Buggy — Transform!

I’m not saying that the restarting of Stormont was waiting on me getting my Irish passport, but I’m not not saying it either…

I was underselling how sick we were last week, I think. This Tuesday morning, I woke up with the feeling that something bad was inside me (at 2:30am, mind you), and raced to the spare bedroom, not even taking my phone with me. Yes, I was without my phone for almost five hours, to give you an idea of how bad I was that I didn’t want to leave the bed to get it.

And then things are a bit of a blur until late Wednesday, if I’m honest. I’m on the mend now, and the tests swear it wasn’t Covid, but it was not fun. Or fun for Tammy, who isn’t well herself, and Maeryn either. Hopefully by the end of this coming week, though, we’ll all be somewhat better? Please?

As I do recover though, thoughts are turning towards the impending trip to London, and this weekend, we tested out what appears to be a marvel of 21st century baby technology: the gb Pockit+ All-Terrain buggy. It’s a buggy that transforms from a buggy to…well, a small block, but a small block that doesn’t look like it is a buggy, and small enough to be taken on a plane as a carry-on item. Maeryn’s only been in it inside the house so far, but she seemed to enjoy herself immensely - at daycare, her class goes in a massive buggy contraption across the building about once a fortnight, and she loves that too. I worry she’s going to love rollercoasters. I’m not prepared for having to try and stay composed for those. Anyway, the buggy seems to be a hit and will likely be put to good use on the streets of London towards the end of March.

Next week: let’s be well!

Ahead of the Zeitgeist!

Apparently, we accidentally made an East-West mashup with our escape room two years ago - mixing the role-play aspects that Quinns sees here in the Jubensha games with more ‘traditional’ escape puzzles. And it worked pretty well, though our story was a little under-developed due a mad rush to get everything ready to the end. But! We had secret objectives, multiple endings for characters and whatnot, so I feel like we did have something there.1 We were ahead of the curve! Go us! And things.

Otherwise, we’ve all been sick this week. Check again later.

  1. The sequel room, which was somewhat inspired by Meow Wolf, would have been (and still might be) something else. Imagine having a conversation along the lines of “how can we make time-travel work in the basement”, and “sure, I can use Pepper’s Ghost to make the group have a holomatter avatar guiding them”, with a side-helping of cutting-edge AI techniques and…look you’re just all lucky that Maeryn is too young for us to build her an escape room party, that’s all I’m saying. ↩︎

Warrington Via Bicester

Another long week that I mostly can’t talk about yet, but two things that cropped up:

  • I have adapted to Midwestern life. Three inches of snow came down on Friday morning, and I needed to pick Maeryn up from daycare in Kentucky later that day. Even before the snow had stopped falling, I had grabbed my big snow shovel, cleared a large section of my driveway, put down salt, and dug my car out enough so that I could get on the road. I even managed to clear things before the neighbour across the road, who normally shames us all with his excellent snow-clearing skills, had even come outside. Victory! (this time, at least)

  • I was introduced to another British person this week. Here’s how that went:

Me: Where are you from?

Them: Manchester!

Me: Oh really? I went to university there!

Them: It’s odd - you know who you sound like? That Radio 1 DJ?

Me stares blankly as I haven’t interacted with Radio 1 for over ten years: Really? Who’s that?

Them: Hmm…Chris…Chris scrolls on their phone

Me _thinking “please don’t say Chris Moyles, please don’t say Chris Moyles”

Them: Oh! Chris Evans!

Me: stares wider in a Southern accent

Other person: Chris Evans?

Both of us: Not that one.

Perhaps the first and only time I’ve been mistaken for a Northerner. I am sure my accent has drifted, but to Warrington???

Finally, I have settled on what might be the first tech blog post of the year…but that’s only if it works. If it doesn’t, then I delete everything from the hard drive and you’ll never even guess. Though a clue is that I spent part of last night downloading The Great Gatsby in a form I can easily vectorize (but also: I am known for terrible, terrible clues). So that may be upcoming! Or not! You see? I’m starting the year by kicking some excitement and drama back into the blog…

Rabbiting Rabbit

I’ve been thinking about the Rabbit R1 all week. Dan Hon has already summed up a good deal about what he thought was lacking, but for me, the big problem comes with the ‘flashiest’ part of the Steve Jobs-aping demo: the booking of a holiday in London. My first reaction was to complain bitterly about the Rabbit CEO asking to book an SUV on his trip to central London, but my real problem is that the Rabbit went ahead and just did it, voicing little except asking for approval.

