Explanatory note for younger readers: “Ceefax” was an unusably slow information service that closely resembled a shit version of the internet made out of Lego, and you accessed it via a boxy device called a “television”, which was a bit like a bulky prototype iPad, except it couldn’t take photos, and would only display pornography if you drew the curtains and hooked it up to a “VHS recorder” – a crude form of Netflix dating from the Victorian era.

On the nature of time and television

According to my emails, I bought Supernatural Season 1 from iTunes on 10/Feb/2010.

I just finished the season finale.

That’s 22 episodes in 1495 days, or ~68 days an episode. As of today, 187 episodes have been broadcast, or 165 remaining for me, which means assuming no more episodes are broadcast ever, including the one on Tuesday, I will catch up in 11,055 days, on Tuesday, June 21, 2044, when I will be 63.

If instead I mainlined Supernatural without sleeping, I could catch up in 5 days 3 hours 45 minutes. Or, in fact 5 days 4 hours 30 minutes because the new one would be out by then.

Assuming I don’t watch anything else. As it happens, I have other TV shows I’d like to catch up with. In fact, excluding Supernatural, I have 225 episodes of series currently airing that I intend to watch, and a further 276 episodes of things that have had their final finale, for a grand total of 15 days 15 hours 45 minutes assuming 45 minutes average per episode, or 20 days 18 hours if I include Supernatural with that.

That’s 3 weeks, and it assumes no more TV is broadcast ever, and that I never want to do anything other than watch TV I’ve not watched before.

If I watched everything at the speed I watched the first season of Supernatural, it would take 45152 days - 123.6 years - and I would finish on Tuesday, October 29, 2137, when I would be 156.

Also, it takes 12 hours 5 minutes for the entire bluray extended LOTR series, and assuming the Hobbit series remain at around 169 minutes each for the theatrical editions, and expand by 120% for the extended editions, the full extended LOTR/Hobbit cycle will take 21.98 hours, which is 110% of the running time of every Harry Potter movie, clocking in at a full 19 hours 39 minutes without time-turner, bathroom breaks or food

Time: It’s out to get you.

Blunt and curved the word-swords fall

Earlier today someone on my dashboard posted “Often I wonder what would happen if I set this thing on fire. Most of the time the answer is ‘It will be on fire’”. Often I have thought something similar, although my thought processes are generally “If I do this thing, this thing will be on fire. Is this thing a candle or a house?”.

Usually, I use words to light fires. I find words amazing, when they dance to my command. I can play with phrases and sentence flow for hours without actually improving the meaning or making anything better, or deploy the exact words to destroy a thing beyond repair. It’s a life skill, and the candles light my life, and the house-fires destroy it.

(There’s a story of  P.G. Wodehouse, where he would pin the pages of his novel in a ring around his office, and move each up or down as he evaluated the language and flow of each one in relation to the others. It would not go to the publisher until the every page touched picture rail. Somewhere between Wodehouse and Douglas Adams lies my aim, because if I’m going fall from the shoulders giants, I want a long time to consider my life before I hit the ground). 

I can trace almost everything I think I’ve done wrong by lighting the wrong house, or leaving a candle alone. Today I lit a house on fire, and it burns brightly still. I’m trying to save the contents, to put out everything I can, to douse and defuse the flames, but the flames dance merrily in the starlight, and it will take a while to rebuild.

I try to live with the spirit of the staircase, L’esprit de l’escalier, the french phrase for when you figure out the perfect retort, the mot justice, on the stairs down from losing the argument. It’s been a good night for the right words, but it was a bad morning for the wrong ones, a worse evening for the inflammatory ones, and a good afternoon with nothing catching on fire.

I’ve been asked if I’d like to speak at my grandfather’s funeral, to which the answer is Yes, and so now I need to find words, and actual real meaning. And nobody will think less of me if I back out, except me. 

Poison running though your veins

Our flat, quiet and serene, has a mouse problem.

