Wednesday, 31 May 2006

Buck Rogers, Your Service is Calling

How to tell if you have way too much free time on your hands.

Ten Things You Can Do to Save the Planet

At last, practical tips!

Home-Grown Terrorists

Meanwhile, Germany has its own problems as Der Spiegel reports,

SPIEGEL ONLINE has learned that German intelligence agencies have prevented three German women from travelling to Iraq in recent weeks. The women, who have close contacts to the Islamist scene in Germany and at least one whom has converted to Islam, came to the attention of intelligence agencies after one of them had announced on an Internet site that she intended to blow herself and her child up in Iraq.

There was a thankful lull since a Belgian woman self-detonated in Iraq last year, but it looks as though the Islamofascists haven't given up on recruiting Europeans to turn traitor. Worse, at least one was keen to take her child along to martyrdom as well.

This is turning very ugly.

Flaming "Youth"

A second night of French "youths" rioting and setting cars alight.

Note that the BBC carefully avoids the dreaded "M" word.

Update: In further French developments, Tim Blair quotes this piece from the Times,

In another sign of continuing racial tension, the Government also ordered an inquiry into an anti-Semitic black group that staged an aggressive march through the Jewish quarter of the capital.
Is it 2006 or 1939? I'm having trouble keeping it straight.

Be Careful What You Clip

Michael Moore seems to have made a very expensive mistake. According to the New York Post,

A double-amputee Iraq-war vet is suing Michael Moore for $85 million, claiming the portly peacenik recycled an old interview and used it out of context to make him appear anti-war in "Fahrenheit 9/11."

According to the article, Sgt. Peter Damon's quotes in which he expressed criticism of the war effort were actually taken from an NBC interview in which he was talking about the pain he suffered after losing both arms when a Black Hawk helicopter exploded in front of him.

Ken Loach is not an isolated incident.

Tip o' the hat to Instapundit.

Bunk Beds from Beyond

As if timeshares weren't bad enough.

Palm d'Merde

When I was a boy I was raised on a steady diet of films that extolled the virtues and sacrifices of British servicemen. Zulu, Khartoum, Dambusters, The Battle of the River Plate, Battle of Britain, The Great Escape, Waterloo; these movies highlighted the professionalism, duty, humour, truculence, and humanity of Britons in the service of Monarch and Country that have done so much to spread and protect civilisation in this sorry world.

We don't see films like that anymore. Instead, the likes of Ken Loach make cowardly little barbs that win the Palm d'Or at Cannes by toeing the party line in depicting the British under arms as blood-thirsty beasts and imply that those who serve today are no better than their brutish forefathers.

Surely we deserve better.


Another parcel from Britain arrived yesterday. This time it was last year's BBC production of Casanova, the biography of the notorious 18th century rake and conman, starring David Tennant and Peter O'Toole in the title role. Not simultaneously, of course; O'Toole was playing the more senior version.

I'm not generally partial to bodice-rippers, but my wife has a David Tennant obsession at the moment (Must be the haircut. I may be in trouble in a couple of weeks.), so I was pretty much along for the ride. Still, it was of some interest to me, as I'd read Casanova's memoirs some years ago and it's always fun being able to anticipate what's going to happen next, but there were still quite a few surprises, as it isn't easy boiling down twelve volumes of racy autobiography into three hours of television-- especially of the avant garde type. This is not a production notable for solid dialogue and close attention to period. In fact, it is very much of a likeness to the unfortunate trend these days to jettison everything and play fast and loose with period until one must accept that the story is not about the 18th century, but rather the 21st in fancy dress.

Clearly Casanova was meant to be something of a phantasm with bits of allegory woven in and suggests that it is less biography than an excuse for weaving a tale that our rather strait-laced, yet decadent times could never carry. For one thing, the characters never age despite a storyline that covers some twenty-five years. Costumes and hairstyles are more suited to the '80s than the 18th century and the colours used are more suited to Studio 54 than the Venetian Republic while the musical score is pure synth. Also, the cast includes an improbable number of black actors (Why no East Indian or Chinese?) and everyone mouths anachronistic dialogue in accents that suggest that the days of proper English are dead and gone.

