All entries for May 2007

May 30, 2007

Those were the times we were hopping

(The title is my suggested alternate ending to the poem Footsteps in the Sand)

I read an excellent article a while ago: Ten Things Christians and Atheists Can – and Must – Agree On. I’d be interesting in hearing what other less sit-on-fence-y people think of it.

In vaguely-connected news, Amazon apparently thinks that an interest in comedy and sci-fi is likely to mean an interest in (or possibly hatred of) religion:

I can’t see the connection myself.

May 25, 2007

My programming projects

I have several programming projects at the moment that I could work on:

Kraken prototype

There’s a game-making competition on the theme of Ocean Odyssey that VGDSoc is involved in. One of the ideas suggested was a game where you play as the Kraken, destroying passing ships.

I liked the idea, but wasn’t sure controlling a Kraken was feasible – tentacles are fairly deformable, and that’s always seemed quite complicated. So I made this prototype and decided that not only was it feasible, it was also damn cool.

Unfortunately, the competition needs to be done in XNA, which being a Microsoft thing, won’t run on Linux. Also, the competition culminates in a 48 hour session which is right in the middle of my exams…

Operation Meltdown

I want to polish off one of my games before the end of term, and since Operation Meltdown works (although isn’t yet very game-like) and Blobber was way too ambitious and is full of bugs, the decision was quite easy.

I finally got it to the stage where it contained the bare essentials of a game the other day. Then I packed it into a JAR file and it broke. Apparently you can’t read from a directory in a JAR file the same way you’d read a directory on the filesystem, so my code to load all the images in a directory broke. Okay, so I thought, I’ll do a check for that and get the directory listing another way. And I did, and it worked, so I tried uploading it.

And then it broke again when you ran it as an applet. The code was opening the JAR file containing itself and reading through the entries, but you can’t do that from an unsigned applet because you can’t read from the local filesystem. In the end, I just removed the applet version from the website; I’m not sure anybody would want to play it in applet form anyway.

Javascript for Mark

This one has the benefit of me getting paid if I do it. But it wouldn’t be as interesting as some of the alternatives, and it involves Javascript and maybe some Ajax too. I should probably do it just because I said I would ages ago and never did, though.

ezConvert for phpBB 3.0

With the release of RC1 of phpBB 3.0, I took a look at the conversion system. It assumes you have database access to the forums you’re converting from, so I’d probably have to bend it quite a bit to get it to convert from ezBoard.

The alternative is to keep it as a module in the Admin Control Panel, which is probably what I’ll do. But even though it wouldn’t require a total rewrite, I’d want to pretty it up before releasing it like that, so either way would be a fair amount of work. Probably not something I do before the exams, then.


The Web 2.0 start-ups must be mocked! And they must be mocked at the very latest by next April Fools Day.


Blobber is retired from development, probably until I start my third year project which will probably be a physics simulator. Because after failing to make Blobber work, trying something more complicated is the ideal plan…

May 20, 2007

One day closer to being able to unicycle

It was too windy for club juggling and too cold for ball juggling, so I spent most of yesterday’s juggling session attempting to unicycle. I’ve found a way of getting on that isn’t painful, which is nice, and my skill at getting on is only exceeded by my ability to fall off. I’m improving at the going forwards part too, but not nearly so fast.

What juggling I did do wasn’t great – James beat me at endurance (a competition of who can keep juggling the longest) 4 times out of 5, using 5 clubs against my 5 balls. Admittedly, James is an annoyingly good juggler, but I was doing much better on Thursday, learning to do 441 with clubs with the 1 behind the back and managing some good backcross throws too.

Later in the bar I actually talked to and learnt the name of one person who’s been coming for most of this year. I think I also got some people interested in the Assassins’ Guild, so hopefully that doesn’t die the horrible death it’s threatening to.

When it got dark we went outside to play with fire, and I did some fire juggling. You might call it that if you were feeling generous, anyway. More accurately, I threw some fire clubs about and made some generally successful attempts to catch them, once in a while trying to do a trick and failing completely.

I was only at the fire juggling for twenty minutes or so, because I had a birthday party in Earlsdon to get to. Which brings us neatly back to unicycles, because Ralph has one and insisted that we have a go in the very small space between his house and his garden. There wasn’t really enough space for my current learning tactic of “point yourself away from walls, fall off the front, and remember to keep pedalling while you do so”.

I didn’t see a huge amount of Ralph, despite it being his party. Hopefully he enjoyed himself (and didn’t feel too bad in the morning). I came home and had a cool dream about vampires (and a less cool one about siteswaps).

May 18, 2007

Friendly people and friendly debate

I was walking through the Tesco car park today when some guy stealing traffic cones in a trolley (cunningly disguised as a car park worker) asked if he could speak to me. I thought he was about to accuse me of something like shoplifting, kicking a stray dog or mugging an old lady.

Instead, he just wanted to quip that his generation were the ones who gave my generation long hair and beards, and now his generation had lost them (the guy was balding). He then said that his generation were also responsible for getting naked and dancing to loud music, and I’m sure he was secretly disappointed when I denied having any interest in dancing to loud music, naked or otherwise.

