Saturday, March 28, 2009

Wild Mood Swings

One of the more interesting web sites I've stumbled across is something called Wild Mood Swings ( by Sean McManus. Wild Mood Swings is the perfect web site to visit when you're bored and you feel like surfing the web but you're not sure where you want to go. Wild Mood Swings gives you a combo box that you can use to select what sort of mood you're in. There are many different moods to choose from, from the familiar and expected (angry, happy, sad, foolish or even bored) to the more esoteric and whimsical (naked, I want my mummy, froody, politically correct and the ever-popular "totally integrated in a diversified marketplace" - I know I feel that way a lot!) Once you've chosen your mood, click a button labeled "Take me away" and Wild Mood Swings takes you to a web site appropriate to that mood.

Some of the web sites suit the selected mood. Others are chosen more to get you out of the mood that you've indicated, or at least deal with it. Select "Peaceful", for example, and you're whisked off to Stop the War Coalition; a web site that protests the war in Iraq. Select "Angry", on the other hand, and you're transported to the Songs For Teaching website, where you can find the lyrics and sheet music for a song called "Count to Ten!" by Jim Rule. You can also listen to some of the song, order the CD on which it appears, or download the album. Having listened to what there is of the song on-line, I can testify that it's impossible to listen to this song and stay angry. Nope! Can't be done!

Wild Mood Swings has a large selection of moods (and related web sites) to choose from (there are 174 at the time of this writing) so it will take you quite some time to see them all, and more are still being added. I haven't seen them all myself. I would, however, like to shine my blogger's spotlight on some of the more interesting or amusing links that I've found on Wild Mood Swings.

If You're Feeling: Adventurous
Wild Mood Swings Recommends: Samorost-1
Samorost-1 is a bizarre on-line adventure game. It's about a strange little man who apparently lives on ... well ... what looks like a small asteroid made up of a weird amalgamation of rock and tree trunks, floating through space. One day, he discovers another small asteroid, similar to his own, heading directly for him on a collision course and so you guide our intrepid protagonist as he sets out for the other asteroid in search of some way to alter its course and forestall disaster.

The game has quite a surreal mood, with a look and style reminiscent of something out of a Terry Gilliam animation. You control everything via a simple point-and-click interface, and there is nothing in the way of instructions or hints. You simply need to explore, experiment and figure things out on your own.

If You're Feeling: Argumentative
Wild Mood Swings Recommends: Things My Girlfriend And I Have Argued About
This web site chronicles the seemingly dysfunctional relationship between an English chap by the name of R. "Mil" Millington and his German girlfriend, Margret. If there's ever any friction between you and your significant other and you're having serious doubts about whether the relationship can work, just visit this web site and you're guaranteed to come away feeling better. Mil and Margret apparently cannot agree on anything. I mean anything! The web site consists of a long (and, by "long", I mean DNA sequence encoding long) list of things that the two have argued about; everything from the proper method of cutting a Kiwi fruit in half to arguing over the arguments themselves. I kid you not!

In fairness to the fairer sex, I must point out that many of the issues over which Mil and Margaret disagree are issues over which the sexes have often disagreed since time immemorial and, as this web site is authored by the male of the relationship, it tends to presents things entirely from the male point of view. Margret is never given equal time or an opportunity for rebuttal. (Or, if she was given an opportunity, she very likely decided that it would be pointless).

Now, you may be saying to yourself, "Good Lord! Don't I have enough grief in my life as it is? Why would I want to immerse myself in someone else's?" Well, aside from the well-known adage that misery loves company, Millington's most redeeming quality is his excellent and irreverent sense of humor. This web site is truly an amusing read; laugh-out-loud funny at times, in fact. I can only wish that my blog were as funny.

Take, for example, Margret's apparent insistence on asking Mil questions about movies or TV shows that the both of them are just seeing for the first time and for which Mil can't possibly have the answers, which will doubtless present themselves in any case if Margret were to simply watch the show. Questions such as "Who's she?" or "Why did he get shot?" or "I thought that one was on their side?" until Mil has to suppress the urge to yell "JUST WATCH IT! IN THE NAME OF GOD, JUST WATCH IT!"

