Maths problems

August 3rd, 2013

A classmate was caught using his phone in maths. The teacher took his phone and set a passcode. He gave him this back with his phone and said good luck unlocking it.

My first thought upon seeing the above-linked image was 'I hope nobody forwards this link to Michael Gove.'1

My second thought was that unless someone comes up with a better solution than passwords for logging in to web sites2 then one day CAPTCHAs will evolve into something like this and I'll have to give up using the web.

[Via Flowing Data]

  1. For non-UK readers: Michael Gove is the current Secretary of State for Education in the UK. Within a week his department would be announcing that schools would have to produce returns demonstrating that 75% of pupils could solve such problems in a below-average time..
  2. Speaking of which, in theory Tim Bray has a point. In practice, Rui Carmo has a much better one.

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OAuth of Fealty

August 1st, 2013

Faced with an email from Facebook inviting him to complete a survey about the Facebook Platform Ian Bogost decided to be frank:

The first survey question asked "Why would you or would you not recommend developing on the Facebook Platform?" I breathed deep and unloaded:

The Facebook Platform is a shape-shifting, chimeric shadow of suffering and despair, a cruel joke perpetrated upon honest men and women at the brutish whim of bloodthirsty sociopaths sick with bilious greed and absent mercy or decency. Developing for the Facebook Platform is picking out the wallpaper for one's own death row holding cell, the cleaver for one's own blood sacrifice.

Like the catcall of "whore" or "crook," the Facebook Platform passes judgement before you even signed up for it. The Facebook Platform is the relief promised under the pressure of thumbscrews. If you were innocent, why did you start using the Facebook Platform in the first place?

Developing for the Facebook Platform is punishing oneself for the corporeal scars of abuse. Maybe it's me, maybe it's me, Facebook devs whisper quietly, alone, every Tuesday, before heaving the deep, lumbering sighs of resignation beyond sorrow. […]

The full post sees him elaborate on those themes in detail. Well worth a read.

[Via Extenuating Circumstances]

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Escalator etiquette

July 31st, 2013

From an article in the BBC News Magazine about escalator etiquette:

"Able-bodied people standing on the downward escalator1 are in effect robbing the people behind them of time," says Hamilton Nolan, who writes for Gawker and regularly uses the New York subway.

"Their presumptuous need for leisure may cause everyone behind them to miss a train they would have otherwise caught. Then those people are forced to stand and wait on a subway platform for many extra minutes. Those are precious minutes of life that none of us will get back."

"Robbing"? "Forced to stand and wait"? "Presumptuous need for leisure"? It strikes me that Hamilton Nolan ought to to get his blood pressure checked, ASAP. If the behaviour of people who think differently to him causes him such stress, I have a feeling his future contains a stroke, probably striking as he strides purposefully down the escalator past a bunch of thieving slackers.2

[Via The Morning News]

  1. Are we to take it that standing on the upward escalator is OK? Does time work differently on the way up or something?
  2. It'd be ironic if he ended up crumpled in a heap at the bottom of the escalator, robbing the people behind him of their precious time as they walk around/step over his corpse.

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Pacific Rim

July 30th, 2013

For the record, having finally got round to seeing Pacific Rim I have a few thoughts to offer:

  • It didn't feel like a Guillermo del Toro film, somehow. Or should I say, it felt like Mimic rather than the two Hellboy films or Pan's Labyrinth or Blade II. A little too much routine blockbuster stuff, not enough otherworldly weirdness for my liking.
  • That said, it's hard to imagine someone doing a better giant-robots-punching-monsters film than this. Beautiful CGI work, and for once the CGI giants felt like they weighed hundreds of tons as they crushed the world's cities beneath their enormous feet. The battle of Hong Kong sequence was genuinely epic and thrilling stuff, exactly the sort of spectacle that makes it worth going to see a good blockbuster on a cinema screen instead of waiting to watch it on your tablet a few months later.
  • I don't think this needs a sequel. It's a perfectly good story that's been told and came to a definite conclusion, and to be frank none of the surviving characters were so interesting that I particularly want to check in with them again a couple of years from now.1
  1. Another Hellboy story would be a different matter entirely. Obviously.

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Sleepwalking the UK into Censorship

July 29th, 2013

One for readers in the UK: the Open Rights Group invites you to sign their petition telling David Cameron to Stop Sleepwalking the UK into Censorship.

Dear David Cameron,

Everyone agrees that we should try to protect children from harmful content. But asking everyone to sleepwalk into censorship does more harm than good.

