Warlord Titan in Oxford

Sorry, my dear anonymous visitor but thanks to Google cache you were looking for something that wasn’t there. I’m talking about the Warlord Titan in the Games Workshop in Oxford

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More Usability Challenge 2008

I just read the following story on Neil Gaiman’s blog. Unfortunately, there is no permalink or trackback feature so I will just quote the paragraph. I hope that’s alright Neil. Seems like trains might also need a good usability makeover. (I mean, hey, who had this stupid idea to have carriage doors that can only be opened from the outside? You have to open the window hang your whole upper body out of the window to get to the door handle. I have seen elderly people who quite struggled with that. Stupid idea!) Anyway, the story not only reminds us to make our environment a bit more user friendly but also to think about our fellow human beings from time to time.

And while you’re there, have a look at his other stuff. He is one of my favorite writers and his blog is worth reading as well.

EDIT: Thanks to the comment, I simply linked to the post and had not to quote the whole thing.

Usability Challenge 2008

Hello,

just a quick one. Had this in my email today:

On 1 August 2008, we are asking anyone with a passion for usability to solve a usability problem…any usability problem at all…and help make the world a better/safer/less annoying place. To participate, join the group:

Website: http://usabilitychallenge.webnode.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=16639483283&ref=mf
Google Groups: http://groups.google.com/group/ucha2008

What a charming idea! I think I’m going to take part and I think I already know which problem to tackle. It will be something easy (piece of cake, really) but I’m already busy solving other people’s usability issues in my job so I don’t want to make it too hard for me in my spare time. However, this will give me the opportunity to combine my professional life with my geeky interests. Also, it is going to be for an institution that probably could never afford to get professional usability advice. So, it’s going to be a surprise; I’ll keep you posted.

In the mean time spread the word and solve one of those annoying problems. If you are short of ideas, you could always try and make modern microwave ovens easier to use (Damn, I remember the times when they had about four buttons and a dialing knob!) I would be most grateful! 😉

Hello? Common sense, are you there?

http://www.waspknife.com/about.php

Some people seem to be obsessed with the idea of arming themselves against all sorts of threats… even imaginary ones.

As divers, we all know what the effects of compressed gas are underwater. Our training teaches us that our lungs would burst from over-inflation if we held our breath and rose to the surface. This principle is key to the effectiveness of the WASP Injection System.

True, and as divers we should also know that most big underwater creatures are not really dangerous – at least when left alone. Of 100 shark attacks, only 1 happens to a diver. (The rest mostly being surfers looking like really yummy seals from below) Of those attacks against divers I’d say most happen because of carelessness and stupidity of the diver. Humans are not the natural prey of sharks. (Forget about the Great White One, because there are hardly any left not to a small degree thanks to a certain Spielberg film I’d wager.) Same is true for dolphins, which, yes, can be dangerous. Again, if any diver has not learned their lessons and thinks that just because of flippin’ “Flipper” these animals will not mind being annoyed they don’t deserve anything better than a good beating.

In case you don’t know: the most dangerous animals in the sea are the small and poisonous ones and if you think that a gas-injecting knife is your best defence against a sea wasp, then I think you should really get one. At least it’ll help the economy, you know.

New Audio Drama by H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society

The H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society is known for producing high-quality props for Live Action Roleplaying Games in a Lovecraftian setting. They have also produced a movie and an audio drama – At the Mountains of Madness – in the tradition of Old Time Radio shows. (I will have to say something about the latter at another place soon).

The Dunwich Horror as audio drama

Yesterday saw the official release of The Dunwich Horror, another story by the grandmaster himself. It is available on CD (with a couple of props) or as MP3 download (Payments via Paypal accepted).

The Dunwich Horror as audio drama

Once I got a chance to listen to it, I will let you know more.

There is also a really old time radio version of this available, an episode of the famous CBS “Suspense” show from the 1940’s. You can download it (perfectly legal) from the Internet Archive.

Shambleau on BBC 7

Did I mention that I’m into radio drama and audio books? No? Now you know.

Among any audiodramaphile’s favorite stops on the internets is definitely BBC 7 with many re-runs or specially commissioned stories and dramatisations.

This week I was especially delighted to see that they are broadcasting “Shambleau” by C.L. Moore, a story I discovered many years ago in the excellent Penguin Book of Vampire Stories and it became one of my favorite stories therein. It’s an early science-fiction story, you know of the kind when Mars was a desert planet (well it actually is) but habitable and with the remnants of an ancient civilisation and Venus was covered with dense jungles crawling with alien monsters. C.L. Moore was one of the first (or the first?) women to make it into the almost exclusively male club of pulp SF writers. Among her creations is Northwest Smith, of whose adventures and exploits many of her stories tell. When I first read that story I thought that if George Lucas did not think of Northwest Smith when he came up with Han Solo then I don’t know what. Northwest is a smuggler and gunslinger his blaster raygun always at his side -ready to shoot first. His friend and partner in crime, Yarol, is a Venusian alien (having the great advantage of being able to speak without having to rely on guttural Wookie noises), and the Maiden, his ship, is old and quite unremarkable but the fastest one in the solar system. I bet it could beat the Falcon on the Kessel run anytime. 😉

However, Moore’s “Shambleau” has a twist, is much more, well, modern than you might expect of a story of that time and medium.

Anyway, if you’re into the sense of wonder kind of pulp-era science fiction you should absolutely give this one a try. Via the Listen Again feature you can listen to the show for 6 days after it was broadcast.

P.S. I just started to listen to the first part and although the narrator is a professional one I am not entirely sure whether choosing a female voice was such a good idea. I think the male perspective of Northwest Smith would have benefited from a male narrator emphasising the whole idea of the story.