Blog posts

  • A Hasselblad!

    A Hasselblad!

    My wife Sara and I used to have this running joke leading up to her birthday each year.  Each year I'd say "Honey!  What would you like for your birthday?" and she would reply "I'd like a Hasselblad".  Usually with a big smile on her face, in a wink-wink-nudge-nudge kind of way. Then I'd say "Ha ha, no, seriously, what would you like?" and we'd both laugh and move on to more serious things. Hasselblad.  The 500c/m.  Man.  That camera.  It's like the Rolls Royce of cameras.  It would send shivers down our spines and we'd get all giggly any time we'd talk about it. […]

    Not having any interest in photography, I wouldn't know a Hasselblad from a Hewlett-Packard, but I appreciated the story of what followed a chance encounter in a camera store: the reverence for a classic design, the personal history of at least one of the participants, the sense of how unlikely it was that the story would end as it did, the link to the Apollo moon landings.

    Definitely worth a read.

    [Via MetaFilter]

  • Late-life planning

    Mary Beard finds herself facing up to one of the early indications that retirement is starting to appear on the horizon, turning her attention to bringing her book collection under control:

    We have just built a new bit of book-shelf extension onto the house […] The fact is that I have two shared offices half full of books, and every floor in the house is piled high. So now is the moment to take action (I am thinking about retirement when those two half-offices no longer exist) and to put the old books on the new shelves. The fact is that we are now coming to see what librarians have been working on, and trying to sort out, for centuries.

    First of all, how do we manage between us (husband and me) to have so many duplicates or triplicates. When I bought (cheaply) a second-hand of the 2003 National Gallery Titian Exhibition a few weeks ago, did I not realise that we had two already (no, because they were in those unsorted piles on the floor)?

    But just as pressing is the size and shape of the books. […]

    Presumably to be followed in a year or so by another post updating us on their efforts to weed out duplicates. (I'm guessing that scanning/digitising chunks of their collection will never seriously be considered.)

  • An Alarming New Skill

    In which the very liberal1 Ursula Vernon decides to go and equip herself with a rifle so she can learn to hunt deer:

    This was insane. I could kill someone with this! I mean, if I could hit them, which honestly, it'd be easier to club them to death with the stock (or the butt?) at this point, because looking at the bit through the thing seemed very haphazard, so they would have to stand very still unless they were right in front of me, and I'd probably forget to take the safety off and I didn't know how to load it yet and shouldn't they make sure I knew what I was doing before they let me give them money for a gun?!

    "I don't need to take a class?" I said weakly.

    "You will need to take a hunting safety class to get a hunting permit," he explained. "You go to the NC dot gov website and you can find class listings from there."

    "But I can just shoot the gun. Without a permit?" (Oh god, I wanted a piece of paper that said I wasn't an idiot and knew not to point the end at anything I liked. Maybe that would make it true. Truer. Extra true. Maybe I should take the hunting safety class before I shot at anything. Maybe I should take the class before I loaded it. Or touched it. Maybe I should have my head examined.)

    I have a particular gift–or curse–that occasionally I am so absolutely incompetent that I can negate the competence of others. This man owned a gun-store named after his father. He taught handgun certification classes. I had successfully baffled him so hard that he began to sound as uncertain as I was.

    I ended up feeling slightly sorry for the gun shop owner, faced with such a reluctant customer. Not so sorry that I didn't laugh out loud several times over2 before the piece was done.

    [Via MetaFilter]

    1. In the US sense of that word.

    2. That's more at Vernon and her internal monologue, not at the owner's understandable confusion over his latest customer.

  • Destination Brexit FAIL

    Nice work by James Meek at the LRB blog: Destination Brexit, worth quoting at length…

    Since she unexpectedly started up and began to move on her election campaign, Theresa May has looked a lot like a driverless car – one of those vehicles built by Apple or Google that is supposed to be able to drive itself to its destination autonomously, using the vast computing power and clever sensors provided by its powerful designers to trundle safely from the car park to the shops and back without any intervention from a human at the wheel. Just punch in where you want to go – Brexit, via a quick stop at General Election to fuel up with extra seats – sit back and let the computer do the work.

    One of the things that really foxes driverless cars, apparently, is when a cyclist glides in front of them at the lights and, while waiting for the lights to change, idly rolls back and forth on his wheels. The car detects each motion as a cue – stop, go, stay, move. Its powerful sensors and processors heat up as it tries to cope with conflicting and unexpected data. Its destination is programmed in by outside controllers. It must continue on its way, even at the risk of a systems crash, or a crash of a more traditional kind. Even when it is obvious to other road users that the driverless car has a problem, it is no use honking at it or yelling at the driver. It doesn't have one. It just has a destination.

    When Jeremy Corbyn sailed past May on his fixie bike last night and stopped in front of her, battered courier bag over his shoulder, gnarly tattooed calves impatiently pumping the pedals to and fro, May suffered the most serious so far in the streak of system crashes that have bugged her software since the launch. The data line IF SEATS LOST > 6, LOSE, RESIGN was in conflict with the data line IF RESIGN, DESTINATION BREXIT FAIL. The biggest design flaw with May 1.0 is that when the data conflicts like this, the default priority is always the destination, rather than the safety of anybody else, or even the integrity of the car itself. […]

  • Without Javascript

    A day without Javascript:

    As I write this it's raining outside, and I'm trying to avoid having to go out into the murk and watch the Germans conduct their annual diversity maneuvers. I've therefore decided to pass my time by doing the one thing that counts as a religious crime in web dev land: I'm going to turn off javascript in my browser and see what sites work and what sites don't.

    I know, I know, my life is simply too exciting. […]

    Good to see Wikipedia and the BBC News site perform so well. Shame about Feedly and YouTube.

    [Via Scripting News Links]

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