Brewster’s US$100 million

Stolen from The Cloud Genie:

There’s a joke that I’ve always been partial to: a software engineering type rubs a lamp and a genie appears. The genie says that he’ll grant the engineer $1 billion, but only if they can spend $100 million in a single month with three rules. “You can’t gift it away. You can’t gamble with it. And you can’t throw it away.” The software engineer responds with “Well, can I use AWS?” The genie responds with “okay, there are four rules.” […]

[Via The Tao of Mac]

, 24 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .

In memoriam

Jon Hicks, being a graphic designer and a Mac enthusiast, chose to memorialise his father in a very particular way:

Growing up I was subconsciously inspired by the different aspects of design that he introduced to me, from mid-century vinyl record covers to architecture and signage. In particular, his distinctive architect’s handwriting was very evocative to me, and I decided I should try and capture it as a font. It could be something carrying his name that outlives him, and also something else to talk to him about.

Not something that everyone would care about,1 but Jon Hicks had the tools and the inclination, so why not?

  1. If it was, someone would be offering this sort of thing as an automated service you can access via an app, with the service using Machine Learning to extrapolate letters that weren’t included in the sample and to equalise character sizes and so on. For a premium fee, the supplier would offer to lock the resulting font file down so that only the paying customer could use it (because clearly there’s a risk of rampant forgery, or so we’d be warned.) Fidelity-wise, the results would very likely be considerably less good than what Jon Hicks can do manually, but in fairness that’s not the sort of thing that it’s easy to quantify. 
, 19 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .


David Allen Green wondered How Neil Gaiman kept control of the Sandman characters:

The character ‘Death’ has not become a member of the Justice League, and “Destruction’ has not been brought out of retirement to battle with Darkseid and Dr Manhattan.


Neil Gaiman explained that, basically, “I’ve always been aware that [Warner Brothers studio, the owners of DC Comics] own the characters I created for them when I was 26, and legally can do whatever they want with them. But I’ve tried to make it a more attractive proposition for them to work with me than to end the working relationship, and they’ve always stepped up.”

At the moment, between his involvement in the various TV and audio adaptations1 of his work Gaiman must be feeling as if he’s cracked it. But he’s also sufficiently aware of the history of the comics industry to understand how frequently creators are disappointed by the fate of their creations in others’ hands. It’s overwhelmingly likely that one day the Corporation currently running DC Comics will decide to hand some future whizzkid the rights to the Endless and tell them to have at it.

The best we can hope for is that a) this happens after Neil Gaiman has passed on, so he doesn’t have to see the big-screen versions of Dream and his sister Death2 envisioned by some hack and have to struggle to come up with a diplomatic response, and b) by some small miracle the result is at least an interesting addition to the story of the Endless. Less Zack Snyder’s take on the Justice League, more the Damon Lindelof take on Watchmen.

  1. Showrunner on the Good Omens TV adaptation, producer on the impending Netflix version of the Sandman series, cast as the Narrator in the Dirk Maggs-produced audiobook of the Sandman series, producer on the TV adaptation of American Gods. Even the latter experience must be somewhat reassuring, insofar as even though it’s been cancelled before it reached the end the experience of working on a major show based on his work has to suggest that Gaiman has some handle on what it takes to put his brand of fantasy on screen, of how it’s never as simple as throwing money at a project to convert a story from one medium to another. 
  2. It’s unclear whether the other Endless have enough mass market profile to show up. Maybe they’ll get to appear in a cameo at the start or end, just for the sake of reminding everyone who has the rights to them. 

Dammit, Apple!

Dammit, Apple. When we all hoped that the idea behind iPadOS was that it’d permit differentiation between the platforms, this was not what we had in mind.

Yes, it’s an incredibly trivial, even frivolous, feature and yes, other platforms have had similar visual effects for years so it’s not as if Apple have led personal computing towards some new frontier here. The point – as with last year’s failures to expand on widget placement on the iPadOS homescreen and bring the App Library to iPadOS – is that it looks as if creating iPadOS meant formalising the iPad’s place one step further back in the queue for features than iOS.

Not that anyone was in any doubt that was the case, but formalising the ranking of the platforms like this two years running is just depressing. This is a rare case of Apple adding some old-fashioned quirkiness to their platforms again, and it’s astonishing that the iPad misses out on it. I’d be amazed if there was some deep technical reason why this app couldn’t be brought to iPadOS at the same time as iOS, and even if there is one I suspect ultimately it’s driven by Apple choosing not to expend the time and effort to make it happen on iPadOS.

, 12 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .

A magical collaboration circus

Food for thought from Ed Zitron’s Where’s Your Ed At:

[In…] my tiny little walnut brain I am imagining that we’re about to see, as vaccinations climb and people return to normal, a culture war between those that believe workers should be in the office and those who believe that there should be a “hybrid approach,” by which they most likely mean you get a few days a week at home. It’ll start by saying “oh just a day or two here and there,” but it’ll grow into either a full of mostly full return to the office.

[Via @adrianhon]

, 10 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: , .

