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24/5/2003: For Want Of A Title

This update requires some background information in astronomy to fully make sense. I apologize, but I’ll try to halfass it as much as possible to get through it quickly.

Finding ways to measure distance without being able to go to the things you’re measuring the distance between is a major problem that astronomers have to face. One of the ways they solve it is parallax. Parallax is basically looking at something from two different places, and using triangles and math and shit to calculate the distance.

[Yahtzee, I’m not sure of the html as it’s your site. Would you mind putting up the diagram1.gif here?]

[Certainly not, old chap. -YZ]

This works fine with things that are relatively close together, but as the objects get farther apart, the lines get closer and closer to being parallel, until you can’t measure them anymore.

[Sorry to bother you again, but can you put up diagram2.gif here, if it isn’t too much trouble?]

[Oh, I think I can just about manage it. Happy birthday to me, by the way. -YZ]

So, all you actually need to know is that you can't measure the distance of things that are very far away easily.


I had a midterm today in Astronomy 02 – Overview of the Universe. For an open book test, it was pretty hard, but it was still an open book test, so I kicked its ass. One of the questions involved a theoretical unknown planet about twice the distance from the sun than the earth. It was “Can this planet be used to measure the parallaxes of stars better than the earth?” Now, given the distances between our solar system and the nearest star (light years) and the distance between the earth and the imaginary planet, this is sort of like trying to throw a golf ball across the pacific ocean, failing, then stepping forward a foot and trying again hoping it will work, only with the golf ball replaced by a grand piano, the pacific ocean replaced by Jupiter, and yourself replaced with half an ant.

Questions this obvious piss me off, because the answer to them is always the same. Sentence one of the answer is a polite “No, because you can’t, dumbass.” Now, one sentence never seems like enough of an answer on an essay question, so you add sentence two and three, which are the same as sentence one only rephrased a bit. Sentence four is an example illustrating the simpleness of the question, and by this time you realize you just took four sentences to answer a question that was totally covered by “No, because you can’t, dumbass,” and you go to the next question, unless it’s the last one, which in my case it was, so I left. Anyway, this whole episode made me angry at obvious questions, which gave me an idea, which resulted in the following table.


Obvious Question Overly Detailed Answer
Can you make a spaceship out of crabs? A spaceship requires some sort of propulsion that works without having any ground to push off of, a life support system that can keep people alive in a vacuum, and sometimes the power to escape the earth’s gravity. Crabs can do none of these things.
Does listening to songs by The Cranberries regularly allow you to crap diamonds? Since your body’s waste all has to come from your food, it is mostly based on what you eat, and materials required for diamonds are rarely eaten. Sounds you hear have relatively little effect on your digestive tract, so it’s unlikely that it could change your digestion enough to turn what would normally be feces into diamonds. Also, diamonds are made by extreme heat and pressure that your body is incapable of generating.
Was George W. Bush legitimately elected president of the U.S.A? Shut up before I ram my elbow through your eye.

See, it’s funny because the election was obviously stupid, and I used hyperbole to draw attention to this.

23/5/2003: That Most Masked Of Monks

This week, as a sort of follow up to these articles about 100-question circular e-mails, I sort of wrote 100 Better Questions. See if you can tell where I started running out of ideas.

In other news, tomorrow's weekend update will be coming courtesy of our old friend MaskedMonk, who has written one or two guest updates in the past which I can't be arsed to go find. Yay!

22/5/2003: Twattysomething

So, it seems I am to turn twenty on Saturday, an occasion which will be marked with the eating of cake and the exchange of bits of decorated cardboard, as per usual. As of next week, I will no longer be a teenager. I will be a twentysomething, the demographic made famous in the shite American sit-com.

As I near the end of the part of my life in which my age rhymes with 'Halloween', I find myself looking back and reflecting on the two decades I have been taking up space on this poxy little planet. I look back and I find that I have spent quite a sizeable chunk of the intervening period between my birth and now as a bitter, hateful cynic, ranting at shadows from the top of my ivory tower. I see myself as this, and a tear of joy comes to my eye as I realise I've met nearly all my childhood expectations of myself at this time.

So, I've spent the last few years as the bitterest little lemon you ever did see, but that's nothing unusual. All teenagers are like that. And here's what's worrying me: All teenagers are like that, UNTIL THEY GROW OUT OF IT.

The notion strikes fear into my heart like Excalibur into the brains of rowdy peasants. What if I grow out of my bitterness, and become an ordinary, content member of society like everyone else? I don't want to, dammit! My spite... my spite is all I have. If I start thinking that maybe life isn't so bad after all, I'll have closed off my brain to hate, and war, and religious fundamentalism, and all the other stuff that makes this world crap. I'll be with everyone else, standing in the corner of the room with our fingers in our ears, singing loudly to ourselves while the ceiling collapses.

