Current Affairs Personal Politics

apocalypse now

Last night I dreamed an apocalypse.

The dying weeks of a world gone mad, played out in spotlights of real-time in the way only a dream or high budget TV show could do, where various of my communities had packed up to spend their last days in a gigantic maze of prefab houses, pushed together and sealed against the world.

There were courtyards and terraces, and there were great moments of friendship and terrible feuds that poisoned whole sections. In the end, the world was saved, and the apocalypse averted, but the government decided that since we had all prepared for the end, they should see it through.

As we prepared slingshots to catch the missiles and throw them back, the dream faded and the specifics washed out into blooms of pencil-outlined sketches in a sea of merging watercolour, and scant details remained: A ramshackle community built of the houses we brought with us, a nuclear missile being redirected with the aid of a large palm tree and a bouncy castle, and a long-running sense of inexorable impending doom.

So in a way, my dreams are coming true.

(Header image by Hucky on Pixabay, used under licence)

Aquarionics Current Affairs Personal Projects stories

Week Zero, or possibly Week 52

I fell out of the habit of writing in 2016. Well, kind of. My Facebook output skyrocketed, and the number of things that went on outputs I actually own fell a lot.

I’ve got a lot of things in the Draft folder. Some have been sidelined because they still feel a bit incendiary, some because the time they were relevant passed, and some just stupid. I spent a lot of the summer working on an idea for a new project, which then failed so hard it left no impact in the wall at all, so there’s a post-mortem on that. But that’s just depressing to write, and without any conclusions to draw it just seems like a stick to beat me with.

A Ballot form with the options "bad choice" "worse choice"2016 hasn’t been a great year in the global space, and my personal 2016 has been significantly mixed. Feeling like I’m stagnating professionally and personally has been an anchor on an already less great year, and while I’ve been getting more social and made a number of new friends who have massively improved my life, I’ve failed to leave Oxford for nearly anything that wasn’t larp or funeral related in a year. Mostly, this is due to a commute that’s eating my days, which means my value of decompression time at home heightens, reducing my desire to go anywhere or do anything.

Having said that, LARP has successfully got me out of the house more than any other thing this year. We successfully landed Odyssey with two of our best-run events ever – I’ll accept some credit for that, but the entire team was without peer; I did two new games purely as a player – Slayers and Tales out of Anchor – as well as successfully starting a purely PC Empire character, who I’m enjoying playing a lot.

The end of Odyssey. Photo by Charlotte Moss –

The end of Odyssey gives me some free mental space for a couple of other LARP things, and mostly I’ll be focusing on Trajectory, I’m intending on publishing some Theory of Operation type stuff here as it coalesces in mine and ccooke’s heads.

At the end of 2015, I screwed up my major projects. PiracyInc got backed into a corner where I need to sit down and rearchitect the whole thing, and the Novel – Hereinafter Stark Mockery – hit a brick wall where I realised a number of the underlying genre tropes had gone toxic. I’ve started salvaging the book, and will attempt to do so with the game, but I need to put my free time in order.

And then there’s this. AqCom’s been coasting on without major revision for years now, and I want to fix that. So I’m going to try to go back to the Week N series that kept me doing things through 2015, or at least feeling guilty for not doing them. A few times this year I’ve referred back to entries I made years ago to see when something happened, and not having that facility in the future will irritate me, so we shall give it a try.

All of which lays out my plans for 2017:

  • Reclaim my days
  • Repair my projects
  • Write more fiction
  • Write more LARP
  • Write more this
  • Travel to new places, meet interesting people, don’t kill them

Next plan: Go to NYE party. Celebrate. Then prepare for 2017 with a red rag and a baseball bat.

Current Affairs Personal


Yesterday, I was on a tube train that stopped suddenly.

I’d left work early, to avoid the tube strike, and had a fairly busy but not terrible journey from Farringdon around the Circle line up to King’s Cross, and eventually caught a Piccadilly train up to the fictional place I live in. The first stage of the Pic from KX north is a long slog. There used to be a station midway, but it shut decades ago, so there’s just this wasteland of nothing before Caladonian Road. No seats, and in the vestibule I was standing in was a circle of Spanish teenage tourists, laughing and talking. I was listening to music – Lonnie Doonican & Van Morrison’s Sloop Jon B – when there was the familiar slowing as we approached the station, and then the less expected sudden sharp stop.

