Buffy’s Back

It was a struggle to omit exclamation points from the title today. I’m quite excited. I’ve spent months trying to guess if the promises of a return to the good ol’ days of Buffy would come true, and judging by yesterday’s[6] “Lessons”, it should be a great season. 7×01 was the best season opener since season four IMO, showing all the characters the way I wanted to see them. SPOILERS coming up.

Willow is in exactly the right situation; being punished mostly by herself (“I want to be Willow”), learning to deal with magic rather than quitting; I didn’t want to see her in another rehab-like situation. I want her to be Willow. She had some good scenes with Giles, including the humour that was so lacking last year (Willow: “Is there anything you don’t know everything about?”, Giles: “Synchronized swimming. Complete mystery to me.” – great), and some scene-setting for the coming season (Giles: “The hell mouth.”, Willow: “It’s gonna open. It’s gonna swallow us all.” – ominous). Xander didn’t get much of a look in, but he usually gets a Xander-centric episode one or two eps into the season. I’m waiting to see what they do with him.

Buffy has finally stopped whining, so I can actually enjoy when she’s on screen. Her overprotection of Dawn is a nice change since she pretty much ignored Dawn all last season. I loved their training session (Dawn: “But he’s new. He doesn’t know his strength. H-he might not know all those fancy martial arts skills they inevitably seem to pick up.” – self-referential gold). Buffy is great at the ‘mom’ thing (Buffy: “Go. Talk with your mouth full”, or Xander: “How exactly do you make cereal?”, Buffy: “Ah, you put the box near the milk. I saw it on the food channel.”, or best of all Buffy: “And stay away from hyena people, or any lizard-type athletes, you know, or if you see anyone that’s invisible.”)

Things I wonder about the coming season:

  • Is the new principal a Good Guy (in the know), or a faux Big Bad? I reckon he has to be one of them, and I think Good Guy is the way they’ll go, since Snyder was evil.
  • What was up with the Istanbul bit? No further allusions to the episode opener. Must be important.
  • Will Spike be even remotely similar to who he was? I like Spike so I hope they don’t just completely change his character.
  • Anya’s not doing real vengeance. This looks like she’ll rejoin the scoobies later.
  • The Scrappy Gang: How will Dawn’s new friends fit in?
  • That ending! What’s it all about? Obviously Istanbul, Willows sensing of the Hellmouth and this shape-changing companion of Spike’s are related to the season arc.

Things I didn’t like:

  • Waiting
  • Xander’s near absence

Favourite Aspect:

Dawn. She was fantastic. She’s mirroring the old Buffy so well, except for the whiny angst that weighed Buffy down in the early seasons. Michelle Trachtenberg is excellent, and somewhat hotter than before. Admittedly it’s skewed by being a Dawn-centric episode, but nearly all of the good dialog was Dawn’s (“Favorite activities include not ever having to do this again” being among my top choices; Michelle’s delivery was spot on). She seemed kinda useless, or at least unused, last year but that’s all gonna change this year, with the formation of Dawn’s own ‘Scrappy Gang’. Or so it seems.

Overall a quality offering. No major events of magnificent proportions, like “Becoming, part II” or “The Body”, but a solid episode with a decent premise and an above-average season opener. Bearing in mind that I don’t give half-marks, this gets a four star (out of five) rating from me. Roll on next week.

[6] Yes it aired in America back on September 24th, but the earliest I get to see it is on Sky One, who aired it for the first time on British TV last night.

Half Re-Design

Being, as I am, quite lazy about such, and all, things, I’ve done part of the site redesign. ‘Site’, at this stage, is four (count ’em! FOUR) pages. I’ll put some old (last week’s) posts into an archive soon, probably keeping from just the previous Monday’s post on the front page. I’ll archive the rest by the week. When I do that split I’ll throw together a slightly different style-sheet for the local section (downloads for UCD students). With the modifications I’ve made sure that the site is totally readable and navigable without the style elements. The HTML source has no inherent style whatsoever; not even a <br> tag to force a line-break. All of the style is in the stylesheet. I also re-wrote sbrophy’s page in valid HTML4.0 Strict with embedded style. I guess I was in the mood for standards compliance!

