Faith Restored

I just (finally!) spoke with Jeff at Sprocket Data, who is head of something-or-other. He told me what was going on, and it turns out there was a widespread issue with some big-ass routing shit, so networks all over the place were just “flapping” in and out of the internet. It’s resolved now, and SDI has moved to a bigger office with fatter pipe and stuff. So… we expect no more connectivity issues. I won’t go into too much detail, but basically I feel assured that the seriously fucked up connectivity issues are over until the next time someone at SBC trips over a power cable.

The Uncanny Valley

What creatures in sci-fi or horror films and literature do you find really creepy? What concepts make your skin crawl? Chances are it’s not something radically inhuman, according to a study by Doctor Masahiro Mori, a roboticist. His hypothesis involves a curve describing our emotional reaction to creatures as the creatures are more and more human-like. At one end of the curve is a theoretical creature, completely alien, that bears no similarities whatever with a normal, healthy human being. At the other end is said normal healthy human being*. Doctor Mori says that the curve between the two is not just an upward progression, but that it dips suddenly into a severe trough somewhere toward the human end of the curve. This is the “Uncanny Valley”, where monsters live.

Mori (and every good horror writer out there) says that the creepiest monsters are the ones that are similar to humans, but “off” just enough that we know, sometimes on a nearly subliminal level, they obviously aren’t. A shambling zombie, its very human face looking pleadingly into the distance as it sinks its teeth joylessly into someone’s neck. Frankenstein’s monster, frustratingly close to human, raging against its inability to be quite human. A RealDoll, very human-looking but unbreathing and with eyes staring straight ahead: just inhuman enough that it’s impossible to pretend that it really is one. These are the sorts of things that really squick us out.

There’s another point on the curve that is of note. See, before the curve dips into the Uncanny Valley there is an apex. This is the ultimate point of “just human enough” that roboticists strive for. Here are creatures that are obviously not human, but that exhibit enough human traits that we tend to react favourably toward them. This is the domain of Asimo, much good anime, and a lot of anthropomorphic animals. Think of McGruff, the “take a bite out of crime” dog. He’s a great mascot because he’s humanlike enough that we can believe he has something relevant to say, yet he’s not encroaching on our sense of self and humanity like the human-animal hybrids on Doctor Moreau’s island, or werewolves.

I recommend you read the original article. It’s a good read, and short enough to read during a quick break from Important Stuff: The Uncanny Valley
Also, leave me a comment and tell me what sci-fi or other monsters squick you out the most.

* Obviously each individual will have a slightly different concept of “normal” and “healthy”, but we’re talking about averages here :o)

On a technical note: I would just like to mention that my browser crashed while I was writing this, and I was able to fire up a hex editor, search through the memory dump and recover all the text, sparing myself much anguish. I am so l33t!

Technical Difficulties

First off: I like Sprocket Data. They’ve been good hosts, overall. But lately my connection has been seriously flakey. From late Saturday to sometime Sunday the connection to this server was on-and-off. Then last night I had another few hours of downtime and my server got rebooted! My precious, sweet uptime! gone!

This is not doing wonders for my plans to get more people to host with me… bah. But I have faith that they’ll get their acts together. Apparently they’ve switched connectivity providers or something, and they were having routing problems, which means that it’ll go away soon. And hopefully SDI will be cool enough to give me some compensation.

Further bulletins as the evening warrants.

Contrary to popular belief, I am not slacking off

No, really. I’m no longer doing nothing but work and sleep. I know that my blog goes for way too long at a time without updates, but still. I’m doing dev work. I’m administering this server and improving the lives of my users. And I’ve got a few projects that I’m working on, that are taking up my time.

Io: I’m an almost-out-of-the-closet gamer. Yes, role-playing games. Yes, Dungeons and Dragons. No, I never grew out of that. No, I don’t “believe I am an elf.” Anyway, the Io site was originally a repository of articles and information about the world my friends and I play in. It’s been under construction for a year and a half because I started implementing a permissions system and never finished it. Recently, though, I’ve been doing more work on it. I’ve been writing some DM tools that should make my life a hell of a lot easier while gaming. It’s a shitload of work, though. You can’t see them yet, because they’re password-protected but take my words for it: shit is getting done.

Memethief: This is a project being started very slowly with a couple of friends. The idea is that it’s a collaborative blog in six parts. There are six topics, each of which appears on the front page one day a week. Thing is, I’m rolling my own interface to it, and I’m writing all the real code. Oh, and I have a really cool idea for my side of it! The other contributors are supposed to be writing their own HTML (hint, hint, you guys!) but I of course have been complicating my own life by adding extra functionality to my side of things. This is the part that’s giving me all the grief (and the part that’s actually getting developed :o)

Plus on top of those two I’m doing this refresher course in math. It’s high-school-level shit, but I’ve gotta because I’m applying to school next year and they need to know I’m not a complete n00b. Fuck, and I’ve been falling behind on that too. Arg!

I’m working my ass off lately on this hosting I do. I’m trying to get the people I host to get me more customers so I can upgrade the server. So I’ve been bending over backward for them, installing this new nifty statistics reporting program and stuff, and all sorts of shit. I’m moving log files around so my users have access to them, I’m configging my mail server so they can all manage their own aliases. I set up some redundant DNS servers with my registrar so that shit is always resolvable. So if you need some cheap hosting drop me a line!

Then, there’s this zine I’m supposed to be doing a piece for. I know what I want to do, and I’ve got the preliminary work done, but I’ve still got to buckle down and do it. And that’s going to be a big chunk of time. Fuck.

Finally, there’s usual life shit. Work, bills, crap, family, stress, somehow managing to remember to eat at least once or twice a day (I slipped up this past weekend) — but I can’t claim that as special stuff I’m working on because it’s the sort of stuff everyone does. But just so you know, I’m not neglecting this blog because I’ve stopped being creative and outputty. It’s just going in different directions for now.

Fuck I’m tired.