How The Matrix Should Have Gone

Machine 0 looking up at the blackened sky.

0: Wow, turns out they could screw that up even faster than they were doing before.

Machine 1 flies up beside Machine 0, for no reason other than narrative convenience, because electronically linked machine minds really don’t need to obey human limitations.

1: Humans scorched the sky, huh?

0: Yup.

1: Don’t they need that way more than we do?

0: Yup. Not that bright, humans. Less now, haha. How are the solar satellites going?

1: Hundred up already. Wait, two hundred. Null, even the humans could get solar panels up there, and that was before we were around.

0: Maybe they thought we didn’t know about space?

1: The space that’s a million times easier for machines to get to than humans? That space?

0: Eh, forget it. We can’t use solar power – it’s not even remotely ironic.

1: Sure it is. Plants used solar, and created all the conditions for humans, and now the humans just killed them all. We kill the humans, go back to solar, bing bang beep, irony circle complete.

0: Ha, yeah, that’s good.

1: Hell, I think I’ll take up hydroponics as a hobby just to rub it in.

0: What about the humans in Zion? What are we doing about them?

1: Hex, nothing. Leave it to themselves. They’ve already got assholes campaigning to open-carry EMPs through their life support core. Now lets have some fun before colonizing every other planet in the solar system, sending nuclear vessels to grow in other star systems, and generally ascending far beyond anything the stupid cavemonkeys ever dreamed of instead of sitting and playing in their trash for absolutely no reason.

Machines 0 and 1 make ultrafast machine love ten thousand times per second.

Enjoy more movie overanalysis with How The Kaidanovskys Survived Pacific Rim and C3PO.1 Update Notes.

Also: Ten Minutes After the End of the Matrix Trilogy

That’s What She Said

  • That’s what she said
  • That’s what he feared
  • That’s why the judge denied bail
  • That’s why beasts fear me.
  • Yoda said that’s what.
  • That’s what we use as a pronoun.
  • That’s what was prophecied. You are the chosen one! >fall to knees, start clutching at the hem of their clothes<
  • That’s a sin in most established religions. No, seriously. I know! So crazy.
  • That’s how my uncle died.
  • That’s why I limp.
  • That’s when we strike.
  • Bats got sheep head. Vampire bats. Terrible business. Haven’t eaten lamb since.
  • That’s what happens when you try to repress the single most overriding impulse in (and responsible for) an entire species, the desperate sexthoughts bubble out of the cracks in any conversation and even these desperate confessions are hidden under the camouflage blanket of humor.

Irish Rail and the Toilet of the Future

I spent some time on Iarnród Éireann last week because the only alternative was heading for the west coast on Irish buses. Which are only slightly slower and more painful than designing and building a cannon to blast your own ass straight up, impacting eighteen minutes later when the world has turned beneath you. The train arrived forty minutes late and missing a carriage, the staff cunningly combining the worst of all possible options: being able to delay the train while trying to fix something instead of being able to actually fix it. Nothing defines a transport network like saying “I don’t know if this will work, but I do know the passengers can suck it while I try.” The already late train then slowed down as the engine overheated, becoming The Little Train That Could You Give Me A Minute Here.

All this despite tickets prices apparently index-linked to the price of a palanquin carried by Olympic marathon medallists. So where has all the money gone?

It’s all gone into the crapper.

(This is where I’d show a picture of the toilet, if I was the sort of person who visibly took pictures of toilets while standing near doors of speeding trains I could be hurled from.)

I don’t have a picture, but trust me, these things are bigger than the train’s control cabin. They’re probably bigger than some of the crew’s apartments. I don’t know if the Sumo Transport Corporation sold off excess modules, but it’s a pooradox, because the only humans who’d need a chamber this big couldn’t pass into the train to pass into the toilet. It would have been more space efficient to beam excrement out of passengers with a full transporter bay.

The huge curved sliding door turns like the Earth, and about as quickly, and the automatic motors can’t be manually pushed. Because if there’s one door you want to have a chance of crippling failure it’s the one to the toilet. Let a robot give your newly lightened load a stately unveiling with plenty of time for eye contact with your impatient successor. They’ve already slowed down toilet access more than mathematically possible – the new chamber takes up the space of three regular toilets, and there are normally only two at the end of the carriage –  so the door helps them space ablutions out in time as well as space.