Next door used to have a mouse problem, but they apparently moved out because of it, and now we have a mouse problem instead, which is awesome. Our landlord has put traps and poison boxes outside, but mostly said “It’s an old house, the mice are under the floorboards, sorry about that”. It’s not an old house, it’s a custom built block of flats. However.

I bought a humane mouse trap, because I’m not a fan of the killing of things save for the later eating of them, and kind of hoped it didn’t work, because the concept of taking a mouse on the bus and releasing it elsewhere didn’t appeal. Mostly because that’s just transferring the mouse problem to somewhere else - there’s nowhere I can get to on public transport within a couple of hours that isn’t basically London - but also because I’m not sure how it would work.

My wish granted, the mouse trap has stayed behind the bin for over a year now with no interest from the mice. 

They have, however, been at my flour.

A few weeks ago, there was a small crash from the kitchen, followed by a series of panicked squeaks. Further investigation revealed the aftermath of some kind of Tom & Jerry sketch. A large bag of flour, a panel of neatly nibbled edges from near the bottom of it, an avalanche of flour that exploded from the top of the shelving unit where the flour was, dusting everything to the floor with a coat of flour, a mouse-shaped pit at the start of the avalanche, complete with fresh droppings, and skidded paw-prints from there to behind the fridge.

I cleared up the flour, discovered the amazing adhesive properties of mouse shit when mixed with white flour, and ordered some mouse poison. I am a pacifist, but screwing with my food supplies is not cool.

This morning, I discovered the exactly the same tableau, only with a bag of self raising flour I’d forgotten I’d relocated. Once is unfortunate, twice is enemy action.

The kitchen now has strategically placed blocks of hopefully mouse-friendly-looking pink stuff near places I’ve seen them. With any luck they will associate the illness with fucking with my chi, and instead go and bother whichever concrete-footed volume-ignorer was practicing Riverdance early this morning.

You mean the generation that paid three times as much for college to enter a job market with triple the unemployment isn’t interested in purchasing the assets of the generation who just blew an enormous housing bubble and kept it from popping through quantitative easing and out-and-out federal support? Curious.

Douglas Adams, Hitchiker’s Guide:

For years, the fabulously beautiful planet of Bethselamin increased its booming tourist industry without any worries at all. Alas, as is often the case, this was an act of utter stupidity, as it led to a colossal cumulative erosion problem. Of course, what else could one expect with ten billion tourists per annum? Thus today the net balance between the amount you eat and the amount you excrete while on the planet is surgically removed from your body weight when you leave; so every time you got to the lavatory there, it is vitally important to get a receipt.

Discovery Channel News, 2014:

Climbers on Mount Everest will be forced to bring back eight kilograms (17.6 pounds) of garbage, an official said Monday, to clean up a peak that has become the world’s highest rubbish dump.

The rule, one of several new measures covering mountaineering in the Himalayan nation, will apply to climbers ascending beyond Everest’s base camp from April onwards, said tourism ministry official Madhusudan Burlakoti.

"The government has decided in order to clean up Mount Everest that each member of an expedition must bring back at least eight kilos of garbage, apart from their own trash," he said.

Burlakoti, who is joint secretary at the ministry, said authorities would take legal action against climbers who failed to comply with the new rule, although it was unclear whether this would involve a fine or the confiscation of their mandatory deposit.

Here are the things I like about the Elder Scrolls Online. These are the things that are enough to make me preorder it:

Weapon Levelling. Pick up a bow. You are shit at using bows. Use the bow. Get better at using bows. Pick up Medium Armour, have no advantage to it. Use it for a while, get better. 

Skills. You have some because of things you selected in chargen, but also some because you joined a guild in play, because you picked up one of these instead of one of those.

Kill Ten Rats: There are no kill ten rats quests. There are kill enough rats to allow you to perform action Y, and there are kill rats which will give you item Z.

Explore. Your map does not have exclamation marks on it. If you pick a direction, you’ll probably hit a landmark that has something to do at it. There are guided things that theme-park you around the map, but you’ll miss a lot.

Explore II. Random camps dotted around the world with lore and books and stories of their own.

