Book Review - Sex: Lessons From History by Fern Riddell


Book cover.

These are the facts: throughout history human beings have had sex. Sexual culture did not begin in the sixties. It has always been celebrated, needed, wanted and desired part of what it means to be human. So: what can learn by looking at the sexual lives of our ancestors? What does it tell us about…

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Book Review: Illegal Alien - Robert Sawyer


Book cover.

As recommended to me by a comment on my blog. This is ridiculous fun from start to finish. It's a John Grisham-style courtroom drama. Only the defendant is an alien. Literally a multi-limbed beast from a dozen light-years away. That's it. That's the whole plot. And it works wonderfully. Nothing wrong with a bit of…

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The Modern World


This is a little story about standards, technology, civilisation, and the modern world. I know it is tempting to only talk about the various ways technology disappoints us, but sometimes it can be quite magical living in the future. A few week ago, I took a trip to a foreign country... I waved a rectangle…

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HTML Ruby and Bidirectional Text


The HTML5 Logo.

The set of HTML <ruby> elements allow us to add pronunciation above text. For example: "When you visit the zoo, be sure to see the panda - 熊(Xióng)猫(māo)." This is written as: <ruby>熊<rp>(</rp><rt>Xióng</rt><rp>)</rp></ruby><ruby>猫<rp>(</rp><rt>māo</rt><rp>)</rp></ruby>. That is, the word or character which needs text above it is wrapped in <ruby>. The pronunciation is wrapped in <rt>. The…

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Book Review: Shakespeare and Immigration - Espinosa & Ruiter


Book cover featuring handwritten words from Shakespeare.

This is selection of essays looking - as the title suggests - at the relationship between Shakespeare and immigration. It's always worth re-examining our relationship with "classic" works. There are some very obvious immigration issues in Shakespeare - and this book does a plausible job of uncovering some of them. It also takes us through…

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Why does Alexa speak to me in German?


Screenshot which says "1 new notification from Amazon shopping: ‘Ein Autor, dem Sie auf Amazon folgen, Mary Robinette Kowal, hat ein neues Buch mit dem Namen Die Berechnung der Sterne: Roman veröffentlicht.’"

I speak English. My Amazon account is set to English. My Alexa listens to my English commands and replies in English. Except for new book notifications. I saw a pulsing yellow light on the dot. I've memorised all of the various signs and portents the accurs'd device can summon up, so I asked it (in…

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Create a "Share To Mastodon" Button for WordPress


A WordPress Popup.

Everyone1 is decamping from Twitter to Mastodon! The great thing about the Federated Internet (hereafter the "Fediverse") is that it is distributed. The bad thing is… it is distributed! What do I mean by that? Here's an example of the problems with decentralised systems. If I want to create a link on a website which…

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Book Review: When HARLIE was One


Book cover featuring a digital vitruvian man.

I started reading this as the news came out that someone at Google got convinced that their AI was sentient. And that's what this book is about! A researcher starts talking to his computer and gradually becomes convinced that it is "alive". It is a perennially prescient story. And it is fascinating to see how…

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What is the "Servant Economy"?


Screenshot from the FT. "Farewell to the servant economy ‘On-demand’ services might have made people feel wealthy, but now the model is in jeopardy."

With the collapse of VC subsidised convenience firms - for example instant grocery delivery apps - the modern world is facing a minor meltdown. No more biscuits on demand! No more cheap drivers at your beck and call! Calamity! Some have dubbed this The End of the Servant Economy. Perhaps it is. But what do…

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Book Review: An Unnatural Life by Erin K Wagner


A side pofile of a robot's face.

An excellent premise for a book - if an AI is accused of murder, should it be faced with a jury of its peers? But I just found it a bit flat and disappointing. This could have been a fascinating courtroom drama, or spacey whodunnit, or even a philosophical investigation into the nature of guilt.…

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