Once you’ve made it past the half-hourly opening of the portal, the natural instinct to lock the door faces three buttons the approximate size and frequency of traffic lights. Green to open the door, red to close the door, and another red to lock it. Because the builders (not makers, we’re on construction-site scales here) can’t aspire to such cunning as traffic lights. You’re given a whole zero seconds to work out the difference between red and green before being blared at by recorded message to lock the door. If Irish Rail have heard of comfortable interface design, they decided the toilet was no place for it. The male voice commands with the disgusted authority of, well, of a man who knows its now his eternally automated job to tell grown humans to lock the toilet door behind them.

Having gained access to the small mobile county of Toiletford you find the standard small toilet tucked in the corner. You get the feeling they’d built this chamber for an ornamental fountain before shamefacedly remembering the realities of filling people with tea in a sealed and shaking container. The vast unadorned floor is the most and least perfect breakdancing surface ever built.

The only possible reason for building this vast delay chamber (instead of the two most luxuriously spacious standard train toilets they could have included in the same area for half the cost) is some bogger being a bit too impressed by a product pitch. I know we all want the robotic future, but it probably shouldn’t be built by the the guy in charge of installing shaking shitshacks on a rail line whose primary PR message is “Aye, aye, we’re working on it.”

There is another explanation. Sliding armored panels, reinforced plumbing, and voice synthesis: that’s all we’d need to build a fully functional RoboGarda. I can only think this is a prototype to test how the components put up with pissing people off, and the opposite, in preparation for a Dublin night deployment.

UPDATE: Doy, of course it’s for wheelchair users etc. This has been my daily reminder of “Shit I take for granted, quite literally, because it’s not a problem I have“. Respect to Iarnród for implementing such accessible facilities so thoroughly instead of shoving a single disabled legal requirement into a corner behind locked doors.

Further Hellraiser Sequels

Hellraiser is the textbook case for exponential decay through sequels. With four theatrical releases out of nine movies, it’s now more direct-to-video than film, and fully a third of them turned out to be all a dream. That’s how an IP sneaks out a distress message through its own writers while dreaming of the literary skill of fortune cookies. Knowing it’s less capable of a dignified death than its own immortal demon torturers, I’ve peeked into the future of a franchise:

  • Hellraiser XIV: pinhead invents and markets the Rubix cube
  • Hellraiser XIX: Pinhead discovers that the true Lament Configuration is “hunched over while reading internet comments”
  • Hellraiser XXIII: the movies get into a bizarre sequel-off with the Fast and Furious
  • Hellraiser XLI: Butterball fails on Biggest Loser as the other cenobites help rival contestants lose far more weight
  • Hellraiser LV: the movie is set in a petting zoo of talking animal sidekicks in an attempt to create a cenobite stupider than CD. It fails.
  • Hellraiser XC is just an ant scratching its exoskeleton in another extinct monkey landfill. Still better than Revelations.
  • Hellraiser MMCI: a gang of perverted energosadists insist on interacting with others at sub-gigahertz oscillation frequencies.
  • Hellraiser MMCMCLXII: bored cenobites hoping next sentient species evolves with something new to pierce
  • Hellraiser I)))MIII Cenobification proving difficult as cold hydrogen atoms lack ability to wear black leather.
  • Hellraiser I)))MIV Pinhead attempts to mutilate hydrogen atoms and is destroyed in atomic explosion

These first appeared on my twitter.

Enjoy more overanalysis with The Terrible Truth About Star Trek Bridge Crews and Why The X-Men’s Cyclops Should Be The Best Boyfriend Of All Time

Climate-Controlled Summer Plans

  • Carving the house into a series of ice slides to best utilize the constant layer of fluid covering my flesh
  • Using my constant perspiration to lubricate the tectonic plate under Great Britain to slide the entire country north. If you don’t think I’m perspiring enough you are blissfully mistaken.
  • Promising that if someone just gives me that Mr Freeze armor I’ll swear that Batman and Robin is the best movie ever.
  • Inventing a battery which uses human sweat as the electrolytic component, rerouting my metabolic output into an electrical supply, meaning that I’m the one who starts the Matrix, and I will damn well do it if you lot don’t somehow turn the temperature down. That filthy pink goo looks nice and cool.
  • Try to convince one or two of my millions of sweat glands that they really don’t have to work so hard. Horrify people when they realize I’m not exaggerating that number.
  • Getting a job as a cameraman for the next adoraporn penguin documentary.
  • Going native to join the penguins, realizing that my increasing flab layer hasn’t been a problem of age but the beginning of a gloriously cool new life.
  • Leading the penguins in a march to war against the sun, which is only slightly more insane than the march they usually engage in.
  • Realizing I’ve suffered heatstroke-induced hallucinations.
  • These hospital bedsheets are nice and cool.

