Rice and Salt

No updates today – still reading The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s one of those books that catches you off your guard every so often with a wonderful phrase that makes you beam in complete delight, with characters that you can really understand.

I was having a conversation with my friend Alex about reading novels. He prefers having read a good book – I prefer the act of reading a good book. I don’t want to finish reading this book.


Went to the nearby college TV room to get my weekly fix of 24. Got there five minutes early, so I could hijack the remote control if anyone wanted to watch something else, but there were already three other people there watching the golf before 24. As 24 started, yet more people trickled in.

This is the first time I’ve ever seen multiple people, who don’t know each other, actually make the effort to find out when a programme starts (it wasn’t at its usual time) and get to the TV room. I don’t think 24 is that popular in the UK, but clearly it engenders a fanatical loyalty. There should be at least twice as many people next week as well, since more people will be back in college. Maybe I should bring along some popcorn…


Extreme Ironing – ‘the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt.’

Oxbridge admissions

While idly browsing through an Oxbridge admissions website, I came across a report of an interview written by someone who applied to the same course at the same college as I did, but a year later. Curious to see if they’d changed anything, I checked out the questions this person was asked at interview.

Practically nothing had changed – this person was asked exactly the same questions that I had been (enzyme kinetics, sketch y=xsinx). The only differences were due to the fact that there was a physics bias instead of a chemistry bias. Incredible. This just goes to show that if you’re on the ball, you can really get an unfair advantage at interviews by using the Internet.

GM grass

Sneeze-free grass on the way – a genetically modified strain of grass has been produced that doesn’t provoke an allergic reaction in hayfever sufferers. The article is sparse on detail so I’m not sure how they did this, other than stopping the production of pollen (but obviously this unleashes a whole load of other concerns).

Introducing massive…

Welcome to mssv.net, my new weblog covering massively multiuser online entertainment (mmoe), among other subjects. The format of mssv.net differs quite a bit from my old weblog, weblog.vavatch.co.uk; there are now three concurrent weblogs running called massive, middling and tiny, updating at different intervals and concentrating on different themes.

Tiny will be (in theory, as with everything else here) updated daily with various assorted interesting links.

Middling will have personal commentary and some links, updated every three days or so.

Massive is the centrepiece of this weblog and as such will carry on the Vavatch spirit of updating at completely random periods (nominally once a week, but who knows how the whims of the universe will change that?). Massive is one of the main reasons why I’ve created mssv.net – I wanted a place where I could talk about massively multiuser online games – but more about those later. I’ll also cover space and biology topics, as usual. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to increase the length of articles in massive so they’ll go into some depth, and also back articles up with links and references. The latter is quite important to me; much of the stuff I read on weblogs is interesting but ultimately pure unsubstantiated speculation dealing in generalities – I want to avoid that.

So, you might ask, exactly what was the point of starting up a new weblog at mssv.net? Aren’t I just complicating things with this weird differential concurrent multiple weblogs thing? After all, I could simply write everything in one column.

I could, but I’m not going to since this keeps things more organised. I was aware on Vavatch that there were plenty of topics that interested some people but not others, and this problem would be exacerbated if I was serious about writing about mmoe. With this new layout, people can easily pick out and read what interests them – the serious articles, the personal commentary, or the random links.

I registered mssv.net because I thought it’d be nice to have a change, and also because it’s a more relevant name than Vavatch.

*What is massively multiuser online entertainment (mmoe)? It’s any form of entertainment that involves over one hundred individuals interacting in some form, separated in physical but not temporal space. Games such as Ultima Online and Everquest qualify as mmoe, but not Starcraft or Quake. However, I’m not exclusively talking about massively multiplayer online roleplaying games (mmorpgs) here; they might have the lion’s share of the users and media attention, but that won’t last. I’m talking about any form of entertainment – it might be a group of a thousand people reading an online detective story, solving puzzles, finding hints and exchanging tips with each other (ring any bells?).

Why is it important? It’s a form of entertainment never seen before, and it draws together a number of new technologies that vastly increase the scope of entertainment in general, allowing it to be experienced collectively by more people than ever, over a longer length of time and larger physical space for less money. It sounds attractive, but it’s hard to do and has already seen the world’s largest game company lose $10 million in an attempt to put mmoe into practice.

Can you be more specific? Yes, I can. That’s the purpose of the mmoe section on this weblog – to explore in detail the possibilities of massively multiuser online entertainment and to look at the current developments in mmoe right now.
Continue reading “Introducing massive…”