A lyric like that

The Pet Shop Boys, “A Face Like That”, from their 2012 album Elysium:

A tropical storm was passing through;
And so were you.


Predictable issues with video doorbells

Sam Biddle wrote this article for The Intercept about a brand of Internet-enabled video doorbell. You can probably guess what comes next.

Ring has a history of lax, sloppy oversight when it comes to deciding who has access to some of the most precious, intimate data belonging to any person: a live, high-definition feed from around — and perhaps inside — their house.

I wasn’t aware of other issues they’ve had, but if true I don’t like where this is going.

Beginning in 2016, according to one source, Ring provided its [redacted]-based research and development team virtually unfettered access to a folder on Amazon’s S3 cloud storage service that contained every video created by every Ring camera around the world.

At the same time, the source said, Ring unnecessarily provided executives and engineers in the U.S. with highly privileged access to the company’s technical support video portal

I redacted the location of the researches because its irrelevant to the story and plays into prejudices. I also treat the details in news stories with anonymous sources with a dose of skepticism; Ring did provide a statement, but nothing specific.

I’ll reserve judgement on this device specifically, but what’s being reported here is utterly believable.

Every time a new smart home device comes out, I think it’d be great. Then I wonder how they’d mess it up maliciously or accidentally. Friends and podcasters discuss how awesome their lives are with their new smart device, and I sit at home using light switches like a schmuck. Then things like this happen. And worst of all, I’m not even happy I’m right each time.

The IoT industry as a whole has not earned your trust. Please consider this before jumping onto the next of these.


The European Space Agency store

I mentioned the European Space Agency in my Chrysler Building post because I found out today they have a web store. It’s one of those outsourced, print to order places, but they still have some cool stuff.

The Sailor Moon franchise made me a Mercury fan, but I think the ESA’s Neptune hoodie design is the best. As most obviously with the Saturn design, it has circles for each of its rings. What a brilliant visualisation.

Below are Sailor Neptune and the hoodie, in an order I’d hope you’d be able to discern.

Hoodie showing a stylised Neptune planet, and Sailor Neptune from the original Sailor Moon anime.


Buying the Chrysler Building

Everyone’s done those hypothetical about what one would do with a million dollars. I feel its somewhat less exciting for my generation, given that amount would barely cover an apartment in Singapore or Sydney. But if we took absolute numbers out, and assumed selfishness in lieu of altruism, what would you buy?

There are far-out ideas like paying the European Space Agency to build you a rocket to Neptune, or genetic engineers to make you immortal. I also find those less exciting, maybe because they don’t seem obtainable somehow. Maybe I lack sufficient imagination.

Until this most recent news story broke, my fantasy had been to buy the Queen Mary from Long Beach, and Queen Elizabeth II from those Dubai property developers, and berth them together in a maritime museum. Maybe even get the rusting hulk of the SS United States restored and shipped from Philadelphia.

Photo I took downstairs of the Chrysler Building in 2016

But the idea of owning my favourite building would be simply too irresistible a chance to pass up. Standing in the lobby of the Chrysler Building two years ago was one of the highlights of my life, even if the security guards quickly ushered us away. The photo above was taken shortly after we saw the building for the first time; because of course we went back a couple more times.

I’d turn the top floor into a free observation deck, the penultimate floor into a chill cafe, another into an apartment for Clara and I, and the entire pedestal section of the building into an art deco museum.


On entrepreneurship

holoduke on a Hacker News thread:

It is still running and making 20 times more than I would get with a normal job. But i was lucky. Lucky to be born in a rich country. Lucky because I was given a computer at the age of 5. Lucky because I had unlimited education opportunities. Lucky because I had a friend who gave me access to something I needed for my business. And many other lucks. I will never deny that fact. But reading these stories makes me a bit angry, because it is just not that simple. It’s always easy to translate a successful story into a guideline. But that guideline isn’t worth anything when all those luck properties are different.

And arbuge’s response:

In practice that particular thread likely required all kinds of environmental details to occur - details the entrepreneur might not have noticed at the time, might have forgotten about later, or might be discounting as unimportant.

There’s no such thing as a self-made person. I say this as someone who feels like he’s worked hard to get where he is, leaving aside his predilection for the third person to which he refers to himself in.


He’s just not that great a negotiator

My brain has got to the point where it filters news about Mr Orange automatically. But this one slipped through the cracks, like a supine slurry of cheap citrus cordial; desperate to taste like the real thing, but fooling fewer and fewer people. Or less people, as he’d say.

Mr Orange walked out of a meeting with the congressional Democrats, tweeting it was a “waste of time” and “bye-bye”. The American government shutdown is now well into its millionth week, to use one his rally estimations.

I’m confused as to why it’s hard, he said he’d make Mexico pay for it. He wasn’t being figurative, he literally quoted specific dollar figures and consequences if they didn’t comply with his demands.

That said, this was the guy who authored coauthored appeared on the cover of The Art of the Deal. If the livelihoods of federal workers weren’t in the mix, this dummy spit would be hilarious.


Just test the damned pills

There’s a debate raging in Australia about whether music festivals should do pill testing. I couldn’t understand the logic for years; why should people demand a venue test their illegal substances? In what other context would that be logical? Wouldn’t it also be the very definition of probable cause for law enforcement?

I still think that to an extent. If your concern is the drugs you’re taking have unknown ingredients, you’re a f… fool for taking them. Those of us who’ve lost loved ones to disease or accidents are floored at this preventable and selfish waste of human life.

But the reality is people will take these drugs regardless of legality; it’s why the drug wars have been such a catastrophic failure. The real answer is drug legalisation and the availability of medical-grade alternatives.

In the meantime, and this is something that had to be pounded into my stubborn head for at least a few months, pill testing is a scientifically verified form of harm minimisation. They can’t test for every noxious additive, but it’s literally better than nothing.


Summoning Musashi in Fate/Grand Order

My Fate/Grand Order luck has been hit and miss of late. I summoned Ishtar who I wanted from the start, but I didn’t get the angelically handsome and supremely useful Merlin, or the Bride version of everyone’s favourite Umu from last year.

I only had thirty saint quartz, so I could only perform one full summon. When that failed to materialise anything, I cashed in mana prisms for a few summoning tickets to try again. Chances were slim, but worth a shot.

Heroic Spirit SummonedSorry, let me start over!

You could say, my reaction was:

I can't believe this!


Bell Canada wanting permission to track customers

The Canadian Press is reporting:

“Tailored marketing means Bell will be able to customize advertising based on participant account information and service usage patterns, similar to the ways that companies like Google and others have been doing for some time,” the company says in recent notices to customers.

He’s not wrong about Google. In fact, Bell is doing better by asking for permission instead of requiring an opt-out. But I’ll bet that won’t last.


Cheaper, and more affordable

Remember these delightful suppositories of wisdom from our former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull?

But this is the one I’m sure he wrestles with the most now:

I’d list our current PM’s gaffes over the last few months, but I want this post to be finished before I turn 60. Bring on the election.