exo : blah

content

Mon, 04 Nov 2019

no fault text

In 1963, Gorey published “The West Wing,” which is mostly just drawings of rooms, one with torn wallpaper, another with a boulder on a table, another with a crack in the floor, another with what appears to be a dead man on the carpet. “The West Wing” is only drawings. It has no text. The volume was dedicated to Edmund Wilson, who had given Gorey’s drawings their first truly enthusiastic review (in The New Yorker) but had found fault with his texts.

I never cease to be delighted by petty dedications.

posted at: 20:49 #

Fri, 11 Oct 2019

fashion, it goes on and on

This wired article is all sorts of hilarious.

Algorithmically, it can infer that someone who likes chunky necklaces will probably like beaded necklaces too, the same way Netflix’s algorithm infers that you may want to watch another comedy with a strong female lead.

Moody says those kinds of problems don’t look so different from the work he did during his PhD. That map of latent style? “This is a Poincaré space. It’s what Einstein used to describe relativistic spaces,” says Moody.

Yup, those are totally the same thing.

Understanding latent style involves other physics principles too. Moody’s team uses something called eigenvector decomposition, a concept from quantum mechanics, to tease apart the overlapping “notes” in an individual’s style

No, no, not overcomplicating the business of choosing clothes at all.

posted at: 20:41 #

Tue, 09 Jul 2019

look at the line

When I was learning how to mountain bike, I was taught to look at the line. No matter how rocky or rooty or hairy or gnarly the trail was, you looked down it and found the path you wanted to follow, your line. And then—and this was key—you looked at the line. Not the obstacles, the line. …

There are an infinite number of dystopian futures that we can fixate on, like rocks in our path. And there’s the lazy nihilism epitomized by ‘LOL we’re fucked’, like taking our bikes and going home.

Or we can, together, learn to look at the line. Because there absolutely is a path through to a better future for everyone, one that’s sustainable and resilient and equitable. But we have to learn to see it, to stay focused on it, and to follow it down. That’s the work.

I am always in favour of cycling metaphors.

posted at: 13:42 #

Sun, 30 Jun 2019

a holiday in wikipedia pages

posted at: 09:33 #

Sat, 08 Jun 2019

check your disruption

What Uber has disrupted is the idea that competitive consumer and capital markets will maximize overall economic welfare by rewarding companies with superior efficiency.

Yup

posted at: 16:59 #

Tue, 13 Mar 2018

steep

“The views from the top will be amazing.”

The top in question being Roy’s Peak. It’s in the guidebook and the excellent “best day hikes” leaflet we picked up from the tourist info place. Both make sure to mention that the path is a bit steep. Neither, understandably, mention that the weather is unusually hot. As in hot enough to make sitting doing nothing on the toasty side.

“If we get up early it will be fine.”

This would be more reassuring if our idea of early was actually early. We were thinking getting to the bottom by half eight was early. Our AirBnB host thinks six would be better. That is never happening.

We make it to the bottom for eight which is, frankly, amazing. The path starts off really quite steep. I sort of assume it’s just an initial rise to the start but no, it just carries on being steep. Apart from the bits where it gets steeper. My hamstrings are unsure what is happening but are not impressed.

A group of young shirtless men pass us really quite quickly. And then stop for a bit while we catch and pass them. This process will be repeated for the rest of the climb.

The views are opening up quite quickly, unsurprising given how quickly we are gaining height. Concerningly the top is not getting closer anything like as quickly. The radio mast looks really quite a long way away vertically and not very far horizontally. This does not bode well for my hamstrings.

Incredibly it seems to get steeper. A couple on the way down reassure us it’s worth it, and then let slip they got engaged at the top which seems like it might skew your perspective. More incredibly are the people who have clearly run up and are now, even more incredibly, running down. I cannot phathom their reasoning.

The views continue to be quite good. More importantly they provide a reason to stop and regroup before the remorseless steep continues.

So far the track has been nice and wide and well made. As we get near the top this seems to stop and the good path heads off in one direction and the path to the top goes up a ridge. It is even steeper, a bit loose underfoot and has quite a bit of what is euphemistically called exposure to one side. It’s not exactly a drop but it’s close enough to one to make me uncomfortable. I am not looking forward to going down this.

A third of the way up this last section in becomes clear that the good path also goes up to the top too. And is easy to get to. And has no exposure at all. And is only steep.

We get off the ridge.

Shortly after we get to the top the shirtless men arrive and proceed to remove a remarkable amount of food from their bags. We don’t spend too much time at the top, conscious of the growing heat, although it’s quite pleasant at the top due to the breeze. I’m also conscious of exactly how edgy the edge, and the people who are blasé about it, is making me.

About 5 minutes from the top we give some water and snacks to a chap who “didn’t have breakfast this morning” and hasn’t brought food or much water. He is very happy. My sense of good Samaritanism conflicts somewhat with my feelings of WTF.

Down is about as much work as up. Quicker but almost as hard work walking down something so steep and it is the turn of my knees to be underwhelmed. It is also getting quite warm, and yet far below us we can see tiny people starting the climb. Our early is still earlier than some.

