RIPR is bad

Recently on Facebook I got into a discussion on why the government having unregulated access to any data on the internet is a thing I don’t like. In an attempt to stop posting content into the locked-box of Facebook, it’s here too.

So, the issue - for me, other people may be more militant - is that right now I - as a citizen - have no protection against the police. To arrest me, they need probable cause. To search my house, they need a warrant. To get my personal data from my bank, from my ISP, from my water company they need a legal document *about me* that explains why they want it and a judge has to approve it. The measures the government are currently using, the ones that they want to keep, and the ones they have been using on the *flimsiest* of legal technicalities, allow the security services to access and record my data (which includes financial transactions, personal relationships, business proposals, and data which I am under *legal obligation* to protect to the best of my ability to be not allow access by third parties) without notification, without record, without probable cause, and without protection from abuse. That’s me as a citizen.

Second issue is that I personally own a server, which provides internet services to people I know and trust. It’s SSH access, it’s email forwarding, it’s web hosting. Am I an ISP? Am I under obligation to keep the data that goes though my server? I’m not doing it as a business, I’m a private individual. If I do, then I simply can’t do it. First, morally, but also I don’t have the disk space to keep all this data for three years, and I’m not willing to be responsible for the security of it. That’s why I only forward emails in the first place. It will force me to cease to offer *to my friends* access to a property *that I own* because the government think they have a right to look inside it. It’s not quite being legally obliged to allow an employee to live in my house and record conversations I have when my friends are around, but it’s not far off.

And last, I am a white male, 18 to 35. I do not have any traditional reason to believe the government is predisposed to assume I’m guilty, and *I* have all these problems with the concept of my data being kept without any legal process; I can’t imagine the feelings of people who have good, and historically backed, reasons to believe the government does not have their freedom of expression at heart.

Aperture Tag: The Paint Gun Testing Initiative

There’s a book available on Steam. Well, kind of a book, an interactive story based thingy, called “Portal 2: The FInal Hours”, and because I find Valve’s development process fascinating, I own it. One of the things it says is that for a long time in development, Portal 2 was going to use a completely new mechanic, one they’ve never put in a game before. Then, for a while it was based on the Gel gun. In the full game, you don’t get to put down Gel yourself, it gets pumped out of static pipes, and you can direct it with Portals. 

One of the differences between Portals 1 & 2 is that the new game slashed out the more pixel-perfect requirements of jumping. There aren’t any points where you *need* to do a precision jump into that portal there, it’s part of the reason the Aeriel Plates exist. If you missed the pixel precision, die and repeat puzzles from Portal 1, this is very much the game for you.

The setting is straight out of Portal. Somewhere between 1 & 2 of the main series, Nigel the Personality Sphere wakes up a test subject to put them though some experimentations with a new device they’ve cooked up. In this case, a device that shoots speed gel and bounce gel. Go forth.

This is a good game. It’s 27 levels of More Portal-style game, with its own spin on the formula. The plot is lifted, along with some of the jokes, from the first two thirds of the first game. The voice acting is good and the script is funnier than most full games. The level design is a couple of notches higher in sheer bastardry than the main game, with occasional lacks in knowing exactly what you are supposed to *do* next, but it does a good job of, once you know what you should be doing next, keeping the feeling of failure to being “I missed that jump” rather than “fuck this fucking game with a rusty portal gun”. There are a few instances where I felt like I was playing against the game rather than solving puzzles. Unless I’ve missed a trick somewhere, a couple of the solutions feel more like exploiting edge-cases of the physics system than a logical use of the tools at hand. 

Steam says I spent five hours playing it, and that was from beginning to end. At least 45 minutes of that was spent on one single level (entirely skippable, by a different route, for the game *knows* that this one is a bastard), a speed run of the most aerobic moves in the game where one slip will kill you.

