Forget Subtext - People Don't Even Get Surtext


Uhura, a black lady, is kissing Kirk, a white man.

Once in a while, you'll see some blowhard railing about the modern world. I recently saw someone decrying the fact that Star Trek had "gone woke". This Star Trek? OK, you can argue about whether Kirk and Uhura were forced to kiss in that episode. But how does anyone look at Star Trek - with […]

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Why do people focus on AI's failures?


A robot with a backlit human face.

I saw a prominent AI proponent asking why people always focus on the things that AI gets wrong. AI works so well, he asserted, that it was churlish and childish to focus on a few minor mistakes? Which reminds me of an experience I had a few years ago. I was in a rural pub […]

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It isn't who you know - it's who knows you


A pet cat typing on a computer keyboard.

I'm terrible at networking. I forget people's names minutes after meeting them, I never have business cards and lose the ones I'm given, and I can't go five minutes without burbling some nonsense. But I recognise that networking is a skill and, like any skill, it takes practice to succeed. I've always been told that […]

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An adult gap year?


Selfie of me and Liz. I am being strangled by Darth Vader.

I've got about another 10 months left at my current job and after that... I don't know what I'll do. I've already moved down to 4 days a week in an effort to glide down to FIRE. Do I really want to go back up to 5 days? Could I find somewhere that would be […]

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Book Review: Red Side Story - Jasper Fforde


Book cover - a red land with a spoon in the foreground.

Fourteen years ago, I read Fforde's Shades of Grey and my life hasn't been quite the same since. It was a magical tale, almost totally devoid of exposition, building in an fantasy world like no other. Fans have been clamouring for a sequel ever since. The first few chapters of the sequel do an excellent […]

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Accents and eBooks


The phrase "Swords of Qadisiyyah." But the combining macron over the letter "a" has been rendered as a separate dash.

By and large, the English language doesn't use diacritical marks. Even our loanwords are stripped of them; we drink in a cafe rather than the more pretentious café. This has a consequence for HTML and, by extension, eBooks. As a quick primer, modern computing gives us two main ways of displaying a letter with an […]

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1,000 edits on OpenStreetMap


Screenshot of the OSM interface.

Today was quite the accidental milestone! I've edited OpenStreetMap over a thousand times! For those who don't know, OSM (OpenStreetMap) is like the Wikipedia of maps. Anyone can go in and edit the map. This isn't a corporate-controlled space where your local knowledge is irrelevant compared to the desire for profit. You can literally go […]

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When does Doctor Who meet historical figures who are alive today?


Video call showing Patrick Moore.

In a recent episode of Doctor Who, we see a lovely sequence where The Doctor has a nice chat with Paul McCartney of The Beatles. Great larks! The Doctor often meets real people - Dickens, Shakespeare, Rosa Parks. But, crucially, all those people are dead by the time the episode airs. Macca is unusual because […]

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Book Review: Fallen Idols - Alex von Tunzelmann


Book cover showing the disembodied head of Lenin's statue lying on its side.

"History is not erased when statues are pulled down. It is made." Some people celebrated when Saddam's statue was toppled in Iraq. Yet those same voices condemn the felling of Coulson, Rhodes, and a dozen other statues. Why? Alex von Tunzelmann has a knack for getting to the heart of history in an accessible manner. […]

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One MegaWattHour of Battery Power!


Large box attached to the wall. A white metal case with blue polka dots covers it. There is a small black and white screen in the middle.

Less than a year ago, in August 2023, we installed a 4.8kWh Solar Battery at a cost of £2,900. Whenever I talk about the upfront capital costs of solar power, people rightly want to know what the payback period is. Well, after less than 10 months, the battery has given us 1MWh. To put that […]

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