Russell Davies does an excellent job with the script, which is not surprising, as Casanova is definitely his element. Davies is a brilliant writer, but the topic of sex seems to be his base and he is never very comfortable when he strays away from it. This is evident in the new series of Doctor Who, where he has scored a deserved triumph, but he somehow has trouble grasping the idea of the Doctor as an avuncular character who simply may not possess a sexual interest in his companions. Davies is much more in his element here, as he was with Queer as Folks and Couplings. In his hands, Casanova's story becomes less of a sex romp (which it pretty much is for the first two episodes) and more of an examination of how far one can carry the lifestyle of a free and easy libertine before it turns into something very nasty that literally breeds evil. This is hammered home quite effectively in the last episode when the story turns dark and the allegory a bit heavy as Casanova's bastard son turns out to be his homonculous, but did we really need Vesuvius to make the point?

The acting in Casanova is first-rate. David Tennant is perfect as the young Casanova; wenching and conning his way through life (The scene where his confession of his sexual escapades gives the priest a heart attack is priceless), and the often under-used Peter O'Toole as the old and spent Casanova was inspired. It was a relief that his part had some real meat to it rather than being a mere framing device. Rose Byrne holds her own well against O'Toole and Nina Sosanya's Bellino makes a fascinating transition from seductive to repellently decadent, but Laura Fraser's estuary accent is more distracting than defining and her character is never wholely believable as the life-long love of Casanova, though Shaun Parkes fits his part of Rocco so well that one suspects that it was written for him.

One thing that struck me is how much of Casanova in look and feel resembles the new series of Doctor Who. Not surprising, really with Davies and so many actors from the former going on to the later. But this gives me an idea. One game that is popular these days is for fans of Doctor Who is to take old episodes of the show and put together Next Time trailers for them in the style of the new series. Well, I figure, what with Tennant being the current Doctor, it might be a bit of a wheeze to do the same for Casanova by using a suitably bawdy collection of scenes, add in a judicious cut of Billie Piper, and then post it on the Web as one of this season's upcoming episodes. Then it would be just a matter of waiting for the heart attacks to roll in.

I think the original Casanova would have approved.

Not the Casanova Next Time trailer

Tuesday, 30 May 2006

When Worlds Collide

Out of the Netherlands comes this bizarre item,
Amsterdam, Netherlands (AHN)-Sparking widespread outrage, Dutch pedophiles are launching a political party to push for a cut in the legal age for sexual relations from 16 to 12 and the legalization of child pornography and sex with animals.

In one small country you have Islamofascists trying at knife-point to make sharia the law of the land and sexual deviants demanding legalisation of practices that would give Claigula pause. When these lots collide, matter and anti-matter won't even be in it.

Update: I love this bit: Part of their manifesto is "Free train travel for all."

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

French "youths" are rampaging again in the suburbs of Paris. At Montfermeil near Clichy-sous-Bois (epicentre of last year's Muslim riots), a three-hour battle raged between police and some 100 "youths" armed with baseball bats and petrol bombs that left nine officers injured.

Brace yourself, because here we go again.

Horror Story

Night Stalker (not the original and infinitely superior Darren McGavin series) will be repeated on the Sci Fi Channel and is coming out in a DVD set that includes four unaired episodes.

Something tells me that this is one monster Kolchak missed driving a stake through the heart of.

Dirty Work on the Museum Front

He was literally as rich as Croesus-- until they nabbed him.

Cutting to the Nuclear Chase

Nuclear scientists, who seem to have some time on their hands, have been scratching their heads over how to write warning signs around nuclear waste sites so that they will be intelligible to people in the future after our civilisation has collapsed.

If this is a concern, might we humbly suggest that the best way to solve the problem is to help ensure that our civilisation does not collapse?

Now Can I Question their Patriotism?

A group of anti-war protestors in Olympia, Washington were repelled with pepper spray after they tried to force their way into the Port of Olympia in an effort to interrupt shipments of Army equipment to Iraq. One "protestor" said,
It burned. I couldn't open my eyes for 20 minutes. My face is burning . I dunked my face in water and in Puget Sound.
Evidently Puget Sound contains something other than water.