The biggest problem the game’s got is that it’s up right next to, and directly comparable, to Valve, a company at the top of its game. I get the feeling when playing it that this is basically an alternate universe Portal, but in the hands of a less competent developer. This is in no way a slight to Eugenio Roman and the team who made it, but a few of the raw edges just feel more jagged in the engine that brought us the polished diamond shine of Portal 2.

That said, it’s currently £3.50 - normally £5 - for around five hours of portal-style spacial puzzling, and I’d recommend you buy it.

EOTE2 - London Town

EOTE2 – London Town

I awoke from dreams of a blue plague, on a train out of the city.

I returned to London this weekend.

The letter from the doctor said I was clear, my infection wasn’t fatal, and that I was cleared to return for periods of not more than twelve hours.

Jenna also got a letter, which was harder.

The guard at the station took my letter and checked it against the registry, and let me inside. I was…

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How To Poach An Egg

a) Go to land you don’t own.

b) Find an egg

c) Steal it

d) Get away.

How to cook a poached egg, or two:

No timers, just a sequence.

a) Add a small amount of water (about an inch) into the bottom of a moderate size saucepan, and start heating it.

b) Boil a kettle of water.

c) In theory, the kettle should finish boiling at about the time the stuff in the pan starts.

d) (Optional) Make tea/coffee with some of the kettle of water.

e) Add the rest of the boiling water to the saucepan.

f) (If you have vinegar - balsamic for preference - add a dash of that to the boiling water. It’ll make stuff easier later on)

g) Crack two eggs into the water, from as low a height as you can muster.

h) Put toast in the toaster, and start it.

i) When the toast pops up, remove the eggs from the water with a slotted spoon (Large spoon with holes in it) and onto a chopping board to dry a bit.

j) (Optional) Pour the tea

k) (Optional) butter the toast

l) Arrange the toast on top of a plate, and the eggs on top of the toast.

m) Enjoy.

This produces - for me - beautiful soft boiled poached eggs. To boil them harder, swap around g & h, add d between g & h, and/or do j & k and bits of l before you remove the eggs from the boiling water. There’s no real need to hurry any of this.

From a cookery/brain standpoint, I find that recipes without timers that are just sequences are a lot less stressful than attempting to make inexperienced/anxious cooks stay under a buzzer. 

Idiom

Today, in Phrases From Aquarion’s Idiom That Appear To Confuse People:

Duck Alignment

e.g. “Most of the morning was spent on duck alignment, but the afternoon went smoothly”

To spend time on personal and project administration in advance, that the actual execution becomes smoother.

lit. To get ones ducks in a row.

Yak Barber

e.g. “Fortunately, I was able to find a yak barber before I spent too long on it”

To export the unexpected pre-requirements of a task to somebody/thing else before it consume your entire day/week/sprint.

Ref. Yak Shaving.

Rocket Car / Giant Robot Feature

e.g. “We’ve got content writing in, and also friends lists, but we’re leaving post permissions as a Rocket Car feature”

A thing that will, in the future, be possible, but is not feasible right now.

Kitten Killing Technology

"I went with CouchDB in the end because Cassandra was too resource intensive and MongoDB basically kills kittens"

Technology with complex and technical flaws in context, the explanation of such is beyond the scope of a simple discussion.

Future Soon

There’s a black rectangle, 124mm by 59mm by 8mm in my pocket which, all the way back home from work, keeps track of satellites in the sky and works out my position based on which ones it can talk to. When I get within range of the position I’ve marked as Home, it starts looking out for signals for my own private wireless network, which it organises a secure connection to. As it does that, notifies a program on my phone which, before I’ve reached the front door, asks if I want to put the kettle on. If I say so, it then talks to my kettle over the wireless network and asks it to boil to 100 degrees Celsius. Once that has happened, by which I’m inside and have taken my coat off, it notifies the device in my pocket, which in turn sends a low-power notification to my watch to inform me that the kettle’s boiled, and tea’s up.

