Bodley and the Bookworms – Scan and Deliver

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You know that strange moment when you see your old coworkers on YouTube doing a cover of an Adam and the Ants song? No: just me?

Still good to see the Bodleian put a fun spin on promoting their lockdown-friendly reader services. For some reason they’ve marked this video “not embeddable” (?) in their YouTube settings, so I’ve “fixed” the copy above for you.

7 things we know about the nun reading ‘Boys’ Life’ in ‘Airplane!’

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A nun reading Boy's Life and a boy reading Nun's Life

It’s one of the best visual gags in a movie filled with them.

In the classic 1980 comedy Airplane!, two passengers are seen reading magazines. First, we see a nun reading Boys’ Life. Moments later, there’s a boy reading Nuns’ Life.

The scene is over in seconds, but the memory of this joke lives on. That’s especially true for those of us who have been reading Boys’ Life since we were kids.

Here are seven things you might not know about this bit of visual humor.

Of the many things I love, here are two of them:

  • The Airplane series of movies.
  • People who, like me, get carried away researching something trivial and accidentally become an expert in a miniscule field.

This fantastic piece takes a deep dive into a tiny scene in Airplane. What issue of Boys’ Life was the nun reading? What page was she looking at? What actual magazine was the boy reading within the Nuns’ Life cover? These and more questions you never thought about before are answered!

WHAT THE BEC?! (#01)

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Just another vlog update from comedian Bec Hill. Oh no, wait… this website is now T-Shirt Famous! (for a very loose definition of “famous”, I guess.) For a closer look, see Instagram.

This isn’t the silliest way I’ve put my web address on something, of course. A little over 17 years ago there was the time I wrote my web address along the central reservation of a road in West Wales using sugar cubes, for example. But it’s certainly the silliest recent way.

Anyway: this t-shirt ain’t the Million Dollar Homepage. It’s much cooler than that. Plus the money’s all going to Water Aid. (If you haven’t claimed a square yourself, you still can!)

DanQ.me on a t-shirt as drawn by comedian Bec Hill
I was pleased to see that Bec even managed to get the blue kinda-sorta on-brand.

On Bec Hill related news, did you see that she did a third “when you listen to music when you’re hungry” video? You should go watch that too. It’s avocado-licious.

Lindsey Stirling/Johnny Rzeznik String Session

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One of the last “normal” things I got to do before the world went full lockdown was to attend a Goo Goo Dolls concert with Ruth, and so to see two musicians I enjoy team up to perform a song and share some words of hope and encouragement for a better future beyond these troubled times… feels fitting and inspiring.

Also awesome to see that Stirling’s perhaps as much a fan of Live in Buffalo as I am.

Fun diversion: I never know how to answer the question “what kind of music do you like?”, because I increasingly (and somewhat deliberately) find that I enjoy a wider and wider diversity of different genres and styles. But perhaps the right answer might be: “I like music that makes me feel the way I feel when I hear Cuz You’re Gone recorded from the Goo Goo Dolls’ concert in Buffalo on 4 July 2004, specifically the bit between 4 minutes 10 seconds and 4 minutes 33 seconds into the song, right at the end of the extended bridge. It’s full of anticipatory energy and building to a wild crescendo that seems to mirrors the defiance of both the band and the crown in the face of the torrential rain that repeatedly almost brought an end to the concert. Music that makes me feel like that bit does: that’s the kind of music I like. Does that help?”

The Perfect Art Heist: Hack the Money, Leave the Painting

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Thieves didn’t even bother with a London art gallery’s Constable landscape—and they still walked away with $3 million.

This comic is perhaps the best way to enjoy this news story, which describes the theft of £2.4 million during an unusual… let’s call it an “art heist”… in 2018. It has many the characteristics of the kind of heist you’re thinking about: the bad guys got the money, and nobody gets to see the art. But there’s a twist: the criminals never came anywhere near the painting.

