Rubenerd logo


Respect for sex education

Michael Koziol reported on this suppository of wisdom in the Sydney Morning Herald on Monday:

The federal government should cut all funding for any school that won’t let parents pull their children out of sex- or gender-related classes, former prime minister John Howard has urged.

“Speaking practically, the preferable approach would be for the Commonwealth government to make it a condition of funding for both government and non-government schools that parental rights of this kind be respected,” Mr Howard wrote.

The word respect is popular with people against sex education classes. But what about respect for the sexual health of teenagers? Respect for those with different sexual orientations?

Star of Life Caution icon by Mike.lifeguard and Lokal_Profil on Wikimedia Commons

You learn so much junk in high school under the guise of learning how to learn. So why not learn things that are important? I’d put sex education up (haiyo) there with financial literacy as topics that should be expanded, not curtailed or made optional.

My parents gave my sister and I the facts of life very young, in part because they thought shattering the illusion of it being this mysical, taboo topic would let us think logically. Sex education is even more important for those who live in orthodox or conservative families that don’t have rational parents like this; it may be their first exposure to the risks of STDs, how to have safe sex, respecting sexual partners, and knowing of the different orientations out there. If you grow up sheltered from these things, you’re in for a world of pain.

The core mistake comes down to parents and religious groups assuming education == endorsement. Sex education isn’t about gettin’ some (chicka-bow-wow), it’s about being in full posession of the facts to engage in it safely, if or when you decide to.

If facts are threatening, that should be telling you something.

Paul Houle’s Enhanced DOSKEY and pumpkin

Want DOSKEY, but with tab completion and other goodies? You want Paul Houle’s Enhanced DOSKEY:

This program is an enhanced, drop-in replacement for the DOSKEY.COM that ships with MS-DOS and Windows 9x/Me. Although enhanced, it has a smaller disk and memory resident footprint. It is a great addition to DOS boot diskettes, and to the Win 9x/Me environment if the DOS box is used frequently. Note: will not operate under Windows NT/2000/XP (it’s not needed since those systems have completion mechanisms built-in).

The primary added feature is command and file “auto-completion” via the tab key.

I’ve replaced it on my vintage DOS tower’s AUTOEXEC.BAT. I know it’s cheating a little, but wow having tab completion on DOS is glorious!

Paul Houle posing with a gigantic pumpkin under a tarp

What’s more amazing though is Paul’s homepage with the above image of his rather large pumpkin. I endeavour one day to have a homepage even 1% as good at this.

Please explain summaries, Wikipedia editors

It’s important that any change to Wikipedia come with a clear edit summary, just as you would add a message to a git commit.

Case in point, I got an email about a Sonny Rollins jazz album cover from Wikipedia yesterday morning:

The Wikipedia page File talk:Old Flames.jpg has been moved on 14 May 2018 by KylieTastic, see URL for the current revision.

Editor’s summary: [[WP:FNC#9|FNC#9]]

That sure is a summary. But what is that alphabet soup?

Wikipedia:File mover
Rename files that shadow a Commons file or redirect

Okay, that makes sense. The original image was ambiguously named, and it now references Sonny Rollins. Thumbs up. But the original summary is still needlessly terse.

Wikipedia editors: please include more detail in these summaries. By all means reference the reason, but even a couple of words like source file was renamed is infinitely clearer. Wikipedia is the encyclopedia anyone can edit, not just those well versed in archaic syntax.

Right-click on Ubuntu 18.04

Patrick Kilgore has commented on the way right-clicks work in the latest Ubuntu LTS:

Did you install your fresh copy of 18.04 only to find that clicking the bottom-right area of your touchpad/trackpad no longer creates the right-click event (it just left-clicks instead)?

While it may seem right click is broken, that’s actually an intentional choice by Ubuntu/Gnome. The default for the libinput driver handling the touchpad is now the Mac behavior called touchfingers. This behavior setting means you need to tap with two fingers at the same time to generate a right click. This is the default behavior even if you installed Ubuntu on a PC.

This sounds great. Once you get used to it, it makes far more sense to right-click anywhere on a touchpad, not just a corner. It’s especially useful if you’ve just scrolled to something to right-click; there’s no need to move your hand. But if you want to revert it, he has the details.

Clear icon from the Tango Desktop Project

Once I learn to tolerate their lower resolution and plastic feel — like the retro icon on the right — it’s this lack of right-click-everywhere I miss the most when I use non-Mac touchpads. Which has a Morissettian-irony given how long Mac users had to suffer through single-button mouses, and people mocking them for said.

After years of having *nix desktop environments understandably mimic Windows, I’m glad to see some more good ideas come from the Mac. Now we just need wider use of persistent menu bars. Just don’t copy their keyboards, they suck now.


  • …wouldn’t be that useful for a regular person to operate a mouse, unless your toes are particularly nimble.

  • There’s a pun about sucking and vacuum cleaners and dust breaking keyboards in there somewhere, but it’s too early in the morning.