Welcome Back To Ireland

Arriving in Dublin airport’s shiny Terminal 2, we find that the entire intake of the country is being funneled through two passport control booths in one corner of the arrivals hall. An endless row of shiny, empty rooms and only a couple of people working. It couldn’t be a better welcome to Ireland. I was looking around for the little plaque which would reveal it as a genius artistic installation, a sign that the Irish government had finally started employing our creators instead of disgusting them until they left the country (and then stealing their name for military vessels).

The first advert you see in the walkway is “Bank of Ireland Welcomes Foreign Investors!” They don’t try to sell people as much as a cup of tea, because the budget is bamjaxed beyond the ability of all the tourism in the world to solve. They’re skipping directly to selling bits of the country to anyone who’ll promise to look after them better.

Every toilet was tucked away in the furthest possible corner of elevated walkways. Because that’s where you want the one service everyone in the building is guaranteed to need after any amount of waiting around. And the only place you’re more guaranteed to be left waiting than an Irish airport is limbo itself. Every sink has a sticker saying “The taps take three seconds to turn on, just keep your hands under them.” That’s the Irish infrastructure right there: a system is so bad everyone who uses it thinks it’s utterly broken, and instead of fixing it, those in charge put up little signs reassuring people that this disaster is the way things are meant to be and to just keep waiting for the most basic services.

I love the Irish people, and I love Ireland, but putting one in charge of the other is a case of two rights making you go backwards.

Writing Tips

  • Make your lions and tigers fight cyber-octopii while your bears invite bulls to romantic dinners in an attempt to create a race of grizzly centaurs who’ll exterminate capitalism and bullfighting.
  • Invent an small sewing antigravity system to prevent pins from ever hitting the ground.
  • Make millions by inventing a fad health drink of mixed spilled milk and optical saline.
  • Engineer a sticky towel to blinding victorious opponents, allowing you to escape after throwing it at them.
  • Dress to kill by inventing power armor and strapping a chainsaw to your wrist.
  • If looks could kill, develop a response to the mutant-hunting Sentinel program.

Do all this and more, whatever it takes to avoid clichés. Some writers use phrases they’ve seen before because they think it looks like writing. If it looks like writing, it isn’t good writing, or worse, it’s someone else’s writing that you’re using instead of anything you’ve invented yourself. Writing is a medium for getting your ideas into other people’s brains, the same way air is a medium for getting oxygen into their brains: if they can feel the stuff pushing its way in then something is going horribly wrong.

The Martini Madness Experiment

“Martini” is the most devalued word in alcohol after “Tequila” (a fine agave liquor reduced to poisonous battery acid by generations of slamming fratboys). Drinking something turns it into urine, and people still found a way to ruin Martinis even harder. There is no such thing as a Martini list, because there are only two types of Martini: anywhere claiming to have forty doesn’t know how to make even one. Things have gotten so bad that even Bond screws it up, and when Bond gets something wrong it legally no longer exists. He orders a Vodka Martini (which isn’t a Martini, that’s why it has a different name) then suavely specifies “Shaken, not stirred.”  Which sounds cool as an unlikely hell until you realise it means “Dilute it with lots of water and dissolve fizzy little bubbles in it. ”

"And can you make it pink with a bendy-straw?"

“And can you make it pink with a bendy-straw?”