I assumed a red signal before the station, because it always is.

Some of the lights had gone out. More than the usual, actually. It was quite dark. The radio crackled into life.

“Sorry for the, er, delay. We’re stopped… someone went under the train. We’re going to be here a little while, while this gets sorted out.”

Passengers glanced at each other, sharing the brief eye contact of “holy shit, that’s terrible” with an underlying and less virtuous “…this is going to fuck up my day”. It was less than an hour until the strike was due to start.

Most of my carriage continued the stoic British tradition of brief eye contact and endless regret, sticking to our small chosen areas – the train was quite busy – and wondering how long this would take. The visitors were less sanguine about the situation. They asked each other what the driver had just said, and then eventually asked the passengers around them. “Something’s happened? He said we’re stopped because of a person on the train?” Not on, I explained, er. under. “Under?” I made a hand gesture. Brief, and without any humanity whatsoever: Under. “Someone jumped?! There’s a dead person under the train? We hit someone?” Maybe. Probably someone just slipped. They haven’t said. “Does this happen often?” Not often. This is the first time I’ve been anywhere near one. “They’re saying” the guy I was talking to, indicated his colleagues “this must happen often, as everyone’s just… accepting it. Staying quiet. We’re Espagnol, and if this happened to us we’d be all ‘What’s going on?’ and stuff”. Culture thing, I think. We can’t do anything about it, so we wait until there’s something to be done. They’ll announce something shortly. “I… er.. really don’t like… this many people”, I’m sure we’ll be moving soon.

We were. The front of the train was in the station, and we were led though the train and up and out of the station. I just went to the exit, but other passengers tried to crowd around the front, to try and catch a glimpse of what was going on. Half informed scuttlebutt drifted around like osmosis, she was a child, she’d tripped just before the train came in. She was awake, but flat on her back on the bed of the tracks. I’ve no idea of the truth – the official reports aren’t committal – so I’m going to stick with Minor Injuries and assume she’ll be fine. I don’t have the rubberneck tenancy, which makes stories like this less interesting.

Caledonian Road, once I got there, was heaving. I’d taken the stairs up, and was breathless and hating the world – though my watch was very happy with my activity level that day – and the local population explosion wasn’t doing the cell towers much good. I worked out North and struck out that direction, until I got enough signal to work out a better route. Normally, I’d get back to Kings Cross and strike up on the Victoria, change at Finsbury Park for the rail line to the Hertfordshire line, get out at Bowes Park and walk home, but by the time I’d get to KX it would be either heaving or closed, so I took the half hour walk to Drayton Park to get on that same railway.

Wandering though new bits of London’s always fascinating. Similar but always slightly different, as the city’s great melting pot leaves veins and identifiable sections of original material. Drayton Park’s notable mostly for specific parking regulations. It’s close to the Arsenal ground, so almost everywhere you can leave a car has special provision for match day.

My final train, rush hour on a strike day, was a sardine-can, but eventually I got home, two hours after starting out.

As much as I love travelling in all its forms, be it the commute or the holiday, the platform edge at rush hour is something I fear. Travelling, especially alone, is where I regenerate ideas, where solutions present, and a place I recharge. The rush hour platform edge is a strong source of vertigo-like symptoms. Not the height that breaks me, but the consequences of falling. When I’m standing at Kings Cross station, with thirty people in the six feet square behind me, I have to hope that nobody pushes though. There’s nowhere to hang on to, and only one place to go. More than once I’ve stood at that place, having missed three trains as they fill to bursting ahead of me, and duck back into the crowd to find a more open space – pretty much anywhere – until the world calms down again. In assuming she tripped, and assuming that it was partly because the platforms were too full (I don’t know, but they probably were, by the number of people expelled from the station with us) it’s one of my worst nightmares given vision and form.

