Friday, January 07, 2011

A little update to give some context to the following post(s)

I am not a very committed blogger. Sometimes I think of something interesting to write about, but am not near a computer, or I’m too busy with other things to get around to it. Then when I finally do make time, I find that the original inspiration is long gone. I have a couple of unfinished, unpublished posts from way back that will probably never see the light of day, but nothing post-worthy for over a year now.
That’s not to say that nothing has happened, quite the contrary. Since the last post, there have been some fairly exciting changes in my life, not least of which was moving to France for a 9-month work placement, which is fast approaching the halfway mark. Quite apart from the lack of free time that is an unfortunate feature of gainful employment, the first three months were spent in an internet-free flat. Not the most conducive environment for blogging.
However. I have recently enjoyed reading Le Franco Phoney, by a fellow immigrant to this same corner of France, concerning her observations on French life. It’s brought my attention back to my own, neglected blog and so I plan to put a little time into occasional updates from now on, as the mood strikes me.

P.S. I just realised it’s the start of a new year in the popular Gregorian Calendar, and I haven’t made any resolutions, so this might as well be my new year’s resolution for 2011. Enough navel-gazing, on with the show!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


Conservation of Ninjutsu
The first law of ninjadynamics, an expression of the principle of conservation of ninjutsu, states that martial arts skill may only be transferred from one fighter to another. It cannot be created or destroyed.

Thus in a martial arts fight, the total amount of skill available is a constant. This statement is known as the Inverse Ninja Law or The Shinobi Law of Numbers.

Additionally, ninjas can obtain greater power by destroying other ninjas. A ninja usually reaches its peak skill when it defeats its former master.
Although the cyborg had slaughtered most of the attacking ninja army, the law of Conservation of Ninjutsu meant that the last few were very powerful and soon reduced it to a sparking heap of metal.
The Inverse Ninja Law
According to the principle of conservation of ninjutsu, the threat posed by any given ninja (or other hand-to-hand combat expert) in any marital arts fight is inversely proportional to the total number of ninjas involved in the fight. This phenomenon is known as the Inverse Ninja Law or The Shinobi Law of Numbers.
Where: T=Threat; N=number of ninjas.

In real terms, it means that a lone ninja is an unstoppable force that can kill an infinite number of (for example) Stormtroopers before they become aware of his/her presence. On the other hand, ninjas in a large group are ineffective and can be slaughtered by a single well-armed hero. As the ninjas are killed off, the number of active ninjas in the fight reduces and the threat posed by each individual increases.

It is important to note that when a ninja dies, not all of their skill becomes available to the other fighters, some is always rejected into the surrounding environment as waste ninjutsu, meaning that the last ninja standing never reaches full power. Hence the net useful threat of a group of ninjas will always be less than that of a single ninja, and in a ninja-vs-ninjas confrontation, the lone ninja will always win.
The good ninja was fighting over a hundred highly-trained evil ninjas, but the Inverse Ninja Law meant that he was barely scratched as their bodies piled up around him.
The Ninja's Handicap Corollary
The Ninja's handicap corollary is derived from the Inverse Ninja Law and states that if one average ninja possesses T=1/N of the total skill in a fight, then a 'completeness factor' C can be included to represent the 'completeness' of a fighter. A small reduction in completeness can mean a large increase in threat.
Where: T=Threat; N=Number of ninjas; C=Individual 'completeness factor'.

A completeness factor of C=1 represents one average ninja.

Underweight ninjas have a slightly reduced C-factor, whereas fat ninjas are not very useful in a fight because of their increased C-factor. Therefore the best ninjas often tend to be skinny little girls.

A ninja with a missing body part, scar or any other disfigurement must have a C-factor of less than one. Hence when fighting alone, a crippled ninja can pose a threat of greater than unity and defeat an otherwise healthy ninja. This can even happen during a single fight - if a ninja loses an arm or a cyborg's face is blown off and they are not quickly finished off, they can soon become very dangerous indeed.