We chatted for a couple of minutes, and then I felt the need to get on without hearing the other parts of his life story. He never did accuse me of shoplifting a stray old lady.


The only other interesting thing that happened today was thinking of a counterargument to a Christian argument for why sin exists:

Non-Christian: Why is there sin in the world? Wouldn’t it have been better to have made us incapable of sinning?

Christian: Aha! God gave us free will, which allows us to sin if we choose to. Without the capacity to sin, we would not have free will.

Me: But what about when you go to Heaven? Surely you won’t be able to sin when you are there; are you suggesting you won’t have free will in heaven?

It’s possible to argue that we sin because of the temptation of Satan, and he won’t be there in Heaven, but what’s to stop some other angel from rebelling and starting the whole thing over again in Heaven?

Comments welcome.

May 17, 2007

I like numbers which don't have an odd prime factor

I must have walked more than 6 miles last Friday – to and from campus twice with heavy things like my PS2 and my juggling stuff, and into Earlsdon for Jen’s party and back (and I later dreamt that I walked there and back again to climb a tree). And also spent 3 or 4 hours in the middle not being able to sit down, while teaching people to juggle and falling off a unicycle (not both at the same time – falling off a unicycle requires both hands for flailing purposes).

The party was good. There were some great scenarios, like “shoes tell lies and socks tell the truth” and “boys are friendly and caring; girls are cold and mean”. And I had fun making a tiny card out of paper (with an envelope too) after Jen commented that several of her cards had the same general image on them. Of course, talented artist that I am, my card design was obviously greatly superior.

I spent a lot of Sunday trying to fix my Gallery installation after what should have been a simple 2 minute change instead broke everything. Wanting to move the directory it was installed in, I should have disabled the URL Rewrite module before doing anything. Like it said in the FAQ which I didn’t read until too late. And so, wanting to avoid having to undo and redo something exceedingly simple, I made my life ten times harder by ploughing on anyway.

It also didn’t help that I was confusing the data directory and the code directory. I ended up installing a newer version and pointing it at the older version’s data, but it seemed to get confused by the URL Rewrite module, which refused to work, and stopped everything else from working also. The moral of this story is to read the documentation before you start doing something, not during.

A lot of today has been spent reading this thread in its entirety. Time well spent.

May 16, 2007

Musings from a second–rate Second Coming

After Top B yesterday, next to the Hot Chocolate stall, some guy kept calling me Jesus. I totally missed the opportunity for an “I’m Jesus? LOL!” joke. Other comments I wasn’t sober enough to think of include the fact that I was wearing all black rather than the traditional messianic plain white of forgiveness, and anything involving the idea that Cliché Jesus and Jesus are different people (one talks about peace and forgiveness and is unlikely to have been a white caucasian, the other travels the world appearing in toast and befriending lepers).

If I were Jesus, I probably wouldn’t spend my time thinking of names for the chat-shows I’d almost inevitably be invited to host when the news got out. “Face to face with Faith’s true face” (subtitle “We’re going one-on-one with the One”) has the benefit of annoying the continuity announcers, while “Allah-bout Allah” is simple, but implies the wrong religion. “Al is I Am” or “Al-eluia” could work, but only if I keep my current name to some extent. There’s also probably something you could do with “Yahweh-t”, and “Logos” is simple enough that I feel I ought to be able to find a title it fits into.

Just for the record, I’m fairly sure I’m not actually Jesus. But on the off chance that I’m wrong, and I am in fact destined to herald in the End of Days, you should all repent from your sins and start a new relationship with me. Reading my blog is probably a good way to start. It’s quite hard to sin while reading blogs (although I’m sure the more dedicated sinners among you could manage to do so), and it could definitely be the start of a relationship if you don’t already know me. So in summary: sin is bad; the Apocalypse is potentially coming.

May 11, 2007

Chapter 18, in which I talk about mundane topics

Since getting back, I’ve been kept fairly busy with coursework, but no longer. It’s all done, leaving nothing to do for the next month except watch TV, make games and juggle, with maybe some revision thrown in at the end if there’s time. Maybe.

And then at the end of that month, I’ll have 11 exams in 11 days, and the exams will take pity on me for being totally unprepared and make themselves easier for my sake. This is how it will happen; I’m sure of it.

I’ve been watching a lot of Heroes, and might be able to catch up to everyone else before the final episodes air next Monday. The last several episodes have ended in some of the most cruel (but awesome) cliffhangers.

I went to a juggling convention last weekend. Attended a unicycling workshop, meaning I am now even more skilled at falling off. Also attended a workshop on continuous backcrosses with clubs (where every club is thrown from behind your back). It basically turned into, “Continuous backcrosses are hard. It’ll take you months to even get close. Now here’s a large variety of tricks that are easier than continuous backcrosses.” And all of those tricks were also ridiculously hard from my current level of ability.

New blog location

After a hiatus of several years, I’ve started blogging again at

My website

Looking for more information about Alan Hazelden? Follow me on Twitter or go to my website.

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