Today the underground workers strike, not for pay, but against a deal that puts them on 13 extra weeks of night work without consultancy, on top of TfL’s program of reducing staff at stations, and under questions of how safe it is. I can’t begrudge them any of that, and I can’t begrudge us that either.

Current Affairs

Heigh Ho

I don’t entirely agree with the premise, I’m not quite that cynical. However. The Bonzos, with the best election day pop song created.

computing Current Affairs sysadmin

Week Twelve: May the… sixth be… something something

My major success story this week has been to utterly screw up my desktop computer.

Over the last few years, I’ve started selecting PC components based on silence. When I did a replacement of the motherboard/CPU/cooling systems last year, though, I kept them in the same case. It wasn’t a bad case, really, although it reminded me how much of a poor life-choice cheap cases are (A cheap case generally has thin allumenium inside, which never fails to take a blood sacrifice). However, since then the machine has started making irritating “my fan is dying” noises, so I decided an upgrade of the fans was in order. One short trip to Amazon later, and I had a brand new Corsair case, with smoothed aluminium edging, no-screws hard-drive and optical drive installation, and – in a nod towards the new world order I hadn’t seen before – places to put SSD drives!

It’s black, and it’s got white LEDs in it, and it’s got a window in the side (I last bought a case with a window in it in 2003, during the saga of the Gold Plated Power Supply) (Hell’s bells this site’s old) and while putting things in to the new case did not require a blood sacrifice, taking stuff out required a significant sacrifice of my right index finger, and dealing with cross-threaded screws, and the fact that my machine now has four fans in it, plus a water cooled CPU taking up a fan pin, and only three fan pins on the motherboard. This can be repaired later. Before summer, probably.

For the full several hour experience, you needed to be here, but in rapid portrait-o-vision here is a 30 second timelapse of the whole thing (Portrait-o-vision because it was taken from my phone mounted in the dock, and there’s no sensible way to crop it)

Having done all that…

… it still made the noise. Turns out it was the power supply, which I’ll have to replace next month. In the meantime, turning it upside-down replaced the irritating fan-scraping noise with an even more irritating but far more intermittent high pitched whining.


The other major feature of the long weekend (I was off Friday though Monday) was that part of it was Streetfest, at which my new company, Skute, were doing a thing.

Due to some happy fun organisational issues, I didn’t get a full version of our thing up on the testing servers until Friday, at which point it became obvious that there were a couple of major differences from my exploratory tests. Differences that were pushing page generation times over thirty seconds, which is a magic death figure for our architecture. On top of that, there were some issues with the mobile experience that meant it was now missing the point in all three dimensions at once.

Basically, over twelve hours of Friday, I ended up doing a lot of the query optimisation work I’d never got time to complete to get initial loads somewhere sane, and then a heavy caching layer over the top of that to get subsequent loads closer to tenths of a second than tens of seconds. Something of a heavy day. The load times when we went live were… mostly fine, though apparently the mobile bandwidth on site may have not been up to much. It’s all a learning experience.

I’m feeling somewhat over-teched this week. May need to devote some evenings to pure creative.

Plus, it’s election time again, which is always good for my faith in humanity.

Current Affairs

Making Up The News

Daily Mail, Today:


The Advertising Standards Authority has also received complaints from people saying it is ‘socially irresponsible’ to promote Christmas so far in advance.

A spokesman said: ‘The ASA has been receiving a steady flurry of complaints from irritated and disenchanted consumers objecting to the premature appearance of Christmas advertisements.

‘Those who have contacted us have been disappointed that, although the ASA accepts that some people will find it frustrating to see advertisements for Christmas appearing in the autumn, this is not an area that we regulate.

He added: ‘Advertisers are able to choose when they wish to begin their seasonal advertisements and if potential customers are irritated by their decision, it is a risk that the advertiser must accept.

‘However, the ASA has received more complaints on this issue this year than ever before, suggesting increasing consumer frustration.’


The Advertising Standards Authority, Today:


They do this because they see no reason not to



(Photo from Tom Scott’s press warning labels)

Computer Games Current Affairs

Awww, Poor Game

Game‘s gone into administration.