By their own admission the "activists'" intentions were more than symbolic. According to the AP,
Activists began watching for a military ship more than a week ago after learning that Stryker vehicles and other Army gear from the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a 4,000-soldier unit stationed at Fort Lewis, was being shipped to Iraq through the port.
When anti-war types indulge in this sort of activity, it seems as though they have lost all bearings in reality. Either that or there is more to the slogan "They're not anti-war, they're just on the other side" than glibness. It is one thing to mount a protest against the war effort, but it is another thing entirely to directly interfere with military operations. In a more enlightened time, they'd have been arrested, charged with sabotage and aiding and abetting the enemy, and faced very serious stretches in a federal prison.

Maybe they should count themselves lucky that all they came away with was a face full of tear gas.

Update: Gateway Pundit has photos and video.

Monday, 29 May 2006

Moonbase 3: Six of the Best

"My God, the Moon is made of cardboard!"

Over the bank holiday weekend I accomplished two things. First, I caught a filthy cold from my three-year old daughter that made me feel like I hadn't bathed for a hot summer week even though I'd just stepped out of the shower. Second, I finally got to watch Moonbase 3.

Never heard of it? That isn't surprising. Moonbase 3 was one of those series that everyone in science fiction circles knows about, but no one could ever recall seeing. Certainly I missed it when it first (and only) aired in 1973. Produced by the BBC, it was dismissed by the public as a Doctor Who retread and lasted for only one season of six episodes. After that, it vanished into the BBC archives where its tapes were eventually erased as part of the Great BBC Purge and for twenty years was assumed lost except for a few production photos and some odd scraps of audio. Then a copy of the entire series was discovered in NTSC format in Canada after some episodes started airing on the Sci Fi Channel in 1993.

A couple of weeks ago I discovered that Moonbase 3 was available on video. Faster than you can say "hopeless geek" I ordered a copy from back home in Britain and last Friday I ran through all six episodes in a marathon sitting— though this was due to taking advantage to my trhee-year old daughter Emma going to sleep at her proper bedtime more than anything else.

Set in the far-off future of 2003, Moonbase 3 tells the story of Europe's under-funded outpost on the Earth’s satellite and the adventures of its overworked, overstressed staff—especially its new director, Dr. David Caulder (Donald Houston) who, in the first episode, tells his multi-national lieutenants (including Alan Bates as a thoroughly detestable Frenchman) that in the harsh lunar environment "we must love one another or we will die."

To the untutored eye of the modern audience, Moonbase 3 is very easy to dismiss as cheap rubbish, which only goes to prove that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cardboard sets. True, the show was done on a shoestring budget, the miniatures were obviously miniatures, the production was completely studio bound, and the camera work was all done on primitive videotape that made everything look over-lit and flat, but the same could be said of I Claudius or any of the other masterpieces of what has been called British television’s Golden Age.

Some might, and do, cite Moonbase 3's talky scripts and long scenes that were obviously shot in one take as a fault, but that’s only if one overlooks that the real strength of Moonbase 3 and other British production of the time was their remarkable ability to overcome low production values with strong, character-driven scripts written by people who obviously had a command and love of the English language and performed by actors of stellar calibre. Moonbase 3 may have had tiny sets and the lunar surface might have been obviously built of cardboard on an under-surface of plywood, but the stories were aimed at an adult (and I don’t mean in the modern definition of “adult” as teenage) audience with such themes as sexual frustration, primal fear, academic fraud, and even the inevitability of death and despite the bizarre setting everyone in front of the camera took his or her role dead serious. I for one find this trade off much better than the modern idea that pretty faces without talent, cheap camera tricks, and loads of silly edits are a substitute for proper story telling.

Another thing that gave the show a boost was that even though it had one episode that dealt with a Moon monster, the makers were determined to stay strictly within the boundaries of known science and strove for such technical accuracy by bringing science writer James Burke onboard that this was one of the last science fiction programmes to try for a realistic prediction of the future. This shows not only in the realism of the plots, but also in little things like the spacesuits being streamlined versions of the ones used by NASA, the use of actual space mission radio chatter as the basis for dialogue, and even the way the shipboard computer on the Moon shuttle used “verb” and “noun” commands, which was unique to the Apollo flight computer.