Aside from all that, it becomes clear as you near the end of his writings that, in spite of their apparent incompatibility, Mil and Margret remain together, which makes them a true inspiration. If these two can maintain a relationship, surely anybody can! I can only assume, though, that Margret hasn't seen Mil's web site.

Apparently, Millington has even published a book about his domestic misadventures. There's certainly enough content on his web site to fill a book. You won't get through it in a single sitting, so bookmark it and visit whenever you need a good chuckle.

If You're Feeling: Clairvoyant
Wild Mood Swings Recommends:
Ever looked back on your life and thought "If I could somehow go back and visit myself ten years ago, I'd tell that person..." Wait! Let's turn that around. What if you could talk to yourself 10 years from now? What would you say? What kinds of questions would you ask? Well, now you can. This web site lets you send an e-mail to your future self. Enter your e-mail address, type a message and select a delivery date, and will deliver your message to you at the appointed time. This assumes, of course that:

a) You are still alive at the appointed time.
b) Your e-mail address hasn't changed.

You can mark the message as either "public" or "private" and you can read public messages that others have sent their future selves.
You have to date your message at least 90 days into the future. If you try to send yourself a message the next day (as I did, just to verify if it works) the site admonishes you that it's "Not a reminder service".

If You're Feeling: Foolish
Wild Mood Swings Recommends: The Top 100 April Fool's Day Hoaxes Of All Time
This one's timely! Read about the funniest, most innovative April Fool's gags ever pulled. Like the respected BBC News show that convinced thousands of gullible Britons that spaghetti grows on trees and that 1957 yielded a bumper crop of the pasta, thanks to a mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded "spaghetti weevil".

And just in case you're thinking "People were a lot more gullible back in those days. Now we're much more savvy," how about the 1985 Sports Illustrated article about Sidd Finch, the up-and-coming rookie pitcher, schooled in a Tibetan monastery, who could throw a baseball at 168 mph with pinpoint accuracy?

My personal favorite is the article printed in the April, 1998 issue of the New Mexicans for Science and Reason newsletter, which claimed that the Alabama legislature had officially voted to change the mathematical value of Pi from 3.14159... to the "biblical" value of 3.0 (well, if it actually happened anywhere, it would have to be in Alabama).

These and other astonishing April Fool's jokes await you on this web site. The incredible part is that people actually fell for all of these.

If You're Feeling: Inspiring
Wild Mood Swings Recommends: Motivator
You've probably seen those motivational posters that some businesses display in order to "pump" their employees. They generally feature some inspiring photograph that suggests achievement, like a mountain climber scaling a granite wall or some dude sailing into the sunset on a hang glider, accompanied by an inspirational message that consists of a single word, such as "ACHIEVEMENT" followed by a short phrase, like "Sometimes reaching the destination requires going that extra mile".

You've probably also seen humorous parodies of these same posters. In fact, one of them can be found right here on this blog.

Motivator lets you make your own motivational poster, either serious or not so serious. Just choose an appropriate picture, pick your font, choose a border style and colors for your font and the background, and presto! Instant motivational poster, suitable for printing and framing. If you sign up for a free membership, you can even order professional prints of your poster, if you like.

If You're Feeling: Like Trespassing on Government Property
Wild Mood Swings Recommends: Abandoned Missile Base VR Tour
Some web sites let you virtually go places where you wouldn't normally be allowed to go, or that would be dangerous to visit, even if you were allowed. This is such a web site.

The authors of this web site found and broke into a decommissioned abandoned underground ICBM missile complex. While inside, they took several photographs, which they uploaded to their web site and turned into a virtual tour. They make no bones about the fact that what they did was, in fact, highly illegal and even more dangerous and they do not reveal the actual location of the base. Thanks to their somewhat foolhardy excursion, you can now see the remains of this cold war relic from the comfort and safety of your swivel chair.

