Giant Pac-man spotted in middle-America

Oh those wacky Japanese, now they’re making American crops look like their characters! What will they think of next?

Or something.

But seriously, there’s a huge Pac-man in the middle of the US, check it out on Google Earth:

36°58’25.88″n, 101°32’49.54″W

(Or get a satellite photo from Google Maps).

I will be disappointed if farmers don’t start cropping their fields into the shape of Space Invaders next year.

Maybe there could be a new advertising market for adverts designed to be visible in satellite photos? You could park a van with an advert on its roof next to a monument, wait until the satellite photo is updated then move on somewhere else… Of course you could be waiting a long time unless you worked out how to predict when the photos are being taken. Even so, as an idea I think it’s got potential!

The long awaited return of Digi-Shakespeare

Well, I was waiting for it, at least.

I’ve not heard from DS for a long time and I was beginning to suspect that the code running it had been tragically wiped from the hidden files of people’s machines as they finally discovered that running anti-spyware software was a good idea. It appears that this hasn’t happened. DS has survived the blitz and has returned to my junk-mail box with its trusty mispelt names of drugs as a subject line (‘CeIebrex, Cia111is, Viagr., Levitr, Paxi1, ZanafIex, Va11ium, Ambbien, Zyban, S@MA, Meriddia, Nexium, ZoIoft, Xana. wanted’) and an attachment that I will never open.

I’ve no idea what this poem is on about though:

profession turning whom make immediate
thats wife very parents speaking whom
reply happened young my profession gym

It’s almost like it’s just a selection of random words… Welcome back DS!

Burning Man 2005 photos

For those who’ve known me for many years, you’ll know that I love the Burning Man festival. Basically it’s a big gathering of strange people in the desert. Some say it’s a huge interactive art installation, others an experiment in spontaneous social engineering, and others say it’s just a big party. It’s definitely all of those and many, many more things too.

I went over there in 1999 and 2002 but couldn’t afford to go this year, which is a real shame because some of the art looks fantastic. Here’s a few selections of photos (all pages may contain some nudity):
This one not only has masses of images that capture some of the bizarre daily events of the place but it also has some silky smooth presentation. Definitely worth a visit.
Rick Egan has been taking Burning Man photos for years. Here’s one from this year that I like:

There’s something very spiritual about the desert that forces you to adjust your perception of yourself. Take away your normal home, your normal belongings, your job, and normal survival conditions and you find that you live your days in a different way. Sometimes you find yourself not watching a sunset but standing in a sunset, and that’s a whole new experience. I can’t tell you in words how it is, but it just is.
Patrick Roddie is another regular photographer at the burn. He makes series’ of photographs based on actions or body parts. His portraits are especially good, capturing something beautiful in every face:
Although this one also caught my eye as something representative of the event’s spirit:

Enjoy the photos!

Blogging as therapy?

About 50% of people blog for therapy. Weird.

It may be relevant that the poll was made in the US, but that’s still a startlingly high amount of people.

Rest assured that I don’t treat this blog as therapy. I’m really not sure what it is… I guess it’s just a way of keeping something new happening on my site between animations. Animations take lots of time, but blogging is quick and easy. I suppose that means that this blog counts as entertainment, suggesting that I do this for fame, which is equally odd, because I’ve got rather strange tastes in topics if I’m trying to get famous off of this. Hmm.

Swedes are nosier than Brits & virtual identities


Another gem from The Register for you.

Almost two-thirds of Swedes secretly read their partner’s SMS messages

Almost half of British women, 45 per cent, owned up to secretly checking their partner’s messages, compared to 31 per cent of men

I’m not sure what any of this proves, other than I find pointless surveys interesting. I’ve never secretly checked anyone’s SMS log, and frankly the idea had never even occured to me. I figure trust breeds trust. It’s a strange world where people will go to bed with people that they don’t trust, where mobile phones are considered to be better representations of a person’s true self than the words they say to you. The world of digital identity is something that is appearing all through mainstream people’s lives with modern technology and no-one is noticing a thing. I’m really not sure if I like that or not… Somehow I feel that maybe we should have a more integrated identity, so we don’t need to be someone else online, in text messages, on the phone, in emails, on forums, etc.