There’s no personality there whatsoever. I want an AI assistant to politely say “you want an SUV in London? Here’s a list of reasons that’s a terrible idea, hoo-man, and here’s a guide to the London Underground.” In short, I want Orac. But there’s also the contextual knowledge that Dan talks about– if I ask for a way to get back to the hotel at 3am, then maybe it’s time to get a cab rather than exploring the night transit network for the first time. So, then, I’m after Zen. Or if you’d prefer allusions that aren’t to dystopian British 1970s TV serials, I want Jeeves. It needs to have an opinion — I want it to raise an arched eyebrow at me when I ask it to make a stupid pizza order and suggest if sir would rather pick something like a classic pepperoni pizza instead of a feta and olive combination. What does this really give me over opening the app?

(And this is putting aside the idea of selling a device for $200 where all the computation takes place in the cloud with no current concept of subscription charges. How can Rabbit afford that GPU time for 30,000 users - the three tranches that have sold through already and will be supposedly delivered in the first half of this year?)

Anyway, my secret origin is a mixture of Dynac-X, the Knowledge Navigator video, and segments of BBC2’s The Net on General Magic. Sure, getting an assistant to order a pizza is…bordering on useful, I guess, but I want to be able to say “go to arXiv and generate a review of the literature on task vectors, and choose three papers I should really read in-depth.” I want it to go off, plan out a task, query me on things that don’t makes sense, engage in a back-and-forth when required, and actually provide a personality behind the model. We laugh at the people using local LLMs to build their own AI waifus, but at least they are trying to produce that spark of life in their interactions (even if perhaps for not great reasons).

So, I probably won’t be getting the R1. But we’ll be doing some tinkering, both at Bookend, and at home…

Hello 2024

I feel like the first new post of the year is supposed to be full of my plans and ambitions for the next twelve months. But I haven’t really had a chance to sit and think about any of that yet — due to visitors and things, we’re still in holiday mode to a large extent. But eventually things will settle down. Hopefully.

We don’t have a huge amount on the horizon; only the trip back home to the UK in March, although that’s going to be a big event. Oh, and San Francisco later in the year.

Anyway, for the rest of the year, you can probably expect meandering but still short posts most weekends, the odd technical post here and there, and all the other bits I’ve been moaning on about for the past twenty-one years.

And maybe, come August…something special to celebrate the 20th anniversary of this. YEAH! YEAH!

Christmas Roundup

  • Having not been violently sick for fifteen years, twice in six months seems a little harsh. I don’t really remember much of the Thursday before Christmas except sitting on a couch with a baby in my arms for most of it…
  • I’m never going to consider myself a proper pastry person, but I did manage to come up with and execute a completely different dessert (gingerbread namelaka trees!) in under a day and using only the current content of the pantry. Which wasn’t bad.
  • Maeryn needs to calm down and enjoy being able to crawl before trying to walk. Just give us a few weeks, girl!!
  • (also, a baby grabbing hold of a walker for the first time is terrifying)
  • This may be the first Christmas where I did not watch any TV. Not even The Snowman.
  • Was not expecting the remake of the Relax video in Body Double.
  • Ricky Gervais getting a kicking for his latest tired scribbles is a long-overdue reckoning. Insert obligatory James Acaster link
  • We did not get to see the lights before Cincinnati’s Coney Island closes tonight, so that’s one local attraction (the largest recirculating pool in the world!) that we’ll never see.
  • Buying a load of hardback books makes you less popular when other people have to bring them across the Atlantic.
  • But there’s always more room in the suitcases!

It’s been a very different year. New job, new life. A lot has changed, and will continue to do so as the years roll on. I’m looking forward to it, even as I wince every time Maeryn slips over. I won’t always be there to catch her, but I’ll do my best to make sure she’s got all the tools for getting herself back up.

Happy New Year, everybody…

Books of 2023

Finishing out the year — my round-up of books I read in 2023. Only 68 to last year’s 82, but I think it’s not a bad showing considering that there was a lot going on in 2023. Although the list is bulked out a little by my re-reading of the Red Riding Quartet in November.

