Formula One car to drive at anything approaching "safety". 75mph (as opposed to 70mph) on a motorway will save you half an hour on a 200 mile journey, and will also leave you time to react to pesky things like speed cameras or snarl ups. A word of warning, however - you can't absolutely rely on the accuracy of your speedometer - which is why we have the 10% rule in the first place - so if it says you're doing 75mph, you could in fact be doing 85, which is Fine Country.

5) Never speed when there are cameras about. This is a total no brainer really. Cameras are a lot less forgiving than Patrolmen, and going 10mph or more faster than the speed limit won't allow you time enough to slow down for them safely. Given that most drivers are muppets who tailgate you at 75mph five feet away from your bumper, sudden breaking to avoid cameras will only result in getting a Daewoo up your derriere.

6) An extension of point 3 - when you're speeding, *never* be the fastest car on your particular stretch of road. Because that's just *begging* for trouble. If you're going over the limit, have a police car about to pick you up, but someone whooshes past you like you're in a Trabant, they'll go for the faster car. I know this because this is what happened when the aforementioned Mark got picked up.

*Everyone* speeds. You know it, I know it. The Police and the government know it too. But they can't arrest and ban everyone, so if you speed *sensibly* you can cut those precious minutes off your journey time, but minimise the risk of getting caught or having an accident. The best defense against having points on your license, however, is just to obey the law. They're there for a reason, you know.

I've been thinking that if the Government really wants to cut down speeding offenses, they should introduce a new Super License. Have people pay 100 quid a year for a Super License that allows people to go up to 90mph on motorways, with mandatory annual high speed driving training and retests. Reserve the outside lane for the super license holders and overtaking only (for non-super license holders, who will be subject to instant bans if they get caught doing over 80mph). That way, not only can the government plunder extra cash off the motorist to fund the maintenance of the motorways, people get to speed legally and a whole lot more safely, because they've actually been trained to drive at high speeds. It'd reduce the number of speeding offenses by providing a real deterrent, and it'd cut down the number of road traffic accidents per year, too, because most of them on motorways are caused by people who can't handle driving so fast.

I reckon it'd work. Hell, I'd pay for one.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

The best news I've heard all week

Apparently, publicity hungry self-mutilator Jordan risks having her breasts explode if they get bitten by leeches in the Australian jungle whilst filming I'm A Celebrity, Please Ressurrect My Career.

This is even better than the sheer stupidity of the student who went into Miami airport saying she had three bombs in her rucksack. And could get 15 years in prison for filing a false bomb report.

Doesn't it make you glad you weren't born so stupid?

Monday, January 19, 2004

Lost In Translation

Ignore the time stamp - this was written late on Saturday night.

I’ve just had a very satisfactory Saturday – bar the fact I tore my left calve muscle, in bed of all places. It must be something to do with sleeping in a bad position, because it happens once a month or so, and it’s absolute agony when it does happen – like having a hot knife stuck in the back of your leg. One day I might figure out what’s causing it.

Despite that, Fleur and I toddled off to Camberley to drop off her glasses at the opticians to have their lens replaced. I bought a lovely new blue-grey suit from the Officer’s Club in their sale for all of £55. We met my good friend (and PC Format freelancer) Paul there in Ottakars, and took a swift jaunt down the Hogs Back to Guildford to do a bit more shopping.

I picked up 2 DVDs in the HMV sale for £20, Solaris – one of my favourite films from last year – and Thief, one of Michael Mann’s first films. I love Michael Mann. I don’t know where he got his Cops ‘n’ Robbers obsession from, but Mann does these character led crime dramas so much better than anyone else. I missed this when it was on BBC1 before Christmas (why do the TV networks always put on the best films at 2am in the morning when the only people who can watch them are chronic insomniacs?) so I’ve been after this for a while.

I managed not to spend any money in GAME, which is quite an achievement, considering I normally get two or three games a month and I’ve not bought anything since before Christmas when I got KOTOR and Hordes Of The Underdark on the same weekend. Of course, I’ve not actually played much of HOTU yet, so there’s not really much point buying anything else yet – not whilst I’m still playing KOTOR so much anyway.