Maybe we just need more honesty. Ann Kaloski wrote an essay in 1997 called Bisexuals Making Out with Cyborgs: Politics, Pleasure, Con/fusion in which she looked at the way that virtual identities mean that sex-play online may be, for example, allow heterosexual women to have sex with other women, but those other women may be a man pretending to be a woman. There were two things I found very interesting in the essay, firstly that people usually didn’t actually care what the physical sex of their partner was, only their virtual sex, and secondly that many people found that their online personalities gave them confidence to be more assertive in life. I don’t have time to get into the full details of the meaning of these findings, but they certainly gave me something interesting to ponder on.

Plague in the World of Warcraft!

World of Warcraft, the online multiplayer game, is in serious problems.

Last week they put in a new quest for the game involving a big baddie who could cast a very nasty spell on your character that gave them a disease. This spell would instantly kill most characters, but not quite all. Survivors of the spell finished the quest or escaped and have now gone out into the general world and are (probably non-intentionally) infecting other characters controlled by players all over the world. For anyone who isn’t strong enough this means near-instant death, and the survivors then become contagious.

It’s all pretty nasty stuff. Some people spend a very long time building their characters, and now it’s like an outbreak of air-transmitted Ebola has hit the game, decimating the population.

It was once observed about computers that the more intelligent and complex they were made, the less possible it became to predict precisely how they would react to all circumstances. The World of Warcraft game has become sufficiently complex that disease has spontaneously found a way to escape the predictions of its programmers with devastating consequences. It’s just another case where our technology has escaped from our own control.

All this, coming to a Michael Crichton plot near you soon… (US link UK link)

More info here.

The Pope may be up on charges related to child abuse

Here’s an interesting one for you. Back in the 1990s a Catholic seminarian molested three children. He’s currently on the run. So far, so sad-but-unsurprising.

The interesting bit is that a court case has now been raised in the US naming the former Cardinal Ratzinger (who at the time ran the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), who is now Pope Benedict XVI, and several others as being part of a conspiracy to conceal the abuse. Previously such cases have been dismissed by US courts because the Pope is the head of state of the Holy See, and US law gives heads of state immunity from prosecution for reasons of international harmony (I assume). As such it would seem that the case can’t go any further.

This is where it gets really interesting: they’ve tried this before and failed, but in that response the Vatican named itself as a church, and the First Amendment has a clause that bars laws “respecting an establishment of religion.” As such, because the Vatican and the Holy See has now established that it is a church, not a state, the new case can go ahead.

Obviously this is a very serious matter, but I find myself very intrigued by the religious ramifications for Catholicism if the Pope is prosecuted. What does it mean for a faith if their envoy of God on the earth is convicted of attempting to conceal child abuse? The concealment is argued to be because the Cardinal Ratzinger wrote a letter saying that child abuse would be dealt with by the church itself without need for external influence, in other words they wouldn’t tell the authorities. How far would mainstream Catholicism stick with their support for this defence if their leader is prosecuted for it? Would a new pope be selected? It’s interesting stuff. To be honest, I’d be very surprised if this got any further than an attempt, I suspect that higher levels of the US government would step in to prevent prosecution of the Pope, but the possibility is nonetheless thought provoking.

More info here.

The finest Venezuelan spam, direct to you

Actually, it’s not spam, but now you can see where lots of spam is coming from. Hurrah for the spam map!

By utilising the power of clever doohickies, this company has combined the IP address data from spam-generating machines with Google maps to create a map of where the most spam in the world is coming from. How cool is that?

Okay… Maybe I’m just easily impressed, but still, I think it’s pretty clever.

It’s worth remembering that these are most likely zombie PCs infected with junk that makes them send out spam without the owner knowing anything about it. On which subject, I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating, make sure that your PC is scanned regularly for hidden junk:

Download Ad-Aware

Download ‘Spybot Search & Destroy’

Run them once a week (or more) to keep your computer happy and non-zombified.

So what’s big in Venezuelan spam right now? “looking for that special bedroom buddy” has been sent out 1,600 times from IP address , and remember, with the spam lottery, it could be you next!

Speaking of which, I’ve not heard from Digital Shakespeare for a while. Oh no, maybe it’s been deleted!

It’s Talk Like A Pirate Day!

It does exactly what it says on the thread title, yarr, so it does.

It be the day to talk like a pirate, so shiver yer timbers an’ those o’ yer ship-mates otherwise I’ll keel-haul yer sorry land lubbing arse.