A View from Hampstead Heath, ca. 1825, by John Constable

This theft was committed entirely in cyberspace: the victim was tricked into wiring the money to pay for the painting into the wrong account. The art buyer claims that he made the payment in good faith, though, and that he’s not culpable because it was the seller’s email that must have been hacked. Until it’s resolved, the painting’s not on display, so not only do the criminals have the cash, the painting isn’t on display.

Anyway; go read the comic if you haven’t already.

My 1:1 with the Queen

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Americans often ask what our relationship is with the Queen. I thought I’d upload my most recent 1:1 so you could see how the regular yearly 1:1 progress chats go.

As a Brit who does software engineering alongside a team from all over the rest of the world… I wish I’d thought of making this video first.

Simply Paul found GC88ZY9 The Devil’s Quoits

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Simply Paul at the Ground Zero

{FTF} at 1.55am.
Full log to follow shortly.
344 miles & safely home at 3am.
Long ol’ day!

Update now I’m awake.
I spotted this cache while on a little down-time in south Wales, where I’d gone to help my editor move out of his office. I was considering my caching options (this was before I realised it’d be 11pm before I went, not 5pm) when I spotted this outside Oxford. Well, my route would take me from Swindon to Aylesbury via the area, so it was perfect. I then spotted the lack of logs, and the published date and the dye was cast!

Spool forward, past overpriced petrol and a total lack of food since 8am bar a discounted Service Station ToffeeCrisp, and I pull up at the southern car parking spot. I leave the car somewhat nervously (partly because if security pop by, I’ve got a hell of a story about what it’s full to the gunnels with. Full to the point I had to open the sunroof blind to get the final box in!) at 1.35am and had done the necessary (while filming some non-spoiler time-lapse footage for a future GIFF movie project) 20 mins later. I’d walked the full circuit to odd noises coming from the pond and waypointed the outlier to give me a reference. 44m, if you’re wondering, at a bearing of none-of-your-business degrees.

After collecting my camera up I remembered to also mark the notice board on my phone (important!) to give me my clock-face orientation, as I couldn’t easily see it in relation to the outlier in the dark. A few stars out, but they didn’t help much.

On the drive home I saw 5 foxes, including a rare pair sighting. I also had a deer with small antlers run in front of the car (not across the road, along it, zig-zagging) for ages on a very minor road with ample exits it could have taken but chose not to. Eventually I lowered a window and shouted, “Oi, Bambi. I shot your mum!” and that seemed to do it. It vanished into the bushes as I got along side of him.

Anyway, an atmospheric time of ‘day’ to visit GZ and I’ll have to come back in daylight as I’d no idea this was here and really enjoyed the experience. Weird and a bit spooky though it was.
TN:LN:Virt-TFTVC! A FP for the experience and the answers have been sent by Messenger. Thank you Dan Q! I’ll add a pic shortly…

SP
Cache Safely > Avoid Groups > Don’t Chase FTFs (generally)

I created a new geocache lately, a virtual cache under the Geocaching.com Virtual Rewards 2.0 scheme. Logging it requires visiting the site of the Devil’s Quoits, a prehistoric monument (well, by this point it’s mostly a replica) which, following my recent house move, is conveniently close by. This is the first finders’ log against the new cache, and it’s pretty epic: Simply Paul, who from the sound of things didn’t expect to be passing by quite so late-on, visited the GZ at almost 2am, but that didn’t stop him from stomping around and counting stones in the dark. Cleverly, he waypointed the outlier stone that forms part of the virtual challenge so that he didn’t need to sight it from the centre of the henge, which is probably for the best because I can only assume that he wouldn’t have been able to see it once inside the circle anyway!

Human Tapestry – Episode 1

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For the first episode of the Human Tapestry, I talked to Dan, a bisexual man who lives in Oxford, England, with his partner and her husband in what he describes as a “polyamorous V-shaped thingy”. Listen as we talk about relationships, identities, the “bi-cycle”, and various forms of vegetarianism.

Fellow Automattician Mike has just launched his new podcast, exploring the diversity of human experience of relationships, sexuality, attraction, identity, gender, and all that jazz. Earlier this year, I volunteered myself as an interviewee, but I had no idea that I’d feature in the opening episode! If hearing people in your ears is something you like to do, and you’re interested in my journey so-far of polyamory and bisexuality, have a listen. And if you’re not: it might still be worth bookmarking the show for a listen later on – it could be an interesting ride.