Once I’ve made my cup of tea, I can sit down in front of a larger device, and talk to friends I’ve made over the last twenty years on the internet. Some I’ve never met, some I’ve met a couple of times, some I used to know well but have drifted out of contact with, and some I will see on Tuesday. I talk to and play games with my brothers, one in Kent - less than 50 miles away - and one in Thailand - nearly 6000 miles - with no noticeable gap in response than if they were talking to me here.

I can share files, photos, ideas and emotion with people from all over the world; and have their files, their photos, their ideas and emotions shared with me in turn.

It’s not a detachment from the world around us, it’s an attachment to the worlds around our friends. It’s not the recording of life overriding the living of it, it’s the sharing of life, and the outsourcing of memories outside of our frail and doomed bodies to more reliable storage, that we can find it again.

So when you say, when you think, when you express that the future promised rocket-cars and Mars bases, and that what you got was Twitter and Call of Modern Warfare; you should remember that with those you got international free video calls, entire world maps in the palm of your hand, instant access to more words than you can ever read, and articulated robot powered prosthetic arms.

How to bake a cheesecake

A recipish

You will require:

  • Bowls.
  • Time.
  • Effort.
  • An Oven.
  • A nine inch cake tin. Preferably one with a loose bottom (aha).
  • Greaseproof paper. Not tinfoil.
  • All your base:
    • Bikkits.
    • Cinnamon
    • Nutmeg
    • Butter
    • Brown sugar.
  • The creamy goodness:
    • Cream Cheese
    • Sour Cream
    • Double (Heavy) Cream
    • Sugar
    • Flour
    • Vanilla Extract
    • Eggs

Take your cake tin and line it with something. The recipe recommends butter, but this doesn’t work terribly well. Last couple of times I’ve tried Tinfoil. If you really, really want to use tinfoil, then do, but the shear effort it takes to line the cake tin in tinfoil would be better spent walking to the local supermarket and saying “What ho, fine supermarket, sell me one roll of your fine grease-proof paper, if you would be so kind”, including the resultant time spent in a place with nice friendly walls.

Cream Cheese

3×8oz packets of cream cheese. You can use spreadable “soft” cheese for this too, but if you see something that says “Cream Cheese” buy that instead. This works with Philadelphia, and it works with Mascarpone, and it works if you use one of each.

Cream

You will need a whole cup of each of sour and double (which Americans call “Heavy”) cream. Shockingly enough, an official ‘cup’ is about a the size of a cup, or about half a pint. It’s important to note that this is one of the middle size of cream availability, or close enough to it for jazz. If your moronic Helpful Local Supermarket Delivery Collective are stupid enough to supply you with the smaller size, take the time now to go forth and send a minion to fetch more stuff, whilst you play Civilization and wipe out the evil empire of Sainsbury’s with a tactical nuke.

Bikkits

Bikkits in this case are defined as “digestive bikkits” if you’re British, Graham’s Crackers if you’re American, and “the crumbly dark brown ones that may usually be covered in chocolate” if you’re neither. You’ll need about a cup of these, too. How do you measure a cup of a non-cup-shaped solid substance? This is simplicity itself. Take an amount of bikkits, and hit them with a hammer until they fit into the cup. This strategy works with most things.

Stage Zero: Oven.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C)

Stage One: All your base

Get about five tablespoons of melted butter. You can do this by putting about half a block into the microwave and nuking it for a minute or so.

Summon all your hopes and dreams that have been dashed upon the hard rocks of reality, and apply the resulting frustration to a small tower of biscuits until they break down into their component crumbs. Add these to the yellow goo, mix in 3 table spoons of brown sugar, a tablespoon of cinnamon and a tiny, tiny amount of nutmeg (The recipe said half a teaspoon. This is accurate if you really, really adore the taste of nutmeg) and stir until it’s consistent slush. Pour this slush into the bottom of the cake tin and bash until it’s level and coats the bottom of the tin. Personally, I recommend using a potato masher for this task. Hit it and make it as level as you can, or until you get bored. If you realise at this stage that you’ve totally forgotten to add the sugar, then sprinkle it over the top. Bung the kit and caboodle into the oven for 10 minutes. Or, ignore the oven bit entirely and do the next bit.

