Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Take Two

I am Toitle. NOT Toilet, as our alumni present so adamantly claim. That established, I, too, am present at the CST camp, and I, too, have not posted anything for quite some time. Therefore, lest you forget my presence:

Firstly, I. Love. My. Juniors. Really, I do. Imagine this: a group of virile, hyperactive Sec 1s are placed in a locked computer room for hours on end, left to jabber at keyboards like monkeys at typewriters. What do you get at the end of the session? No, not the script for Macbeth. More surprisingly, not slipshod work obviously spawned of Liero addiction. What they were supposed to do was an advertising project on Chicken Rice, utilizing whatever computer skills they had at hand. And instead of the dull, utterly uninterested response (and, more notably, characteristic of acsians) which we expected, we had people begging us to allow them to polish up their projects. In lieu of sleep. And a gaming tournament. As well as supper, after we starved them for dinner. Hah! <333

Needless to say, these projects are Quite Impressive. I could print them on pink cardboard and pass them out in a banana suit along the snobbiest sections of town and still be taken rather seriously. Maybe even fill a couple of collection cups. Awesome, innit. Although i must say, i really do detest the fact that the camp at large has been FORCE FED different variants of chicken rice for the past six meals. Never. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. Touching Chicken Rice again. Do remind me and supply the necessary tight slap should i ever suggest this. Thank you.

Also, this reporter can corroborate the brashly declared "Sleep is for noobs! Amateur!" comments made during the camp by a certain someone from 2003. What was omitted previously, however, is that Karan himself spouted that quote, and in an interesting fashion at that. This is the entire synopsis of our intellectually stimulating, albeit short, conversation:

"Uh, Karan, you really should get some sleep."
"Nonsense! Sleep is for noobs! Amateur!"
"Okay. Yeah, sure."
"ZzZzzzzZ" *hands fall limply to sides*

Yep, he proceeded to fall asleep, quite unceremoniously. To think we had just consumed Mr Chew's personally recommended coffee the night before! Black, too, since we didnt have any creamer or sugar to neutralise the foul concoction. Disgrace and dishonour! Hound him about this till the day he renounces coffee and the content of his posts changes substantially! :D

Additionally, I have realised why he misses the odd day at school after a late night. Let me assure you, friends, that a groggy sleep-starved Karan is not a nice thing, preferably approached with a five foot long cattle prod. And a stun gun set to "Kill, Incinerate and Vacuum". Essentially, our club President had to lavish considerable time and resources to entice said creature out of his cozy sleeping bag, all the while being assaulted by threats of revenge and the like. Think dragon lair, with a whole lot more of adamantite-eating fire, except without the treasure. Painful. Luckily, Karan, like dragons, can be easily lured out of his lair by the threat of ice-cold water and an ensuing dunking. Karan's Kryptonite. Hurhur. As I write this, he is looking down my back and sighing rather pointedly (a word he suggests).

Anyway, things would be more fun if I didnt keep drifting in and out of consciousness, and the world didnt keep bobbing around me. Ah well. Bed time. By that, I mean it's DotA until dawn.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Night's Dawn Trilogy

Just finished the Night's Dawn Trilogy by Peter F Hamilton.

At 3000 pages, this monster of an epic stands as one of the longer trilogies I've ever had the chance to read. The Night's Dawn Trilogy consists of The Reality Dysfunction, The Neutronium Alchemist, and The Naked God. All are well over a thousand pages, and all pursue a topic no less than the fate of sentience in the universe.

It has been hailed as British sci-fi's seminal masterwork, the product of genius that puts it on the level of classics such as Clarke's Odyssey series and Herbert's Dune. It is no less than a complex taprestry of action, metaphysics, relationships, politics, economics, and spirituality, all wound together into one massively faceted embodiment of the quintessential masterpiece. It is also one of the few successful cross-genre tomes; its links to horror and military fiction are not to be denied, and this remains as one of the trilogy's strong points.

Hamilton has shown a strong prediliction to extreme graphicity in his novels, and Night's Dawn is no exception. Existing beside his intricate descriptions of a culture in all its minute aspects are depictions of graphic violence, sex, depravity, and cruelty. While it is debatable whether Hamilton seeks to portray a balanced view of human civilization, or whether it is intended to add spice to what is already a gripping story, I must say that this unfortunate aspect of the series is not appreciated by many, including myself.

It is unlikely that a complete copy of the series may be found in the major bookstores. As of last inspection there remains one intact copy, and it is not in prime condition.

Hamilton's Commonwealth saga, his latest offering, has just ended with the release of Judas Unchained in bookstores around the island. Procurement is being considered.

P.S. It seems that Hamilton's saga has inspired, other, lesser, offerings. Elements in Night's Dawn are especially present in Anderson's Saga of Seven Suns, mainly in the form of Edenists, a subbranch of humanity who live in habitats circling gas giants, and who mine essential elements from their skies, enabling ships to use their FTL engines. It is also noted that the Edenists mantain a stranglehold and a virtual monopoly over this fuel; without it interstellar ecnonomies would collapse. The lone Edenist planet is a waterworld.

