Games Day

Richard B. has started up a new blog. In his first (well, almost) entry, he covers the games day we had at the weekend. It was another good one, even though my self-imposed low-carbiness meant that I couldn’t eat any crisps, chocolate muffins, potato wedges, pizza, or…well, anything, really.

Except for the CHICKEN WINGS!!

Mad props to the Rosslyn Deli for being able to rush me another bulk order of special wing sauce (Frank and Teressa’s original Anchor Bar variety) by overnight delivery. As well as the “hotter” sauce, I got some of the “blazing hot” sauce, too. I think this might be the same as the “suicide” sauce they show on their web site, but it may be a subtle variation. Either way, it was hot.

Oh, and Burnout 3? Possibly the best racing game ever.

Falling off the Atkins wagon

I weighed in at 74.5kg this morning, 2.5kg (about 5lb) down from my starting point last Monday. Instead of feeling delighted at losing so much weight in such a short time, I felt miserable. The last couple of days have been awful.

I have had no energy, no appetite, no joy. My concentration is shot to hell. Food that I would normally savour, like mature cheese, bacon, or roast beef, has tasted dry and dead in my mouth. The very thought of having to eat something has made me nauseous. Despite drinking litres of water, my mouth and tongue have felt dry and thick, to the point where I have been having trouble speaking.

On the positive side, I tried on my kilt again after weighing myself, and found that it fit comfortably again, albeit with the buckles at their loosest notches.

So today I was struggling with the question: what was really my goal with this quick diet? To fit into my kilt in time for the wedding on Saturday, or to lose as much weight as possible in time for the wedding? That is to say, should I carry on with the low-carb torture for another three or four days, or should I consider my mission accomplished?

The course of the day decided it for me. I couldn’t face having any breakfast at all, and at lunch all I managed to eat was a small packet of pecan nuts. By late afternoon I knew I couldn’t face another three days of this. It’s over.

Earlier today, Abi and I did a bit of calculating to see how much the various bits and pieces of my soul weigh:

Order of departure Item Mass
1st Joie de vivre 200 g
2nd Good humour 1,800 g
3rd Appetite 500 g

Dinner this evening was chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, peas, and baked beans, my favourite food. My mood picked up even as I was cooking it, and actually sitting down and shoveling mashed potato into my mouth was…glorious. By the end of the meal I felt giddy from the carb rush.

If I ever talk about doing a low carb diet again, will someone please stop me? Yes, it’s effective, but it’s not worth it. Having been through Atkins once before, I knew it was going to sap my will to live. I had thought that foreknowledge and a fixed end date would make the diet easier to bear, but they didn’t.

Curiously, this time round I didn’t have the same monster bread cravings I had last year. I didn’t even mind the absence of chocolate. Instead, I found myself lusting after bananas, marmalade, muesli, and the simple pleasure of a glass of cold milk. Not that I wouldn’t have killed for a slice of toast…but I might have been gentle about it.

A9 search

Amazon has been pumping up its A9 search engine this week. It’s been getting stacks of press, and I even noticed this evening that an A9 search box has replaced the standard Google search box over at IMDB. (Probably not surprising, since Amazon owns IMDB, too.)

I remember taking a look at A9 when they soft-launched the beta earlier this year, and thinking, “meh.” Looking at it now, though, they’ve really thrown some coals on the fire. Multiple lists of search results on a single page make it a power searcher’s dream. It makes heavy use of personalisation, automatically keeping track of your search history. And if you install the A9 toolbar, it will even provide the “Personal Search” functionality I was so interested in having back in February:

“With the A9 Toolbar all your web browsing history will be stored, allowing you (and only you!) to retrieve it at any time and even search it”

The only problem is, now that it’s here, I feel somewhat reluctant to actually use it.

Amazon are quite up-front about what they’re going to do with people’s A9 browser history: they’re going to correlate it with their Amazon customer history to improve the customer experience they provide. Their privacy policy says pretty unambigiously:


I was a little bit freaked out when I visited A9 earlier in the week and found the “Hello Mr Martin Sutherland” welcome message at the top of the screen. I didn’t remember ever signing up with A9, and a quick look through my password safe showed that I didn’t have a separate user name for it. But because A9 is an Amazon subsidiary, they share their cookies, and so they can use my Amazon login to identify me.

Cross-domain cookie sharing is often considered a bad thing, because it indicates information leakage. How happy are you if Company X decides to suddenly share your private information with Company Y without notifying you–even if you had previously agreed to their privacy policy? (Though probably without reading it.)

A9 is a wholly owned Amazon subsidiary, so technically they are the same company. Also, I like, trust and respect Amazon as a company. (Heck, I applied to–and still want to–work for them.) Put together, these two statements should generate a nice bit of syllogistic synergy to give me warm fuzzies about A9. But they don’t. There’s something about the relationship, and the sharing of personal information that makes me feel…icky.

It’s hard to quantify exactly where the Ick Factor starts. I’m happy enough to leave Amazon in custody of all my book, music, and DVD browsing and shopping information. I have absolutely no problem with that. In fact, I want them to use it to improve my shopping experience.

But also giving them access to all my search history, and potentially all my browsing history? Um, no.

I think that A9 recognizes this. In addition to their fully personalised site, they also offer, an anonymous version of the search engine. You still get the multiple search panels, but they don’t tie your searching back to a specific identity.

But is the non-personalised search really that much better than, say, raw Google? I think it’s a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” case. Without personalisation, A9 is only an evolutionary step in terms of search; but with personalisation they go too far.

So why don’t I have the same icky feeling about Google, which I’ve been using almost exclusively for several years now, and which also has the ability to track its users’ search history? Well, I kind of do when it comes to Orkut, their social networking service. And this is, I think, the crux of the matter: I am happy enough entrusting specific chunks of my on-line life to specific companies. It’s when they start clubbing together to aggregate my personal information that it all becomes icky.

And then we’re back at national identity cards. Sigh.

We’re only a decade or so into the Internet Age, and there’s still a long way to go in terms of clarifying mores and defining a social contract between individuals and collective entities. This is all going to be really big and important over the next ten years, isn’t it?

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