Feels like a lot less non-fiction this year as well; not intentional, and the odd bit surfaced here and there throughout the year (see the history of Factory Records that I talked about a couple of months ago), but apparently I’ve had my mind on fiction more than not.

You might notice at the end of December, I go off on a Games Workshop tear. A long time ago, when I was still working as a consultant, I started reading the Horus Heresy books, as they were very easy to read on planes. Of course, this being Games Workshop, the series ballooned into a hilarious 50+ title set explaining in big capital letters to its fanbase “the Emperor was a fool, and the Imperium of Man are not something to admire, you useless idiots”. But I idly went to the Black Library site the other day and saw that the Siege of Terra series was coming to an end. Although I didn’t realise that there’s still a Volume III of the final book to come out next year. So, for those for aren’t keeping count at home, that’s 54 books or so of the main Horus series, which then leads into an eight book series of just the final siege, of which the final book is spread across three separate volumes. They’re masters of dragging this thing out. Anyway, reading the dying embers of a fading dream as the forces of chaos pound on the gates feels like an appropriate way of ushering in 2024…

Free The Mouse

It feels a little unbelievable, but in two weeks and one day, Mickey Mouse will enter the public domain (at least in his Steamboat Willie incarnation). For those of us that joined the internet in the late 1900s[^1], the idea that Disney wouldn’t push to extend the extension granted to copyrights in 1998 is unthinkable. Yet here we are, and both Mickey and Tigger will be able to crossover with Sherlock Holmes and Jay Gatsby in fifteen days.

The family arrives this week on their first direct flight from Heathrow to Cincinnati. It’ll be nice to have a direct link again like we did in Durham - it’s so much easier to just get on one plane at an airport that’s about twenty minutes away compared to having to fly from CVG to a major hub airport (and dealing with that on the way back, too). We shall hopefully be doing the same trip in reverse next March!

I do need to get my head in the festive game, though. It hasn’t quite hit yet this year…

[1]: Gen X/Late Millennial cohort takes 2D6 psychic damage from “the late 1990s”…

Noddy Needs His PRS Cheque

As we come to the fiftieth anniversary of the greatest Christmas song ever created, Tom FreakyTrigger has written up an investigation into the changing of the Guard, as the GlamChristmas era starts to fall out of the Christmas canon, leaving a distinctly American tinge over things. And that’s a little sad. Tom cautions against nostalgia in his piece, and I totally agree, but there is something wonderful about a bunch of Brummies just having a great time on the Top of The Pops set:

I miss the era of Britain which was basically: “We’re crap, but in a funky skillo way”1

Of course, I’m a fine one to talk, given that I left the country and live in the country that has, perhaps due to the information superhighway, retconned the pasts of the Western world across television, music, books, film, video games, and more besides. But Maeryn will at least grow up groaning as I pull out Wizzard for one more go-around every December.

We survived our trip to New York, which sounds a little over the top, but we did get caught in a scary crowd crush on Fifth Avenue, which would be scary enough in normal times, but when you factor in a small baby who’s just woken up in her buggy as around twenty people press into her, it is a little frightening. But we got out of the crush, saw the tree at 30 Rock, and went back off to Brooklyn, and soon somebody was bounding all over the hotel bed like nothing happened. She will get sick of us telling the story when she’s about ten. Although that won’t stop us…

  1. Copyright, oooh, probably Jonathan Nash from Your Sinclair. ↩︎

A Simple Thanksgiving with 30 Components

At the end of every year’s Thanksgiving, Tammy and I resolve to make things more simple next year. And twelve months later, we always forget that and make things difficult for ourselves. Three different types of meat! Tiny pinecone entremets! More people than ever before! A small baby crawling in her play pen1! And yes, as in every year, some things don’t quite work out as planned, but when everybody sits down to the table, there’s enough food for a week and desserts as far as the eye can see. But next year, we’re going to cut back a bit. Honest.

Anyway, a good time was had by all, Maeryn ate some turkey, and now it’s almost time to break out the advent calendars! And really not long before my family comes over the Atlantic to join us for the festive fun…

…but first, New York? We will have a very well-travelled baby by the time she’s one!

  1. I’m trying to make “The Box” happen and set up a backstory of her being in a gang with her cuddly toys, but it’s not sticking just yet… ↩︎