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Advertisement for a Tokyu Hands Idolmaster collaboration, running from the 24th of March this year to the 6th of May

Damn it, I’ll be in Tokyo until the 18th! The 18th! It’s even running during my birthday! ;w;

For those who don’t know, Tokyu Hands is one of the world’s greatest variety stores. And THE iDOLM@STER is the gentleman’s choice for idol franchises; dare I say especially for Side M. Haters gonna hate. And free advertising is what I’m doing here.

The last time I mentioned THE iDOLM@STER here was almost exactly a decade ago, in the context of that bizarre Xenoglossia sci-fi adaptation. I remember that post was the subject of a live Whole Wheat Radio discussion at the time; Jim wanted to know why I had cheerleaders on my blog. Then he read it was anime, and said he should have expected that.

Lightbox popups and push notifications

When you see either of these appear on a page, the answer is No.

Lightbox popup appearing on a blog, asking for us to subscribe to their newsletter

Safari popup dialogue box from the same blog asking if we want notifications from their site

I’m not picking on Londontopia specifically, I otherwise love their writing and features. These are systematic issues with the web today. Whatever we won in the early 2000s with first generation popup blockers, it was the battle and not the war.

Looking at slabs of glass

People lamenting the current state of the world often mention our fixation on slabs of glass. We wake up, check our phones, work in offices staring at monitors all day, then relax by looking at computer screens. There’s usually a followup comment that visiting aliens would be perplexed and unimpressed by the seething masses doing this.

I think there’s supposed to be some compelling, biting sociological commentary buried in all that judgement, but I’m not swayed. Not least because it sounds Chopresque, a term I thought of this morning and really like.

There’s no doubt excessive electronics usage has negative effects. As but one example, I used to have near perfect vision until self-induced myopia robbed me of it like so many Singaporeans. Fun fact, which I’m not sure is fact, but I was always told Singapore had the highest incidence of myopia in the world.

But it’s also worth pointing out these slabs of glass have supplanted other tech, enabled entirely new things, and allowed people who’d otherwise find it difficult through disability or distance to engage in society.

People write, create music, paint, develop, architect all manner of things on these glass slabs now. It’d be hard in 2018 to not name an industry or hobby that hasn’t been touched in this way.

People were doing all these things before. We’re just doing them with computers now. Maybe there’s a sociological comment in there about exercise, or the need for fresh air. But their use isn’t automatically negative.

I mean, next these armchair philosophers will say all these phones and things are making us anti-social.

Photo of my desk in 2005

Photo of my desk from 2005, with the below features

I found this old photo on an MMC card. Check it out, from right to left:

  1. Beige SCSI EPSON scanner
  2. Transparent Athlon tower
  3. Chip magazine poster, XP green hill background
  4. Iomega 120GB USB hard drive
  5. AT mini keyboard, with a PS/2 adaptor
  6. Palm Tungsten W smartphone
  7. 3rd gen 15GB iPod, with FireWire 400 cable
  8. Freebie mouse I got from a Western Digital trade show
  9. 19” VGA Philips LCD
  10. iBook G3, 800MHz
  11. MightyMinds Singapore map with pin showing our apartment (off camera)

The Athlon tower had my first DVD burner, and the 5.25” floppy drive from the first family computer. The iPod was also the last one with the real backlit touch buttons and scroll wheel, not the mechanical clickwheel they pushed later.

I wrote this post on Christmas on that iBook, on that desk. How much has changed.

Home digital assistants

Matthew JC Powell compared the latest crop of home digital assistants in the context of who makes them:

Amazon is primarily a retailer. It wants to sell you stuff, and facilitate your purchases from its Marketplace sellers. That’s its business.

Likewise, Google makes its money from advertising. It figures out what you are interested in, and it sells that information to advertisers. That’s its business.

Agreed, and worth remembering. Om Malik, whom I have all the time in the world for, says this is part of company DNA.

Apple isn’t in the advertising business. It’s in e-commerce in as much as it wants to sell you stuff via iTunes, but beyond that core it has no interest in your interests. HomePod has the opportunity to be the voice-activated assistant that just assists.

That should be its motto — paraphrased from another company that isn’t using it anymore: “Don’t be spooky”.

I’d say that’s a slight oversimplication; Apple surely is interested in your tastes and behavior as well. But the result is far closer to the Amazon side than Google, which is why I’d avoid the latter entering my home.

Music and phones in public

This article by David McAlpine, Bill Thompson, and Megan Gilliver on ABC News makes the case for digital etiquette:

You step onto a crowded train and grab a spare seat to relax for your journey home, only to be met with Radiohead’s Kid A album reverberating out of someone else’s headphones, while the person behind you argues with their partner about who is making dinner tonight … where’s the digital etiquette?

I’d say it’s simpler, it’s just not being a dick, full stop.

I’m willing to give people the benefit of the doubt most times, but obliviousness and arrogance are no excuses in a public space.

When you start having fantasies about carrying around a portable, targeted EMP laser pointer thingy to discretely disable demonic devices deployed by dickheads, you know there’s a problem.


I found a .mkshrc while going through my home directory dotfiles. I couldn’t even remember what it was, but it’s a MirOS Korn Shell configuration file. I didn’t know this; on NetBSD I’d used .kshrc with ksh88.

But why did I have it on my Mac?

# Add RVM to PATH for scripting. Make sure this is the 
# last PATH variable change.
export PATH="$PATH:$HOME/.rvm/bin"

That’d do it!

The MirBSD Korn Shell is also the default on Android, though I won’t hold that against it or its delightful name.

Rubenerd Show 373: The extinguisher episode

Rubénerd Show 373

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

01:04:49 – A discussion on adequate fire extinguisher deployment. Not to be taken seriously. Also cappuccinos, stomach flu, evenings, evolving vocations, writing, sodium lamp feedback from Chad Bowers, film anachronisms, John Nettles, undesirable bulb emissions, ElectroBOOM, a Kallen anime figure, Cyril Figgis, and other randomness. Audio from Back To Work, Security Now, and Who Ha. Recorded January 2018.

Recorded in North Sydney, Australia. Licence for this track: Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Attribution: Ruben Schade.

Released February 2018 on The Overnightscape Underground, an Internet talk radio channel focusing on a freeform monologue style, with diverse and fascinating hosts.

Subscribe with iTunes, Pocket Casts, Overcast or add this feed to your podcast client.

A railroad made of human bones

This is the most powerful, lucid piece of journalism I’ve read so far this year; and I don’t even watch superhero movies. This is the opening of Jelani Cobb’s Black Panther review for The New Yorker:

The Maison des Esclaves stands on the rocky shore of Gorée Island, off the coast of Senegal, like a great red tomb. During the years of its operation, the building served as a rendezvous point for slavers trafficking in a seemingly inexhaustible resource: Africans, whose very bodies became the wealth of white men. A portal known as the “Door of No Return,” leading to the slave ships, offered the forlorn captives a last glimpse of home, before they were sown to the wind and sold in the West. For nearly four centuries, this traffic continued, seeding the populations of the Caribbean, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, and Central and North America, and draining societies of their prime populations while fomenting civil conflict among them in order to more effectively cull their people. On the high seas, the vessels jettisoned bodies in such terrible numbers that the poet Amiri Baraka once wrote, “At the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean there’s a railroad made of human bones.”