Peak Dad

Continuing to be a tease, but some exciting (if perhaps a little odd) news this week that I’ll likely be sharing properly in the first week of August. Not exactly all change, but some change.

Other things from the week:

  • on recent events: welp

  • The happiest baby is apparently a baby with her mouth stuffed full of croissant.

  • In my quest to hit Peak Dad, I have ordered a Blackstone Griddle. Maeryn will hopefully learn to love smashburgers.

  • Not only am I out of proper brown sauce, I’m almost out of the pretender brown sauce. And I’m down to my last half box of tea! British reserves are low…

  • I’m not saying I have a problem, but I actually have a schedule for buying Lego sets for the rest of the year…

  • This Frequency’s My Universe is now pretty much done. Two bugs remain, one of which seems to be a limitation of Google’s Cloud Run service and how it maps domain names to Kubernetes pod names (because I remember the cryptic error message from some earlier k8s adventures) — this I can’t fix and so there will be an awkward URL redirect. Things look terrible on mobile right now too, but I think a few CSS directives should fix that. Looking good for August!

  • Planning for Thanksgiving has begun! But…this year we’re going to try and scale down our ambitions a little. Check back in a few months to see how that’s worked out. Our record for keeping things contained is…not great.

  • It’s 25 years since The Mayfair Set was broadcast. I still want to know if there are more lyrics to the Starship rewrite of We Built This City that was performed for Milken:

We built this city

on high yield bonds

All This And France Kicking Le Pen Too?

A strangely muted election night, considering the circumstances and the absolute scale of the defeat. While seeing the back of Rees-Mogg (until he is regenerated into his inevitable final form as a Lord), the hapless Truss, Corbyn seeing off the Labour challenger, and watching the Paisley dynasty disappear from the night were all great fun, Farage winning handily in Clacton and Starmer’s Labour not exactly being inspiring meant it did not quite bring the 1997 feeling.

But maybe that’s a good thing, given what happened there? I can wince at Starmer’s language cancelling the Rwanda programme, pointing out its failure as a deterrent instead of the immorality of it. But on the other hand, he cancelled it within a few hours of becoming PM. Not even waiting until next week. Unlike Blair, they actually plan on nationalizing the railways - Ed finally gets to execute the plan that seems to have survived his and Corbyn’s stints as Leader of The Opposition.

And the idea of creating New Towns for the first time in decades, planning regulations and the green belt be damned? That’s actually pretty radical, and in the right hands could be amazing. Towns built for the 21st century - you can’t say “15 minutes” out loud, but imagine new areas for living and working where pedestrians, bikes and public transit could be given the same priority as personal cars! EV stations! Houses that aren’t just Barratt Homes extrapolated to their 21st century endpoint with cheap fixtures and fittings! New ways of living!

Of course, I’m likely to be disappointed. It’ll probably be “Poundbury, but we added two charging stations”. But still, the possibility of actually building something in the UK that isn’t in London?1

So, a little optimistic? Just maybe?

  1. And Britain can do it - look at the Elizabeth Line! ↩︎

Goodbye June

For those of you keeping track, and yes, I realize it’s only me, but this weekend marks the 25th anniversary of when I got mild sunstroke at Glastonbury and Courtney Love appeared to me in a vision across the sky. Telling me to enjoy myself and get some water. And, well, when Courtney Love tells you to do that, you go off and finish listening to the Super Furry Animals with a bottle of water, don’t you?

Anyway, we had a good trip to San Francisco! One of the nicest I’ve ever had, I think. Sunny skies, not too hot or too cold, adventures on all sorts of different public transport, Alcatraz, the piers, Chinatown, an interactive Speakeasy theatre, the Castro, and more besides. Plus despite an extended stay in SFO, which turned into an extended stay at DFW, Maeryn has spent the week getting more and more confident on her feet, leading up to hours of walking around in the SFO play area. Now that we’re home, she’s also trying to run me down with her walker. It won’t be too long before she’s everywhere. eyes the house nervously

I am hopeful that July will see the last few bits of Frequency’s My Universe completed (it all works, it’s just a matter of wrapping it into a bow and uploading it all at this point, but all the packaging bits are going to suck up some time). Which should allow me to get further on Rude Title (which at least has the beginnings of a dataset now!), and I have the training code for Chock-A-Block pretty much worked out. So who knows, maybe it’ll be a summer of tech posts and other surprises?

Midweek Madness

A slightly earlier update this time as I’ll be in San Francisco without my computer until the middle of next week. I haven’t been doing a good job on getting ready, which means I have spent Thursday afternoon into the evening wandering around the house with enough nervous energy that makes everybody else nervous. I think I’m packed now, though. Honest. Really. Look, I’ll be right back.

