Little Grey Bubbles

I bookmarked Little Grey Bubbles meaning to post it here months ago, then it got pushed down the queue of #ForWeblog bookmarks in Pinboard and I only came across it again today when I was reviewing my bookmarks1 checking off items that I’ve since posted.

Kim and Marlon were best friends, despite the fact they communicated exclusively online. Before Marlon died, he sent Kim a message saying he had something important to tell her. To find out what it was, and get a deeper sense of her friend, she travels to his funeral.

Wish lists and watchlists and halting and catching fire

It’s a shame that Halt and Catch Fire diesn’t seem to be on any UK streaming services just at the moment when this Halt and Catch Fire Syllabus has popped up.

This site features a curriculum developed around the television series, Halt and Catch Fire (2014-2017), a fictional narrative about people working in tech during the 1980s-1990s.
The intent is for this website to be used by self-forming small groups that want to create a “watching club” (like a book club) and discuss aspects of technology history that are featured in this series.

I’m not sure their chosen format1 would have worked well for me when I was devouring the show back when we were still in the first lockdown, but the nice thing about the internet is that now it’s up there hopefully it’ll still be there, waiting for me2 one day when I do a rewatch.

[Via RT by @hondanhon]

  1. Book clubs imitating a college study group, with syllabuses and reading lists, really aren’t how I want to spend my leisure time. I’ve no doubt that with the right classmates bringing their perspectives on the story to a discussion this could be terrific, but I don’t think I move in the right circles to make that work. True, I could buy the four seasons of the show and watch them online whenever I like, but that’d … not be a good use of my funds at this time. 
  2. I find it weird that I don’t seem to be able to add the four seasons of the show to my Amazon wishlist. I get that Amazon want me to throw money at them now rather than put off that decision for later, and I suspect that they’d suggest that I add them to my Watchlist in Prime Video, but that’s not quite the same thing. To my mind, my Watchlist is for stuff I have yet to watch, while my Wishlist is for stuff I have yet to buy. I don’t want to clutter up my Watchlist with stuff I’ve seen. That just makes my Watchlist less efficient, or requires me to spend more time than I want to organising/filtering it. Just let me chuck a pointer to something I might want to buy one day on my Wishlist and let me be done thinking about it, Amazon… I could rid myself of this problem by adding the show to my Wishlist in what-used-to-be-called-iTunes instead, but I don’t think Amazon want that. … And now these footnotes have pretty much doubled the length of the post they’re attached to, which is a sign I should do something about that or that I should get an editor. 

On screen(s) in 2021

Given the way film release schedules have been disrupted over the last year, it feels strange to read an article about Upcoming Must-See Movies in 2021 and contemplate just when and where these might show up.

For what it’s worth, out of that selection I’m looking forward to…

  • Malcolm and Marie General rule of thumb: putting two ridiculously sexy actors together on screen is a decent starting point. It may not be enough, but the trailer suggests that it might. (Also, John David Washington deserves a break after being in Tenet.)
  • Godzilla vs. Kong Look, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was surprisingly good and Kong: Skull Island was tolerable, so it’s not impossible this will be both very silly and yet worth a look. In any fair match-up Godzilla wipes the floor with Kong, but if we could somehow arrange for this to be a crossover with the Pacific Rim franchise this could be one for the ages.
  • Last Night in Soho Edgar Wright hasn’t let me down yet.
  • Candyman I remember the first take on this story being excellent and I’m an optimist, what can I say?
  • Dune Villeneuve has the chops to make this work, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be memorable even if it turns out not to be so good.
  • The Matrix 4 I know it’s not going to have the impact the first film did, but I just have a feeling about this one. Also, I loved Sense8 and Jupiter Ascending and Cloud Atlas, so you now know that I’m a Wachowski fanboy and can calibrate your assessment of my standards accordingly.
  • The French Dispatch The pleasures of watching that cast in a Wes Anderson film just can’t be underestimated.

Granted that’s a very nostalgic (and, some might add, very optimistic) list, but worst case scenario is that for every one of the above films that disappoints there’ll be something else that unexpectedly that turns out to be better than them.

It remains to be seen whether we’ll get to see them all on a big screen or a small screen, or whether by the end of 2021 the inevitable Disney-Apple-Amazon-Sony-Facebook-Tesla-BBC-Netflix-Microsoft merger will have brought all audiovisual digital entertainment under a single streaming service to which we’ll each pay a tithe for the rest of our days, but apart from that What could go wrong?


How on earth did the World Wide Web ever get to the point where this needed to be written:

Newsletters; or, an enormous rant about writing on the web that doesn’t really go anywhere and that’s okay with me

I know it’s very pretty to look at, but that’s an awful design to actually use in a web browser if you want people to read the textual content.1 Despite that it’s a well written essay – though I think the attitude to RSS is completely wrong-headed – that’s certainly worth a read.

[Via Sentiers #156] 2

  1. Can’t help but add that that’s not “an enormous rant” by any reasonable definition of the term; it’s 1,755 words once you strip out all the HTML and CSS. It’s just made to feel enormous because of the mostly-one-sentence-at-a-time presentational approach. 
  2. And yes, I’m aware of the irony that I got this link via a newsletter. I’d have been happy to have got it from the RSS feed of the Sentiers blog, but that’s not how this worked out. 