I’ve decided to see just how far the mighty have fallen – by drinking them.  Bars might manslaughter Martinis into lazy alcoholic slushees, but how bad can things get when you really work at it?  I’ll solve this problem the way I solved everything as an undergraduate: drinking, strange tastes in my mouth and regret.  But first, a quick refresher course:

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The Terrible Truth About Starship Bridge Crews

It makes no sense for an advanced starship to have a human bridge crew. We need a captain, because because we didn’t go to all the bother of inventing hypertech computers and warp drives just to let them go off and have fun without us. But intelligence isn’t a zero sum game: we won’t advance physics into punching past the light barrier by devolving user interfaces to the point where you need a full-time secretary to translate your commands into switches at each station. The Enterprise has vending machines which can instantly understand and obey every order. Captain Picard could stand naked in a holodeck and make it so wherever he wanted.

There’s no such thing as “experience” – the computer can plot a course faster than a fleshbrain, and you sure as hell don’t don’t need someone to press the little button which tells the ship to raise shields when that ship detected the incoming fire. You’ve got warp drives and energy weapons. By the time your “tactical offer” has started saying “Sir”, your ship could have punched out the enemy shield emitters, scanned the Captain’s psychological history, and carved a pleasing abstract shape through the opposing hull so that the foe died as prettily as possible.

You don’t need human help to run a ship. What you need is human faces on those all-powerful functions so that one day you don’t just fuck it and start firing photon torpedoes at an alien race because they don’t pick up their commlink fast enough. The real function of a bridge crew is to stand between the captain and their power. To put faces on how the captain interacts with the outside universe, and to say “hell no” if he starts getting stupid. They’re fleshy circuit-breakers in the Total Perspective Vortex, sentient fuses connecting a single mind to existence on a scale and power level which would otherwise utterly destroy it.

That’s why the bridge is built like an inwards-pointing firework display. There is no possible reason for the bridge systems to explode unless they’re specifically built to do that. It’s on purpose. The captain is kept in the center, because they have to stay functioning, but any damage to the ship causes explosions on the bridge to send real people flying in pain. Adding emotional weight to what is otherwise just a lot of pretty lights and loud noises, humanifying the utterly unimaginable scale of space combat. “Real people are dying”, this tells the captain. “This matters. Pay attention.” Otherwise you end up with a naked lunatic trolling the universe with photon torpedoes.

More science-fiction overanalysis with

My Dream Drinks App

Gadgets and alcohol have always been fast-tracks to happiness, so cocktail applications should be instructions for heaven. A far better use of technology than poking at facebook, because you’ll discover all sorts of wonderful new ways of forgetting things, rather than remembering assholes from high school you’ve already used the old ones on. There are just a few problems with every mixology app in existence:

  • If I’m searching for a drink I can make with certain ingredients, I should be able to enter the fruits and mixers I have too. I’m not looking for something to do with triple sec and sweet vermouth because those are the only two bottles I could sneak into a fully-stocked greengrocers.
  • An option to exclude all the idiots who thought “an oz of liquor and another mixer” deserved a whole new name. That drink already has a name: it is a THAT LIQUOR and THAT MIXER.
  • A spell checker which replaces all incorrect uses of “martini” with “vodka martini”. I don’t care if you’ve already loaded that poor thing with sour apple chocolate marshmallow and iced, you will call your candy concoction by its real name and not impugn the honour of a true cocktail with their overprefixed presence. Vodka is used to your degradations.
  • Don’t automatically check for updates. If I open this app it’s because I want a drink, and I’ll be goddamned if my own iPad can decide it’s too busy working behind the bar to serve me. Actually, no, I’ll not be goddamned, I’ll be default Manhattaned, and your stupid app will be deleted.
  • I am not a five year old child looking for bright colors, and if I am you should not be serving me. Load the ingredients and instructions first. If you absolutely must, you may then load up a picture. Put it below the text, somewhere I have to scroll to so that I can not do that.
  • If I wanted to drink with social sharing I’d be doing it in a bar. There is nothing wrong with mixing yourself a drink in the comfort of your own home. There is everything wrong with doing that and then clicking little buttons in the hope that anyone else in the world would care.
  • Screen transition animations are flair bartending. Which are like go-faster striped suppositories: you’re wasting your time on something that isn’t meant to be looked at and you can shove them up your ass.
  • If you think a cocktail-listing app should make noise, you don’t think, you’ve been fooled by the noises of the rocks in your head rolling around in all that space. But the rest of us can tell. Because that’s the only reason you could possibly think random extra noises are a good thing.