We found a bar with the Maytals on

Ten years ago this week, I was rather sad with myself and my lot in Santa Monica. And then I heard a song as I was getting ready to walk to Activision. Suddenly, the day was not quite so bad. And my concern about whether the sentiment expressed at 2:28 applied to me so perfectly…well, it turned out to be ‘no’, on both questions.

I’ve been ill most of the week; mainly cold symptoms (tested negative twice), but also with a brain fog that I last remember settling in when I was 17 years old. Let’s…not do that again, shall we? At least I have the privilege of a four-day weekend to try and shake it off.

Meanwhile, at work, we’ve announced our new SaaS platform! All hail Springboard. The Data Science team that I’m part of will be bringing a lot of fancy NLP-based features to it as the year goes on. And maybe even some things you wouldn’t necessarily expect! makes mysterious noises

The Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy article should finally go up tomorrow. Other projects continue, but this upcoming week will be one of resting a little more…


Week 1 of 2022 down! And we’re making progress, aren’t we?

stares at a bunch of graphs going vertical

But leaving the outside world behind for now, there is progress of other sorts! Look at our escape room taking shape!

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I’m starting to think long-term about the space in the basement and I think putting dry-wall up to create four or so rooms down there is entirely feasible and scarily they would all be sizeable rooms (only one being smaller than my childhood bedroom in my head. And that’s the entry hall to the backdoor)

And progress on other things too:

  • [REDACTED ONE, or: “Morning After Pill”]: While I didn’t do any actual work on it this weekend, I did do some meta-work that is encouraging. I’m hoping to reveal what this is in February, once it’s in more of a ready state.
  • [REDACTED TWO or “Camouflage”]: I extended more of OpenAI’s code and hooked in support for features that should allow for a lot more training data to be generated. Will probably work on the website a little more this week — definitely looking like it’ll be ready for April.
  • Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: The Edits: This is about 65% done, and I’m hoping, hoping, that it’ll be up next weekend. I want to add a few video clips and make it all hang together properly.
  • [REDACTED THREE or “There Are Listed Buildings”]: This popped into my head around 7pm on Saturday night and just won’t leave. It is completely ridiculous and I love it. Expect more on that soon, though it does require building materials.

(also, no, 2022 won’t just be blog posts talking vaguely about things, but January is a month for slow starts, okay?)

Oh, we did have a little adventure this week, which brought home that we are old. It was a $600M week on Powerball, and we decided to get some tickets. There’s also a petrol station just across the road, so it’d be easy to get $10 worth of tickets one evening and come back.

Imagine, if you will, two 40-something-year-olds huddled around a ticket kiosk trying to work out why the buttons weren’t working, having to be rescued by the station attendant, who pointed out that the kiosk wasn’t working properly but they could do the tickets at the counter. But we’d already put money in the machine and it didn’t give refunds. So our planned $10 trip turned into a $25 adventure with Powerball tickets and scratch cards from the kiosk.

But this is a redemption story! No, we didn’t win the Powerball…but one of the scratchcards we ended up buying won $25, so we ended up breaking even at least…

Wrapping Up 2021

Well what a Christmas that was, eh, readers? As we barrel into year three of our global nightmare and the upcoming possibility of running out of letters in the Greek alphabet, I’m grateful that we managed to have our first family Christmas since 2019, even if it was a little different than normal, with presents under a different tree and a Christmas dinner cooked by cobbling together what we could from American suppliers. Jungle Jim’s, as ever, helped out a lot by selling ‘proper’ bacon and sausages, but even they failed us on the stuffing front. But we had crackers with the proper snap, silly hats, and matching pyjamas!

(and a cat that was very confused about what was going on:

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And yes, a bunch of desserts happened. A much slimmed-down list than I originally planned, but I did get my latest iteration of Black Forest Gateau out there:

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I find it amusing that my BFG has long since become far more complicated than the Heston Blumenthal version from long ago. I still don’t quite understand the appeal of a large chunk of Aero in his take on the idea, but maybe next year, I will finally get around to adding an aerated namelaka filling that I’ve been threatening for a few years now. And adding a train and village to the increasingly-complicated diorama.