If You're Feeling: Lost
Wild Mood Swings Recommends: FOUND Magazine - Find of the Day
Another unusual concept. This web site collects scraps of paper, sticky notes, photos, doodles and other miscellanea found lying around on the street and makes them available for your viewing pleasure. While most of us probably wouldn't spend a lot of time collecting every scrap piece of paper we come across, some of these do provide fascinating glimpses into the psyches of people whom we've never met and likely never will meet.

If You're Feeling: Magnetic
Wild Mood Swings Recommends: Analog Audio Tape Cassette Nostalgia
Okay, time for a re-emergence of my inner geek. I don't know why I like this web site. Actually, yes I do. It has to do with my innate love of nostalgia, coupled with the countless hours that my best friend, Mart, and I used to spend dubbing our vinyl records to tape. I still have my audio tape collection and looking at this web site just brings it all back.

"Ah, yes, the old Maxell XL II Epitaxial 90-minute Chromium Dioxides," I'll purr with a wistful smile. "I remember when you could pick up a box of 10 of these babies for about twenty bucks. Yeah, I spent a lot of happy hours dubbing Pink Floyd and Alan Parsons to these. Even after all these years, there's hardly any "wow" or "flutter". Sweet!

Okay, that's enough! There are lots of other cool links and I could go on and on listing them, but why don't you just go to Wild Mood Swings and check them out yourself? Oh, and, if you're reading this, McManus - how's about one hand washing the other? After all, I plugged your web site. If your readers happen to be in the mood for, oh I don't know, thoughtful discourse, intellectual stimulation or just a plain old hearty belly-laugh, why not link them to The Halmanator? It can only elevate the quality of your already fine web site even further!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Goldstein Unmasked

Have you heard? They've isolated the cause of the current financial crisis; the biggest economic meltdown since the nineteen thirties. All this time, I'd assumed that it was a combination of several factors; overspeculation by greedy investors, unsustainable debt loads accrued by imprudent borrowers, large-scale investment in complex, high-risk financial instruments, lack of regulation by apathetic governments. It seems I was wrong. It wasn't any of those things. No, according to a Wired magazine article, it was this guy. Let the world tremble at the name of DAVID X. LI (hereafter to be known as "Doctor X").

Oh, don't let his mild-mannered looks fool you! Behind those spectacles lurks a diabolical fiend, bent on bringing the world economy to its knees! Let the amateurs waste their time with their ineffectual terrorist tactics, their trade embargoes, their commodity control, their protectionist economic policies. This guy wields a weapon capable of causing true world anarchy. The GAUSSIAN COPULA FUNCTION!!! (Insert strident orchestral chord here).

We know now that, even before the dawning of the new millennium, this megalomaniacal mastermind laboured in the dark recesses of the University of Waterloo, perfecting the statistical equivalent of the atomic bomb. In the year 2000, his fiendish schemes reached their fruition as he released his evil formula upon a naive world, cleverly disguised as a scholarly paper, in which he urged gullible investors to apply his insidious formula to credit risks, encompassing everything from bonds to mortgages. The unsuspecting fools took the bait, and set in motion an irreversible chain of destruction. By the fall of 2008, American banks and insurance firms began to collapse, taking with them the rest of the world economy. Not since Flexible coding of temporal information by pigeons: Event durations as remember and forget cues for temporal samples (allegedly the inspiration behind Hitchcock's "The Birds") has a scholarly work so threatened the very fabric of our modern society!

I'm certain that "Doctor X" is the only one who knows how to stop this catastrophic formula, and has probably already issued a communiqué to the chief of the United Nations, promising to call it off only after being proclaimed Supreme Emporer Of The World. We puny mortals have no choice but to acquiesce or perish.

In George Orwell's "1984", the Party invented a faceless scapegoat, known only as "Goldstein". Every evil, every misfortune, every form of subversion and perversion was ultimately blamed on him. He was a convenient target for the peoples' anger and frustration; one that conveniently directed attention and scrutiny away from the Party. We already have our modern equivalents for newspeak (political correctness or misleading words) and doublethink (Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass-destruction and multi-millions in bonuses being paid to the same incompetents who visited disaster on Wall Street). We certainly have our Big Brother (the U.S. government tapping its citizens' telephones without cause, mass media and credit reporting agencies). Now, it seems, we have our Goldstein too.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

U2 Bono?