For All Mankind season 2

A full trailer for For All Mankind Season 2 has been published. Looks as if the rest of the world is set to watch the Cold War playing out a quarter of a million miles away.

Given where season 1 left off this was probably always going to be the sort of storyline they gave us in season 2, but I hope that we’ll look back on this in later seasons1 as the difficult transitional season that we had to get through to get to the real story.2

[Via Geektown]

  1. Yes, this assumes that the show gets several more seasons but let’s be optimistic here. In theory Apple have the money to fund this for as long as the story needs, but how long the producers get for this show on this streaming platform is another question entirely. 
  2. Interesting to see that the IMDB cast information for the episodes – which admittedly, is pretty thin once you get beyond season 2 episode 1 – doesn’t list returning cast members like Joel Kinnaman or Jodi Balfour past that first episode. Nothing against the returning cast members, but wouldn’t it be interesting to see the story transitioning to a different main cast by the end. Against that, some returning actors we see or hear from in the new season’s trailer don’t even appear listed against season 2 episode 1 so it may just be that the IMDB’s list is, to put it mildly, a work in progress. 


I’d completely missed that earlier this year Paul Cornell wrote a couple of short followups to the Human Nature/The Family of Blood two-parter from back in the day.

Interesting to see the difference a couple of regenerations made to the Doctor’s attitude to a defeated foe.

(Context, for the weak.)

[Via Cultbox]

COBOL (still) rules

Clive Thompson on the stranglehold that COBOL code has on the older/bigger end of the finance business:

In fact, these days, when the phone rings in the house [retired COBOL wizard] Thomas retired to — in a small town outside of Toronto — it will occasionally be someone from the bank. Hey, they’ll say,_ can you, uh, help… update your code? Maybe add some new features to it?_Because, as it turns out, the bank no longer employs anyone who understands COBOL as well as Thomas does, who can dive in and tweak it to perform a new task. Nearly all the COBOL veterans, the punch-card jockeys who built the bank’s crucial systems way back when, who know COBOL inside and out — they’ve retired. They’ve left the building, just like Thomas. And few young coders have any interest in learning a dusty, 50-year-old computer language. They’re much more excited by buzzier new fields, like Toronto’s booming artificial-intelligence scene. They’re learning fresh new coding languages.

It seems amazing that this situation has dragged on this long. Is it just that the small number of coders who understand COBOL code well enough to step in when banks absolutely need to tweak their COBOL codebase are making out like bandits because they can demand vast rewards for their services from an industry that didn’t understand it was creating this situation and is now willing, if it must, to pay top dollar when it must keep basic functionality running at scale? Or is it more that when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of balancing the books banks feel little pressure to rip out the plumbing and rebuild their systems so there’s really much less demand for changes to existing COBOL codebases than you’d expect?

[Via Ongoing]

Evil geniuses

Contemplating the new year, I was just thinking that it was about time I pruned the list of streaming media services I’m subscribed to.1 I hadn’t watched a show on NowTV regularly since I drifted away from Lovecraft Country halfway through the season, I thought. I meant to quit NowTV once Game of Thrones finished, I thought to myself, but I didn’t. Then I got sucked into the Nolan/Joy reboot of Westworld so I let the NowTV subscription live. More recently, NowTV brought me both Succession and an opportunity to see a show I couldn’t see when it was originally broadcast, The Newsroom2, so again that kept me paying them that monthly fee for a while.

Let me just take a quick look in case there’s anything popped up recently that I’ve missed, I thought. And then I found that since last I looked they’re now showing Fringe, a show that I couldn’t watch at the time but which I’ve always wanted to catch up on, what with it having an excellent reputation as an X Files substitute.


So, NowTV is safe for however long it takes me to work my way through Fringe, and I have further evidence that I am a weak-willed puppet of a massive media giant.

One day HBO are going to take the UK market seriously instead of letting NowTV have first refusal on UK streaming rights to most of their dramatic content, and I suspect I’ll be adding another media streaming service to my subscription list.3

  1. I’m not kidding myself that this was a New Year Resolution, because I know from long experience that, for me, those don’t stick. I was just sitting here contemplating a day off work and how best I could use it. 
  2. I know Aaron Sorkin’s show got a terrible reception and it probably deserved much of it, but it also had enough of the good stuff that it was worth a look, IMHO. Looked back on towards the end of the Trump era, we should all be a bit less certain that a bunch of well-meaning white liberal men can be counted on to fix the world’s problems (indeed, we can be pretty certain that they can’t) but that’s a topic for a different post. This post is about how NowTV keep pulling me back in every time I’m tempted to drop my subscription, so let’s stay on-topic. 
  3. Of course, I recognise that another way of looking at it, one that NowTV’s current owners might endorse, is that NowTV have built a business over the years based on their knowing what UK customers of a certain age and type want and giving it to them. Yeah, I could believe that. Not sure I do.