I didn’t post yesterday because my day off kept me away from the college computers and my mother’s work kept me away from my home computer. I did get online for a few minutes at a friends house, but only to order a new computer from Dell. It’s a pity it wasn’t for me 🙁

Identify That Non-Verbalism

Three non-verbal sounds, name those movies. The movie title should show up if you hold the cursor over the ‘quote’. If not, you’ll have to view the page source to see the answers. “Huh-huh”, “Shwing!”, “Shum”. These are the DVDs I bought yesterday, partially with the money/voucher I intended to spend, and partially with the rest of the week’s food money. I should have enough to watch for, say, the next year, considering the amount of extras I haven’t seen on most of my DVDs, not to mention the movies I haven’t even watched yet. That’s four movies waiting in my proverbial ‘in’-tray (these three and Back to the Future III). Also, I should have enough to eat for, say, today. It’s important to know your priorities!

The site re-design was meant for today. It’ll be delayed, but I’ve got tomorrow off, so it may happen then. I’ve got a style in mind. In fact I’ve got most of the CSS layed out in my head (yes my mind seperates style from content!)

As predicted, the two CDs I mentioned yesterday are growing on me. I find that albums by single artists or groups generally aren’t varied enough to keep me listening, so I’ll put some choice tracks from these two into compilations with the rest of my music. That should keep them from being damaged aswell. In a related note, my music directory on the computer at home is approaching 1000 files, which feels like a milestone, even if it isn’t all that impressive.

Aarggh! Overload!

I’m having great difficulty deciding what to cover today. On Friday, I arrived home to two packages that I’d been waiting for all week (and hoping to cover on Friday, as I’d expected them sooner). These were the Debian GNU/Linux CD I mentioned on Wednesday, and two CDs, AC/DC’s Razors Edge and Anthony Stewart Head’s Music for Elevators, from Amazon. Not only that, but yesterday I finished reading Terry Pratchett’s Night Watch, which I had hoped to review upon completion[1]. And it occurs to me that I had intended to go shopping today (I got a voucher for HMV and their sale, AFAIK, is still on).In light of all of this, I think I’ll leave it at:


Tried. Failed. Tried harder. Failed harder. Tried again. Quit. I have, as I had before, a Pentium 133MHz with no operating system to speak of. That is, it has DOS 6.22, which I prefer not to speak of.


I like. Usually I like albums more as I grow accustomed to them. I know I’ll appreciate these two more in the coming weeks of hour-and-a-half bus journeys. Plus it alleviates for another while the guilt of KazaA.


Terry Pratchett is quite clearly the greatest writer that ever lived (may contain traces of hyperbole). The night watch, particularly Vimes, have been my favourite Discworld books since Guards! Guards!, and this one, though not the perfect example (as only Vimes is present, at least in his familiar form, for most of the book), is at least as good as the rest. The night watch books have the most compelling stories, ignoring the humour, of any of Pratchett’s work, while maintaining the same level of wit. A book consisting mostly of Vimes’ internal monologue was, in retrospect, overdue. Far better than The Fifth Elephant and, in my view, a return to form for the watch.

[1] I apologise for all of the Amazon links. They are just for illustrative purposes. I don’t mean to imply that they’re the only online retailer of value.


In case you missed it, here’s the Google/SearchKing story so far. SearchKing is, at least nominally, a search engine, based in Oklahoma City in the USA. They make money by trying to manipulate other search engines’ results, to put their customers higher than they would otherwise be. They use the usual techniques of loading <meta> tags with false keywords, printing irrelevant information in small print on the bottoms of pages and, for systems such as Google’s PageRank, which rates a page according to the number of sites linking to it, they created link farms, pages full of links with no purpose other than increasing page rankings.

Google’s response to this type of circumvention was (and always has been) to update their algorithms to deal with the behaviour. Google’s aim is to find the most relevant results, and link farms prevent that. The new algorithms lower the PageRanks of link farms and the pages they link to (They already had ways of detecting <meta> tag abuse and other tricks.) To all reasonable people, this is the correct response for Google. If its results start throwing up unrelated material people will stop using it. But SearchKing, it seems, is without reason. In October last year (2002), SearchKing sued Google over their lowered page-rank. Google responded in December.

