San Francisco Muni: Two Car, Shovel

The entire time I was working in San Francisco, I kept hearing the automated announcer at Muni stations say Two Car, Shovel. Turns out she was saying Two Car, Shuttle. This mishearing has inextricably entered itself into our family folklore, much to Clara’s chagrin.

The delightful RedKid site is still around, and I noticed it even has a BART station generator. Technically I was at the other Muni platform, but this still delighted me far more than it should have.

BART station with a sign reading 2 CAR SHOVEL

The London Underground roundel generator worked a little less well. Cars Hovel?

London Underground roundel reading 2CARSHOVEL

And this Roseland one makes no sense.

Sign reading Two Car and the Shovels


Australian IT firms not consulted about #aabill

Ariel Bogle filed this report for ABC Science:

Government officials spoke multiple times with US technology giants Apple, Facebook and Microsoft about the proposed legislation in 2017 and 2018, according to heavily redacted records obtained under freedom of information laws.

Telecommunication providers such as Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Vocus are also named.

But no brands from Australia’s IT sector appear among the dozens of pages released so far, further fuelling industry complaints that the impact of the laws on local industry was not adequately considered as the bill was developed.

Laws passed in 2018 can force technology companies to help police access encrypted messages.

Look out for other journalists realising this applies to them, and channeling their frustration into articles we really needed last year when the opposition were busy rolling over, and the general public were happy to ignore it.

Covering laptop cameras, revistied


I often agree with John Gruber on Daring Fireball, save for his views on the necessity of tipping. But in 2016 he wrote this, emphasis added:

I think this is nonsense. Malware that can surreptitiously engage your camera can do all sort of other nefarious things. If you can’t trust your camera, you can’t trust your keyboard either. Follow best practices to avoid malware in the first place — don’t install Flash Player, and don’t install software from sketchy sources — and you’ll almost certainly be fine.

My comment back then:

Security is about layers, so covering your laptop camera is perfectly rational.

Now there are widely circulating reports about a Zoom video conferencing vulnerability that allows any arbitrary client to access your webcam. It’s not the first time this has happened with similar software, and I would bet my professional career it won’t be the last.

Zoom isn’t malware; corporate users download it as part of their job. So the argument that avoiding malware in the first place is well intentioned, but misguided and incomplete. Almost certainly is true, just in the other direction.

Some random things I learned today

In no particular order:

  • Nigeria overtook South Africa to become Africa’s largest economy in 2014.

  • Carrefour is a French/Norman word for crossroads. I used to go to one of their hypermarkets at Suntec City in Singapore back in the day.

  • about:mozilla in the latest Firefox references Rust with “the Beast fashioned new structures from oxidised metal and proclaimed their glories.”

  • HISTTIMEFORMAT should be defined in your local .kshrc, .zshrc, or equivalent.

  • The median age of all the world’s donkeys is probably somewhere in the middle.

ThinkPads and MacBooks

A couple of digressions aside, I’ve always alternated between Apple notebooks, and BSD (or Linux) powered ThinkPads. If you have nothing better to do and check out the archives, you’ll likely find writing from iBooks and X40s, to MacBook Pros and T420s. My first laptop was a hand-me-down ThinkPad 600E from my dad, and my first new one was an iBook G3.

This seems to confound people: surely you can’t like both! While they differ in several critical ways, they’re also similar in the ways they’re different:

  • Both were aspirational to me. The rounded black PowerBook with that white Apple was so cool, and the ThinkPad screamed utilitarian class.

  • They’re premium/expensive, at least compared to junk laptops.

  • They both unapologetically serve their target markets, and have fircely-loyal followings. Read into that what you will.

  • They’re instantly recognisable and a clear lineage; arguably not an easy feat when you’re essentially dealing with a hinged screen and keyboard.

  • They’re often pitted against each other in reviews, probably due to their similar price points.

  • They tend to draw ire or praise from anyone who see them. They’re either attractive, well designed machines, or overpriced and stale.

I’ll admit my use case is a little odd, because I don’t run Windows on ThinkPads, and until recently my Macs were dual-booted. Either way, I’m sure I’ll anger at least a few people in both camps with this.

New Sailor Mercury Figuarts Mini

There’s a new Figuarts Mini of everyone’s favourite Sailor Moon character, due to be released in November. She’s only 9cm tall, so my usual concern about getting rid of clutter is even harder to justify. All she’s missing is her compact computer and visor!

You may see the homage to her that Clara drew into Rubi here too.

Capitalisation is my only concern with these: they insist on writing them the same way Apple does with Mac Mini. And like that device, I refuse to conform.