Filters won't stop children seeing adult content and risks giving parents a false sense of security. It will stop people finding advice on sexual health, sexuality and relationships. This isn't just about pornography. Filters will block any site deemed unsuitable for under 18s.

Please drop these plans immediately.

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Actual European 'Discoveries'

July 29th, 2013

Actual European Discoveries: land unknown by humans before the Age of Exploration

Discoveries map (excerpt)

Every Columbus Day, we're reminded of the difference between discovery and "discovery" – and rightly so. But let's not sell Europe short; after all, European explorers found plenty of diminutive islands that no human had ever seen before, along with extravagant amounts of ice and snow. Just the islands alone add up to more than 0.14% of the world's total land area, and today they're home to more people than live in all of Connecticut!

All sarcasm aside, it's worth remembering that almost everywhere Europeans went, they were met by existing inhabitants. […]

[Via radicalcartography]

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Beware the carrier of the tortoise

July 27th, 2013

Islam's Medieval Underworld:

The year is – let us say – 1170, and you are the leader of a city watch in medieval Persia. Patrolling the dangerous alleyways in the small hours of the morning, you and your men chance upon two or three shady-looking characters loitering outside the home of a wealthy merchant. Suspecting that you have stumbled across a gang of housebreakers, you order them searched. From various hidden pockets in the suspects' robes, your men produce a candle, a crowbar, stale bread, an iron spike, a drill, a bag of sand – and a live tortoise.

The reptile is, of course, the clincher. There are a hundred and one reasons why an honest man might be carrying a crowbar and a drill at three in the morning, but only a gang of experienced burglars would be abroad at such an hour equipped with a tortoise. […]

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Daria Movie Trailer

July 26th, 2013

Daria: The Movie trailer.

If only…

[Via MetaFilter]

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ISS Transit

July 25th, 2013

ISS Transit Over The Moon:

ISS and Moon

Trust me, the full image (which you can go to by clicking on the cropped version above) is well worth a look.1


  1. I have to admit that at first glance one of my thoughts was "That looks like it's the NCC-1701!" I know the 'saucer section' looks to be too far back but otherwise it fits, dammit!



July 24th, 2013

The latest update to NUKEMAP now includes the effects of fallout, thereby confirming that if the French ever turn nasty I'd better hope the prevailing winds are from the east.

[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]

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Life imitates The Onion

July 24th, 2013

The word 'ironic' comes to mind:

The NSA is a "supercomputing powerhouse" with machines so powerful their speed is measured in thousands of trillions of operations per second. The agency turns its giant machine brains to the task of sifting through unimaginably large troves of data its surveillance programs capture.

But ask the NSA, as part of a freedom of information request, to do a seemingly simple search of its own employees' email? The agency says it doesn't have the technology.

"There's no central method to search an email at this time with the way our records are set up, unfortunately," NSA Freedom of Information Act officer Cindy Blacker told me last week.

The system is "a little antiquated and archaic," she added. […]

How suspiciously convenient for them.1

[Via Memex 1.1]

  1. For what it's worth, I'm quite prepared to believe that they don't have all their employee email in a single spool that can easily be searched by or on behalf of their FoIA team. The question is whether that was a desired outcome or just a happy side effect of their last email migration.

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Carrie Bradshaw, Anti-Hero

July 22nd, 2013

Emily Nussbaum has a bone to pick with the notion that the golden age of US TV started with Tony Soprano:1

When people talk about the rise of great TV, they inevitably credit one show, "The Sopranos." Even before James Gandolfini's death, the HBO drama's mystique was secure: novelistic and cinematic, David Chase's auteurist masterpiece cracked open the gangster genre like a rib cage, releasing the latent ambition of television, and launching us all into a golden age.

"The Sopranos" deserves the hype. Yet there's something screwy about the way that the show and its cable-drama blood brothers have come to dominate the conversation, elbowing other forms of greatness out of the frame. […]

As the show went on I ended up loathing Carrie's storylines and wishing I could spend more time with Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte, so I think 'anti-hero' is about right. I should probably catch the repeats one day and see how the show holds up.

  1. For the record, all right thinking people know that it actually started when Buffy Anne Summers moved to Sunnydale.

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Cosmos II

July 22nd, 2013

I was vaguely aware that Neil deGrasse Tyson was remaking Carl Sagan's Cosmos, but I hadn't given the project much thought. Now there's a trailer, so it's time to pay attention.