Friday, November 11, 2005


"Oh, gosh, Kent, get off it," Madison complained.

They were in the lounge, two scientists the very splitting image of the ancient stereotype. Jet-black cups of coffee liberated their aromas into the air. All around entropy waxed ever and small particles contributed inexorably to the ultimate decline of the universe.

"I still say, why not?"

Madison sighed theatrically, and proceeded to vent cigarette smoke at the other man's face. Ash fell from the glowing stub as his hands danced in dramatic chagrin. "Utter frivolity, I say. You're a scientist, man, not some New Age hippie in bandanas. The department wants our paper out by next week and we sit here and talk about scientific improbabilities."

He had almost substituted the word for "impossibilities", but Madison was an old hand and naturally had all his bases covered. It was almost an instinctive reaction, but one that eliminated several precedents for professional suicide.

Kent's face was still lit in that manic glow, an almost childlike wonder dancing across his craggy features. Madison blanched sourly, and took another puff from his cigarette. Particles clashed. On the other side of the world a dog whimpered. Kent, as usual, was oblivious to his partner's apparent lack of enthusiasm. "Just think, now, it would be utterly fantastic, wouldn't it, Madison. Just as we are the incorporated totality of all our cells, linked together in biological and chemical harmony, may not our world be made up of the totality of all life, all of us cells in the vast structure, only that we think and know? The earth is an organism, a singular entity, like common biology, the sum of all parts working in cohesion. A Gaia, not in the traditional Asimovian sense, but something that we have lived with since the beginning."

Madison took another puff. "One thing, Kent. We fight each other. We don't work together. Life on earth has always been a war, a competition. Utterly unlike how our bodies work."

Kent's smile was brilliant. "Ah, but there I catch you, Madison. You're too narrow-minded. Life flourishes on Earth, does it not? Does that not mean that life is successful on Earth? Yes. What we are faced with is that traditional outcropping of the old Fermi Paradox. How can we know the circumstances of xenobiological development, or assume that it is similar to our own? An alien's body may be a battlefield of mutation and hypermutation that allows it to thrive. Or perhaps something like the battle of sperm to penetrate the ova. The strongest plasmoids dominate its mutagenic development. In fact, that is exactly what happens to us. Purposeful genetic selection! Wouldn't that be wonderful? No matter how it is done?"

Once Kent got into the mood, there was no stopping him. Madison bent forward and grasped at his coffee. Soon his expression turned blissful, as the strong liquid coursed through his system, suffusing it with tender warmth. "Why are you doing this to me, Kent?" he muttered.

"So," Kent went on, "Gaia may well exist, a proto-consciousness governed by its constituent cells. Which, in turn, are governed by their own! Why, the galaxy itself could well be such an entity! Of course, it would think the most glacial thoughts, and its experiental lifespan merely lasting a human lifetime. And humans will spread, if it does come to that. We may well spread across our Galaxy one day."

Madison did not give voice to this line of thought. Kent's words painted the human race as some form of malaise, proliferating across Nature like some malignant cancer. Is that what we are, then? Cells gone insane? The nightmare of the environmenalist treehuggers. What a dreadful metaphor for the totality of human achievement.

He could not wonder if the metaphor was not more apt than it seemed. His mind wandered to all the myraid tools of death that could potentially assail the human race. Volcanoes, floods, tsunamis, hell, even meteors like those which had caused the Chixulub crater at the Yucatan. All means to induce some twisted form of apoptosis, the cell death of humanity. He wondered if the Trojans that now clustered around Jupiter's lagrange point were not now potential scalpels, primed to cut humanity out of the steaming innards of an ailing world. He wondered if the threat of solar prominences and solar storms were not like the radiologist's weapons, the inscrutable tracers or radioscopy machines deployed to deal with these malignant growths.

Madison could almost sense those cosmic judges, not knowing that they were already watching from below.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Project Eclipse

Eclipse Rising has now begun.

Eclipse Rising is a casual experiment in writing, where contributors independently develop a universe and a plot in a given fantasy world, where each must accomodate the developments of others and mantain the continuity of the storyline.

The preliminary story takes place in a continent known as Avast, one of many in a vast world still within a Romanesque-Dark age. There isn't actually a cohesive plot yet. But it will emerge from the spontaneous writings of contributors, and develop with each successive chapter. Of course, the product will be large, chaotic, a patchwork of different plotlines and character developments and twists.

It is an exploration in combined creativity, perhaps.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

4 Years Ago

It's always sad when you glance at the cover of Clarke's masterwork, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the one that was turned into a movie classic by Stanley Kubrick, whose theme became synonymous with vintage sci-fi flicks, whose psychologically-maladjusted supercomputer HAL became IBM's unofficial mascot.