So, yes, it was a very different American holiday for my family, with a lot more remaining indoors than they’re used to, but I think everybody had fun and they went home with a few presents in their suitcases!

Traditionally, I fill the Christmas holiday with a large set of plans that get junked on Day 2. And while I have thrown out a few things this time around as well, I have for once actually made some real progress. Firstly, I fixed a computing issue I’ve been struggling with for almost two years now, which means that my plans for April 2022 will happen! (it’s still under wraps for now, but if you want a hint, it does involve reinforcement learning)

I also spent Wednesday watching all the episodes of the US and UK edits of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy side-by-side so I now have copious notes about the differences between the two versions, and while I’ve failed in getting that article out in 2021 like I promised, it should happen in January, plus there’s a little bonus detective work thrown in there to go with the edit discussion. And finally, I have continued work on the [REDACTED] project, which likewise I hope to get out in 2022.

2022 might be a busy year for all number of reasons. Hopefully one of those is that we can go outside again.

Christmas Sunday Fun (Reading 2021)

A longer, perhaps more involved Christmas update next week (or, I forget about it and we go into 2021 with broken promises from the off, which sounds more likely), but as a Boxing Day Christmas Sunday special, here’s a list of the books I read in 2021. Well, most of them. Things without ISBN numbers aren’t included, and you can mentally add “almost everything John Smith did at 2000AD, plus a bunch of other comics” as well.

Highlights of the list? As you can probably tell, I went deep on M. John Harrison’s work this year — I’d definitely recommend the Settling The World collection of short stories, or the post-Brexit The Sunken Land Begins To Rise Again novel as starting points - much easier to get hold of than some of the out-of-print books I’ve spent the year tracking down. Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts was so compelling that I stayed up until 3am one night finishing it (always a great idea). And the finale of David Peace’s Tokyo Trilogy was so long in coming that it was a complete surprise to be a pretty straight-forward affair, with only a few echoes of “At home, at Anfield” in the text1. Now, if only he’d finish UKDK.

(and there are a few classics that I should have read many years ago. At least I understood this week’s Necromancer discourse on Twitter having finally knocked that one out)

Hope you all had a great Christmas, and see you back here later in the week2!

  1. see Red or Dead for just the most amazing list of football fixtures you’re likely to see in novel form. ↩︎

  2. Honest! ↩︎

Just Like Christmas

Travel right now does seem like a bad idea, and maybe we’re being a little irresponsible, but it appears that my family made it onto a plane this morning to escape Plague Island and they’re on their way here for a different type of Christmas. And, I guess, a different type of American holiday, where we mainly Remain Indoors and go through my stash of LFTs. I swear, when they become reimbursable next month (whyyyyy so long???), I’m going to start buying 10-packs.

Anyway, the house is mostly ready for them — I find it amusing that I have relegated myself to the smallest bedroom and I will be again the only person in the house without a TV in their room. Just Like Christmas indeed. Plus it’s also full of cardboard boxes and an old mattress, so expect to see me on Duvet Know It’s Christmas later in the week.

I also started on the Christmas viewing! Yes, Knowing Me, Knowing Yule, but can you also believe I watched two films on Friday night, and they were both released in 2021? Amazing scenes. Admittedly, Giddy Stratospheres is set in the 2000s and Last Night In Soho has a large 60s element, but still, for me? I have never been so up-to-date!

(Giddy Stratospheres made me miss The Luminaire a lot. Just look at this:

Lucky Soul

Such a great little venue. And of course, it’s now a bunch of tiny little flats. God, how depressing they look)

Steel yourselves for more dessert pictures over the next week. The holidays are coming…

Four Days Left (Goodbye, 2021!)

Just four more work days of 2021. Not the best time for the biggest exploit in computing for years to drop…so an interesting final week at work, I guess?