That being said, Moonbase 3 was about as accurate in describing the 21st century as most other predictions of Future Past—which is to say not very. Aside from the assumption that in 2003 men would be running around in ill-fitting lapel-less jackets in loud primary colours, women would wear strange bib and braces things and too much make up, or that space colony canteens would be decorated in patterns that were certain to induce seizures in the susceptible, the writers had a faith in management psychology as practiced by Dr. Helen Smith (Fiona Gaunt) that is almost touching and apparently in 2003 computer displays would be streets behind Ceefax.

Then there was the remarkable optimism about the progress of manned spaceflight. Moon rockets looked decades beyond anything we have today and despite being perpetually strapped for cash and always being put down by its staff as being a very cheap-jack affair, Moonbase 3 had over a hundred people manning it and was one of five colonies; the others being run by the Americans, Soviets, Chinese, and Brazilians.

Brazilians? Remember, this was made during the 1970s. Back then, the Soviets were regarded as the probable dominant power on Earth and Brazil was seen in some circles as an emerging world power; just as it made sense to think of a European Moon colony in the days before the promise of the Common Market became the dead hand of the European Union.

Where Moonbase 3 fell down, however, was in its setting. The later Space: 1999 was able to spin stories by introducing aliens, space warps, mutants, killer computers, and homicidal bath foam, but Moonbase 3's adherence to hard science meant that the writers were left with—the Moon. This is a very exotic landscape, I’ll grant you, but it’s also literally dead. It may be a cool thing to be the first man on, but at the end of the day all you’ve got to work with is dust, rocks, hard vacuum, and nasty temperature extremes. Unless you bring in Selenites or Mysterons, you’re going to run out of plots pretty fast. Terrence Dicks, one of the creators and script editor, admitted this, saying,

The trouble was we built a too restrictive format for ourselves. I think we got some very good scripts, but somebody said they were stories that could have taken place in a lighthouse or in a submarine or in a deserted fort in the desert, anywhere where people are isolated in a harsh environment.

Perhaps it's just as well that Moonbase 3 ended after six episodes. At least we got six of the best that way—and the sight of Michael Gough chewing the scenery mightily in his portrayal of a futuristic Bertrand Russell on acid.

That alone is worth the price of admission.


Last year I was laid up with double pneumonia for six weeks and if it hadn't been for telecommuting from my bed I'd have lost one very important contract. Taking things a step further, the PEBBLES project (Providing Education By Bringing Learning Environments to Students) in New York state have are helping hospitalised children keep up with their studies by using robot surrogates to attend classes.

Now if they could just develop an office model that can be delivered by taxi, I'd never have to change out of my pyjamas again.

Happy Birthday

It's been 85 years since the robot was invented-- at least, since the word "robot" was coined.

Memorial Day

It's Memorial Day in the United States, so we're taking a moment to thank the Coalition and the United States armed forces in particular for their hard work and sacrifice.

It's become all too acceptable today to swallow the line of the defeatists and look upon our soldiers as victims, thugs, or dupes, but when all the propaganda and selective reporting is washed away, these men and women are the line that stands between our living in a liberal democracy and enslavement under the likes of these:

Update: Christopher Hitchens presents his take on the problems of memorials.

Update: Ben Stein adds some perspective.

Sunday, 28 May 2006

Deserting the Truth

Is the Iraq campaign causing British troops to desert in record numbers? The BBC implies yes, but USS Neverdock shows that they are being a bit economical with the truth.

Meanwhile, Biased BBC looks at the Beeb's stealth-edits of the story.

Friday, 26 May 2006

Moonbase 3

Weekend viewing: Moonbase 3

Felix Leiter and Bill Tanner are Dead

Early reports MI6 indicate that the 22nd Bond film will be written by Tom Stoppard and directed by Roger Mitchell, who helmed Notting Hill.

So it's going to be 007 meets existential musing in Curtisland. That should make a change.

Fight the Future!

Down with digital! Stop progress in its tracks and cut your own vinyl.