  • Upon closer inspection, that icon above is a loafer is not even a trackpad mouse. I probably need a more recent iconset to use for these posts, but I’ve been using the delightful Tango Desktop Project ones for so long.

Friday Fanmail: Charlotte

It’s Friday Fanmail time! Today’s message came from Charlotte:

Screenshot showing an email from a Charlotte

Could it be this Charlotte, everyone’s favourite mecha harem star? Who Clara has the figure version of this picture, and who’s character she cosplayed one year when I went as Ichika:

Or maybe a character from a series I didn’t watch but people told me I should have? Or a much older series? Or from a certain American city?

Alas, no:

To: Human Resources

As an aside, I always loved being referred to as a resource.

Please find attached our brochure, Critical Thinking for Supervisors and Leaders.

Kindest Regards
Charlotte [REDACTED]
Personal Assistant

My Critical Thinking™ is telling me I shouldn’t open this unsolicited email attachment.

That wireless shield icon

I had a Twitter DM yesterday about my previous CRN Australia poll post. This is opposed to first past the post, which is a polling method; and not Poczta Polska, which is the national post carrier for Poles:

I get your WiFi Why the shield icon?

I’m assuming there was a typo there, or a copy pasta done wrong, but I think I get the gist. Which is also where I put most of my random shell scripts and don’t-forget-this stuff.

Wireless security icon from the Gnome Colors project

The first bit of clarification, is a superfluous phrase. The CRN Australia poll was about mobile phones, not WiFi. Or Wi-Fi, or however it is we’re supposed to be hyphenating it.

(I seem to be having mixed success with these so-called hyphens of late. See what I did there? If you didn’t, it may be due to an ambiguous sentence, one which could have been rendered clear through the use of a hyphen. Or hypen-use, as they say).

But it’s a fair point, why a security shield icon with wireless beams eminating from its centre, on a post that seemingly had nothing to do with security? It all comes down to the third point in the hilariously-erroneous CIA triad:

  1. Confidentiality: others can’t read your messages
  2. Integrity: your messages haven’t been tampered with
  3. Availability: you can send/receive without interference

Or at least, that’s why I’m pretending I used that icon. The truth is it was the first icon I could find that had wireless signals.

CRN mobile network outage poll

Wireless security icon from the Gnome Colors project

CRN Australia is running another poll. The options for mobile network outages are:

  1. Unacceptable at any time
  2. Disappointing but unavoidable
  3. Rarely noticeable for me

I liked that (2) tempered disappointing with unavoidable; it’s a pragmatic acceptance of the nature of computer systems and networks in this context. As opposed to (1), which is abject fantasyland.

I’d say they were rarely noticable in Singapore, and unavoidable in Australia. That won’t stop people abusing support and retail staff for mobile carriers when there’s an issue, though. You know, the people who don’t make the decisions about infrastructure or maintain it.

A Tesla and Maserati

I observed something very North Sydney this afternoon. A shiny red Maserati cruised past us huddled around a pedestrian crossing. All but two people in the seething mass of peak-hour pedestrians ignored it. a Telsa drove past in such an unobtrusive colour I already can’t remember it. I kid you not, more than half the crowd turned to look.

In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed people gone from obsessing over red-hot Italian sportscars, to thinking they’re passé in light of something better.

It’s not just because the Tesla was sleeker, or seems to glide effortlessly through traffic without any noise. It’s what it represented. In a river of putrid, fossil burning smog machines, there was finally something clean and Way of The Future.


Now, there will always be the smug naysayers who delight in pointing out that Tesla’s merely relocate pollution elsewhere, such as to remote coal-fired power stations. In the words of an Aussie: yeah, nah. And in typical nit-picky form, they miss the far bigger point while tripping over facts and themselves.

The real concern is these replacement cars perpetuate traffic problems, not solve them.

Giving everyone a Tesla will still require ugly, obtrusive infrastructure that cut neighbourhoods off from each other, and waste huge amounts of money in construction and maintenance that could be spent far more efficiently on public transport in urban areas. Though at least we’ll do without the gross smokestacks above tunnels.

We will likely need cars for the foreseeable future, but let’s also channel some of that enthusiasm into something that benefits everyone.

Building beautiful websites

Clear icon from the Tango Desktop Project

Every second podcast, advertisement, and spam email hawk their sponsor’s site designs as being beautiful. I credit a certain four-sided shape space for popularising this, though I’m sure there are earlier examples.

It strikes me as an odd adjective to lead a site design with. Not accessible, or easy to use, or simple, or approachable, or efficient, but beautiful. Maybe that term is supposed to encompass the others, but there are better terms to do so.

Beautiful, without a qualifier, is hollow. It doesn’t stand for anything. It offers no utility. There’s a reason people used to say beauty is only skin deep. The same thing applies to design, not least on websites.

This isn’t a semantic whinge; emphasising beauty in place of other attributes leads us to all sorts of accessibility, performance, and privacy problems. But I suppose you can’t argue they’re not pretty!