Do pirates say ‘arse’? Probably not.


Have fun.


While I’m here, get your pirate name:

Mine is Pirate Harley the Cash-Strapped, which be fair accurate, so it be.

The Mystery Spot

A friend of mine in the US mentioned this place to me, and it sounds extremely peculiar.

The Mystery Spot.

Apparently gravity leans in a different direction there. No-one is sure quite why this happens, but it seems to be a reliable effect. Very odd. Has anyone been there? I’d love to hear some first-hand reports of the place.

30,000 volts of static – the jumper of doom

A chap in Australia was wearing a particular combination of man-made fibres and managed to generate 30,000 volts of static electricity, causing serious problems for the place where it discharged itself:

I don’t know about you, but this has huge potential to me. We could all wear this stuff then syphon it off into the national power supply. Wear it at the gym and then use the electricity to watch a bit of TV when you get home… Alternatively it could become a bizarre form of industrial espionage: banks could employ people to innocently discharge 30,000 volts into the cash machines of competitors. The possibilities are endless!

Didn’t his mother teach him anything?

Yes, Mr Bush, you really should go before you leave the house. President Bush wrote a note during a UN meeting asking Condaleezza Rice if she thinks he could take a toilet break. Good grief. Yes, we’ve all needed the toilet at inappropriate times, exams, interviews, and suchlike, but he’s the president of the most powerful nation on earth; you’d think he’d be in enough control of his body to be able to grin and bear it.

Also of note, apparently he’s not so hot on joined-up writing, but on the plus side at least he didn’t write that he needs to go pee-pee.

HOLD THE U.N.! Hell, they were only discussing the future of the entire organisation and the threat of global terrorism, who cares about that? PRESIDENT BUSH NEEDS TO PEE!

I believe I may have mentioned this before, but we are all doomed.

England wins ‘best ever Ashes test series’

Okay, so England have won a cricket match that they have been playing with Australia since Ayer’s Rock was knee high to a pebble, and this is the first time that this has happened in something like sixteen years. Suddenly this series of matches is being decribed as ‘the best Ashes series ever’. I wonder if the Australians feel the same way?

On the bright side for Australia, at least they came second.

BNP’s racist paper impounded

Well, at least that’s some good news.

For those who don’t know, the BNP are a ‘political’ party who generally campaign with the attitude ‘we’re so proud we’re British, we’re not racist, there’s nothing racist about us, we just associate things we dislike with certain groups in the community, especially if they’re black, Indian, Chinese…’. Their leader is a scary man, not because he’s stupid and racist, but because he’s very intelligent and racist. Yes, apparently those two things can co-exist, and that’s why I find him scary.

The amusing element of all this is that the group that is so proud of Britain and British industry gets their newsletter printed in Solvakia. Now there’s a way to support your local businesses. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that they’re hypocrits as well as racist, but I was really under the impression that the list couldn’t get much worse.


Hurrah for gamers not killing stuff

It looks like gamers are being nice and charitable. Loads of gaming related companies are doing nice things to try and support the Red Cross and other related Hurricane Katrina related groups.

Bungie (makers of Halo) are selling T-shirts on their site and all profits from their shop in September go towards aid
Everquest II has got a new command added, ‘/donate’ that takes players to the donation site
Even Penny Arcade are auctioning original artwork on eBay

Who says that all gamers know how to do is kill and kill again?

The Burger of the Gods

Now, usually I wouldn’t post on here about what I’ve eaten, but last night I created The Burger of the Gods.

Two slices of decent wholemeal bread
Mature cheddar
Jalapeno peppers (quite a lot of these)
Anchovies (the ones in olive oil with garlic and herbs, not preserved in salt because that kills the flavour)
A decent low-fat burger (all the taste of beef but without the nasty fatty taste in the mouth afterwards that you get from the cheap burgers)
A load of salad on the side.

You might wonder how I knew that this was The Burger of the Gods, but when I created it a beam of sunlight came down through the kitchen window (which is impressive at that time of evening in an east facing kitchen) and a holy choir descended from the clouds. Between the lowest angels a banner unfurled saying ‘this is The Burger of the Gods’. That last bit was a real giveaway that I’d made something special. And lo, I did it eat, and it was good.

Ecletic interesting links and articles collected by a painter, teacher, writer, and ex-PhD student