All entries for July 2006

July 26, 2006

Doctor Who Series 2 Finale

And what a good finale it was!

Ok, so I'm a little behind all the cool kids with their goggle–boxes, but I finally got around to watching the series 2 finale of Doctor Who last night (yes, both parts :).

It was a perfectly–executed storyline that didn't suffer from the underdevelopment of many of the recent episodes (the last Christmas Special, and seemingly all of Russell T. Davies' episodes except these two); it was a fanboy's wet dream in terms of bringing both Cybermen and Daleks in, but I feel that this made it slightly over–done. My only criticism, though.

But the ending was so emotional! I knew before I watched the finale that these would be Billie Piper's last episodes, and the ending was such a nice twist (I won't spoil it for anyone that hasn't seen it). But my god, did I have a lump in my throat at the end…

It's such a shame that Rose will no longer be travelling with the Doctor. David Tennant has acted superbly throughout the series (despite my initial qualms at the end of series 1 and following the Christmas Special), and played the bond between the Doctor and Rose much stronger than between Rose and Christopher Eccleston's Doctor. It's also refreshing to see that Billie Piper's acting is infinitely better than her singing.

So, as with the ending of the first series, I'm left wondering if the person stepping into one of the main roles will live up to the high expectations set by the previous. It's not helped by the fact that we have already seen the Doctor's new companion (played by Freema Agyeman) in the finale, and that she died, but I hope Freema does at least half as well as David Tennant at living up to the expectations of so many people.

July 25, 2006

Comedy 12A Ratings

Follow-up to Superman Returns from SOAPBox v2.0

Shamelessly off the back of my previous entry (or rather, Jerzy's comment on my previous entry), I think we have a new game, ladies and gentlemen.

The idea is to dream up the most amusing justification for a 12A rating you can. There will be a prize for the best one, as judged by, erm, me. Marks will be awarded for accuracy (i.e., use of actual justifications), humour, and anything else I decide. See Jerzy's comment for ideas.

July 24, 2006

Superman Returns

I went to see Superman Returns this weekend with Lorna, Zoë and Ellie. It was good, I was impressed. It's a lot darker than the Christopher Reeve films, and a little over-airbrushed in places (both Lois Lane and Superman looked a bit too smooth), but the premise was great and I want the yacht! (You'll see what I mean :)

Kevin Spacey was excellent as Lex Luthor, although the role as a whole was somewhat under–developed and didn't have as big a part in the film as you might expect. Spacey did, however, play the part with just the right mix of humour, insanity and evil.

The first half of the film, however, was slightly ruined by the people sat next to me – a mother and a young son. Firstly, I believe the film is rated a 12A – a certificate created specifically for films such as Spiderman, Superman and LotR so that young kids can get into films with superheroes and orcs. I would hazard a guess, however, that this kid was no older than 6, and didn't really have a grasp of the plot (it was a bit complex for 6–year–olds).

Superman Returns © Warner BrosWhat really bugged me, however, was not the kid's questions to his mother, but the mother's compunction to explain — in a loud whisper, nay a speaking voice at times — exactly what was going on. Lex Luthor's "the baddie; he's a bad man"; "someone's going to get hurt" — you're damn right.

Quite frankly, it's no wonder that people complain that kids these days have no imagination; firstly, stories that have been enjoyed by kids for decades are now targeted at pre–teens, teens and young adults (nb the 12A rating for Superman et al.); secondly, parents are molly-coddling their kids and not letting them think for themselves.

Luckily they left before the film got too detailed; I'm not sure if the kid wasn't enjoying it, or that the mother decided that it was no longer suitable for her child (I wouldn't blame her), but it did at least allow me to enjoy the last section of the film in peace.

Oh, and I'm told Brandon Routh is quite fit.

July 10, 2006

Lorna's Quiz Thing (someone's got a case of the Mondays)

Writing about web page /lornagriffiths/entry/from_the_pits/

Writing about an entry you don't have permission to view

Firstly, before I start, the second part of the title is a quote from Office Space that was on TV late Thursday (?) night. Fantastic film, really funny :)

On to the quiz… I'm doing this one because it hasn't yet got itself all over Warwick Blogs like the others, and because I like lists (yes, I am a strange person :)

  1. Zoë
  2. Chris (one of my housemates)
  3. Jon P
  4. Lorna
  5. Sarah
  6. Adrian
  7. Phil B
  8. Jaime
  9. Phil M
  10. Ron
  11. Laurence
  12. Rahul

Apologies to anyone I missed; I can only list 12!