Affect On The World. This is the big one, the world changes for you. Not in big ways, not that I’ve seen yet. A lot of MMOs consider the idea of the world changing to be awful, because it would mean a different state for everyone in it, which would be complicated to group in. And if you changed it for everyone, what happens to quests and things? But this is a lot simpler, a lot smaller, and also awesome. The world changes. The NPC who gives you quests will have snuck up to a nearby hill to watch you perform the mission, the town you cleared of fire will have NPCs doing their daily life, the vale that had a spell turning all creatures against you will be friendly again, the graveyard of restless spirits who were all trying to kill you will calm down, and the freed spirits will thank you for helping them. It doesn’t change for everyone, but it changes for you.

It’s pretty. Really, really pretty.

There was a point in the development of First Person Shooters where they were called Doom Clones, where there was no mechanic, no addition, and no variation that could stop them being called “Doom with Elves”, “Doom with Magic”, “Doom with Aliens”.

Saying ESO - or WIldstar, which I can’t say as much about yet - is “Just WoW with N” is close to rejecting Bioshock Infinite because it’s just Call of Duty with magic. It’s a game of a type, which is a genre you either like or dislike. It has points you’ll recognise, but others that work differently.

For example, your access to skills is limited, from around level 10 you’ll have more skills than spots in your bar, which means you have to decide what kind of things work together.

For example, there’s a sneak mechanic so you can entirely avoid fights.

For example, you can rez in place if you have a soul gem of the right size.

Most of the reasons I’ve spent more of this beta weekend playing Guild Wars 2 are bug related. There’s a generic issue where open-world quests aren’t getting reset sometimes, so the NPC you need to talk to or kill to advance the scenario is gone after the first person has killed him. This is apparently fixable in some circumstances by getting everyone to leave the area, but that’s an impossible level of cat herding. When I encountered this bug on my Faction quest chain last beta, I came back a few times, and then gave up. I picked up my Faction quest chain later on.

This time, I’ve encountered it in about 60% of the quests I’ve currently got active, and it’s such a momentum-arresting feeling to be barrelling down a story and suddenly to hit a technological wall that I’ve generally just gone and done something else for a little while.

I also hit a levelling gap around L10/L11, where I ran out of things of my level to do. The main story quest chain stops at L10 for the beta, and the end of my faction chain stopped, so I moved on to the next city’s faction mission chain, where I barrelled though the open world content without too many problems, got to the apex of the story for that bit, and suddenly hit an instanced dungeon fighting multiple high level creatures at several times my health, where my attacks did nothing. I got a good way in before I ran out of health potions, and eventually gave up. Ah, I’m too low level for this. And everything around this.

The crafting is entirely opaque to me as well, I think I must have missed some tutorial windows somewhere. I’ve bought skills to see sparkly lights around Ore and any plants I can use for crafting, but there never seems to be enough to get anywhere. 

Combat’s getting better. I’m playing my standard MMO archer build, and found it floaty and disconnected last beta, but some better sound effects and more responsive controls are helping it along a lot.

Generally, it does enough new things that I’m interested in playing more, and a lot of the bugs I’m encountering are what beta is _for_, but the problems I have are breaking my immersion and ability to play the game right now.

(I’ve sent variations on all this feedback though the proper channels as well)

How to make an imperfect cup of tea

a) Be told by your AntiRSI program that you should take a ten minute break, right the hell now.

b) Find your mug. Given you work in a 10’ cube office with nobody but you inside it, it will surprise you how difficult this bit is. Clue: You put the iPad on its stand after you had tea this morning, it’s probably behind it.

c) Find keys and teabag.

d) Lock door.

e) Wander the hallways of the business park, searching for boiling water tap (which actually dispenses boiling water, and is awesome) and wonder if the advantages of getting a kettle for the office would be outweighed by the disadvantages of never leaving the 10’ cube.

e) Place teabag in mug, which isn’t the perfect way of doing this, but the teapot still has Lapsang in it and washing it up is beyond the scope of this project.

f) Place boiling water in mug.