Changing of the Guard

A favourite barb of the far-left is that the war against the Islamofascists is a bust because we still haven't got Osama Bin Laden in a cell. But according to Hillel Fradkin writing in the latest issue of the Weekly Standard, that may not matter, because Bin Laden is yesterday's man. His successor? That master UN hypnotist, enriched-uranium choreographer, and spokesman for the 12th imam, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran. According to Mr. Fradkin,

The Muslim world, for its part, is rich with the opportunities created by great longing, great resentment, and great anger. Those longings (for a more glorious role for Islam) and those resentments (over the fallen estate of Islam) have been brewing for a long time. For those in the Muslim world moved by these sentiments, the attacks of September 11, 2001, offered the satisfaction of a victory and produced admiration for Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda.

But Osama also promised further victories, that this was the beginning, not the end, of the new Islamic jihad. And in this he has not been successful, presumably because of the vigor of American and allied attacks on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Even in Iraq, where al Qaeda under the direction of Abu Musab al Zarqawi keeps up the battle, it has not yet achieved its aim of driving American forces out and may not. Moreover, its engagement in Iraq has had liabilities for al Qaeda, which were the substance of al-Zawahiri's letter of last summer. Al Qaeda as such may be in decline.

In these circumstances, Ahmadinejad has attempted to step into bin Laden's place as the leader of the radical Islamic movement, as the man with the will and capacity to challenge and threaten the United States. Ahmadinejad has already enjoyed some success in parts of the Muslim world. This has been accompanied by the resurgence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and especially Palestine, where Hamas won control of the Palestinian Authority. This has permitted him to assert, as he does in his letter, that the forces of radical Islam--or, as he would have it, simply Islam--are on a roll. Ahmadinejad has bent every effort to support and join forces with Hamas and may well succeed. And, as always, he has Hezbollah in Lebanon at his disposal.

From all these developments, the radical movement has gained renewed confidence in the claim, first put forward by Osama bin Laden, that its adversaries, principally the United States, do not have the stomach for a long fight, or even a short one. Islam's enemies can and will be pushed back and defeated by radical forces, because the latter, unlike their enemies, do not fear death and even welcome it. They can even, as Ahmadinejad recently said, accept the possibility of nuclear war as a necessity of the struggle. Altogether the spirits of the radical Islamic movement are high, and Ahmadinejad is the most powerful voice of that spirit.

In other words, Ahmadinejad may be playing Stalin to Bin Laden's Hitler. In which case, we are in for a very hard road unless we do something very, very soon.

Victory at Last

Rejoice, for the Spanish American War is no more. After 108 years, the United States has finally prevailed and to commemorate this historic event, the three-percent federal excise tax on long-distance phone calls used to finance the campaign has been repealed.

Now if only Her Majesty's Armed Forces could defeat Napoleon, we could get rid of this $#*&ing income tax!

Left in a Lurch by a Lift

The idea of replacing rockets with a space elevator as a way of getting into orbit has been around since Konstantin Tsiolkovsky proposed building a "celestial castle" in 1895. This idea has had something of a vogue in recent years as chaps like Bradley Edwards have claimed that building such a cosmic lift is not only possible, but feasible or even practical by using super-strong carbon nanotubes for the 100,000-kilometre-long cable needed for the Earth/orbit link.

Now comes something of a wet blanket in the form of Nicola Pugno of the Polytechnic of Turin, Italy, whose recent studies declare that even though nanotubes are jolly tough, any attempt at scaling them up results in an unavoidable tendency to weaken by as much as seventy percent.

Plan B: Stairway to Heaven.

A Tearing Appeal

Please, please, give generously.


After an anxious week of waiting, my copy of the Moonbase 3 DVD arrived from Britain. I'd only known the series by reputation and until recently I'd thought the tapes were lost in the Great BBC Purge, so I couldn't wait to pop the first disk into the player. Naturally, this meant that the wife and I ended up watching Capote on the cable instead.

I must admit that I found Capote a very well-made film. Translated, that means that the cinematography was painfully self-conscious, the direction had "Look at me! I'm an artist!" written across it in bold letters, and I couldn't follow the plot or dialogue for five minutes without expending a lot of needless concentration. This is a pity, as the story of Truman Capote's writing of In Cold Blood is a fascinating episode of human depravity being exploited by egotism that wouldn't be seen again until the latest series of Big Brother. Still, Philip Seymour Hoffman certainly deserved his Oscar for his portrayal of Capote, which was completely believable even though he looks nothing like the little twerp, and I was tremendously impressed by the searing heteroerotic subtext that the permeates the film.