I don't know how it works. Maybe it's some kind of biological mechanism inside your brain that dulls your senses when you reach the age of 20. Maybe the evil government comes along and slaps a Conformity Bracelet on you. The point is, whatever it is, it's going to start soon for me.

How does it work? Is it a gradual decline or does it just happen, like when your voice breaks? Will I gradually come round to the idea that reality TV isn't such a bad idea? Or will I be standing on stage one day years from now ranting about airline food when suddenly the bitterness will disappear, leaving me standing with my mouth flapping impotently like a dead chicken nailed to a flagpole?

I know there are people who somehow avoid the Conformity Bracelets and spend their whole lives with their eyes wide open, seeing the cracks in society but unable to gain access to Polyfilla. I hope, I pray, that I will be one of these lucky ones, but I cannot know for sure. It creeps up on you, conformity. You can think of yourself as a non-conformist for years, but then after idly dressing one morning you catch yourself in the mirror and notice the Adidas logo on your T-shirt.

Happy birthday to me. I have lived another year without dying. Well, I suppose that may be something to celebrate if people weren't doing it all the time. You know, living another year without dying was already getting pretty old by the time I turned three.

Hm. The bitterness is still strong in me, it seems. But how long can that last?

I long ago decided that, on the day I realised I would never need another menial job, I would tattoo my forehead. I think I know what I'm going to put on it, now. Something I can look at every morning as I look at myself in the bathroom mirror.

21/5/2003: Pulp Friction

Ah, to have been born in the 19th century. How I would have been at home there, where music was still largely unmanufactured and the word 'internet' described only where panicky fish go. Of course, I'd probably have found myself cleaning chimneys from the age of four, but hey, I kinda like rock climbing, that could have been fun. Oh, and I'd probably have been constantly coughing up vital organs, what with all the industrial pollution and everything.

But to have been a writer! Ah, to have been a writer in the 19th century. 'Twas the Golden Age of pulp fiction. All the greats were on the go then. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, H. Ryder Haggard, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson, to name but a few. Back then, every single thing you wrote sparked off a new genre, because most things hadn't been invented yet.

Stare your way into my heart, H. G.!

But, looking back on the great works of that period with the cynical eye of a twentieth-century pretentious, I must say there are some criticisms about the great authors I wish to give. Far be it from me to say which bits of classical literature are crap, as it is illegal in most countries to criticise anything dead or older than 65, but these are just a few personal observations which you may or may not agree with. Let's go through by author.

1. Jules Verne

Together with Herbert George Wells, Verne is largely credited as the co-father of science fiction. But since most concepts of science fiction had never been thought of before, a lot of it had to be explained in great detail to the novel-reading public of Victorian England. Like, you all know what I'm talking about when I say 'time machine', but you try explaining the concept to people back then who couldn't even fathom vehicles that moved on their own. It'd be like explaining marmalade to chimpanzees. To a certain degree, such explanatory shit is fine, even vital.

Jules Verne, I think, took it a little bit too far. He took it too far in expense of the actual story. I read Journey to the Centre of the Earth, first; he spends an awful lot of time explaining the totally feasible science of hollow earth (ho ho), but the actual story is this: bunch of people go to centre of earth and find a big ocean there full of life. Then, failing even to actually have an encounter with any of the aforesaid life, they go back up again. AND THAT'S IT.

I gave up on 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea on page 2 of a ten million page description of how diving suits work. I admit one-and-a-half books isn't much to base an opinion on, so do please shout in my ear if I'm offending you completely. Please, I love it when people shout in my ear.

2. H. Ryder Haggard

If you don't know the name, you're probably familiar with the work: King Solomon's Mines. I read this quite recently, so it's quite fresh in my mind. On the whole it's a rollicking boy's adventure story, but a lot of things happen just a little bit too conveniently. Here are a few examples.


A: I'm off to King Solomon's Mines to find my lost brother!
B: As luck would have it, I'm the last man to see your brother alive!
A: Cool! Wanna come?
B: Okay!
A: Yay!


A: We're stuck in the desert, and we just ran out of water! I'm so thirsty, what do we do?
B: Hey look, there's some water!
A: Yay!
B: But wait! We have enough water, but we don't have any food!
A: Look, some melons!
B: Yay!


A: Look! A tribe of zulu natives!
B: Conveniently, I happen to speak their language!
NATIVE: Good day to thee, mysterious white people. Thou must come and show us thy amazing white people magic.
A: Why do they all speak in Shakespearean English?
B: Beats me!
ALL: Yay!


A: Well, that was all jolly good fun in the diamond mine and all that, but it's a shame we didn't find my lost brother!
B: Oh wait, there he is!
C: Hi, bruv!