g) Wait for five minutes. During this time check twitter, tumblr, facebook, etc. Start writing a tumblr post about how to make an imperfect cup of tea. Get as far as (j) before you realise that you’ve overbrewed the tea.

h) Remove the teabag.

i) Wonder which bright spark managed to use all the damned milk again, hope that this doesn’t reproduce the Time Of The Individual Milk Sachets, which prophecy says will being about the end days.

j) Bugger. Hang on a sec.

k) Add milk to tea to taste.

n) Wander the halls of the business park in the other direction, pondering kettles again, or possibly some kind of minifridge that would partially fix the milk problem.

o) Get back to your desk, discover you’ve got a minute or so left of your enforced keyboard break. Sit back, and enjoy your tea.

p) Wonder what happened to (l & m).

q) Realise that means you didn’t offer the option of sugar or sweetener, which renders the entire set of instructions needlessly specific.

r) Consider the bits about the wandering the halls and the 10’ cube probably render the instructions less general anyway, and decide to leave the missing characters out, happy in the knowledge that it will annoy completists.

u) annoy completists some more.

7) Completely screw up the concept, just to see if it makes a difference.

w) Relax and enjoy your tea.

x) Type a site entry thing.

y) Consider getting to the final letter just for completeness.

"But daddy, I don’t understand"

And I hope you never need to, darling. The lesson is not for you. It is for all the other massive fans who may think to come this way: “this is not your place”.

"But what if I want to grow up to be part of fandom"

Then we can go and see your grandmother, who still keeps her contacts in that world. But keep your pen sharp, and try not to get put in a cage.

"But daddy, I don’t understand"

And I hope you never need to, darling. The lesson is not for you. It is for all the other massive fans who may think to come this way: “this is not your place”.

"But what if I want to grow up to be part of fandom"

Then we can go and see your grandmother, who still keeps her contacts in that world. But keep your pen sharp, and try not to get put in a cage.

Rubber Duck Debugging

I mentioned the duck yesterday, so I should probably explain the duck.

Debugging is the act of removing errors or misfeatures from a computer program or system.

You know the thing where you’ve got a problem, and you’re going over it in your head, and it isn’t going anywhere, but when you explain the problem to someone else, suddenly the solution is obvious?

Turns out, the someone else doesn’t need to be animate, and it works nearly as well if you explain it to a small yellow plastic anatidae.

Thus, rubber duck debugging.

Blind leading the blinds

My office now has blinds and a whiteboard, so I feel less like I’m part of some kind of scientific experiment where the boffins behind the glass watch the unspecialised programmer attempt to explain facebook login flows to a strategically placed rubber duck.

It also has a whiteboard across almost the whole of one wall, in a way I’ve always wanted. My dreams are prosaic, occasionally, but also apparently achievable.

Edison Hate Future

In the future, where we are, I have a watch that has music controls. Pushing a button on my watch changes the track my phone (in a distant pocket) is playing though my bluetooth, wireless, headphones

So, this afternoon I got poked in the back of the head by a girl who *knew* I was ignoring her on the bus, because my “headphones weren’t even plugged in”.


Blank Slate

All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time… to die

Cool URIs don’t change, but I’ve never been cool.

Fifteen years of archives just went poof, and I no longer feel beholden to any of it. They exist in three places: A database server, the Internet Archive, and my head. 

I got out of the habit of considering my own website when I was writing things. Stuff appeared on Tumblr, or as long posts to other people’s Facebook statuses, or random text files scattered over my Evernote account. So I’ve moved this over to tumblr, because it’s already in my flow of my day, in the hope that I’ll remember to write more, and not try to be perfectionist about the whole thing.

It’s been a while since I did an actual personal update here. I’m still living with my girlfriend in London. I’m working for Istic.Networks, ie, me. I’ve recently acquired office space in North London where I’m working on various contract things and a new startup thing I’ll explain more about when it’s ready for that kind of thing.

I am, still, writing a novel. It’s working title is “The mockery of Demetri James Jonathan Stark” and is currently slogging though the middle until I can push the dominos down to the conclusion.