Look at the year, read the book, take a glance into the real world, and examine the state of it today. Clarke was always zealous about what he called "failures of imagination" and "failures of nerve", crimes he said have been committed throughout history by snobbish rich scientists whom which such automatic dismissals of the new and untried have become pure instinct. Clarke has committed the opposite; he was too optimistic, perhaps. Computers as advanced as HAL do not exist; secret missions to Jupiter have not been launched (or have they?); and nothing like a large black plastic rectangle has been discovered either on the Moon or orbiting the system's largest planet.

The last manned mission to the Moon was Apollo 17, in 1972. With the beginning of Detente came a successive scaling-down of the space program conducted by the only nation then capable of sustaining such a campaign. Missions were limited to passive scientific undertakings. No man has set foot on any world save Earth, even though Mars Society president Robert Zubrin formulated a low-cost, effective plan that would get humans on Mars - by 1996. The ISS is a white elephant, and NASA operates under a Congress more interested in Osama and the economy.

Clarke wrote 2001 in the 1960s, before the first manned mission to the moon. His imagination, while expansive, reached too far. He was too much of a visionary. He didn't take into account the underlying diplomatic factors of the Cold War - the primary impetus for astronautical development in the first place. After the Soviets were thrown onto the ground by the victorious forces of American capitalism, it was the economy, stupid. Then it was Osama. Manned flights to Mars have been postponed to dates like "by 2020", and the next Moon landing (by Americans, in any case) will be in 2013. It seems like the Taikonauts will claim space now and upstage the Americans, and even though space recognizes no national jurisdiction, individuals are not barred from extraterrestrial land ownership.

Space will be the wild frontier of future centuries, but the sheer difficulty of sending men and women up there has muted the enthusiasm of the hardy souls who are wont to proliferate into this vast, uncharted expanse of mystery and wonder. There will be no gold rush like that which tore up the virgin West and paved it over with highways and gas stations. As long as nations have the economic clout to mantain a stranglehold over space research and exploration there will be almost negligible progress in this vital next step in human development.

It may be that the quest for space once again takes on a psychological and ideological significance; the day when China seizes the reins of space is the day when it truly becomes the premier superpower of the world.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The Quintessential Nova

In a fit probably triggered by apoplexy at the dismal state of his finances and/or room Nova has coerced me to post this slightly edited, incoherent MSN convo he and I had on the 4th of November.


Processors 4 Model Intel Xeon(TM) CPU 2.40GHz
Chip MHz 2394.81
Cache Size 512 KB



and look!!

Current Users 0
Load Averages 0.00 0.00 0.00

0.00 load averages?!




why not give those quad xeons to [removed by blog admin]?

[removed by blog admin]


A Priori says:
the things you learn when you read digital fortress

i learned about MD5 hashes when programming my bot!

nothing to do with digital fortress!

dan brown doesn't know anything about cryptography!

A Priori says:
get off esoteric computer talk

A Priori says:
*return, karan... return*


hashing, sir, is a BASIC of cryptography!


A Priori says:
computer-based cryptography is esoteric in itself


merely because you lack the cranial capacity to comprehend it

by the way

A Priori says:

A Priori says:
i lack the large teeth, thick round glasses, and gawky complexion

at 2 am kenneth told me that flagellation was "not his style"

are you saying i'm a nerd/geek?

A Priori says:
and jerking lisp

if so, i'm deeply complimented.


A Priori says:
and pseudo-autistic reserve

pseudo-autistic reserve???

A Priori says:
and large, ill-fitting clothes

A Priori says:
and messy, unkept room

large, ill-fitting clothes?!

how on earth did you know my room has degenerated into a mess again?

A Priori says:
and pychopathic desire to destroy the large software corporations of the world

A Priori says:
(or, failing that, to join their top-secret R&D branches)

A Priori says:
and single-minded philia/mania in all things computer-based

DISCLAIMER: All this is of course, in good humour. Suing for any reason at all is undefined. And that includes myself. And Karan.

A Brief Moment of Time

IBA has ended at last, and unfinished tasks have been unceremoniously dumped back onto the laps of those who issued them, even as completed ones have, in perhaps imperceptible and unseen ways, aided in the smooth running of that particular branch of the vast maritime empire of this nation.

Truly do the holidays begin now. If only the rotten weather would let up. When I say rotten, I mean rain. Rain rain rain. McKenna's All Weather Haulage has never seen a wetter fall. The sky god trembles in a capricious drunken fit, and colossal pots of his carefully-prepared rain plummet in droves onto the ground as his mad raving knocks them from their hallowed shelves.

I remember reading (from one of Clarke's novels, I believe) that John von Neunmann once predicted that accurate weather prediction and control would become possible, but computers would become so monstrous and expensive that only governments would be able to afford them. The situation is pretty much reversed, evidently. Sadly.


After two months that will seem both an eternity and a fleeting whisper; after the healing wind blows, the cycle will start again. That is not what gives me trepidation. It's that after a brief two years, the eternal and comforting cycle will be impossibly broken. And what then? I ask myself, how well-prepared will I be to face that time?

Human life is a brief moment in time.

And I've been meaning to watch Firefly, after all the good I've heard about it and Serenity. I'm still looking for it.