August 22nd, 2012
Charlie Stross trying to make James Nicoll cry:
Three o'clock in the morning. The rain had subsided to a gentle trickle: Cuddles hunkered down on her haunches and oozed through the cat-flap to take up position in the shrubs at the left of the yard. The damp soil smelled of worms and bugs and night creepers, which in better circumstances she would take delight in pursuing: but tonight was different.
Tonight, her human mistress Alice lay abed, skin bone-white against the pillow, barely breathing, the two marks on her neck livid and pulsing with every heartbeat. This could not be permitted! For two nights now, Cuddles had smelled the intruder's clammy undeadness on her adored human's hands in the morning: the death-smell of clay and graveyard soil. Another predator, alien and unbreathing, was stealing into the home and battening on Alice's blood. This could not be! So weakened, Alice could barely perform her duties: for two mornings in a row it had taken Cuddles more than an hour of shouting to wake her so that she could operate the machine that opens tins.
The intruder thinks he can take my food ape, thought Cuddles, flexing her claws. Boy, has he got a nasty surprise coming …
From "Cuddles After Dark" by Daisy Chick, book #1 of "Cats versus Vampires" (18 more to follow).
The thing is, I'd happily read this if it was written by Charlie Stross instead of Daisy Chick.
[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]
August 20th, 2012
Advice from How to Spot a Psychopath, a.k.a. The Ministry of Safer Walks:
A reader writes:
I have heard on the [construction worksite] that if a power line falls, or someone drives a crane into power lines [...] you should move away from the danger site by taking tiny little steps, or even jumps with your feet together. [...]
Is the pogo away from the power line thing just another way to make people look stupid? Doesn't the electricity get grounded into the… ground?
Oddly enough, this is actually good advice. It may not be necessary in a particular situation, but better to look a bit of a dick and survive than stride away in manly fashion and die. [...]
The details as to why hopping it is silly-looking but safe are fascinating.
August 20th, 2012
Ms. Attribution has all sorts of fun melding history and pop culture:
Sun Tzu (544-496 BCE)
Or possibly Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley. I'm always getting them mixed up.
August 19th, 2012
David Hepworth on why the Olympic experience probably won't improve the national character:
I came across this extract from a speech made in the House of Lords by the late Lord Longford:
I asked Sir William Beveridge to come to lunch. I was meeting with Evelyn Waugh, an old friend and famous writer. They did not get on at all well. Evelyn Waugh said to him at the end, "How do you get your main pleasure in life, Sir William?" He paused and said, "I get mine trying to leave the world a better place than I found it". Evelyn Waugh said, "I get mine spreading alarm and despondency" – this was in the height of the war – "and I get more satisfaction than you do".
Beveridge invented the welfare state. Waugh wrote some great books. I like to think of Longford sitting there listening to the pair of them, admiring the mischief of the latter almost as much as nobility of the former. That's the national character. And if it isn't, it ought to be.
August 16th, 2012
August 16th, 2012
Why Sexy A-Levels must die:
2) We're all fabulously important people now. Seriously you guys. we're like the 1% these days and this shit does not look good on golf club applications. Or we're just busy.
[Via flashboy dot org]
August 14th, 2012
August 13th, 2012
August 10th, 2012
The question is posed: "Roseanne" Or "Frasier"?
I'd put Frasier just slightly ahead. Roseanne's high points were possibly slightly higher than those of the Crane family, but on the other hand Roseanne's lows – by which I primarily mean the last season – plunged far lower.
Frasier suffered a bit once they moved the focus away from the supporting cast at the radio station but overall it was the more consistent show. Also, it had David Hyde Pierce, whose Dr Niles Crane might just have been my favourite sitcom character of the 1990s.
As a consolation prize, I'd award Dan and Roseanne Conner one-third of my 'Favourite Married Couple on TV' award. They have to share it with Tom and Barbara Good and Eric and Tami Taylor, but it's still quite an honour for them, even if I do say so myself…
August 10th, 2012
What I learned on the internet today: iTunes on a Mac lets you filter songs by star rating by typing asterisks into the search field.
August 9th, 2012
Rumour has it that the Olympics closing ceremony might include a bit of a treat:
Full details about the line-up for the musical extravaganza that will bring the London Games to an end are being kept a closely-guarded secret, but some acts have confirmed they are playing and there are strong rumours about others.
Fans of Bush had their hopes raised when a new 2012 remix of her classic song Running Up That Hill appeared on the Amazon website with a release date of this Sunday, the day of the closing ceremony.
The listing was later removed and there has been no official confirmation that reclusive 54-year-old British singer-songwriter, who has not toured since 1979, will perform.
Kim Gavin, the artistic director of the closing ceremony, has said that it will be an "elegant mash-up" of British music from Elgar to Adele, with much-loved songs arranged in a symphonic structure, rather than a conventional concert. [...]
You have to admit, it does sound like the sort of show that might tempt her on stage.
