May 27

Yesterday I was off to a conference on e-learning and the development of future models of teaching. It was an interesting day but it had the usual frustration that I encounter at these events: lots of people willing to talk a good game, and precious damn few actually stepping up to show practical examples of how they’re going to do something. It’s all well and good to say “the world is changing: we have to change our methods of education to be more relevant in the 21st century” but it’s another to show that you’re doing something. However, despite this there was one thing in particular that caught my attention and got me to thinking.

As the keynote speaker took the podium a picture of a little boy appeared on the big screen behind the stage. The little boy, the speaker explained, was his son, born in the year 2000. He pointed out that with advances in medical technology, longer life expectancies, some good luck and a bit of looking after himself, that boy might well expect to be born in the last year of the 20th century, live through all of the 21st and die in the early years of the 22nd. As his dad was giving the speech the little boy was at school. His dad pointed out that at that very moment, as he stood there speaking to us, his son’s teacher was helping to lay the foundations of an education that could last someone into the 22nd century. That person was, in a way, touching the next century.

There were other interesting points made that day, but that one in particular caught my imagination and made me think. Okay, so it doesn’t really apply to me as my work is mainly involved with adults returning to education after some time in the workforce, but it’s a fascinating perspective to put on the job of educating the young. After all, the world is made up of the people in it – and if you have the job of forming the people, doesn’t that mean you help to form the world?

May 23

Lesbian Vampire Killers movie! (don’t worry, the link is safe!)

Questions abound about this one, and not just the ones on good taste. Does the film tell the story of two lesbians who just happen to be vampire killers? Or, does it depict the tale of lesbian vampires being killed? There are potentially two films right there, and in the interests of the viewing public and the money they will be putting down for tickets, I think the boiled egg of infinity would be remiss not to explore it.

Would people rather see lesbians killing vampires, or people killing lesbian vampires? If the first then surely “Lesbians kill Vampires!” would reflect this with greater clarity. If the second then “Kill the Lesbian Vampires” would un-muddy the waters. Both titles seem to work – they have the lesbianism (check), the vampiric angle (check) and the general killingness (check) so I can’t imagine there would be a problem adopting either one. My god, I should be in the movies. Except that I’m not a lesbian or a vampire, so probably not this one.

I expect more staples of the horror movie genre to take this excellent example to (staked) heart and become more inclusive in the 21st century. Think of the next generation of horror movies to reach out to the gay market. The Mummy Meets The Mummy. Confused Teenage Werewolf. The Homoerotic Adventures of Van Helsing. You may sneer now but in years to come they’ll be looking down at you from HD-DVD collections everywhere.

Final question is, if I keep typing “lesbian” and “vampire” enough, will my blog’s hit count increase at all?

May 17

I’ve been working on a document for a while now and I think I might have been looking at it for a bit too long. The word “scenario” has lost all meaning to me and now whenever I look at it I think “That’s not a word, just a meaningless jumble of letters” so either I’m suffering from work-induced dyslexia (I got my fake MD from the University of Made Up Diseases!) or I’ve just been looking at the same thing for too long.

Does this happen to everyone? If you stare at something long enough, does it actually start to lose meaning? Or am I just leaking synapses somewhere? Answers on a postcard.

May 13

This is the best toy ever. I know it might look like something you would find stocked in your friendly neighbourhood sex shop under the D section, but it is in fact the sonic screwdriver, used by time lords the universe over to combat evil, fight the good fight and put up any shelves that need fixing. My friend Donny bought me one for my birthday (December 29th, for those of you out there with good memories and generous spending habits) and it’s just turned out to be the best toy ever.

It doesn’t do much – press a button and it makes a high pitched whirring sound as the end lights up. Press it again and it makes a slightly different whirring sound. What it does do, however, and does very well indeed, is appeal to every geeky instinct currently known to man. You pick it up, you wave it over something, it goes “WoooOOOooOOOoo” and suddenly you could be the Doctor. You’re almost there. Aside from not having two hearts, the ability to regenerate and a time travel machine of course. Minor details though. You have the thing that goes “WoooOOOoOOooo” so what more do you need?

What amused me most of all was that after Donny had given me my present we found that you needed…guess what…a screwdriver to get the batteries into the sonic screwdriver. Someone out there in the BBC toy design department is a genius.

It’s also a top notch toy for tormenting and playing with cats. I don’t know if it’s the sound or the blue light, but they try to beat the crap out of it when you touch their paws with it. Great stuff.

May 12

Why is it that when I’m at work, busy, with barely enough time to catch my breath much less anything else, do I feel that I could sit and write something? And why, when I’m at home with all the time in the world, do I sit down to write something only to feel about as creative as the average tree stump?

May 07

Ever had trouble recognising a face? You might be suffering from prosopagnosia. This is an interesting story, even more so when you think about the sheer number of alternative methods this guy must have developed to help him identify people. “If he has brown hair, is tall, speaks with a slight lisp and tends to wave his arms about, it must be Dave.” – the only thing is, what if Dave has changed his hair colour?