How did you meet 10?
He was down the corridor from me in halls, and I went to lectures with him for two years before he transferred to the Business School for his final year. Absolute legend :)

What would you do if you had never met 1?
Probably be single and lonely like I was up until the start of this year. Probably also continuing my somewhat on–off relationship with my ex–girlfriend.

What would you do if 5 and 2 dated?
Hmmm, interesting question. Probably either be happy that I was seeing more of 5, or sad that I was seeing less of 2. But I still would be happy for them both, because they're both great people.

Have you ever seen 4 cry?
Possibly once, but I'm not sure.

Would 7 and 8 make a good couple?
Phil and Jaime? Very sweet :)

Describe 9:
Slightly taller than me, long hair; often seen with a hat and a jacket. He had a fantastic moustache for Pirates, too :) He's a sound bloke, and I will miss him if he's not around next year :(

Do you think 12 is attractive?
Yeah, I think so.

Tell me something about number 3:
He's at a turning point in his University career; he's changed a lot in the last year, but in some ways still has some changing to do. I see a lot of my younger brother in him, which is a good thing (they are the same age). He's doing a fantastic job as President of WSO, and is throwing himself into MDing in a way no–one I know ever could – I've never seen such enthusiasm and confidence in someone for something they have little experience of, which I think will make him a great MD.

What's 9's favorite color?
Erm… navy blue? I'm guessing here :)

What would you do if 7 just confessed they liked you?
I'd be flattered, but slightly bemused, bearing in mind he's straight and taken. Not sure what Jo would have to say about it! :D

When was the last time you talked to number 1?
About 40 mins ago, via text. In terms of actually speaking, round about 22.30 yesterday. I miss her :(

What language does 6 speak?
English. I'm not sure what other languages he has; probably rudimentary French, given that's what most people seem to learn at GCSE, but that is the only evidence I have for that!

Who is 5 going out with?
Justin. They're a sweet couple.

What does 1 do for a living?
She's a full–time Arts' student, so not much! ;) No, she works very hard, and has done far more for her degree this year than I have. She's currently working for the RSC in a collaboration with Warwick Uni. Her first day is today, and I'm hoping it goes well.

Would you ever date 4?
I'd think about it, but I'm not 100% certain she's my type, lovely as she is! I'm not sure I'm her type either, thinking about it, whatever her penchant for techies! ;)

Would you ever date 10?
In a world where we were both gay, certainly.

Is 2 single?
Yes. I was going to add "unfortunately so", but it doesn't seem to bother him too much, so I took it out. He's a great guy, though, if any eligible young females are interested. Possibly slightly eccentric. ;)

Where does 8 live?
Tonbridge. Ish. Somewhere in that area of Kent. Sevenoaks?

What do you think about 2?
My answer's sort of contained in the previous–but–one question. He's a great guy, possibly slightly eccentric, but a lot of fun.

What is the best thing about 11?
The fact that we are so similar in some ways. Unfortunately, I didn't get to know him as well as I would have liked, and now he's finished :(

What is the best and worst thing about 5?
Hmm, I hope she doesn't take offence at this (it's not intended to cause it!), but she is very sensitive. This is simultaneously both the best and the worst thing: she's wonderfully caring, very sweet, and a good laugh because of it, but she can also take things very personally.

Are you going to know 4 forever?
I'd like to say yes, but I know I'm crap at keeping in contact with people so probably not :(

Who is 9 going out with?
As far as I know, he's single. But as far as I know, that could mean anything!

My own question: Who got off lightly in this inquisition?
No. 6 — Adrian! A lucky escape for you, sir ;)

July 07, 2006

Smail Web Interface

Ok, so I've been having some problems with accessing Smail recently; the redirect page (the page that just says "Enter") takes a very long time to redirect me to my inbox — in the range of 1 minute or so.