Now You See It...

Life imitates Star Trek as scientists in the United States and Britain claim that they are within eighteen months of unveiling a demonstration model of a "cloaking device" that bends radar and light rays around it, rendering it invisible.

They'd already produced a working model a couple of weeks ago, but now they can't find the blasted thing.

But Don't Question His Patriotism

George Galloway, the 21st century's answer to Sir Oswald Mosley, has proven that there are no depths that he will not sink to by stating, and confirming, that he believes that assassinating the Prime Minister Tony Blair would be morally justified. He also says that if he knew of a plot to kill Mr. Blair he'd inform the authorities, but only because such an assassination would be "counter-productive" and "would probably strengthen the resolve of the British and American services in Iraq rather than weaken it."

This is a man you want to stand well up-wind of.

Thursday, 25 May 2006

Film (1885-2006)

Canon has announced that it is stopping development on all new film cameras in favour of digital models.

Looks like film has had its chips.

(Boo! Bad Pun!)

Sci Fi Channel Smack-Down

I'm not kidding, The Sci Fi Channel is going to be airing professional wrestling.

This is less shocking than a dismal confirmation that Sci Fi, once an oasis in the cable desert, has forgotten what the deuce "sci-fi" actually is. I was willing to turn a blind eye to slasher films that hadn't so much as the pretence of a fantasy element, I could forgive "reality" shows about fake mediums and ghost hunters, and I was even willing to overlook the airing of such "science fiction" classics as
Braveheart and Apollo 13, but WWE wrestling?!? Doubtless Sci Fi's next coup will be a revival of The Odd Couple.

Thank God for the CBC, DVDs, and the Internet, so I'm not dependent on the vagaries of the Sci Fi Channel for my weekly dose of Doctor Who.

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

Let's Hope They're Not Free Range

It might be a good idea to give the countryside a miss for the time being. As if wild boar on the loose weren't bad enough, now a farmer in East Anglia is planning to start Britain's first crocodile farm.

That should make agricultural fairs more lively.

Moon Mining

David Beaty, associate Chief Scientist for NASA's Mars programme, has some sobering advice for would-be lunar colonists. While he says that any future Moon settlement will have to "live off the land" to be a success, he points out that the raw materials aren't exactly lying on the surface waiting to be scooped up and some, like water ice, might not exist at all.

Good points, but I still say that lunar mining isn't going to go much of anywhere so long as the miners have to lumber around in one of these.

Landlocked by History

The recent independence vote by Montenegro has not only put paid to the late, unlamented Yugoslavia, it has also made Serbia share with Austria the dubious honour of being a former naval power without access to the sea (Those of a certain age may recall watching The Sound of Music and being confused by Captain Von Trapp's reputation as Austria's greatest submariner).

Perhaps now Serbian admirals can enjoy the same comparisons as their Swiss counterparts in a brothel and a Hoover.

Stranded Web Site

What is worse: having a double hard-drive crash or having double pneumonia? If you've ever tried maintaining a web site you know that a couple of lungs filled with fluid is much easier to handle.

I should know. Last August through September I was bed-ridden for six weeks with enough anti-biotics, codeine, and muscle relaxants to choke a horse-- if it's possible to choke a horse in that fashion, which I doubt. Even though I spent most of my days passing in and out of consciousness until many parts of the flat became but a distant memory to me, I still had the laptop and a wireless connection, so despite being too weak to get a cup of tea I could still get on line and bang out the occasional column. Mind you, most of the copy read like something written in a fevered delirium-- which it was, but I could still post, and that's the whole point.

On the other hand, if the hardware suddenly decides to pack up, you're pretty much shot back into the stone age without a return ticket. That's pretty much what happened to me.

The first harbinger of doom was when my PDA suddenly died on me while I was changing the batteries. One moment it was an aging but respectable Handspring with a low-battery alert and the next it was an inert tile of plastic off to the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns.