[Via The Awl]
August 8th, 2012
Patrick Farley's Cloverfield Rebooted
One day a monster appeared in Central Park. He stood almost 300 feet tall and was made entirely of golden cake.
Also worth a read: Siri Reads The Book of the Dead.
If you don't know who Patrick Farley is, you could do worse than check out The Spiders or Apocamon. I can't believe he first published them a whole decade ago.
August 7th, 2012
Getting beyond the particulars of how Mat Honan had hackers use social engineering to get his passwords reset and his iOS and MacOS devices remote wiped, for my money here's the key lesson of the whole sorry saga:
I bought into the Apple account system originally to buy songs at 99 cents a pop, and over the years that same ID has evolved into a single point of entry that controls my phones, tablets, computers and data-driven life. With this AppleID, someone can make thousands of dollars of purchases in an instant, or do damage at a cost that you can't put a price on.
This isn't just about Apple – it's about all the corporations expanding from their original niches into as many corners of our online life as possible. Having a single sign-on is scary, and only gets more so as the uses of that ID expand over time.
I'd like to think that scares like this would motivate Apple, Amazon, Google, Microsoft and the rest to get this stuff right lest the public be discouraged from signing up for all the different services they offer, but I fear that convenience wins out all too often.
August 6th, 2012
Radio Killed The Podcasting Star, according to Richard McManus:
Podcasters are to radio what bloggers are to newspapers: independent voices taking attention away from mainstream media. At least that was the theory, when professional podcasts and blogs were getting started in the 2000s. But unlike blogs, podcasts by indie voices have not gone on to seriously challenge the mainstream media incumbents. Where is the Ariana Huffington of podcasting? Can you name a political podcaster who's had the same impact as Josh Marshall and his Talking Points Memo blog? Sadly, there are no podcasting stars – and it's all radio's fault. [...]
His thesis is that because so many of the most popular podcasts are derived from public radio shows or semi-celebrities who brought an audience with them to podcasting, this demonstrates that podcasting has somehow failed to break through the way blogging has. I think there's a parallel with blogging, but it's not the one McManus is thinking of.
To my mind, the point of blogging (or of podcasting) was never to displace established media, but to provide a publishing platform that meant that you didn't have to have a wide audience to survive. It's true that a fair chunk of my podcast listening is of BBC radio shows that produce a podcast version, but there are also plenty of shows produced by enthusiastic amateurs that I'd never find on my radio dial. The point, as Dave Winder notes in the post that led me to the ReadWriteWeb post, "was to get access to the distribution channel for anyone who wanted it, and that certainly has been accomplished." If you want to use podcasts as a way to listen to your favourite BBC radio programs on your schedule then go for it. If you want to hear from people who'll never have a BBC radio show in a million years, that's out there too. The success of the one doesn't deprive me of access to the other, any more that the existence of the Huffington Post prevents me from reading Feeling Listless. They share a distribution medium, but not much else.
[Via Scripting News]
August 6th, 2012
It turns out that as Curiosity was coming in for a landing this morning, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter was watching.
[Via Nicholas, commenting at this Making Light thread]
August 5th, 2012
One for the MacOS X users: Brett Terpstra has come up with a neat little script for Launching your entire Dock at once.
And just like that, he solves one of those issues that's been nagging away at me for ages. I'd been thinking in terms of saving a plain text list of applications that I could point a script at, but his approach of extracting the list of applications from the Dock's .plist is so much more flexible.
August 5th, 2012
Anthony Lane has been getting into the spirit of London 2012:
[On how "home interest" isn't as important as you'd think for spectators once they're sat down in a stadium watching fit, dedicated athletes who've spent four years or more preparing themselves to do incredibly difficult things extremely well.] I felt this keenly last weekend, at the water polo – another insane, compelling pastime that finds its ideal home at the Olympics. As with weightlifting, the imperatives and tactics could not be clearer; the same cannot always be said of the competitors, who famously reserve their most heinous acts for a murky world below the waterline. On the surface, strapping young men and women try to pass the ball and hurl it into the net. Underneath, however, there is a flagrant suspension of the laws that govern not only this particular sport but the entirety of human civilization. London has installed cameras on the bottom of the pool, and occasionally – less often than I would have liked, but probably as often as the organizers dared – we would be granted cutaway shots, screened at the ends of the pool, of what was going on down there. The only thing I can compare it with is the tuna-fishing sequence from Rossellini's "Stromboli," when a hundred enraged fish churn, thresh, and wriggle for their lives. If you order the special in one of London's fish restaurants, over the next fortnight, and find yourself chewing on what appears to be a shred of bathing cap, maybe in the colors of Australia, don't say a word. Just swallow and carry on.
[Via The Browser]
August 5th, 2012
I do like the self-deprecating tagline used on Twitter by one of Britain's other heptathletes, Katarina Johnson-Thompson:
Chronically indecisive so I've adopted two surnames & the heptathlon.
[Via The Observer]
August 4th, 2012
Stuff I learned on the internet today: Why you should give a square shit about wombats.
[Via MeFi user tempestuoso, commenting here]