I emailed the ITS helpdesk regarding this issue, and after 5 or 6 emails, they were not able to track down the cause of the problem at their end, and suggested it was a problem with my connection.

I'm not entirely convinced, but was satisfied enough to not press the matter further — it could be a connection problem, after all. I am interested to know, however, if other people are suffering the same problem.

July 04, 2006

(Some of) The Perils of Social Networking and Blogging

This post is somewhat prompted by a story I heard on the news yesterday, regarding MySpace and Faceparty (I think), as well as an article I read in New Scientist not long ago.

Firstly, people keep telling me that I should join Facebook, that all my friends are on their, that they want me online so they can add me as a friend, et c. Initially, my refusal was based on a dislike of social networking sites; additionally, I rarely update my blog, so the logic goes that I would probably update/look at Facebook even less.

Who Knows Who - Millions of social network users are vulnerable to online snoopingFaceparty, MySpace, et al. are now being targetted by paedophiles for grooming children, much in the way that chatrooms were used a few years ago. MSN and others eventually closed down, but with the meteoric rise (I love that cliché :) in membership on MySpace and others (see graphic, courtesy of New Scientist 2555, 10 June 2006), it is unlikely that the social networking sites will go the same way. It should be noted here, that I agree with The Register's stance on this; that, like any new technology, people will find ways to abuse it, and this doesn't mean it should be shut down. Indeed, it's through the (certainly naïve, and possibly even stupid) actions of the users that this is even made possible; check out for examples.

As I mentioned in a comment on Sarah's blog the New Scientist recently printed an article regarding the NSA's targetting of social networking sites for tracking terrorists, et c. This highlights social networking and the upcoming 'Semantic Web' or 'Web 2.0' as ways of linking people together. Through your friends on Facebook, you could be a terrorist.

In principle, the Semantic Web is a fantastic concept, and a genuinely useful evolution of the existing web, taking it one stage closer to Tim Berners–Lee's original vision for the Internet. It allows disparate sources of similar information to be linked together into a single place so that, for example, searching for a doctor would bring up contact details and opening times from the practice's website, and information from the NHS on the facilities provided. This is invaluable in many, many respects, but can also pose some security and privacy risks.

Institutions such as the NSA, for example, are able to use this technology, along with the links you make with your friends on MySpace, et c., to put together a complete profile of you. The example cited in New Scientist states that it is a series of relatively simple steps using these technologies to gather a list of your friends, and a whole host of more private information including your bank details. With this profile, they can then see how many "steps" you are away from knowing a terrorist (and this is all in the name of the War on Terror), where your money goes… Do I have to go on?

I admit this may be a small risk, but a risk it is still. And don't forget that because the information is public, anyone can read it. People have missed out on jobs because of comments posted about their lifestyle on their blog; religious groups have suspended members after admitting homosexuality online in a similar fashion.

As Jon Callas, Chief Security Officer of PGP (an encryption software developer), states in the New Scientist article,

"You should always assume anything you write online is stapled to your resumé".

I would go further. You should always assume anything you write online is being personally delivered into the hands of your parents, course tutors, the police, the government, and indeed anyone whom you may not wish to happen across the information. No, I'm not a privacy zealot (although I do greatly value my privacy), but this is what you should take into account when you do publish something. How many students have had a nasty surprise when their parents have read something not intended for them? You wouldn't publish your full credit card details online and not expect the information to be happened upon, surely?

Following on from this interesting little discourse, we get to the latter part of my comment on Sarah's blog entry; that of who is responsible for restricting access to information.

Primarily, blogs are public tools; that is to say, anything published on them is for public consumption. We Warwick students are in fact very lucky to be able to set access controls on our entries; this is not a standard feature on other packages by any means. Should other blogging websites, such as Blogspot, LiveJournal, et al., provide similar controls and thereby assume some of the responsibility for the privacy of their users? Or is it simply up to the individual user to publish as much information as they feel appropriate? Surely the blogging services have to provide some privacy for their users, under the terms of the various privacy legislation in force around the world, but how far can they go in this regard when the whole point of the service is to allow their users to publish anything they like?

The Automatic, UWSU 31 Oct 2006

Writing about web page

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