No problem, I thought. I'd had that PDA since 2001 and it was due for replacement. It's all on the back up, anyway. I'll just have to rely on that until I can scrape together the dosh for a new one.

Fool that I didn't recognise an omen when I saw one.

Anyway, on the day that will forever be known as Black Friday the laptop died. I don't mean quietly sickened and passed from this world with grace and dignity. I mean that it popped its clogs. One moment it was working fine, the next it went into a restart cycle from which it never recovered and I was faced with a black screen with a blinking cursor. A call to tech support the next day ended with the bad news that my hard drive was fried and I'd need a replacement.

That was annoying, but not especially tragic. It was still under warranty, so I got the replacement for free (with an extra ten gig, which was a nice bonus) and most everything was backed up on the PC, so it just meant I was going to be a bit behind schedule. The only annoying thing was going through the back up for the web site files and making sure they were properly updated.

So, how did that go? I'm glad you asked. Does the word nightmare ring a bell? Three days after I got the PC, the oldest of Zen's components, back online as the primary and started sorting out the web files, a funny thing happened. It suddenly went into a restart cycle from which it never recovered and I was faced with a blank screen with a blinking cursor. Whatever worm, virus, or gremlin that had done for my laptop had got into the PC as well. Only this time the machine in question had been out of warranty since some time around the Battle of Omdurman. Worse, since this was the backup computer, I had, as the name implies, lost the backups. That meant not only the web files, but my e-mail files, addresses, to do lists, and a file full of images that I'd been saving for new site updates.

In the space of less than two weeks Zen's total capacity was all but wiped out.

The only ray of hope in all of this is that I am an utterly paranoid geek who looks upon fluffy kittens with deep suspicion of ulterior motives. I also have far more files than a laptop or an antiquated PC can handle, so I have an external hard drive hooked into the network for archival duties. This meant that all my audio and most of my image files were safe, but I hadn't done a full archival backup for five months, so for me it was now January 2006 all over again-- at least, it would be if I'd had a computer to access external drive, which I didn't.

So, there was nothing to do except sit back and wait for the replacement drive to show up, do the installation, and then go through all the exciting tedium of reinstalling Windows and hunting up old software disks.

At least I got a chance to catch up on my reading.

Naturally, none of this occurred during a slow news cycle. Of course not. The world started hurling material at me. Local council elections, Tory resurgence, cabinet scandals, the Iranian president's bizarre letter, Moussaoui's conviction and dodging the death penalty, The Da Vinci Code opening, the new Iraqi government, a bear running lose in Seattle at the same time another one showed up in Germany for the first time in 150 years (Coincidence? I don't think so.), Ayaan Hirsi Ali's flight from the Netherlands, and getting a chance to see the new Doctor Who episodes. It just wasn't fair. So much to rant about and no way to do so.

Worse, the backup source files for the site were gone the way of all good files. I now had to figure out some way to get the files off the server and rebuild the site in the editor-- and I couldn't even post an Ephemeral Isle column without the risk of deleting the entire site until I finished the job.

Joy unbound.

Fortunately, I found a way to avoid shutting down the column. By using Blogger I've been able to set up an alternative way of posting and I was able to go directly to ftp server to set up a redirect page (a bit like doing brain surgery through the earhole) to send people here. There's still some tweaking to be done, but at least the world can breathe a sigh that it no longer has to go on without my unsolicited ramblings.


Damn! That's another thing I missed!

Tuesday, 23 May 2006

Welcome Back

Ephemeral Isle has been away for a few weeks. Sorry about that. On the 5th of May my laptop had a catastrophic hard drive failure and a few days later the PC suffered exactly the same fate. The upshot of this is that both the primary and most of the back up files for the web site have been destroyed. Fortunately, they still exist on the server, so I am slowly but surely rebuilding the sources files for the editor. Trouble is, my uploading programme is an all or nothing affair, so I couldn't update EI without deleting the entire site. To prevent this, I've gone over to the dark side and signed up with Blogger so I can continue posting through the back door.

Special note:

To everyone who has e-mailed their concern, thank you. I really appreciate the support. Also, if you e-mailed me before early this month and I haven't answered you, I give my sincere apologies. When the computers went, so did my e-mail.