Otherwise, not really an interesting week, to be honest; I’m just hoping that every goes okay in the next seven days and that my family is able to get on the plane next Sunday! Otherwise there’s going to be a lot of solo baking and I’ll have to eat my way through a forest (a chocolate one, obviously).

Now, though, it’s time to go clean the kitchen again…

The Drill That Pierces The Heavens

I’m supposed to be going to see Chvrches tonight. The first concert of the year, tickets but sometime back in or May or so. Even before Omicron landed, I wasn’t feeling it, but despite being double-vaccinated and about a month out from my booster shot…yeah, there’s absolutely no way I’m hanging out with a thousand other dancing people in close-quarters right now, even if I really like the band and don’t know when they’ll come this way again. But right now, I’d rather not let anything possibly get in the way of my family’s visit (at least the bits I can have some control over).

Also, if you’re 42, I suggest you don’t get the idea in your head to re-watch all of Gurren Lagann at a time that means you’ll finish it at 2:30am in the morning. I do love to re-watch it every couple of years, but ooof, that led to a rather tired Friday. Which probably had a hand in me picking a random old BBC drama at random on Friday night and being very surprised at seeing a lot more of Anna Friel than I was expecting. It went out on a Sunday, so I imagine we were all in the Slem’s Bar at the time it was originally broadcast back in 1998. The boomer / Gen X rivalry that underpins the film is somewhat amusing when considered from today. But boomers are always the enemy, naturally.

Finally, I’d just like to endorse this tweet with everything I have.

Christmas playlist? You mean Slade’s “Merry Xmas Everybody” ad nauseum for the next 21 days?

— Chloe Maveal (@PunkRokMomJeans) December 4, 2021

They Thought It Was Over — But This Was A Fantasy

The final(ish) update to But This Was A Fantasy is now up. This includes The Power of Nightmares, The Trap, All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, and HyperNormalisation. With that, I’m done encoding all the series that I was planning — I’m skipping Bitter Lake because it tends to be the most graphic of all his work and unless there’s a great clamour for it, I don’t fancy adding it.

It’s pretty much done now, with filtering set up for each series and whatnot. I may return to it over the Christmas holiday to have a little bit of experimentation with the underlying FAISS index, as we’re at the point where the flat index is starting to become a bit of a bottleneck for start up and searching in general. But otherwise, a 2021 project has made it to completion! I will celebrate by not looking at the long list of things I didn’t do.

Thanksgiving 2021

Another Thanksgiving down. Perhaps a little less crazy than in previous years (only about 10 desserts, and we skipped a roast dinner this time), but I think a good time was had by all. We now move on to Christmas, which has the potential to breach 30 different puddings by the time the Advent Calendars are all open…

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It’s now about two weeks since I got hold of the new M1Max Macbook Pro. Which is plenty of time to get adjusted to how quick it is compared to my 2018 Macbook Pro, so now it just feels like a computer rather than the lightning fast future. You get blasé about things quickly. It’s also a little odd to think that this current Mac has a direct line to the first Mac I bought almost 20 years ago now; each time, the Migration Assistant has dutifully moved everything to the new machine, meaning that I still have some programs in my Applications folder that would require the original 68k Rosetta to run1. So many copies of Illustrator, none of which now run. Guess who will be buying Affinity Designer in this week’s upcoming sale, eh?

Anyway, it’s fast, it’s deathly quiet, and apparently it’ll be getting PyTorch support. Hurrah!

We are now moving into PRIME DESSERT SEASON. This is not a drill. I only have two more full weeks of work left in the year. I have about 30kg of flour, 40kg of chocolate, 6kg of butter, 72 eggs, and I AM READY.

  1. The only real problem I’ve found so far with Rosetta 2 is that it can’t run the version of Hugo I use to generate this blog. But something changes in more recent versions of Hugo which breaks the theme I’m using. So that’s a touch annoying. ↩︎