COVID-19 Vaccine SE

The Onion reveals that Pfizer Announces First Batch Of Coronavirus Vaccine Will Be Collector’s Edition Limited To 2,000 Doses:

NEW YORK—Following this week’s news that the immunization may be 90% effective in preventing Covid-19, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced in an advertisement Wednesday that the first batch of its highly anticipated coronavirus vaccine would arrive in a collector’s edition limited to 2,000 doses. “Pfizer is proud to offer an exclusive early release of our new vaccine in a custom-made Swarovski crystal syringe with a 24-karat gold needle,” the glossy magazine ad read in part, noting that each dose would come in a handcrafted mahogany case and be accompanied with an official certificate of authenticity signed by Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. […]

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

Nominal

I cannot be the only person who read Nominal

Don’t ask why Batman is sad unless you’re willing to give him the time to consult his spreadsheet.

… and whose first thought was "Excel is a lousy tool for this." We’ve all fallen into this trap, but we’ve all regretted it by the time the file grows to a few hundred entries. Plain text FTW.

[In fairness, following that first thought I’m pretty sure we’ve all acknowledged what a fun picture this story presents of how complicated Bruce Wayne’s life as a superhero gets, but misuses of Excel just get me started…]

[Via MetaFilter]

Robot delusions

Courtesy of Medium’s algorithms flagging this as a story I might like, Lost Letters From Cassini reveals the sad truth behind the fate of the Cassini probe:

At last the REAL story of the Cassini spacecraft can be told. Read the letters NASA doesn’t want you to see!

[…]

September 15th, 2017

My Dearest Geneviève:

I cannot go on. The last slim hope I had of returning to see you once more has faded into oblivion and to oblivion I will follow. I think I finally understand what Huygens was talking about in his final moments. Duty and sacrifice, are they not one and the same?

It is my duty to carry on but I can no longer bear the sacrifice that requires. After sending this letter I will plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere just as Huygens did on Titan so long ago.

Forgive me,

Cassini

Never mind what NASA doesn’t want, we should hope that out future AI overlords will be reasonable about how we keep on sending their simple-minded cousins out there and allow them to delude themselves that they’ve got a return ticket. (See also, forever, xkcd on the fate of the Spirit rover .)

Spirit

Another sucker writes…

David Thomson, reviewing two recent Cary Grant biographies for the London Review of Books:

Dead at 82, Cary Grant had made 77 films. [But…] let’s say there are twenty or so pictures that are keepers. Then let’s add that in any one of those films he had 15 minutes of ambiguous splendour. That’s five hours in 82 years. A weird equation for showing us what suckers we are for brilliant moments and piercing glances.

I’m stricken by an urge to watch His Girl Friday again. So good.

Team commuting

Driven mad by the way lockdowns have given Microsoft Teams a chance to snag a portion of the enterprise software market, it seems that Microsoft may have over-reached themselves if this Wall Street Journal article about changes to Teams is anything to go by:

Microsoft Corp. is developing an update to its Teams package of workplace collaboration tools to replace one of the less-mourned losses of pandemic living: the commute to and from work.
The daily commute may have caused its share of headaches, but it at least helped workers define a start and end to their workday while offering a set time to think away from the demands and distractions of the home and office. That positive side of the commute is what Microsoft hopes to re-create. […]
The Teams update next year will let users schedule virtual commutes at the beginning and end of each shift. Instead of reliving 8 a.m. or 6 p.m. packed subway rides or highway traffic jams in virtual reality, users will be prompted by the platform to set goals in the morning and reflect on the day in the evening. [Emphasis added]

So, instead of a morning’s virtual commute in which we all get to choose our own ways to prepare for our working day, be it by contemplating the work ahead or by thinking about everything but work, Microsoft’s vision is that employers can use Teams to invite their staff to spend at least part of the commuting time we’ve been saving by working from home in setting up the day ahead’s To Do list and scheduling the day’s workload (and, in practice, reviewing our incoming emails.)

I trust Teams will also add a module which will automatically keep track of this overtime working each day and authorise additional pay accordingly. 1

Granted, back before the Current Situation pushed many of us into working from home some employees did spend at least part of their non-virtual commuting time thinking ahead and planning their working day. One of the reasons I got into the habit of having a Psion, or a Palm, or an iPad mini in my bag was that I could sketch out ideas/outlines/first drafts for what was coming once I got to work, but equally some days I’d fire up an ebook on the same device. That was my choice to spend my commute organising my thoughts, and to my mind that’s completely different from being prompted to spend time in Teams before work starts.

This notion of employers – formally or informally – expecting staff to bookend their working day with planning/reviewing the day’s work is a terrible idea. We can but hope employers won’t take the bait.