Been ploughing through Michael Palin’s diaries this month — I think I’m somewhere in 1983 at the moment. As part of that, I’ve also watched the first two Ripping Yarns, and…oof, I didn’t expect to bounce off them as hard as I did. They’re not terrible, but it was just a few smiles here and there rather than actual laughter (except for the icebreaker model joke — that was silly enough and a completely extravagant use of filming time and money that you couldn’t help be moved by it). The versions I saw had the audience laughter that Palin was adamantly against, and far be it for my to argue with a Python, but although the mix could have used a little fine-tuning here and there, no laughs at all would have surely sunk them on first broadcast. Anyway, as you’d expect, he comes across as Great Bunch of Lads Python, who refuses to cross picket lines, worries that he’s no good at what he’s doing, and slowly accumulating houses along his street.

(I’m also reading Owen Hatherley’s new book, which opens with the same complaints I always make about JFK and the subway, before actually making me want to go back to check out some of the places he talks about, damn him)

I know I’ve been teasing all sorts of tech posts and then not actually doing them. I’ll continue at least the first part of that - I hope to finish off the project that goes live in August next weekend, and I’m finally collating the datasets for “Rude Title For A Paper That I Can Never Use”, and I may reuse some of that work for an idea I have about embedding…so there are real things coming up, I promise. Oh, and after six years, I’ve finally updated my about page to reflect that I now live in Cincinnati. Oops.

Right, it’s time for ambien and bed, I think. If you hear of a British person next week being forcibly removed from Alcatraz shouting “Glass or plastic? GLASS OR PLASTIC?!?!”, then it’s probably me.

Have I Bought My Last Transformer?

Obviously, the answer to that question is no, of course not, but I may be closer to calling my collection complete. Since around 2006 (what other date could it be, yes?), the Transformers toyline has had a number of sub-lines on sale. There’s been toys focused on the movie of the day, toys for the current cartoon, and another line which, whilst it has had many names, has always been aimed at older fans1). Starting out as Classics, then Universe, and its most recent regeneration as Transformers: Legacy United2, it has been mainly re-workings of old characters with more modern toy-making technology. So yes, always a new Optimus Prime, and lo! there’s a new Bumblebee…and here’s Megatron and please stop complaining that he doesn’t turn into a gun any more.

As these lines have gone on, they’ve introduced a few new characters, revisited some of the more esoteric areas of G1 - combiners, Headmasters, and the like, but in the past few years, there’s definitely been a sense of “look, we’re now filling in the gaps…and in some cases just going back and redoing the things we redid a few years ago”. There’s been some wins with this; the current versions of the Dinobots are basically the toys you always wished the originals were, but even as somebody who owned the Stunticons back in 1987, I have no desire to buy the new set of them — I even skipped the “new” version of them back in 2016 too. Still, I bought quite a few of these remasters — I wasn’t going to miss the chance to have a Scorponok that is in scale with the original G1 Fortress Maximus, after all! But I’ve noticed of late that I have been just scrolling past “oh look, another version of Jazz”.

(the exception here is Optimus Prime, which I have bought a lot over the years, but if you’re after the proper answer to “which Prime should I buy?” then it is “find Earthrise Prime". It’s not too expensive, comes with a reasonable trailer, and the robot mode is likely the best representation of G1 Prime from the cartoon/comics that you can get without spending over $200)

But oh, those gaps. As somebody that grew up with the Marvel UK version of Transformers, there’s always been that annoyance that a lot of everybody’s favourite characters were not real toys. You could never complete a collection of The Wreckers for example, because Rack’n’Ruin and Impactor were never toys!

And then things like this started to happen.


Impactor? There’s three different versions of him, including one with an IDWverse head, as well as the classic Marvel UK torso and head:


What about Straxus3? Okay, sure, Hasbro are yet to release Straxus-in-a-jar, but look at this set, coming out later this year:


They even released Tarn and Rung from the IDW comics!

And then, well, I think we were all surprised by this one. Jhiaxus, a Transformer created for the ill-fated G2 revival, suddenly appeared on shelves like he had stepped out of 1994 in all his “BIG GUNS!” 90s glory. Look at the snarl on this piece of plastic!


There was always one figure who seemed destined to remain elusive. After all, would there be an audience for a mostly-Marvel UK figure who never transformed?

Yes, so Hasbro this week answered that with “silly man, why don’t we throw in his nemesis from the zombie storyline too, eh?"4

The Transformers AND ACTION FORCE

Flame and Xaaron

That’s Emirate Xaaron, manipulative leader of the underground Autobot resistance, and short-arse. HE’S IN SCALE WITH IMPACTOR IN THEIR TARGET: 2006 SCENES. Reader, I could not smash the “Buy Now” button harder on Thursday.

I have wanted this toy since I was seven. And in a few months, I’ll have him, and Flame (!?!?!) too. I really am not sure I need anything else5

  1. There’s also the Masterpiece line, which is really expensive (>$100) toys for the rich lads who demand their die-cast metal, but aside from a few fun pieces, I’ve never really got on with them, as they’re fiddly, prone to breaking, and insanely priced. ↩︎

  2. Legacy United 0 Stenhousemuir 3 ↩︎

  3. Wags at the back pointing to a random Megatron toy: very clever. ↩︎

  4. Tweenies version of Threads! ↩︎

  5. Okay, I would like an updated Nightbeat, but that’s about it… ↩︎

All The Calm Before A Possible Storm

And the post teased last week is now firmly on the back-burner, as I don’t think it’s really good enough. In addition, some news at the start of the week threw me for a spin and I haven’t really time for digging in to make it work. So, it may eventually appear, but I’ll stop teasing it.