3. H. G. Wells

Now, H. G. Wells is my favourite Victorian author. His ability to come up with new and interesting sci-fi concepts was unmatched in my opinion. I won't talk about "The First Men On The Moon", where men go to the moon and find a race of aliens and a load of tropical jungle. We can dismiss such blissful ignorance 'cos going to the moon in those days was about as realistic as going to the Dimension of Socks. What I want to talk about is The Invisible Man, and I'm not even going to criticise the actual text. I just want to address the character, and all the other 'invisible man' characters that followed in film and television:


I mean, doctors who can perfect an invisibility serum shouldn't really be less clever than one of the Three Amigos.

20/5/2003: Captain's Blog

I know that two of something can be a pair, or a duo, or a deuce, and three of something is a trio or a trice. I dunno what four of something is. Well, whatever it is, there's one of those of new Angular Mike strips over on the Angular Mike page. What're you still doing reading this? Go see! Go see!

Finished? Good, welcome back. Just one other itty bit of news for you today; if anyone finds that they are missing the rare treat that was Space Monkey, he's started up a blog elsewhere, possibly to spite me, but there I flatter myself. If the previous sentence caused you to sit bolt upright and scream "Space Monkey's blog? I am so there!" then I trust you'll click these words once you get your hands out of the strait jacket.*

*The Editor wishes it to be known that he did not intend to imply that people who like Space Monkey are basket cases. They are probably basket cases for entirely unrelated reasons.

19/5/2003: Grand Old Duke Of Nukem

SCENE 1: Alien mothership. A big one-eyed alien with huge teeth (the boss) is here, talking to a smaller alien (the lackey).

BOSS: Are the ground troops assembled?

LACKEY: Yes, my lord.

BOSS: All the pale little lizard things with the jetpacks that make noises like little puppies when you shoot them?


BOSS: The piggies with the mohawks?

LACKEY: Check.

BOSS: The little green fuckers that crawl up your leg and are about as strong as a soggy biscuit?

LACKEY: Those ones, yes.

BOSS: Excellent. And where is Duke Nukem?

LACKEY: We lured him into the strip bar on level two. He's been giving the strippers money to see the little two-frame jiggly breast animation for the last sixteen hours.

BOSS: Then all is ready for our hostile takeover of the Earth!

LACKEY: Er, not quite all, my lord.

BOSS: What?

LACKEY: Well, the quartermaster and the weapons distributors have expressed some difficulty.

BOSS: What sort of difficulty?

LACKEY: It seems that some rascally children broke into our armoury.

BOSS: What? Impossible! How could anyone get into the armoury when the key was safely lying unprotected on the floor two rooms away?!

LACKEY: They managed it somehow, sir. And they stole our entire inventory of guns, my lord.

BOSS: What the hell could a couple of rascally children do with our entire arsenal?

LACKEY: Well, that's what we thought, sir. They've just sort of left most of them scattered all over the floor everywhere.


LACKEY: And some of them they hid.

BOSS: Hid.

LACKEY: In cupboards, up trees, behind secret walls, they were really very inventive.

BOSS: I take it you have assigned some troops to finding them all again and putting them all back in the armoury?

LACKEY: Well, I do remember sending the order, but there seems to have been a breakdown in communication.

BOSS: What do you mean?

LACKEY: From what I can gather, when I sent the order to collect all our stolen weapons, they sort of misheard and thought I said "spread yourselves out over the entire planet and stand perfectly still doing bugger all".

BOSS: ...

LACKEY: Well, that's the best theory I can come up with for their behaviour, sir.

BOSS: Have there been any other breakdowns in communication?

LACKEY: Just two, sir. The first one was when I gave your order to form large platoons and attack Duke Nukem en masse, but somewhere along the line that became "stand perfectly still doing bugger all until Duke Nukem arrives, then move towards him in single file in apparently random directions, shooting at him once every few seconds".

BOSS: Oh god...

LACKEY: And the other one got cut off, sir. I was saying "When you capture Duke Nukem, put him in an electric chair", but the signal went down before I could add "and remember to strap him down so he can't just jump out whenever he wants".

BOSS: What are our casualties like?

LACKEY: I'd rather not say, sir, you may get depressed. Interesting thing, though; they all seem to have fallen over in exactly the same way.

BOSS: I can't handle this right now. If anyone wants me, I'll be in my room.

LACKEY: That would be the huge arena place full of weapons and health in the last level, sir?

BOSS: That's the one.

LACKEY: Righty-ho. I'll just stand here and look fierce.

BOSS: You do that.


Updates Archive

All material not otherwise credited by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw
Copyright 2002 All Rights Reserved and other legal bollock language