Mr Smooth

It’s Music Monday time! Each and every Monday, except when I don’t, I unwaveringly post about music; hence the title of this pointless series you almost certainly didn’t need an explanation for. This blog post is also most definitely not about me, though I’m flattered you thought so based on the title.

Play Mr Smooth

I wrote this on the Barefoot on the Beach Wikipedia album page back on 2012, back when I used to actively create Wikipedia articles:

Although the album evokes summer, it also contains biting commentary on Broadcast Architecture’s dominance of American smooth jazz radio at the time with “Mr. Smooth”. Lyrics such as “some of us remember how much choice there was, before he took the throne” and “his verdict we must wait” lament the dominance and perceived heavy-handed influence of the network on the genre.

So waffly. I would have written that in half as many words now. Maybe.

In every city whether it be large or small;
His tired playlist drones.
But some of us remember how much choice there was;
Before he took the throne.

He’s Mr. Smooth - His Hipness, the Great;
For Mr. Smooth’s verdict we must wait.
So Mr. Smooth, when out turn comes round;
Dear Mr. Smooth, we only hope it won’t be thumbs down.

The song came up on the office playlist today, and it made me appreciate what a time capsule it is. In a world of streaming music services, the idea that an FM radio station could hold so much sway over music seems almost quaint.


Ayako Kawasumi at Anime Expo

Clara and I streamed the Fate/Grand Order panel yesterday from Anime Expo in Los Angeles. It was unreal hearing Rumi Ookubo who voices Astolfo and Elisabeth Bathory, the latter servent being the first I rolled! But I practically had heart palpatations when Ayako Kawasumi came out.

To put into context why, I offer my post about Jean-Luc Piacrd from last year:

Picard was aspirational to so many of us growing up. In the face of scary danger, he projected calm rationality, political savvy, charisma, trust in his team, and above all: class. He often didn’t pick up a phaser, because he didn’t need to.

I feel the same way about Saber, the character Akako voiced from the beginning. The enduring Fate franchise has been a part of my life for so long, and a large part of the reason I started playing Fate/Grand Order was when I discovered I could play her. I since became a little too obsessive with Mashu and Umu-chan in her various forms, but there’s no question Saber is the de facto mascot of the Fate universe; or cash cow as Carninal Phantasm referred to her!

I was absolutely an Emiya growing up; perhaps unsurprising given he was shamelessly designed for nerds like me to identify with. Despite our best intentioned but thorough bumbling of everything, Saber was always there for us. There’s no way for this not to sound cheesy, but she helped through some tough chapters in my life; and based on the audience reaction when Akayo came out, I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

The most interesting part of the panel discussion for me was how the actors approached voicing all the Fate/Grand Order character variations. Ayako said she’d ask herself how the different outfits—bubbly swimsuits, dark armour and such—would change the character, but that ultimately it was always Saber underneath.

I’m hoping there’s a recording of the panel somewhere, it was lots of fun.



David Olsen retweeted this great article by Daniel Miessler on the difference between URLs, URIs, and URNs. You should read it in full, but he summarises the issue as:

The RFCs are ancient, poorly written, and not worth debating until they’re updated. A URI is an identifier. A URL is an identifier that tells you how to get to it. Use the term that is best understood by the recipient.

I’ve resisted the push to refer to URLs as URIs, despite being called out for it a few times by those in the ackchyually brigade. It largely comes down to that last point in the above list; something that nerds like me all too often ignore.

As another example, it used to bug me when people referred to HTTPS certificates as SSL, when technically we’ve been on TLS for two decades. Or referring to random number generators as pseudo-random.

Dan Benjamin on computers as tools

Another theme of mine of late, most recently discussed on my own show, is navigating that fine line between work and hobbies, when they so often intersect. Dan had this great thought on Back to Work #433:

Dan: We don’t really think of computers as tools, or where as friend of the show Horace Deidu says, that “we’ve hired to do a job”. If you had a nice set of tools—a hammer, some wrenches, stuff like that—you wouldn’t go out to the toolbox and look at them, and say “give me something!”, you’d say “I need to go build something”. You’d grab the tool you need, you’d use it, and you’d put it away when you’re done, hopefully. That’s not how we think of computers, even though most of us are developers, designers, writers.

Merlin: Even if it’s a socket wrench, you’re not gonna spend ten hours just turning it because you have one.

Dan: Right! But how much time most of us spend in front of our computers, not doing work, not using them as tools, but simply saying: give me something fun to think about, or read or do.

And then he drops this:

It’s very hard to define that line between working at the computer, and I’m browsing or diverting to refresh my mind. We’re locked in.

The irony isn’t lost on me that I spent part of my lunch transcribing this quote on my work computer.