What SearchKing does is akin to spamming. When I search on Google I expect to find what I want. Google’s algorithms are remarkably accurate as far as relevance goes. Consider if every time I searched for something (maybe I need college related material, maybe I want a useful link for my blog) I had to search through pages of “Traditional Chinese Medicine Refined By Modern Technology” and “Chad’s Web Page” to get what I want. It would be akin to looking for that order confirmation from Amazon and having to sort through hundreds of “Human Growth Hormone” and “Hot Young Teens” mails; ie. not pleasant. Imagine a spammer suing Mozilla for putting spam filters in the new Mozilla 1.3α. Or, as one Slashdot poster put it: “[W]hen your ‘business’ consists of shoplifting and the corner store installs a security camera, you’re going to go out of business quickly enough that an injunction is your only hope.”

I can only assume that even the US court system will be capable of handling this case in a responsible manner. Now all we need is a heavy punishment for frivolous law-suits. They have capital punishment in the US; maybe they could use that. 😉


Welcome to the meta-blog[1]. The blog about the blog (AKA autoblog). It didn’t take as long as I had thought it would, but yesterday I was told “I read your blog. It was interesting.” This, as far as I am concerned, is a (very early) turning point. Up until now I didn’t know for sure if this was a blog, or just some disorganised ramblings not filed properly on the site, thus giving the impression of date-ordering. I don’t even include the dates (visibly at least; hold your cursor over a heading and the date should appear.) But now I’m faced with the meta-blog, the discussion of what I want from the blog, what you expect from a blog, and what, in fact, is a blog?

The thing is, I don’t know the answers to all of those questions. To be honest, I don’t know what I want from this blog. Only you know what you want from it. As for “What is…”, well I’ll leave that to WebReview.com and HoosierReview.com to answer (There’s also a great history of weblogs which I recommend). I’ll just keep posting until I get disillusioned and quit. What concerns me more is how I might alter the structure and design of the site as a whole, to let the world see my blog, but leave the locally specific downloads available to UCD users. I’m considering separating into two distinct sections, with the navigation sidebar only covering the section you’re currently viewing. I would add a top navigation bar giving the ability to switch from global to local. The top bar would link to the about page aswell, I think. The problem is that the global section (ie. the blog) will probably significantly outgrow the local section (ie. the downloads) quite quickly. It would seem odd to have a relatively large[4] blog-site with two pages of it treated as an entirely distinct section, particularly as their design (ie. colour and position of navigation bar) would differ quite a bit (that’s the plan, at least).

Another alternative is to have totally separate entry-points to the two. I could keep them in the same space, but not link them at all. I’ll do the two-section re-write anyway, to see what I think is best. It’s not a hugely pressing issue at current size.

[1] There are those who would hold that this is, in fact, only an online journal, not a true weblog (blog). To them I say: “I fart in your general direction”. The word ‘blog’ has some connotations that don’t fit with what I have got here, but I don’t think that invalidates its usage.

[2] Eventually. I’m not quite so detached from reality (or even the unreality of the web) that I would think this site is big yet.

Infinity is Not So Big

I intended to write about Linux today. That is, I had intended that, today, I would write about Linux. Nothing to do with LinuxToday.com. That was because I have ordered Debian from the Linux Emporium. But it hasn’t arrived yet (hopefully it’s sitting at home waiting for me), and I was just now struck by an alternative topic: Infinity. More on Linux when it arrives.

This being my third day back at college after the Christmas break, and my first day of Nuclear Physics (Exph3012), we were given somewhat of a broad introduction to the area (obviously not too elementary, having covered the subject in first year). During a discussion of radioactivity and particle lifetimes, the lecturer referred to the life-time of a proton. Now protons are very stable particles. No-one should be surprised by this, there’s no reason to think otherwise. So we[1]‘re used to the idea that a free proton, ignoring outside influence, will last forever. Forever doesn’t seem too long. Now I’m suddenly given a number for its minimum life-time[2], and it’s huge. “Not less than 1039 years.” That’s 100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times the age of the Universe. One hundred thousand trillion trillion times. It’s quite an unimaginable time-frame, while “forever” seems quite reasonable. It’s as if the mind (mine, at least; YMMV) tries valiantly to stretch around this vast number, fails, and finally collapses in a confused heap (similar to the state in which it began), while it will happily ignore any mention of “forever”, possibly with the assumption that it misheard.

[1] That is, physicists and other interested parties (nerds). My mother, for example, would be quite unfamiliar with this idea.

[2] We know that the life-time isn’t less than this time. It could well be more. It could, indeed, be infinite.