One thing I have had time for this weekend is to sort out the Lego I have bought for Maeryn…and…well. I think I passed by the amount of Lego I had as a child a long time ago, and we’ll leave it at that, shall we? Or…every Lego city apparently needs a TGV-level train and two different types of intra-city tram link, plus two train stations. And a bed & breakfast. Oh, and an art school. It’s fine. Honest. Besides, I haven’t got a harbour yet, so how I can I even attempt to say that we have a city?? I haven’t even finished the brutalist housing section either!

Spending Saturday night down some old corners of the Internet that I used to frequent. It’s Nice That is still there, but obviously died years ago and it even seems that the old Coudal Partners site is offline, even though Field Notes is still going strong. So much of that 2000 era is totally gone now. At least ILX, albeit in a much-quieter form, is still standing.

June Interlude

I’ll confess that I had a big plan for this week’s post, but for one reason or another, I just haven’t had time to work on it. Maybe next week? Think “cutting-edge LLM Research” and “an infamous episode of Red Dwarf”.

(forgive me; I planned to work on it Thursday night, but then the News broke just after 5pm and there was no way I was doing anything else that night except following along social media with a glass of 17-year-old bourbon. I think I made the right decision at the time…)

Otherwise, a quiet Memorial Day weekend over here, with a short trip to IKEA (Baby’s First Swedish Meatballs!) and a bunch of model training during the rest of the week - using a research paper that only came out last week. Look at me, being all cutting-edge and all that1.

Not much else to say, except for a delightful week playing in the nursery with this lovely little girl, which is utterly wonderful for me, but obviously most of you weren’t there, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. So close to walking, but still thinking that it’s much much easier for her to point and for us to carry her like a tiny little dictator…

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  1. Less impressive than it sounds, but it did take a bit of work bodging things together so my pinned version of trl was happy. ↩︎

Notes From Boston: A Slight Return

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In the traditional “I’m not writing all that linking text” fashion:

  • Explaining Cincinnati chili is always fun. “Well, first, there’s the spaghetti” “WAIT, WHAT?"

  • Boston pretends so hard to be an European city, and yet, at almost every turn, from the Dunkin’ Donuts concession a regulated 200 metres apart to the wonderful piazza that is completely ruined at 9am by total gridlock, the cracks show through.

  • Consider a transit network that has four major lines, each of which is incompatible with the other, despite three of them being on standard rail gauge. And the excuse given is that the transit system is almost 120 years old in places. stares in TfL

  • (I actually quite like Boston, but come on)

  • Medford is…somewhat barren.

  • Imagine my shock, when asking Maps to find the closest Au Bon Pain, to be confronted by an expanding list of shops, all with the tag “Permanently Closed”. The bakery was second only to Dunkin’ in terms of being everywhere in Boston, and now there is only one in the entire state of Massachusetts.

  • Hats off to BasisTech for hosting our offsite in an office building that can only be described as “An Ian Trap”. Concrete everywhere! A central, multi-level courtyard! Cantilevered bits! Much better than a boring office, that’s for sure.

  • If I can walk into work in under an hour, I will, no matter how hot and humid it is outside…

  • When I did finally get into Harvard Square, I visited Newbury Comics and…oh dear. While I understand that having about 75% of the floorspace dedicated to Funko Pops is probably how they keep the doors open, it’s a bit of a sad come-down from the full-on goth/world cinema delight of the late 90s and even well into the 2010s. No Manic Panic glitter that I could see…

  • When did LaGuardia airport get nice??

  • Downtown Crossing looks even more desperate than it did in 2015 or so when I was there last. I even remember the days when there was a HMV there…

  • I walked past a women whose perfume smelled exactly like an American mall in the 90s. I can’t describe it any more than that, but it stopped me dead in my tracks on Thursday morning.

A Quiet Week, Except For The Small Fire

On the bright side, turning a silicone pot holder into lots of ash on our stovetop did mean that the kitchen got a good cleaning and a much-needed reorganization. Plus, new fire extinguishers for the house! The downside, obviously, was the fire part.

(oh, and apparently my Apple Home ecosystem will send an alert if it hears a smoke alarm? Fun discovery!)

Progress has been made on Frequency’s My Universe and hopefully, I’ll be wrapping it up over the holiday next weekend. In the meantime, surprisingly off to Boston tomorrow for the first time since my Constant Contact days!

Another Plague Upon Our House

For Mother’s Day, Maeryn has decided to bring home a stomach bug from daycare, so thin update this week.

Instead, I would like you all to ponder once again just how much alcohol was involved to get this scene past Standards & Practices.