The Good Place

Good to see the Nebula Awards getting this one so thoroughly right:


The Good Place: “Whenever You’re Ready”, Michael Schur, NBC (Fremulon/3 Arts Entertainment/Universal)

Strange to think that the series finale aired several weeks before the first lockdown. We’ve had plenty of excellent science fiction this last year or so – The Expanse and Devs being the clearest small-screen genre highlights – but nothing quite matched the sheer delight of seeing what Eleanor Shellstrop and friends were getting up to week after week, and the way they absolutely pulled off the landing. Chidi talking to Eleanor about how what was facing him before she woke would be like the water in a wave returning to the sea still gets me every time, dammit.1

If Apple TV+ ever gets round to buying the rights to non-Apple content – I don’t think that’s likely to happen any time soon – but work with me here – the rights to The Good Place should be very high on their to-buy list.

[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]

  1. I verified that by watching the series finale again this morning, after reading the news of the show’s Nebula win, and it still does it to me now. 


Once upon a time this scam would have resulted in ministerial resignations/sackings:

Eight years ago the government had a plan so good it couldn’t tell you about it. It wanted to scrape everyone in England’s entire GP records and put them on one central database, where they would be anonymised – well, sort of! – then made available for research purposes to third parties, including private corporations. And called it[…] [Description of the fiasco/climbdown follows.]

And hey, the government learned its lesson. Which is to say that eight years on – literally right now – it’s doing the same thing, only in less time, without a public awareness campaign, with a trickier opt-out, and in the middle of a global pandemic. […]

The opt-out process described here is longer and fiddlier than you might hope for, but that’s mostly because the government has designed it to be complicated. That can’t really be helped, given that we’re dealing with this government who are utterly shameless about this stuff.

For the avoidance of doubt: data being shared to help medical research is, in principle, a good thing. Data being quietly handed over to commercial entities who can and almost certainly will hide behind ‘commercial confidentiality’ to obscure the efforts they’ve made to ‘unlock the pseudonymisation codes’ is not.

If you’re in England this potentially affects you. Go here for a step-by-step guide on how to opt out of this data giveaway. Also, go and read Marina Hyde’s article if you want to relish quality snark like…

Post its collapse, the plan was described by one statistics professor as “disastrously incompetent – both ethically and technically”. Which sounds like the sort of review Mary Berry would give on Bake Off to a roulade made entirely of human ears, but which arguably has even wider implications.

… in context.


Upon reflection, deciding to start my day before it was time for work by finishing my watch of HBO/Sky TV’s Chernobyl might have been a mistake.

There’s lots to praise about the miniseries itself – a very well acted piece which didn’t skimp on showing just how drastic the consequences of the accident were for so many humans (and domestic pets1) anywhere near that corner of the then-Soviet Union at the time and long afterwards – but the material in the programme was definitely not destined to lift the mood.2

Spending my work day at home, wrangling data from spreadsheets and databases and emailing those numbers to folks, inside and outside my organisation, who in practical terms didn’t have access to the information buried in those data sources for themselves kept me busy and kept my mind off the bleak picture Chernobyl painted of how the world works, but heightened the sense that I’m as much of a "bio-robot" as the guys the series showed spending time on the ruined rooftop chucking radioactive debris off the roof. I provide a bit of functionality that my employers could in theory computerise given sufficient time and money,3 but (so far) haven’t found it reasonable to spend time and money implementing.

Anyway, really good TV. Very well worth a look.

  1. See episode 4 in particular, as the relevant Fanfare thread revealed plenty of viewers who almost noped out when we followed a trio of soldiers whose job was now to shoot all the adandoned pets in the area around the plant, both to save the animals from a lingering death and stop them from spreading the contamination further to surrounding towns and cities. 
  2. Interesting to contemplate how the United States or the UK would have coped with a Chernobyl-scale crisis. Probably not as differently as we might hope, I think. Different jargon justifying the actions you take, for sure, but when you’re tinkering with nuclear energy generation the scale and scope of the consequences of something going wrong are such that throwing fragile human bodies at the problem might end up being all you can do. 
  3. I fully acknowledge that I’m lucky to have been able to carry on doing this work from home rather than being furloughed for the last year and a bit, but if my employers wanted the work I do to keep on being done month after month – which they definitely did – there wasn’t any other way to make that happen in the short term, particularly given the speed with which we had to transition to working from home. Time will tell whether in the medium term my employers decide to make it a priority to spend the money to automate my team’s job out of existence. (In the long term they almost certainly will automate our jobs out of existence.) 
, 4 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .

In an emergency

Rosecrans Baldwin, remembering his experience of volunteering at the drive-through COVID testing centre at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles:

To live in Los Angeles is to exist in a selfish place full of self-helping people: the cliché persists partly because it’s true. But the Southland is also so vast, so diverse, it repels single stories. I asked one staff member, a woman who’d risen to become one of the managers, what she did prior to working at Dodgers. “I lunched,” she said flatly. “I’m a lady who lunches. I mean, I used to be.” My reasons to volunteer were selfish and self-serving: I needed to get out of the house, I enjoyed making new friends. It’s weird. For several years, I’d been crisscrossing L.A. for a book, interviewing dozens of people from the county’s many communities to grasp at some idea of its soul. The Armenian nation state of Glendale. The Vietnamese community in Garden Grove. Suddenly, Saturday mornings, everyone was coming to see me.

[Via Quick Links]

, 2 June 2021. Category: Uncategorized. Tagged: .