A fighter's C-factor can be reduced by a number of other surprising means. Some examples are included below.
Because of the Ninja's Handicap Corollary, Altair in Assassin's Creed has a greater than normal ability to murder people silently due to his missing finger.
Pirates, although the antithesis of ninjas, are subject to the same fundamental laws. Hence, pirates with peg-legs, hook-hands, eyepatches, or to a lesser extent, missing teeth, have reduced C-values and are more dangerous in combat than uninjured pirates.
In Serenity, River Tam is not only a waif but also clearly not all there. Hence her C-factor is much less than one and she is able to comprehensively destroy large groups of armed opponents and/or zombies without breaking a sweat.
Both Jackie Chan in The Forbidden Kingdom and Captain Jack Sparrow are permanently legless (on baijiu and rum respectively) and hence have a surprising advantage in close combat due to their low completeness factor.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Lowering the flag

A great era on the internet is coming to a close. Yesterday Brokep of The Pirate Bay announced that they would be selling the site to a Swedish internet cafe chain, Global Gaming Factory X. The news echoes the final days of Napster (somewhat before my time), when it went legal and soon faded into insignificance. GGF say that they plan to make the site legal by finding a way to pay rights holders for the files downloaded by users.

Predictably, the decision has angered a great many of the users of the site. The Pirate Bay blog has been deluged with negative comments and there already seems to be a boycott movement forming. It seems to me that the rats are rapidly leaving this sinking ship.*
Of course this is hardly surprising. The Pirate Bay is supposedly one of the top 100 most visited sites on the 'net, and their rebellious, underdog attitude has won the crew untold millions of fans around the world. For them to suddenly sell out to a legitimate company is about the most shocking thing they could ever do.

The crew's reasons (at least the ones they talk about) are sound: They were unable to handle the sheer success of the site and the accompanying financial burden of running it. It is clear that the four were never interested in making money (whatever the prosecution would have you believe), and unfortunately it is probably this that led to their downfall. They say that the substantial fee from the sale of the site will be put towards the same kind of pro-internet campaigning that they are famous for. I for one am very interested to see what will happen now that they have some pretty serious money behind them.
Behind the scenes, it is likely that the pressure of the court case and other legal threats were also getting to be too much. It would be unfair to say that they've caved in to Hollywood's demands, more likely they are simply fed up of being constantly hunted. One can hardly blame them for wanting a break!

Now, the future of the site is very uncertain. I don't believe it will survive this change, certainly not in its current form. Like Napster eight years ago, It is doomed to fade into obscurity. Not that it will disappear, after all, legal Napster is technically still a successful business. But its time of influence has passed – in a nutshell, nobody cares.
Whatever its immediate fate, The Pirate Bay will go down in the history of the internet. I just hope that the new owners treat it and its remaining users well enough that it grows old gracefully, rather than crashing down in infamy. That would be an ignoble end to one of the most important places on the internet in recent times.

Whatever happens to TPB, life (and piracy) will go on. The beauty of the internet is that like a population of creatures, it evolves to overcome new challenges. Brokep hints at this in his recent Twitter interview, where he says that it is time for The Pirate Bay to evolve to ensure the survival of Bittorrent as a whole. The brutal fact about evolution is that in order for the species to improve, some individuals must die - The Pirate Bay was once the 'fittest' in the world, but times have changed seems that the time has come for a younger site to rise up and take the top spot.

The next year will be one of big change in the P2P world, but we'll all come out stronger for it. The Pirate Bay has had an inspiring run, but new protocols are appearing that are in many ways superior to Bittorrent, so I wouldn't be surprised to see some kind of leadership battle arising soon.
It is hard to see the end of The Pirate Bay as a positive thing, but in the long run, I think most of us will come to appreciate that it had to go, and this was the best way.

I'll be proud to say that "I was there" during the golden age of The Pirate Bay. I would also like to thank brokep, TiAMO, anakata and the rest of the crew for their awesome work over the life of The Pirate Bay, and wish them every success with their future campaigns. They are ordinary people who rose up to become some of the Internet's bravest defenders, and I don't believe that will change, even though they are leaving this particular project behind.