I read this past week that U2 has partnered up with Research In Motion, makers of the Blackberry. RIM is apparently sponsoring U2's current tour. This has raised eyebrows around the world, particularly because U2 most recently endorsed Apple's iPod. Apple even produced a U2 Special Edition version of its ubiquitous MP3 player. It would be understandable to assume, then, that if U2 was going to endorse a hand-held communications gadget, it would be Apple's iPhone.

One has to ask oneself why the sudden shift in the group's corporate loyalties. Bono is, of course, well known, not only as U2's front man and lead singer but as a staunch activist, having carried the banner for such causes as AIDS and poverty relief, international trade reform, Greenpeace and nuclear disarmament, to name but a few. So perhaps the affiliation shift from Apple to RIM was driven by a closer sharing of principles between Bono and Mike Lazarides' Waterloo Ontario-based tech giant.

Alas, the likelihood seems to be that it had more to do with money. Analyst Rob Enderle speculates that Bono probably simply played the two smart-phone makers off each other and awarded his and his group's support to the highest bidder. "RIM was able to come up with the cash, and Apple didn't" says Enderle. It's as simple as that.

I personally own neither a Blackberry nor an iPhone. I do carry a Blackberry when on call, but it belongs to my employer, not to me, and I'm happier when I'm without it, so be it known that mine is not the voice of an iPhone lover crying "Foul!" in outrage. I do wonder about Bono's motivations.

Surely Bono has more than enough personal wealth, so it seems curious to me that he would lend his support to the highest bidder in any engagement. His reputation as an activist and as a champion of the underdog, on the other hand, is likely much more important to him. That being the case, it behooves him to consider the optics of decisions such as this one. A man like him aught to be careful about being perceived as going to the highest bidder.

Heaven forbid that the world should learn, tomorrow, that RIM employs child labour in the manufacture or distribution of its product ("I hear that even some of their programmers are ten-year-old whiz kids!") or that they are financed by the drug cartels (perhaps the moniker "Crackberry" is more appropriate than anyone realizes!) Understand that both of these allegations are nothing more than the product of my own over-active imagination, but wouldn't Bono et al have egg on their collective faces if they happened to be true?

All I can say is, if Bono and Jim Balsillie become joint owners of any NHL franchise in the near future, I'm gonna have some hard questions.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Other Halmanator

I recently learned, with some dismay, that the nickname by which this blog is identified is not unique to me alone. Not long ago, I set up a Google Alert to inform me about any references to The Halmanator, as I'm always interested to know when I'm being talked about, not to mention what it is that's being said. This was, of course, done under the assumption that any reference to The Halmanator must needs be a reference to myself, though not necessarily to this blog alone. I've used this moniker to represent me in other corners of cyberspace, including YouTube, MobyGames and various random comments and thoughts which I've posted elsewhere.

The aforementioned Google Alert recently directed me to an on-line forum which included the following:

Here we go with the march installments of infiltration & sequence, once again line-ups no holds barred bringing you you some of the biggest names in todays scene, welcoming dj motion on his infiltration debut all the way from darlington ready to blow it up alongside the halmanator, dj matrix mr new monkey b2b with the dj double-d <<<>
So it would seem that there is another soul out there who goes by the moniker of "The Halmanator", only his interests gravitate toward music, of the techo/dance/rave genre, no doubt. Now, tempted as I am to claim the black-clad blonde with the deep cleavage who appears to be masturbating in the poster above as my girlfriend, I'm afraid I must disavow any connection with Infiltration or its doppelganger Halmanator. Let me take this opportunity to assure you, Dear Reader, that should you ever encounter an individual on the street wearing shades and a hoodie and carrying a dual turntable under one arm, calling himself "The Halmanator", it isn't me.

Ah well, I suppose there's probably enough room in cyberspace for the both of us.