Full marks for good looking graphics – that shot of the sun shining through Saturn's rings is just glorious. There have been an awful lot of discoveries over the course of thirty-some years that render parts of Sagan's story obsolete or incomplete, but someow I can't see this having the sort of impact Sagan's original series did back in 1980, when there just weren't a lot of well-funded mainstream TV documentary series about space/astonomy etc.1.

In the wake of Brian Cox's career, how much mindspace is there for another epic space documentary series? Come to that, do we really need another series of eye candy? I hope Tyson and his script are up to the challenge and prove me wrong.2

[Via The Planetary Society]

  1. Yes, obviously, there was – and still is – The Sky at Night, but that wasn't the same thing at all.
  2. I freely acknowledge that I'm looking at this from a parochial, UK perspective. I'd just hate to see the BBC or Channel 4 stump up a ton of cash for the UK broadcast rights for this if it's only going to be pretty.

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The Wind Rises

July 20th, 2013

Hayao Miyazaki's first film in five years, The Wind Rises is something a bit different: a biopic

Miyazaki has pulled out all the stops. The film is of immense length: 126 minutes of hand-drawn animation. It tackles huge, challenging subjects: the 1923 Great Kanto Eartquake, the Great Depression and the march to global war. In addition to securing for the nth time a score by Hisaishi Jo, Japan's greatest living composer, Miyazaki roped in Matsutoya Yumi (a.k.a. Yuming) to provide the theme song. He coaxed his colorist of 50 years to come out of retirement for this one last film.

And the subject of the first Miyazaki film about a real person: the life of Horikoshi Jiro, the designer of the Mitsubishi A6M, the Zero fighter.

Not subject matter I'd have expected from Miyazaki, but judging by this (Japanese language) trailer the resulting film is every bit as good-looking as anything we've seen from him lately. We'll see how the story turns out in due course, but for now it's looking promising.

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Michael Bay's 'The Dark Knight' [Guitar solo]

July 20th, 2013

I can't believe I failed to notice Michael Bay's Rejected "The Dark Knight" Script when it first appeared:


The Batmobile is gunning down the highway at over 200 miles per hour, weaving through traffic. Every time BATMAN is about to crash into a civilian, the camera enters ultra slow motion and we see him barely squeeze by, frame by frame. This happens seventeen times.

As BATMAN whizzes by cars, he attracts the attention of a young passenger in a nearby vehicle.


Mommy, mommy, look! Look!


Stop shouting, I'm trying to drive!

(watching the Batmobile)


The Batmobile races off into the distance. Finally, BATMAN catches up to the JOKER's zeppelin.

Good work.

[Via DirtyOldTown, commenting at MetaFilter]

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Tywin Lannister's Dinner Party

July 19th, 2013

Tywin Lannister's Dinner Party.

It's from season 3, which some of us won't see until next year's DVD box set comes out, but I think it's safe to say there are no spoilers. And that it's hilarious.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Editorial for iPad

July 17th, 2013

Editorial for iPad looks very interesting:

At its core, it's a Markdown editor for iPad, but you can also think of it as a Pythonista spinoff, or a workflow automation tool, not unlike Automator.

I'd rather Apple would just port Applescript over to iOS,1 but as that isn't likely to happen Editorial looks like the next best bet.

[Via Tao of Mac]

  1. I've experimented with doing most of my web browsing at home on my iPad Mini, but that just reminded me of how far I've customised my MacOS X web browsing/blog-posting experience with sundry browser extensions, Applescript routines and Growl notifications. I miss all those little tweaks to my web browsing and posting workflow under iOS, so I'm still doing most of my home web browsing on my Mac Mini.

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'Pay attention to the cat.' Not that they ever do.

July 17th, 2013

Feline ennui, in French: Henri 2, Paw de Deux

[Via Memex 1.1]

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July 15th, 2013

How we made Cleopatra:

George Cole, actor

The production was in chaos when I was cast. Director Joseph Mankiewicz was writing the script every night, filming it days later and struggling to keep ahead. For three months I had to report at 5am to have a full beard plastered on. Eventually I got fed up and asked why they couldn't ready one for me. The Italian makeup artist replied that he knew we actors like to feel our faces move when we talk – at which point I had to explain I played a deaf-mute man. When we had to reshoot scenes in Spain just before the film premiere the makeup man was a Brit; he just reached into an M&S carrier bag full of beards and fished out one that would suit. […]

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July 15th, 2013




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