It might be unlucky to type about this, but Friday 13th has a fascinating history. Not too sure if I buy the bit about people being more unlucky or stressed on the day though: is the day making them stressed and more likely to have an accident, or are they just stressed because it happens to be Friday 13th? Mind you whenever I don’t want to tempt fate I tend to say “touch wood” (settle down at the back there, this isn’t that kind of story!) so I don’t suppose I can be too quick with the comments on this one.

Good acting skills can help when you’re playing poker. This I can buy, because so much of the game is either hiding your reaction to what’s in front of you, or building up an impression of your hand in other people’s minds so as to make it easier to nudge them in the direction you want to go. Since I’ve started to get into poker I’m enjoying reading about it more and more, and I find Wil Wheaton’s style of writing about the game both accessible and enjoyable. I wouldn’t want to be sitting across a table from him though – I like to keep my shirt when I play.

Fantastic weather in central Scotland the other night, it really was…thunder, lightning and the heaviest rain I’ve seen for a long time. I was out walking with my better half when it started, and ended up walking up Buchanan street soaked to the skin, laughing like a loon. When it’s raining that heavily there’s no point running to the car or the nearest cover – if you do that you’ll just end up soaked to the skin and out of breath. Might as well walk normally and just enjoy the feeling of the rain hammering into you. Turns out some people also got excellent pictures of the weather.

The worrying thing is, I think I would buy some of these products. Sideways books for reading in bed? KISS fragrance? Doggie thongs? iPod vibrators? Edible garden spray? Penis stretchers? Well okay maybe all of them, but it’s great to see that there are such inventive minds out there. I’m still intrigued as to the thought process for the doggie thong though – I don’t know about you but I would loved to have seen the eureka moment for that one. “People like thongs, people like dogs…hang on, I think I might have something here!”

Earn virtual money in an online game, and then turn it into money you can use in the real world. Does this mean that the line is becoming blurred between one’s virtual life and real life? It’s becoming more and more common now for people to have online identities quite distinct from their “real life” selves, but what happens when that online identity becomes a source of income? Might it be possible to become more online persona and less real life person? Is there a difference, if both allow for communication, interaction, earning and work?

Democracy sometimes works in odd ways, but seldom odder than what happened here (and in case you don’t believe me, here’s another take on the matter). I eagerly await the day when the U.S. Presidential debates are replaced with rock-paper-scissors tournaments, or a winner takes all game of Tetris. Of course that would just be for you uncultured Americans, over here we would try to be a little more restrained and just have our Prime Ministerial candidates wrestle in jelly.

We had a ring? Really? Blimey those cold war scientists were a clever bunch. If only we could take all that ingenuity and channel it to more useful ends than screwing the other guy.

There is a scene in an episode of Family Guy where Chris, the son, is exposed to some mathematics and ends up lying on the floor sucking his thumb in terror. While I’m not quite so math-phobic as the Griffin boy, I did find some of this one hard going. Interesting stuff, and another example of where you can end up when you click a few links and get distracted on the web.

Every time I see a story like this one I feel just like that dorky kid in “Galaxy Quest”. Rounds off with a final space story and a cool picture of a spaceship – what more can you ask for really?

May 04

I’m sitting here with gritty, sore, tired eyes, watching my hands carefully pick their way over the keyboard (to try to cut down on the number of typos) as my fatigued brain slowly shuts down for the night. All for what? To click the post button when it is precisely 01:02:03, 04/05/06.

Shoot. Me. Now.

May 04

We live in a world of product. No getting around it really – from the minute we put on the TV, check a website, open a magazine or look at a newspaper, a dazzling variety of products wait to catch our eye and tempt us to part with cash. An integral part of this process is ongoing development: the products change as time goes on, becoming more and more advanced and adapting to their environment. Just like life, they evolve – one sell at a time (boom boom!).

However, just like evolution, sometimes there are dead ends. Products that have a unique selling point, but sacrifice it and end up changing into the very opposite thing they were created to be. It’s weird, but it happens.

Actionmasters are one such example. The Transformers toyline was, I think it’s safe to say, one of the biggest sellers of the 1980s and continues to do good business for Hasbro today. The gimmick was a simple one – robot becomes car/gun/plane/pretty much anything you like, and can change back again. The gimmick went through several variations as the line evolved to keep children interested, until they came up with Actionmasters. Transformers toys that, believe it or not, make a big point of not transforming at all. And so that product finds itself on the outside looking in – it has come full circle.

Wash & Go is another one. It appeared in the late 1980s as an all-in-one shampoo and conditioner. The solution, they said, to the problem of taking two bottles into the shower (which never struck me as a problem at all, but far be it from me to undercut their selling point). And so it went on, and new versions came out until…you guessed it…they made a version of Wash & Go that was only shampoo, no conditioner. A product set up on the premise of taking only one bottle into the shower ends up evolving to a stage where you need that second bottle again.

Star Trek even fell victim to this process – the first two seasons of Enterprise dropped the Star Trek title entirely. The show went down the prequel route to get back to its visual, dramatic and thematic roots after the wildly unpopular Voyager, and in so doing dropped the title that it was trying to promote. Star Trek evolved to the point where it wasn’t selling itself as Star Trek anymore. The circle, as the man in the black mask said, is complete.

I’m no businessman, but it interests me that even in this modern world, with its fast pace and breakneck speed, we can still manage to run in circles sometimes. We just seem to do it faster nowadays.