Stage Two: The Toppening

Bung the cream cheese and a cup of white sugar into a bowl and vent frustrations for a while, or put it into an electric mixer. Either way, you want smooth gritty stuff.
Add both types of cream (A cup of each) and attack.
Add a tablespoon of Vanilla extract, and three tablespoons of plain white flour.
Attack mercilessly until it begs for forgiveness.

Now, wash your hands.

Take the index finger of your right hand, and swipe it though the mixture. Now lick the cheesecake stuff from your finger. This is important, because it tastes really nice, and we’re about to add raw eggs, after which you really shouldn’t eat it until it’s baked, so savour it for now.

Add the eggs (Three of them) one at a time, avenging your lost loves upon the ghost of cheesecake past between each egg.

Pour the pure white fluffy white goo upon the dark, forbidding ground of the Biscuit Mix That Time Forgot and bung the entire unholy creation into the Place Of Heatedness for an hour to an hour and a bit before you withdraw it from its personal hell and place it into the Place Of Coldedness.

Here you must suffer Hell, for you must remain aware that there is a freshly baked cheesecake in the fridge, but you must leave it pristine and uncut for at least six hours. Hell is a cheesecake you cannot eat.

After that, you can top it (For example, melt half a packet of chocolate with a small tub of cream and pour it over the top and let it set) and eat it. I’d provide a picture here of what it looks like, but there isn’t any left…

Jeeves & Wooster

Today I went to see Jeeves & Wooster: Perfect Nonsense, which is a play running on the West End. 

I had my doubts that Jeeves and Wooster would work as a play, in the same way as while I liked the Fry & Laurie versions a lot, I always felt that the translation away from the narrator removed too much of what made the stories great. The play is awesome. It maintains the metanarrative by turning the whole thing into a story Wooster is telling, which makes the telling of the story - which is a farce - a farce in and of itself. Mark Heap is currently playing Jeeves, and is doing masterfully, and while I’m not absolutely convinced of Robert Webb’s Wooster, it’s certainly an excellent performance. Very much recommended if you can see it in London, and probably also worth seeing if you can see it when it goes on tour later this year

Empire Year 2, Event 1

Empire happened. My pedometer is happy with me, and wishes for me to know that I walked thirty miles over the course of Thursday to Monday. My boots agree. 

It had low bar to clear to be my Best Empire Ever, and cleared it high. I was asked to take over the admin-side of the Senate system, which I think I did successfully. I enjoyed being able to advise player characters on how best to use the political powers they have, and I believe it was a good start. I felt useful and appreciated, which is always nice. But also, some of the process changes and conversations can help make the game better for the players, rather than instruct the players on how best to play the elysian ideal of the game.

I enjoyed the game a lot, but part of the new systems involved sacrificing my fun and energy for the betterment of the game and players, and my major aim is to claw some of that back - not all, because the trade of some or all of character agency, fun and energy for game, player betterment and meal tickets are pretty much the definition of crewing, but I’d like to whittle down the amount of crazy it takes to do my bits to the point where someone else is willing to if I’m not there.

The game went really well from our perspective, I think. Gate & GOD especially seemed to be running like oiled clockwork, Site seemed to be almost entirely ahead of where players were likely to need them, and the organised chaos of Plot appeared to be getting everything out. There are lessons learned, tweaks to be made, conversations to be had; but it looks like the game as a whole is starting to find it’s stride.

(Photo by Charlotte Moss)

"Dear Landlord, the boiler? That was broken? And then was bodged fixed? Yeah, that’s not working again. Also the immersion heater’s fucked, and - and this is a really low priority, for some time when someone’s free - the extractor fan in the bathroom’s kaput"

"THE EXTRACTOR FAN, YOU SAY? I SHALL PUT MY TOP MAN ON IT"

And so I’m working from home today…