PwC, who are leading the process, have blamed this on:

“[…] a very ambitious overseas expansion into seven territories in addition to the UK. On top of that the UK store portfolio is very extensive. Before we made the closures GAME had 610 stores in the UK. That footprint and that high fixed cost is very difficult to maintain.” (Sky News, via Eurogamer)


[…] there was a lot of proximity between GAME and Gamestation stores, so one store was cannibalising the sales at the other store. (Sky News, via Eurogamer)

So, it turns out that in the process of buying out the entire non-independent dedicated computer game shop sector of the retail market, they ended up canabalising sales from their own stores.

Faced with the oncoming march of digital distribution, Game used its retail muscle to demand that games not be released for any cheaper on digital download, and then (allegedly) that they not be released for pre-order and/or sale online at all, especially if they use Steam for cloud saving or achievements.

Plus, with the second hand game scam (Where you can resell first-week release games back to Game for store credit, after which they resell them at almost-full-price and don’t have to give a single penny to the publisher. I can see the argument for second-hand sales of older games, but brand new ones they can resell for nearly-full-price cannibalises full-price sales at direct detriment to the developer and publisher, and massive profit to the retailer), publishers already had good reason not to like continually being held to ransom by the retailers. I’m not surprised they weren’t able to negotiate all that hard.


The value of Game hasn’t been for gamers in quite a while, especially not for PC gamers. Not since Amazon undercut their prices and Steam undercut their convenience, and in turn they reduced their shelving for PC games to single-slots of the current and past Top 10, while still making the demands above. It’s been more important for console games where there’s less way around the physical media issues, but for most gamers buying games migrated online a long time ago.

Game’s value has been in the browsing, the hardware it’s too bulky to ship cheaply, the non-gaming adult who wants to buy a game for their kids/nephew/cousin/partner. A polished plastic, fluorescent tubed front door to gaming that presents a better visual than the sweaty gloom of a LAN party or bedroom gaming, more focused than the piled high racks in Asda or Tesco that only sell the gaming equivalent of Avatar.

The loss of that is a shame, and the potential loss of six thousand jobs as the company winds up is terrible, and while losing the high-street specialist game shops is a shame, the loss of the bully in the playground isn’t one I’m going to grieve over.

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Current Affairs

Changing of the guard

After 244 years, the Encyclopaedia Britannica is going out of print.

Those coolly authoritative, gold-lettered reference books that were once sold door-to-door by a fleet of traveling salesmen and displayed as proud fixtures in American homes will be discontinued, company executives said.

via After 244 Years, Encyclopaedia Britannica Stops the Presses –

Perhaps inevitable, but still quite sad.

In many of the more relaxed civilizations on the Outer Eastern Rim of the Galaxy, the Hitchhiker’s Guide has already supplanted the great Encyclopaedia Galactica as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom, for though it has many omissions and contains much that is apocryphal, or at least wildly inaccurate, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects. First, it is slightly cheaper; and second, it has the words “DON’T PANIC” inscribed in large friendly letters on its cover.

—Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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computing Current Affairs internet media

SOPA for Brits

So, Wikipedia is shutdown today. Reddit, ICHC and a large number of other sites will be showing their irritation at SOPA and the concepts surrounding it by joining them in going dark for between 12 and 24 hours, US time.

Annoying, isn’t it, how these international websites are going dark internationally for a US law? Well, that’s kind of a large part of the problem. How do you define a site that is under US law? Is it where the servers are hosted? Is it where the company who owns the servers are incorporated? Is it where the person who accesses the data lives?

I (in the UK) rent a virtual server from Linode that’s hosted in London. Linode are an American company. I host an episode of the Daily Show, owned by an american company. Whose copyright laws apply?

In this case, SOPA defines a “Domestic” site as one with a US registered domain name (.com/.net/.org or .us) or IP address. So because my IP address is owned by Linode, it counts as Domestic under SOPA, but also because most of the domains that point at the server (but not all) are top level domains controlled by US parties.

That may not matter, since there is a precedent for charges against British citizens being able to be brought by US companies under US law and for them to be extradited to face them.