*The Pirate Bay invites the most wonderful nautical metaphors. Another reason I'll miss it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day Two

Summer Placement - Day Two

I cycled into work today, and found it slightly easier than I had expected. The headwind must have been lighter than when I went out on Saturday. So I arrived a little early, but no matter.

My supervisor's original plans for today were thrown out of the window almost immediately due to some unexpected business requiring immediate investigation. So we got into our overalls and went out to work in the Turbine Hall.

Nuclear Engineers wear only boxers underneath their overalls. Bet you didn't know that! I soon found out the reason why. The Turbine Hall is incredibly humid and the air is uncomfortably hot. My poor supervisor sweats so profusely in the heat that it looks like he's crying, that is no exaggeration!
It is also so noisy that you have to actually leave the building in order to communicate with the person standing next to you. Quite a difficult place to work for a long period!

Being in places like the Turbine Hall is rather unnerving because the conditions impair all the senses you normally use to read the environment and people around you. Your hearing is useless because of the noise and your earplugs. The ability to feel vibrations in the floor is useless when the two sets of giant turbines make the entire building shake. So a person can stand right behind you and shout, and you probably wouldn't notice. It is awareness of this fact plus the sensory overload that makes me keep 'seeing' people behind me and turning around to find no-one there. Then there was the time I sensed nothing but turned round to find two men standing behind me in the tiny space where I was working!
Fortunately, after a while my ears began to filter out the background noise and I was more able to understand people 'talking' (shouting). I imagine that people who have worked there a while are used to this.

For lunch, I bought an egg salad sandwich only to find it had cucumbers in it. Cucumbers are my no.1 most hated foodstuff, so I was not pleased! Tomorrow, I'm making my own sandwiches without any damn cucumbers!

In the afternoon, we spent a long time discussing the morning's findings. I was struck by how much this meeting resembled that bit in House where they write the symptoms on a board and then discuss possible diagnoses. All we were missing was a sick person, a flawed genius and the cool transparent glass blackboard. I must try to persuade them to invest in one!

Yesterday I said I hoped I'd see some real work soon. Today that wish was granted with a vengeance!

PS. Made a nice lasagne for dinner to make up for yesterday's lunch. It's a bit big, it'll last me three days at this rate!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day One

Summer Placement - Day One.

Today was my first day at the new job. I had no idea what my job would involve beyond the fact that I would be working in the Plant Efficiency department. I have yet to learn the answers to most of my questions, because I spent almost the entire day filling out forms! The only exception was training on how to undress when leaving a Contamination Controlled Area - a very daunting prospect, but the trainer had an excellent sense of humour and the whole session was quite fun.

In the morning I was chatting to one of the security guards while he was searching me and discovered that his son is a friend of mine from uni. Such a small world!

At lunchtime I sampled the delights of the site canteen, and had a very overcooked lasagne. I think I should make a decent one myself to make up for it!

I hope that tomorrow I might get to see some real work as well as getting a real discussion of my role for the summer.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bloggy Blog

Once again, I've been gone a while and lapsed into blog silence (I bet there's a smartarse word for 'blog silence' on the internets).
However, now that uni's out for the summer and I am starting work once again, I think it's time to have another crack at this 'web-logging' lark. Lets see how it goes.

I expect that most of what I write will be somewhat work-related, although I can't post actual details of what I'm doing because of various contractual and legal obligations. It's unfortunate but unavoidable, and besides, I think the technical details of Nuclear Engineering would bore most of the few people that read this.

So expect a bit of random waffling from me for the next three months or so!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Banned from facebook again

For the second time in a month, facebook's censor-drones have disabled my account on the grounds that it is 'fake'. The first time, I grant you, my name had inadvertently been changed to 'Tom Long John Silver', which does sound a little bit suspect. However, now they've got no good reason to do this.
The rule is enforced so that 'people's profiles are a genuine reflection of who they are offline'. So why am I told that I am not permitted to go online under my offline name? Should I use an actual fake name so that I can avoid facebook's meddling? No, because I hate irony. And because nobody would know who I am. And that would be stupid.

My response to facebook is as clear as I can make it:
Real first name: Tom
Real surname: Long
Compare this with the name on my profile: "Tom Long". Notice how similar they are?