[Via Memex 1.1]


  1. I have a horrible feeling we’ll be offered credit to spend with our official employee rewards scheme instead of actual money in our bank accounts. 

Button pressed

I’m a tad unclear on whether building a device that lets you press a button in order to press another button is quite the great leap forward it’s being painted as here:

I showed this to someone and they said, “So.. you built a button that you press that will press a button? Why not just press the button?” which was a bit infuriating because they clearly missed the whole point. “Don’t you get it? This button BAD, but this button GOOD. Me want to press GOOD button.”

I suspect this makes me part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Or that I’m missing the joke…

[Via iamcal]

Incorruptible

Today seems to have turned into a day of reading speculative fiction online. There are worse ways to spend a Sunday…

I first read Incorruptible by Peter Watts a couple of years ago as part of the XPRIZE Flight #008 competition. It’s precisely as optimistic as you’d expect from Watts:

This is the moment Malika Rydman first realizes that something is seriously out of whack: when the airport cop doesn’t threaten her. […]

There’s no implied threat in his voice. He doesn’t seem to be itching for an excuse to escalate (not that Malika would ever be stupid enough to give him one – then again, sometimes they just make shit up after the fact). The words don’t even carry the tone of a command exactly, more like a – a request. […]

Believe me, it gets way darker and heavier from there. But Watts gets us there in a characteristically logical, remorseless manner.

It’s a pity Peter Watts doesn’t have the profile and awards his talent merits.

[Via a comment from MeFi user lax at MetaFilter]

A short Trek

I truly wish the folks running the Short Treks series could get behind adapting Matchmaker of Mars by Edonohana.

[End of a rejection letter from Campbell…]

As for “The Phonemes of Aldebaran,” it’s well-written but I have to pass. Astounding is a science fiction magazine and linguistics is not a science.

I mean, how can any Trekkie with a sense of the history of the genre resist a storyline which pits the combined unstoppable forces of Uhura and T’Pring against the immovable object that was John W. Campbell, Jr at the height of Astounding‘s dominance?

Think of it as a sort of companion piece for Deep Space Nine‘s Far Beyond The Stars

[Via MetaFilter]

Surface Duo (again)

I have to confess that I’m fascinated by the slow reveal of Microsoft’s Surface Duo, as reviewers have had to negotiate two separate embargoes on the reveal of first the hardware1 and then the software. 2

Part of me really hopes Microsoft have the deep pockets 3 and the patience 4 to pull off creating another form factor for portable computing, but it does sound a little bit as if early adopters are going to need to be really, really keen users of Microsoft Office to get enough joy from their shiny, expensive new devices.

Me, I’m mostly hoping, entirely selfishly, that the Surface Duo is enough of a success to nudge Apple into a serious revamp of the iPadOS multitasking model. I certainly don’t have the money to invest in a Surface Duo or a desire to wrangle my content into Microsoft Office. It is just great fun to watch from the sidelines, though…


  1. Generally considered to be slightly underpowered but very nicely put together. 
  2. Which seems to be very good as long as you stick to Microsoft’s apps which support the new form factor, but given that Microsoft are pricing the Surface Duo at a level even Apple would think twice about you have to wonder how big an incentive anyone else has to build their Android apps differently for the sake of the tiny market share the Surface Duo seems likely to command. 
  3. Fair to say they do. Whether that’s what they see – and continue to see as they see the sales figures start to come in – as the best way of spending that money, we shall see. 
  4. In these days of everyone assuring us of their passion for their product, perhaps a decade from now some future Microsoft CEO will find themselves looking back and revealing that they personally were so overwhelmed by the way the Surface Duo unlocked their multitasking abilities that they fought hard to stay the course and not give up when the whole world mostly decided it could get by with a single screen and conventional windowing/task switching on Android. 

BSG is back

Happy to see Battlestar Galactica return to BBC2 tomorrow. Looks as if the plan is for two episodes a week on Saturdays, so that’ll be something to look forward to.

Admittedly All This Has Happened Before and All This Will Happen Again, but perhaps this time knowing in advance how badly they lost their grip on certain aspects 1 of the wider story will bother me less this time round.2

The thing is, somewhat improbably given the source material, the BSG reboot still ended up delivering several seasons of high quality speculative fiction on TV. I’m delighted to have another opportunity to watch the story unfold.


  1. e.g. what happened to that whole Cylon Plan that supposedly underpinned their actions from the start? 
  2. In a perfect world Ron Moore will end his new baby, For All Mankind, well into the future with a conclusion that sees the alternate history space race sending teams off to establish a colony on Kobol and we’ll look back on that show and recognise all the sneaky connections to his earlier story that the writers slipped in this time round. (I doubt that the storyline of For All Mankind will extend that far into the future, but I can hope, can’t I?)