The reason why it affects us is that it starts to make a lot of resources unviable, because it places the onus of proof of copyright onto the “host”:

The owner or operator of the site is “committing or facilitating the commission of criminal violations punishable under section 2318, 2319, 2319A, 2319B, or 2320, or chapter 90, of title 18, United States Code.” Those sections primarily deal with copyright infringement and counterfeit products.

This means that sites like Tumblr and YouTube suddenly have a problem, because instead of the person who uploads a copyrighted image, text or video being liable for committing an act of computer piracy under US law, suddenly the websites are, and since the sites are far larger, more obvious and richer targets for lawsuits it will mean the cost of running a site where people upload things starts to have to include fighting thousands of lawsuits against copyright holders, while the user who lied when they clicked the “I have permission to post this” checkbox continues to do so.

It would be interesting to see what the percentage of YouTube/Tumblr etc. uploads that are copyrighted content is, and what percentage of that can be classified as “Fair Use” and what percentage of the rest the copyright holders don’t mind being published, since it brings more exposure. In addition, a lot of posters to YouTube seem to believe they *do* have the legal permission to post things so long as they post a magic mantra about “Not claiming any copyright on any of this video or characters or anything!”. If YouTube, to take a single example, is now legally responsible for every video it hosts, the simple “I’m allowed to post this” legal figleaf stops sufficing, and they suddenly need actual legal proof of copyright, and how do you prove that?

I have a video of tea being brewed,  which I took myself with my very own iPad. It has a soundtrack which I didn’t actually have permission to use, but which I replaced with a public domain track later. I *took* the video, and I can’t legally prove my ownership beyond a sacred vow that that really is the state of the tiling in my kitchen. My video channel also includes some dancing santas and a dancing raccoon suit. The wonder and the beauty of YouTube is, in part, that it’s quick, it’s easy, and it doesn’t require you to log your original tapes with a legal authority before uploading, which is what SOPA runs the risk of requiring.

You can argue that that’s fine, because Google’s huge and can afford to fight those bills, but I host websites on my little server, and if someone with an account on my server decides to upload a jpeg owned by someone else, the idea of me being personally and legally liable for it, able to be extradited to the US for prosecution for it,  is actually terrifying.

And this is hyperbole, to some extent. It’s the ultimate extreme of what the bill would require of hosts if it was misused by the large media companies to attempt to set fire to the stable and set a sniper on the horse, long after it bolted for the hills. They say, as they always say, that the strict rules and the draconian requirements are there not to use against ordinary people, but *bad* people. You know, those other people. They said the same thing about the DMCA when that came in, and those are horribly misused to break free speech, fair use, parody and commentary already.

There’s room in the world for better piracy controls and especially education on what copyright actually *is* and how and why it’s enforced, and for real actual *change* from both sides on how intellectual property and pure-digital creations can have proven ownership, but SOPA and its associated bills are a really bad idea that only really benefit the international mega-global media corporations who lobbied for it, and not just for the US, but for every person in every country that uses a US-based site and looks at cat pictures on the internet.

Current Affairs


Church HIV prayer cure claims ’cause three deaths’

The women died after attending churches in London where they were encouraged to stop taking the antiretroviral drugs in the belief that God would heal them, their friends and a leading HIV doctor said.

Which reminds me.

It rained for days and days and there was a terrific flood. The water rose so high that one man was forced to climb on top of his roof and sat in the rain. As the waters came up higher a man in a rowboat came up to the house and told him to get in. “No thank you, the Lord will save me!” he said, and the man in the rowboat rowed away.

The waters rose to the edge of the roof and still the man sat on the roof until another rowboat came by and another man told him to get in. “No thank you, the Lord will save me!” he said again, and the man rowed away.

The waters covered the house and the man was forced to sit on his chimney as the rain poured down and a helicopter came by and another man urged him to get in or he’ll drown. “No thank you,” the man said again, “The Lord will save me!”

After much begging and pleading the man in the helicopter gave up and flew away. The waters rose above the chimney and the man drowned and went to heaven where he met God.

“Lord, I don’t understand,” he told Him, frustrated, “The waters rose higher and higher and I waited hours for you to save me but you didn’t! Why?”

The Lord just shook his head and said, “What are you talking about? I sent two boats and a helicopter?!”