Blog posts

  • They are all the same thing

    Comment of the week, on why Andrew Sullivan is wrong to think that what happens on the Internet is somehow distinct from "real life":

    I really have to laugh when I see this latter-day moral panic in play, because I am a 48-year-old man who's surrounded by a physical diaspora of distributing computing, and I use my phone an awful lot, but as an enhancement and extension of my basic humanity, not some sort of malevolent glowing eye of doom.

    […]

    Phones and tablets may be a disease to Sullivan, but to me, they're an unsticking device. While aligning my radial arm saw with some difficulty, I can pick up a pad, do a search, and find a better way. On a road trip with a friend, I can dial up my location and look for the little secret place I found once on a satellite map, then share that hidden wonder with my friend. When I'm sad, I can message a friend who's 2776 miles away and say "I'm feeling cross and lonesome and I need a hug," and she can force me into a video call so we can be face-to-face in a workable simulcrum of direct company that's not available to me just then because everyone else is at work. When I want to make things, or build things, or explore places, or fix my shambling old machines, I can access more scholarship on these various subjects than ever existed in all of human history.

    […]

    Yet, when I'm hanging with my nine-year-old nephew, when he says "Uncle Joe, I'm stir crazy. Let's ride bikes," I've no qualms about holstering my phone and climbing on my brother's stupid lightweight superfancy bike with the suspension that makes me feel like I'm always about to be hurled into a ditch to chase a little kid's fizzing, mercurial energy down the pathways and side roads in secret suburbia, looking for the elusive secret place that no one else knows. In my pocket, as we bump through root-rough trails, there's the whole human world, and in the woods, there's nothing but four billion years of the product of happy accidents, but they are all the same thing. It's just about refusing to let yourself arrive at a state in which you are so bored that you fall into the spiral of aimless consumption of nothingness, wherever you are.

    But maybe that's just me. My nephew informs me that I'm a very weird uncle indeed.

    "But you're the best one," he adds, for qualification, and the bicycles sing us onward to who knows where.

    posted by sonascope at 2:58 PM on September 20 [133 favorites]

    Edited highlights: I urge you to go and read the whole thing.

  • Rogue One - A Pixar Story

    Rogue One - A Pixar Story really shouldn't work as well as it does.

    [Via Entertainment Weekly]

  • The Facts of Life

    Maria Farrell's post on responding to password reset questions that request all sorts of details about your life is delightful:

    [3. What is the name of your father's birth town?]

    3 It turns out I have no idea what 'town' my father was born in. (It was Ireland in the 1950s. AFAIK he was born at home or in a nursing home down the road from the farm. He was about the fifth child and the fourth son, so no one was really paying attention.)

    […]

    [5. What is your favourite film?]

    5 It is a matter of both principle and policy with me that my favourite film is Point Break. But this system disagreed. Maybe my punctuation was out or I wasn't allowed a space? Or perhaps, as Lori Petty so memorably told those beautiful, testosterone-poisoned boys, I just wasn't doing it right.

    Me, I'm paranoid that I won't remember precisely how I phrased some of my answers to questions like that 1 so my practice has always been to carefully capture a screenshot of my answers to my employer's version of this questionnaire at the time I set them, so I could store them in Evernote or 1Password. 2 What could go wrong?

    And then the entire effort was wasted because three years on we were using the same system but with different hosting/support arrangements which had initially just carried over our passwords at the time of the transition 3 but didn't carry over the details by which I'd prove I was me when the time came. That cycle has happened twice over the last few years, and all the security/password questions routine did was add extra hassle to the entire process.

    As you can tell from the number of footnotes, this whole bit of security theatre really bugs me.

    1. Or that, in the case of the favourite film question, I'll forget that because I'd mentioned what my favourite film was on my weblog on occasion 4 it might be possible for someone who really wanted to target me to find the answer so I named my second favourite instead.

    2. Those storage spaces aren't on my employer's systems, so I can always access them on my iOS or macOS devices quite independently of our work systems and my ability to remember that set of work-related passwords.

    3. Presumably because nobody wanted to bring the entire organisation's work to a standstill on the first day after the transition to insist that everyone reset their various passwords for our different IT systems 5 and answer a whole 'nother round of security questions.

    4. Except that thanks to my former web host Gradwell's utter ineptitude earlier this year all my pre-2016 content is offline until I can be bothered to put some time into converting it from WordPress into Markdown format and re-uploading it at my new host. So at least right now there's no way to search the current incarnation of Sore Eyes to discover that my favourite film is 2001: A Space Odyssey right now. 6

    5. Single Sign-on. What's that?

    6. Or is it The Right Stuff. Or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Or The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Who could possibly say?

  • Armando Iannucci Presents a PowerPoint

    Armando Iannucci Presents a PowerPoint:

    [Via Russell Davies]

  • Quibbling over the qibla

    James Bridle has been paying close attention to how different airports around Europe try to help Muslim travellers to find the direction to face Mecca:

    [At the interfaith room at Athens airport…] The qibla - the direction which Muslims should face when performing prayer - is indicated by a green stripe on the floor, which terminates at the foot of a vertical strip of white light. This groove serves both as mihrab, the niche in a mosque that indicates the qibla, and a sort of surrogate Dan Flavin, pleasingly echoing both the "diagonal of personal ecstasy" and the Tatlin monuments. […]

    On my last visit, however, there was evidence of discord. Just to the right of the qibla/Flavin, on the carpet and above the skirting board, twin arrows rendered in thick blue biro cross-hatching have been used to indicate a direction some ten degrees further south than the architect's stripe implies.

    When you start to look for them, the qibla-scribblers are all over, as qiblas are apparently a contested part of interfaith chapels. In the Stille Rom at Oslo's Gardamoen Airport, two prayer mats lie alongside one another at angles to one corner of the space, but no qibla is evident, until, once again, you crouch down and peer at the floorboards, to find another set of arrows - this time in black biro - gouged into the woodwork. At least three different hands have been at work here, with another arrow in blue above the skirting board, and the word "قبلة‎‎," itself, in black again, next to it, to remove any doubt.

    It turns out that the widespread use of smartphones may be contributing to the problem.

    [Via BookTwo.org]

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