The real reason for going to Guildford was to go to the cinema – to see Lost In Translation by Sofia Coppola. The opening shot of the film is provocative to say the least. It’s a shot of Scarlett Johannson’s back, lying down in bed wearing only a slip and some semi-transparent pink knickers. From this single shot, I was able to determine that, to use a Gillenism, Scarlett Johannson has a fine, fine ass. She’s a very engaging leading lady – with an ethereal exoticness to her beauty, rather than the traditional fine chiselled features of a Michelle Pffifer or a Julia Roberts – this is a young actress with a stellar future, methinks.

Lost In Translation’s main attraction is the ever superb Bill Murray, however, and I was amazed at the strength of the on-screen chemistry between the two principle actors. It really carries the film along, despite the leisurely pacing. Coppola doesn’t overplay the fish-out-of-water hook, though there are some lovely scenes demonstrating the sheer strangeness of Japanese culture in comparison to Western “normality”. Charlotte’s exploration of a videogame arcade is as colourful as you’d expect, and the scene in the Japanese lap dancing bar is nothing short of classic, as is the karaoke bar scene. The cinematography is wonderful – if Amelie was a Parisian tourist board film, then Lost In Translation is the Tokyo equivalent. Tokyo looks like an amazing place – the density and intensity of having such a large population in such a small space truly makes it unique – I’d love to visit it someday. It’s a very pleasant film to watch, even if nothing truly exciting really happens, and the humour is quite low key. If you’re a fan of Bill Murray, I can highly recommend it.

Thursday, January 15, 2004


There are more KOTOR spoilers therein, so the same thing as before applies:

If you have any intention of playing KOTOR in the near to immediate future, turn back now.

I'm not going to be responsible for any impingement upon your enjoyment of the game via spoilerage.

You have been warned.

Last chance to turn back.

Okay, here we go:

I'm on my third run through of KOTOR, this time playing through as a (male) Dark Side Soldier/Jedi Consular. Having completed the game twice already (as a Light Side male Scout/Jedi Guardian and as a Light Side female Scoundrel/Jedi Sentinel), I'm finding it really difficult to be evil. I'm about ten hours into the game (just completed Tatooine last night to find my second Star Map) and there was an incident on Tatooine that really affected me.

There's a widow who begs you to sell a Wraid skull that he dead husband got whilst hunting in the desert - prior to getting killed, natch. The previous two times through I was a good Boy Scout, and sold it for her without making a profit, getting lovely Light Side points. This time, I simply threatened her and stole it from her, and she says "You might well have just killed me, you monster!"


Unlike Baldur's Gate, which just throws Flaming Fist Mercenaries at you if you're too evil, here KOTOR allows you to be as evil as you like, but makes the consequences emotional, rather than just throwing extra enemies at you. Getting Mission to tell her brother to drop dead is pretty uncomfortable - particularly when you've seen how sweet she *should* be. You get the feeling that you're aiding in her corruption, and you are - it's genuinely unsettling. Again, the quality of the writing, as well as the voice acting is superb. Man, this game is ACE.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

If anyone wants to buy me a birthday present,...

Oh, *man*. I'll take two.

Monday, January 12, 2004

The Plot Thickens

This is what I call poetic justice. Bush sacks an advisor for "differences of opinion", so said advisor turns around and stabs him in the back in the most damaging way possible. Love it.

In other news, Tony Blair continues to downgrade expectations about discovering Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. First it was 'they're categorically there.' Then it was 'there'll be evidence of programmes'. Then it was 'there'll be evidence of clandestine laboratories'. Now it's 'I don't know. I *think* they're there. Intelligence is an inexact science.' So all those high and mighty promises and reassurances you sold Parliament the War on weren't worth the bog roll they were written on? What a surprise. NOT. Time to resign, Tony? Or are you going to wait until the bitter end when Hutton delivers his report and your position becomes COMPLETELY untenable? Don't answer that - it was a rhetorical question.

Finally - in the spirit of third rate videogames websites everywhere, here is my irreverant State Editor's Game Of The Year Awards list.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004


I'm back at work, so here's a brief update to let you know I'm not dead.

I completed KOTOR before my holiday so here's a spoiler free KOTOR review that I've done for State, for your reading enjoyment. I'll let you know about the holiday later in the week.