the pseudonymous exploits of wombat boy

Friday, December 31, 2004

Join Me 

I read the Danny Wallace book "Join Me" while in the UK for Xmas, and have kind of a mixed reaction to it. I like that kind of book - it's the same style as "Are You Dave Gorman?" (unsurprisingly as Danny co-wrote that), and is also like Tony Hawks' books "Around Ireland with a Fridge", "Beating the Moldovans at Tennis" etc. That means it's a whimsical and quite funny story of an epic quest started out for no good reason (a small bet/to honor the memory of a Swiss relative/out of boredom). In this case the quest is just to collect recruits for a totally unspecified cause, started when Danny places an advert saying "Join Me" in a newspaper. Once he has recruits he has to work out what to do with them, and eventually ends up getting them to perform "random acts of kindness" every Friday. So it's quite a positive story in the end, but it raises a lot of questions.

It seems lame that he takes credit for the "random acts of kindness" phrase - that definitely pre-dates Join Me, and I think was American in origin. And there was already a kindness movement telling people to do that.

I found it very hard to believe he wasn't in fact doing all this just so he could write a book about it, rather than "starting a cult by accident" as the book cover says. This is the same guy who co-wrote "Are You Dave Gorman?" after all, so he has a history of pursuing an eccentric quest and then making money writing a book about it.

He calls the people who join him "joinees". That's not right - a person who joins is a joiner. If anyone is a "joinee" it's Danny, since he's the one who's been joined. Yeah I know that's pedantic.

Still it's a funny book, and since the Join Me thing ended up being a cool philanthropic movement, I feel a little bad criticizing him. Read the book for yourself and see what you think.

Not as bad at whiteboard coding as I made out 

I should probably mention that I did in fact get offered the job where the interview involved coding on a whiteboard, and I took the job. I've been there over 4 months now and it is so much better than my last job working for a large evil company.

Although I find coding like that painful, I'm actually no worse at it than everyone else. I still wish programming interviews involved using an actual computer for coding, and ideally would involve the interviewer saying "I'm going to leave you alone for 20 minutes - see how much you can have working by the time I get back". Of course the danger would be that people would cheat like bandits while the interviewer was out of the room.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Cool video 

Gang banger dinosaur in the hiz-ouse.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

The Time-Traveler's Wife 

I bought the novel The Time-Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger because it's a time-travel love story, a genre I've always enjoyed (Groundhog Day, Replay, etc). In fact I like anything, be it movie or novel or TV show, that plays with the time dimension in an interesting way, or shows the same thing from different people's perspective. There are some great episodes of the British TV shows Coupling and Red Dwarf that do this for instance. The trouble with being a connoisseur of this kind of thing is that it raises the bar for anything new in the field that I read or watch. In particular I kept comparing this novel with F.M. Busby's beautiful 1974 short story If This is Winnetka, You Must Be Judy". It's a pretty damning comparison - The Time Traveler's Wife takes over 500 pages of repetitive, sentimental and basically unedited prose to tell a story that F.M. Busby tells in 40 pages. I also think that if you have a character who physically travels in time, (actually moves his body from one place to another, rather than just jumping along his own life line), you need an explanation beyond something being vaguely wrong with his DNA. That's like my car developing the ability to teleport because of a manufacturing fault. And The Time Traveler's Wife is so long that almost the whole of the last 300 pages is stuff that has been pretty conclusively given away by the looped time line. I say hunt down a copy of F.M. Busby's perfect short story (it's been published as a slim volume, and is in a lot of science fiction anthologies) and make the comparison for yourself.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004


Yes! A wombat is the top picture on Yahoo news right now.
They are even cuter when they grow some fur.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Post Traumatic Bitchiness Disorder 

Many years ago I was mugged by a gang in the street in broad daylight. Although I ended up with some bruises, I wasn't seriously hurt, and insurance covered the stuff that was stolen. The main after-effect was a general bad attitude. I felt hostile and paranoid, specially towards anybody who looked like the people responsible. I didn't feel entirely rational or fair minded. If I'd been in control of the local police force I would have organized house to house searches of the area, and authorized my cops to do whatever the hell they wanted to suspects. Those feelings only lasted for a few weeks, and eventually I was back to my cheerful self, but I've never forgotten how crazy and hostile I felt for that short time.

So what am I getting at? America was mugged on September 11th, 2001. The after-effects have been hostility and paranoia. So far these effects show no sign of going away. For instance, Journalists from friendly countries, countries whose tourists do not need visas, get stopped at the airport and treated like terrorists and then deported if they don't have a special "Journalist Visa". A guy who silently protested outside his local army recruitment office by standing there dressed like an Iraqi from one of the infamous abuse pictures was arrested. And we are still fighting a war in Iraq that can only be explained as irrational hostility towards people who happen to look like the 911 attackers.

This has to stop. It's time to get the fuck over the 911 attack and restore life to normal.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Funniest Thing Ever 

Trust me. You have to see these two cats.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Fake News Addiction 

Everyone knows about The Daily Show, and their comedy news format is really great. I like the opposite kind of comedy news show too though - the "fake news show", where they parody real issues by covering imaginary news stories that go a step or two further than reality. Examples from the past would be "The Day Today" and "Brass Eye", both British shows from the 90s created by Chris Morris.

The best fake news show right now is the Australian show CNNNN which is a wonderful style parody of CNN. Unfortunately if you don't live in Australia it's only available by downloading some bad quality MPEGs from dodgy Bit Torrent sites. I wish Comedy Central would pick it up.

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