trust me iʼm a writer

(This article – which contains an illustrative range of ‘profane’ terms – started out as a tangent in an upcoming post, but has grown too large – so here itʼs by itself.)

The author of a fiction website I like to keep up with has a proposal for a simple ‘rating’ scheme for websites to declare their suitability for age and sensitivity of readers.  (It may be based on the US film industryʼs rating scheme, not sure.)  The system is used on-site, normally rated ‘all welcome except those with uptight parents’, but the author found it necessary a few years ago to supersede that with an age-14 limit for one story.  She had decided to use stronger language, and make it more honestly (rather than cartoonishly) violent than usual.

I believe the idea here is that you try to reassure the parents of some of your possible audience that children are safe with you (most of the time anyway).  And fair enough.  Trouble is, if I was a parent, I wouldnʼt trust authorsʼ self certification – even if I thought access restrictions were all that useful in the first place.  Itʼs much like the content description meta tags we learned to distrust years ago.  They may be useful, but Iʼd want independent content rating, based on an actual examination.  Of course I would also want it to be genuinely independent and objective, which may be hard.  I fear many parents, and self-appointed advisors of parents, just want the appearance of safety measures, irrespective of practicality.

I also fear that, though I am no longer fresh in the world, some people and organisations seem interested in managing my access for me.  The increasingly alien UK government, for one, have decided that the UK population will have access restrictions by default, and enforced by social stigma.

politics in a cardboard cutout sense

Having spent most of my life alternately bored stiff of or driven to despair by the one-dimensionality of conventional descriptions of political thinking, I am interested to find a website based on an explicitly two-dimensional rather than one-dimensional analysis: The Political Compass.  Their two dimensions and many interesting graphs are stretched between poles of “social authoritarianism/libertarianism” and “economic left/right (or communism/neoliberalism)”.  So, from uselessly simplistic to descriptively two dimensional.  Not much of an improvement, given the hugely polydimensional nature of politics and the underlying factors that produce it, but an improvement nonetheless.

(Though there is a curious echo here of The Thatcher Lie about the initial divisibility of economics and society.  I donʼt wholly reject these graphs, but I think it important to understand that social policies have economic implications, economic policies have social implications, and both have wider ecological implications.  These things arise mutually.)

security snapshot

Itʼs not news that it is possible to use a laptop computer (or other device)ʼs built in camera to take pictures without the current user being aware of it. I ran across some discussion of this recently which seemed odd. Some people suggest (e.g. here) that the standard security response of taping (or equivalent) over the camera is inadequate because a usable image might still be obtainable by post-processing. The suggestion may not be serious, but it hadnʼt occurred to me; I have never thought much about whether a piece of metal foil tape or black tape would be better than the little square cut out of a post-it note Iʼve been using all these years. I prefer a post-it note because itʼs easy to remove if you ever actually want to use the camera – though thereʼs nothing stopping you using metal foil tape on top of a post-it note.

Anyhow, evidence. This is a self-portrait image taken with my laptop webcam, with a light shining directly on me, through a single layer of purple post-it note. The original image was almost black, so I ran it through the Photoshop Equalise filter.

view through a postitnote

The speckling is partly jpeg and partly low-light randomness. However, I suspect it would be a challenge to extract a usable image from this even if you could access the raw data. It doesnʼt even give much opportunity for pareidolia. Semitransparent tapes might not give the same level of protection.

Result: Probably not a security issue in the foreseeable future. And Iʼm quite pleased with this picture. I look much prettier than usual. ^.^

regarding our sources of gems and cake

I recently found and read one of the best manga series Iʼve ever come across.  Beautifully drawn, mostly beautifully written.  Charming, poignant and amusing by turns.  But thatʼs not what I want to write about.

What I want to write about starts with the fact that I had never heard of it.  Thatʼs not unusual; there are more manga in Japan and on the Net than are dreamt of in any one place on Earth.  And Sturgeonʼs Law applies – ninety-five per cent of them are crap.  Many of them unbearable.  Yet here we are; amidst the worthwhile five percent, a gem.  And I would never have heard of it if it hadnʼt been for: scanlation sites.  Nor is this the first time Iʼve come across excellent works in this way.

proving the rule #1

Rule 37: If You can imagine it, thereʼs a band called it.

The idea of Rule 37 seems like a good one in outline, but does it work in practice?  The thought has been niggling at me, so itʼs time I tried it out.  I thought maybe a random phrase generator would help, but then I thought, no, the test is if you, the unaugmented human, can imagine it...  So I am reduced to thinking of less obvious concepts to see whether they are band names.

windy cities

Trough cheap technology it will be possible to use the passing of vehicles to illuminate the city

Someone in Mexico wants to build a sort of below-ground bellows system to produce “sustainable” energy from passing cars.  Or pedestrians.  Apparently not aware that this is a means of decreasing the fuel efficiency of the traffic, hence not exactly sustainable. o_O


So, we update ourselves. Yes the blog was hacked and started sending out spam of some kind; even the GreenAnorakist hirself may be pwned occasionally.  (This was all more fun when it was the black hats doing it; now itʼs just a botnet most of the time.)  The good people at Memset caught it fast and did the expected stomping.


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