What I’ve been reading lately, part 47

Fake Law: the Truth about Justice in an Age of Lies — the Secret Barrister

A serious and depressing book about how the criminal justice system works — or, more often, does not work — in the UK. The anonymous author takes on lots of pervasive tabloid hobby-horses and shows how they are mostly based on lies and exaggerations: for example, there is no easy route to wealth in the UK by making unreasonably high compensation claims for minor injuries. The thread that runs right through the book, and which made it ultimately unenjoyable to read, is the progressive defunding and overstretching of our legal system, including the gradual but inexorable elimination of legal aid.

Recommended; but not because it’s fun, because it will make you better informed.

Continue reading

I made a pizza

How it started:

Continue reading

I played Dungeons and Dragons with ChatGPT

Even though ChatGPT and similar “AIs” don’t really understand anything, they can still be fun to play with. On a whim, I asked ChatGPT to be my dungeon master for a quick game of Dungeons and Dragons, and it went surprisingly well.

Continue reading

DALL-E’s weird problem with text

Long-term readers will remember that I am in a very occasional prog-rock band called Crooked End, and that we have a song called Dancing Through the Storm. (As befits a prog band, it’s a multi-part epic.) It occurred to me to wonder what the “artificial intelligence” DALL-E might come up with as cover art if we released an album of that name. Here’s what it came up with:

Continue reading

I made some curries

Our various sons were staying with us over Christmas, so I made curries for a family meal before they scattered back to the four winds.

The yellow one is chicken korma, the red one is king prawn dupiaza, the green one is sag chicken and the brown one is chicken dhansak and  To the left is pilau rice, and the whole is rounded out by parathas which, shamefully, came straight out of a packet.

Proposal: a controlled vocabulary for attitudes towards pull-requests, forks and bug-reports

Yesterday I read Just Say No, a post by Jeff Geerling who maintains a bunch of popular devops project on GitHub. His position, which I am totally sympathetic to, is that maintaining a project is a lot of hard and mostly uncompensated work, and so:

That pull request that’s 100 lines and’ll take you an hour to review? No.

That issue that’s requesting you to pull your project just in a slightly different direction? No.

That little opportunity that you’ve been waiting for but you just know you can’t do right now? No.

Again, I am sympathetic. I agree, mostly. Yet at the same time, I hate to imagine being the guy who spent multiple days on a PR to something of real value, only to have it insta-rejected with “Sorry, I don’t have time to review this”.

Continue reading

The challenge facing artificial meat manufacturers

Like a lot of people, I am aware of the ecological impact of my diet, and for that reason I’m eating a lot less meat now than I did a few years ago. I’ve also moved away from beef specifically, which is three or four times as ecologically costly as pork and chicken. But then there’s this …

Continue reading

How to play Blackjack

Blackjack is card game played with a standard 52-card deck, similar in broad outlines to Uno. (It’s not to be confused with the card game of the same name, also known as Vingt-Un, Pontoon and other names.)

There are many games of this basic type. This version is sometimes called Taylor Blackjack, because it gets played a lot a big, raucous house-parties at our home in summer.

In my experience, the particular rule-set of Blackjack is tuned to make the game funny to play, rather than especially challenging or skillful. For this reason, it is by far my favourite card game.

Continue reading

What I’ve been reading lately, part 46

Blackout (Sam Archer book 3) — Tom Barber


A workaday action novel about a counter-terrorism agent and his colleagues surviving a revenge attempt from a group of Albanian terrorists, number 3 in a series. There’s the seed of something here, but a lack of craftsmanship that renders most scenes plodding and most characters bland. Much is made of the lead character’s deep bonds of friendship with certain other characters, but nothing comes of it. Similarly someone else’s profound and detailed knowledge of guns doesn’t go anywhere. I won’t be going back for books 1 and 2, or 4 to 13.

Continue reading

Plein Air Pittville Park painting challenge

Last Sunday, in a manifestation of the arrogance for which I am known and loved, I entered a painting competition. For a £15 entrance fee, I went with a friend to Pittville Park in Cheltenham, and spent six hours painting. The competition brief was to paint anything inspired by what you see in the park, representational or abstract. Here’s the view that caught my eye:

Continue reading