Possibly SFW, depending on your work. Specific warnings:

  • Some swearing, including use of a homophobic slur (while describing the experience of being a victim of homophobia)
  • Frank discussion of my relationship history (although with greater anonymity than appears elsewhere on this blog)
  • Annoying squeaky chair sounds in the background (I’ve replaced that chair, now)
  • Skimming-over-the-details of specific events, resulting in an incomplete picture (with apologies to anybody misrepresented as a result)

Caveats aside, I think it came out moderately well; Mike’s an experienced interviewer with a good focus on potentially interesting details. He’s also looking for more guests, if you’d like to join him. He says it best, perhaps, with his very broad description of what the show’s about:

If you have a gender, have attractions (or non-attractions) to certain humans (or all humans), or have certain practices (or non-practices) in the bedroom (or elsewhere), we’d love to talk to you!

Go listen over there or right here.

Intent

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I am almost certainly racist.

I don’t intend to be racist, but like I said, intentions aren’t really what matter. Outcomes are.

Note, for example, the cliché of the gormless close-minded goon who begins a sentence with “I’m not racist, but…” before going on to say something clearly racist. It’s as though the racism could be defanged by disavowing bad intent.

Yes indeed.

To claim you’re free of prejudice almost certainly means that you’re not looking hard enough. The aim of the exercise is, as always, to keep improving yourself: find where you have (or are) a problem, get better, repeat. We’re not one of us perfect, but we can all strive to be better tomorrow than we are today.

Stethoscope

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My partner @scatmandan just completed his Masters degree. His sister @bornvulcan sent him a stethoscope as a congratulations gift which is one of the funniest things to happen in these parts for a while.

I’m not sure my sister understands that a masters degree is not a doctorate. I don’t feel like I’m qualified to use this.

Dan with a pink stethoscope

Unreal Engine 5 is meant to ridicule web developers

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Our sources report that the underlying reason behind the impressive tech demo for Unreal Engine 5 by Epic Games is to ridicule web developers.

According to the Washington Post, the tech demo includes a new dynamic lighting system and a rendering approach with a much higher geometric detail for both shapes and textures. For example, a single statue in the demo can be rendered with 33 million triangles, giving it a truly unprecedented level of detail and visual density.

Turns out that the level of computational optimization and sheer power of this incredible technology is meant to make fun of web developers, who struggle to maintain 15fps while scrolling a single-page application on a $2000 MacBook Pro, while enjoying 800ms delays typing the corresponding code into their Electron-based text editors.

Funny but sadly true. However, the Web can be fast. What makes it slow is bloated, kitchen-sink-and-all frontend frameworks, pushing computational effort to the browser with overcomplicated DOM trees and unnecessarily rich CSS rules, developer privilege, and blindness to the lower-powered devices that make up most of the browsing world. Oh, and of course embedding a million third-party scripts to get you all the analytics, advertising, etc. you think you need doesn’t help, either.

The Web will never be as fast as native, for obvious reasons. But it can be fast; blazingly so. It just requires a little thought and consideration. I’ve talked about this recently.

Celebrate Seventeen

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May 27th, 17 years ago, the first release of WordPress was put into the world by Mike Little and myself. It did not have an installer, upgrades, WYSIWYG editor (or hardly any Javascript), comment spam protection, clean permalinks, caching, widgets, themes, plugins, business model, or any funding.

Seventeen years ago, WordPress was first released.

Sixteen years, eleven months ago, I relaunched I relaunched my then-dormant blog. I considered WordPress/b2/cafelog, but went with a now-dead engine called Flip instead.

Fifteen years, ten months ago, in response to a technical failure on the server I was using, I lost it all and had to recover my posts from backups. Immediately afterwards, I took the opportunity to redesign my blog and switch to WordPress. On the same day, I attended the graduation ceremony for my first degree (but somehow didn’t think this was worth blogging about).