About half way down I begin to spend an inordinate amount of time staring at the lake far below and thinking how cool it looks. Plans are made to head for the lake as soon as we get to the bottom. There are still people starting.

Two thirds of the way down I wet a cloth in a stream and drape it across the back of my neck. I am not sure anything has ever felt so good. We do our best to dash the hopes of the people we meet with a nearly empty bottle of water when they inquire if it is far to the top. “Look, look, you can see that it’s far away” I think but do not say.

Finally we get to the bottom. I am really quite warm and there is a slightly odd sensation in one of my knees. I have definitely had enough.

The views really are good.

posted at: 23:20 #

Thu, 14 May 2015

user experience

User experience, or UX as it's commonly shortened to, is not as neutral a quality as one might think. Everyone wants to provide a good experience for their users, it's just that often it seems to be the means that justifies the end.

The most recent example of this is Facebook Instant, where, in order to improve the user experience, Facebook publishes content from websites directly. You never need to leave the app to view it and it loads much faster. The UX is, by the standards of speed and uniformity, better. And in those narrow terms it is.

It's the narrowness of those terms that bothers me. I worry that UX is becoming something of a trump card in these discussions that partly shuts down consideration of the wider context. By encouraging people to prefer things published by Facebook Instant, which you assume is the idea of it, the experience gets slicker but, almost certainly, less diverse.

This is not to say that I think we should not care about ease of use, just that before praising it we should ask if we had to give up something worthwhile in its service.

posted at: 21:47 #

Sun, 26 Apr 2015

on trying to be informed

This year I thought I will download and read all the manifestos (manifesti?) for the parties in 2015 general election. So far, so fail.

The first point is that for at least for the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems the link to their manifesto's wasn't as "right there in big type on the front page" as I'd expected it to be. Given that for all three of these parties I was looking at the site on the day of their manifesto launches that was a little surprising. It wasn't that it was that hard to find, just not as shouted about as I expected.

The Conservative one was my first attempt, it being the first to launch. I got about 25 pages in before the constant nagging "where are the references" at the many claims made wore me down and I stopped. Perhaps I am old fashioned in my need for at least some attempt to back things up with evidence.

Next, Labour and a week later I can remember almost nothing about reading twenty something pages. I have a vague association of it being more positive than the Conservative one but little else.

The final one I tried was the Lib Dems whose manifesto team was clearly on some sort of page count related bonus scheme because it's enormous, mostly because there are lots of pictures. I got further page count wise through this but pictures, and lots of "here is a list of bullet points, here is the list expanded".

A common theme was spending time thinking "how? How do you propose to do this thing?" Even where a how was stated it was very much "This is a problem. This is a thing we will do" and nothing to explain how the thing would actually solve the problem. I don't expect a full explanation of every single thing but something a bit more robust would be nice.

So, I got a bit dispirited and stopped. Which slightly saddens me but I'm not sure I felt like I was making myself that much more informed. There's still a week and an bit to go so I may go back to it. I should probably at least look at the SNP one but it's not an enticing prospect.

posted at: 17:26 #

Thu, 06 Nov 2014

house hunting for geeks

Write a scraper that generates a feed you can subscribe to.

If you ever need to explain to someone why being able to program is useful then an unpacked version of that sentence is likely to do it. As more and more estate agency sites offer to sen you emails or generate feeds of searches it's going to seem a less useful skill but it's not. The joy of being able to write your own thing to aggregate any sort of data is you can control what and how it aggregates.

When we were house hunting the scraper I wrote was pretty crude in that it just used price and location to whittle the list down. However as we were looking in one small town that was enough to reduce it to a manageable amount of information. What the scraper did do that was more useful was it aggregated the information from several different sites and then distilled that into an easily scannable format:

Lawmill Gardens, St Andrews, Fife KY16 : 225000                                 
http://tinyurl.com/cl84a24                                                      
   Lawmill Gardens, St Andrews, Fife KY16, Property for sale - 3                
      bedrooms : Offers over £225,000

Given that only one or two a day turned up it was very easy to scan them, see which ones looked interesting and then click on the URL.

posted at: 21:04 #

Thu, 30 Oct 2014

soul

There are things you own that do their job, that you appreciate because they work and don't provide you with much reason to complain or notice them. And then there are things that make you happy every time you use them. The Cotic Soul is one of the latter.

I have a distinctly battered one I bought second hand six or seven years ago. It's one of the few things I own I would unquestioningly replace were anything to happen to it. No looking at alternatives, just straight to the website to order a new one.

Regardless of whether it's a quick forty five minute hack round the local trails or a seven hour endurance race I know there will be at least one moment in every ride where riding it is just sheer joy. Mine is set up to be nimble, with short forks and, by modern standards, narrow bars so you can really chuck it about. It means it gets a bit out biked when things get really steep or rough but for most riding you can fly at stuff safe in the knowledge that you can finesse your way out of trouble. And for the sort of twisty singletrack that constitutes my favourite sort of riding it's a delight.

But mostly it is a bike for reminding you why you love bicycles.

posted at: 21:21 #

all the usual copyright stuff... [ copyright struan donald 2002 - 2012 ], plus license