The all singing, all dancing blog of Alex Guite

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Atheism in a Christmas Stocking

Quite excellently and without a hint of irony I got a copy of The God Delusion by the famous atheist Richard Dawkins for Christmas. It was the top seller on in the run up to the festive season and is even running as the number ten Christmas bestseller in the USA. Also up there in the US top sellers, currently sitting comfortably at the top of the New York Times bestseller list, is Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama's recipie for a new America, The Audacity of Hope. It would be too easy to read too much into these lists, so I will a bit. At the very least, there has got be to some hope when people are finding books like these at the bottom of their Christmas stockings.

In other news, I'm back in Cardiff for the holidays and am stuck on my parent's 56K dial-up internet connection. Sometimes I disconnect and reconnect just to hear the dial-up. I'm making the most of this because stories about dial-up are our generation's equivalent of the "In my day computers took up entire rooms and birds sometimes nested in them" type stories or the "Man was sent to the moon on less processing power than your mobile phone" genre of tales that my parents tell me. Duing some future Christmas, I intend to bore my grand children with anecdotes about how I used to be able to make a cup of tea whilst a webpage loaded. If I get bored of being the token old guy in the corner, I might even scare them with tales about how some websites even used to use frames.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

News flash: flash mobbing comes to Imperial

Yesterday I had a pillow fight with people I'd never met before. And it was this: excellent. When I first heard about the plan to bring flash mobbing to Imperial on facebook my first reaction was "2005 just called, they want their popular internet phenomenon back". But a cursory glance over my blog reveals that this time last year I was too busy geeking out over my computational physics project for any acts of organised spontaneity, so I figured I'd give it a chance. Maybe it was just a slow news week, but even members of the student media also decided to give it a chance. Perhaps the most unexpected thing was that whilst it only lasted about five minutes, it was surprisingly tiring hitting people with pillows. As luck would have it though, I had a pillow with me for a cheeky rest.

Little known fact: according to Wikipedia, "pillow fights have existed for as long as there have been pillows". Fascinating.

I came across a tall tale on the BBC this week. When I was younger I was almost always the tallest kid in the class and this naturally gave me ideas above my station: at one point I thought I might actually become the tallest person in the world. What I hadn't realised was that if I had achieved this ambition it would have opened up a whole new line of work in animal rescue. Just this week for instance the world's tallest man was called in to save dolphins by extending his 1.06 metre arms in to their stomachs to remove dangerous plastic shards they had swallowed.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

erythromycin diaries

I'm pretty ill right now and in a bid for sympathy you should note that according to the doctor it's worse than man flu. I've got tonsillitis so bad I can barely even speak or eat, although I suspect it could be bird flu from the NUS penguins. I guess there must be some payback for leading Imperial back into the NUS...

Anyway, there's a limit to how much you can do when you can't speak (e.g. diplomacy) and can't eat (e.g. professional restaurant criticism). So in a break from lounging about in bed I decided to fill in an online questionnaire Oxfam had been bugging me about. Apparently it was my chance to help Oxfam get closer to its supporters to make a bigger impact in overcoming poverty and suffering. Not bad for twenty minutes online.

After some standard questions about demographics and my overall views of the charity sector it started to get down to the issues which concern me and my family(?). Are animal rights more important to me than the war in Iraq? How about global warming? Then some more questions about where I get information about these issues. And then this:

Huh? Have I seen any advertising for terrorism recently? WTF?
I guess that's what all those adverts with tag lines like "Terrorism... it's ace!" are all about...
It must be a legal mindfield for advertisers making these ads. Is advertising terrorism regulated in the same way as cigarettes? In that you can't make an advert to make people take up terrorism, only to change their brand of terrorism?