Fifteen years, nine months ago, Automattic Inc. was founded to provide managed WordPress hosting services. Some time later, I thought to myself: hey, they seem like a cool company, and I like everything Matt’s done so far. I should perhaps work there someday.

Lots of time passed.

Seven months ago, I got around to doing that.

Happy birthday, WordPress!

Man makes money buying his own pizza on DoorDash app

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The owner of a pizza restaurant in the US has discovered the DoorDash delivery app has been selling his food cheaper than he does – while still paying him full price for orders.

A pizza for which he charged $24 (£20) was being advertised for $16 on DoorDash – and when he secretly ordered it himself, the app paid his restaurant the full $24 while charging him $16.

He had not asked to be put on the app.

This entire news story is comedy gold.

So it looks like food delivery network DoorDash try to demonstrate demand for their services by providing them even if you didn’t ask, then show you how popular they were. So if you run a pizza restaurant, they might start selling your pizzas as “deliveries” to customers, then come and pick them up as “collections” and deliver them. Because they’re trying to drum up support and show how invaluable they would be to you, they might even resell your product at a loss in order to get customers on-board early. It’s all pretty slimy, but I’m sure that wherever they’re operating (New York, in this case) they’ve had the common sense to make all the legal language line up.

(If you can’t see the problem with this model, remember that the customers will be reasonably assuming that the restaurant is involved, so when their pizza turns up cold they’ll phone the restaurant and complain and ask for their money back [or slate them in reviews online]. Plus, let’s not forget that this is a strongarm tactic: once a restaurant has been seen to be offering delivery, customers will be upset if you take the option away… even if you never actually offered it in the first place.)

Anyway: this guy noticed that his restaurant was on DoorDash without his consent, and that they were selling his pizzas for less than he did. So he ordered them from himself: he paid DoorDash $160 for the pizzas, DoorDash paid him $240 for the pizzas, DoorDash sent somebody around to pick them up from him and deliver them to his neighbour. Free money.

Pizza made of money

Next time he did it, the restaurateur didn’t even bother to put toppings on the pizzas. After all, he didn’t need to be eating them anyway! He was just paying DoorDash to pay him (more) to move them from place to place. The restaurateur and his friend pulled off several off these trades and DoorDash never seemed to catch on. With some investigation, they discovered that it was probably an imperfect scraper that had resulted in the price DoorDash advertised being lower than the price they would pay the pizzeria, which immediately makes me wonder whether you could honeypot it with deliberate scraper-traps… (Owing to various bits of work I’ve done in the past, I’m pretty well-versed in offensive and defensive screen scraper techniques.)

And to finish the news article off, we’re reminded about the attitude of Mosayoshi Son, the CEO of DoorDash’s parent company (which incidentally also tried to buy, and then got sued by, WeWork, demonstrating his financially-savvy). Recently, defending his company’s general trend to attract venture capital and then lose it very quickly, he compared himself first to Jesus, who was also a “high-profile visionary who was initially misunderstood”, and then to the Beatles, who “did not become a success overnight”.

Comedy gold I tell you. And now I want pizza. (Especially if I can persuade a stupid startup to pay me to make and then eat it myself.)

Scunthorpe Sans

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 A s*** font that f***ing censors bad language automatically.

This is pretty beautiful, in a sick-and-wrong way. It’s a font which contains ligatures that can be automatically used by supported software. But instead of ligatures for things like æ and œ, this font replaces the letters of common swear words with a glyph that looks like a censor bar. So it’s an automatically-self-censoring font.

Better yet, the authors were aware of the Scunthorpe problem and attempted to mitigate it; this also provides the font’s name. Unfortunately it’s not possible to do so perfectly without adding ligatures for just about every dictionary word individually (now that would be a font) so words like shitake and cockerel still get censored. And even where the mitigation works, it produces other problems: e.g. the use of the ligature Scunthorpe means that the word cannot be broken e.g. hyphenated across two lines. Nor will letter counters work properly.

But I don’t think anybody’s suggesting that this font should actually see mainstream use. Right?