"Today it is all or nothing. To save my own sanity I chose the nothing."
- Stainless Steel Rat
Jim diGriz (Stainless Steel Rat) was born and bred in Bath, where he is still both living and working. He received his degree in Electronic and Communication Engineering from Bath University in 1991. Some of his close family also lives in Bath. On his mother's side, he has ancestors from many different areas: Cornwall, Ireland, Scotland etc. His father comes from Malta, where many of his relatives still live. His current employment is in the computer field.
Currently, Jim is learning to play guitar and speak Spanish. He has a basic grounding in German (enough that he could pick it up seriously if he wanted to) and has also dabbled in Esperanto. He admits to being a 'total gadget nut', stating that he regularly makes a pilgrimage to Tottenham Court Road in London, and almost always comes away a little older, a little poorer... but with a cool gadget! He also boasts of his love for reading;a quick look at his homepage and you will see that this is an understatement. He tends to read anything and everything he can get his hands on including science, literature, poetry, politics, philosophy, etc. He's a big fan of reading books on his Palm-Vx organiser. The books can be downloaded free from the net, and several can be stored on the organiser at once. So if he finds himself stuck in a shop queue, or at a bus stop, he can always find something to read.
Among his other enjoyments he finds great pleasure in taking random trips, where he has no idea where he's going to end up. The randomness adds to the excitement and the lack of an agenda means that he's never disappointed by what actually happens. Most of these random trips take him to places in the UK. However, in February, he did kind of end up in Chicago, on an impulse! (That is one heck of an impulse LOL!!)
Once joining h2g2 Jim enjoyed chatting to various people, popping by to add his comments here and there. He noticed that the last batch of ACE recruitment had passed, but thought it might be fun to make meeting and greeting an 'official' activity. Thinking that this might be something he would enjoy, he popped by a forum and left a message stating that when they look for more ACEs to think about him. Long story short, they did and he is. Just as he thought, he is finding it great to see what newcomers put on their pages. Sometimes he's amazed to see a user who is "New this week" has posted in 20 forums all over the place, or done something really amazing with their homepage. It makes me wonder if he should be asking *them* for help! Due to problems with his ISP, h2g2 has not been working as well for him as normal. It's not h2g2's fault, but it has meant that posting has been a bit awkward, and he has often not seen replies that people have made. It seems to be a bit better now, so fingers-crossed for the future. He greatly enjoys his time here and when asked about what he would like to see changed he stated that he would dearly love to be able to register interest in an article or thread so that postings would pop up on his page *without* having to post there himself. Often, he finds a really interesting thread, and wants to follow it, even though he has nothing of substance to add to it at that time. He feels that it would also help with Approved Articles, as postings made to them don't show up on your homepage.
Stainless Steel Rat:I just had to ask him about this choice in nicknames to which he was more than willing to explain. Jim first came across the Stainless Steel Rat when the original story (by Harry Harrison) was serialised in the Sci-Fi comic 2000AD. The Rat is a guy called Jim diGriz who lives many thousands of years in the future, in a society where all the worlds are just coming out of a dark age (known as the 'breakdown'). diGriz is an interplanetary criminal who is recruited by the Special Corps to solve all the problems that cannot be solved by normal means. He began reading the books, and quickly fell in love with the character. In fact, he became a bit of a role model during his teenage years! Currently his choice in nicks is more than a name; it is an Approved Guide Article, pop over and have a read.
Whilst on his page you will see that Jim is a member of The Mars Society, which was founded by Robert Zubrin, an American scientist. In the early 1990s, Zubrin looked at NASA's plans for sending humans to Mars; they were outrageously expensive, and had been (not unreasonably) rejected by Congress. He (with the help of others) came up with a plan called "Mars Direct", which involves launching ships to Mars directly from Earth1. His plan also relies upon manufacturing fuel and other supplies on Mars, a technique akin to "living off the land". This plan has now been taken on board by NASA, and is now the building block of their 'most-likely' scenarios.
The Mars Society is currently constructing a research station, which will be set up on Devon Island, in the Arctic Circle. This area seems to be the closest that we on Earth can get to conditions on Mars2. There are many international chapters; Jim is a member of the UK chapter. Currently they are all working on a 'Mars Analog Rover'. This is an Earth-based vehicle, which will be built and used to try out various ideas for the real rover to be used on Mars. He hasn't been able to contribute much yet to this, but is currently studying subjects that will enable him to provide more input. Much excitement has been caused by the recent announcement that there appears to be water on the surface of Mars. This has spurred efforts to encourage missions that will look for signs of Martian life. Robert Zubrin has published a book on his Mars Direct plan; it's called 'The Case for Mars'.
Jim is also a part of the [email protected] project but, to date, as far as he is aware, has had absolutely no success whatsoever in locating an alien. Heck...even if he had achieved success he states that he would really have no way of knowing that it was, indeed, alien contact. I was a bit curious about the pros and cons of this particular program to which he stated he couldn't really think of any cons. It's true that it's very unlikely that this particular experiment will detect aliens. The really interesting part, however, (for him!) is the way in which all the spare capacity of thousands of computers world-wide can be combined together to make what is effectively one really powerful parallel processor! This technique is being used now for many other calculations that require enormous computer power, such as climate modelling.
On a side note I began to wonder what pearls of wisdom or just plain ol' wise cracks our friend Jim had for us. He responded by saying that his favourite wise crack is:
'Oh well, crack on!'
which he uses whenever some minor disaster has occurred. He has discovered that this, apparently, can be quite irritating to other people. As for any pearls of wisdom that he might have, he gains most of those from Robert Heinlein. Jim tends to enjoy the maxims that cut right across the grain of accepted wisdom. Here are some examples:
The more you love, the more you *can* love - and the more intensely you love. Nor is there any limit on how many you can love. If a person had time enough, he could love all of that majority who are decent and just.
Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavour of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.
Beware of altruism. It is based on self-deception, the root of all evil. If tempted by something that feels "altruistic", examine your motives and root out that self-deception. Then, if you still want to do it, wallow in it!
A competent and self-confident person is incapable of jealousy in anything. Jealousy is invariably a symptom of neurotic insecurity.
Ingredient for a happy marriage: Budget the luxuries *first*!
Finally, Jim wanted to make a plug for the ongoing expansion of the human race. Many arguments can be made for the colonisation of space. Technology, industry, science... all these areas would clearly benefit from space investment. However, even though these are all worthy results, for him the most compelling reason for the investment of our minds and resources in this area is not primarily a material one. It is psychological, cultural and philosophical. We no longer have a real physical frontier available to us here on Earth. There is nowhere left to colonise on this planet that is sufficiently far from home that the 'new world' must find its own way, its own customs for dealing with its own problems. The human race is well along a road where individual cultures are beginning to be merged into a big global culture. Although there are positive effects of this change, we no longer have an alternative input of different ideas from the outside to 'shake us up' a little.
A colony on Mars will be a tough, rugged place to raise a family, to create a society. Different rules of behaviour and etiquette will emerge, different laws, different forms of entertainment and art. These new ideas (whatever they turn out to be) will force the thinkers on Earth to re-examine their philosophies, and their ideas on human relationships. It'll be just the kick up the butt that the human race needs!