Discussing software, the web, politics, sexuality and the unending supply of human stupidity.

The John Deakin exhibition at the Photographers’ Gallery is fantastic. I particularly enjoyed seeing photographs of Lucian Freud and Humphrey Lyttleton as young men—we are accustomed to seeing only images of them much older. It is especially worth visiting if you spend any time in Soho today and want to see a slice of its history as a home for immigrants, a gathering place for artists and intellectuals as well as prostitutes and sex shops, a gay village, and it’s current rather more gentrified state: with young mum’s feeling safe enough to roll baby buggies up and down Dean Street.

Deakin covers a little bit of all of this: there are images of high fashion for Vogue, as well as of slightly tawdry tattoo parlours, of men of letters and of drag queens.

Well worth going to, it is free and on until .

Some minor site changes

A couple of nice little changes on my site.

Imprima has been replaced with a Helvetica-based font stack including Helvetica Neue, Helvetica and (as a very poor compromise) Arial. I’m still using Google Web Fonts for Montserrat, but may switch that out at some point.

The reasoning behind the switch away from using Imprima? Some people really don’t like Imprima. It’s a bit “fiddly”. Also, I want to cut out external dependencies that slow page loading. Google Web Fonts do that. There’s some JavaScript that will be going on a serious diet soon. I’m also looking into hosting the very small number of graphics on something like CloudFront for speed.

Pages on my site take less than two seconds to load in Chrome. I want to reduce that as much as possible. My vision of the web is defined by what I want to avoid: fussy, irritating and over-engineered. To that end, slicing down external assets as much as possible is something I’d like to do.

(I’ll be looking into a Google Analytics replacement soon. Possibly self-hosted.)

Somewhat in contradiction to the above: I’ve temporarily replaced the search box with a redirect to DuckDuckGo site search. My site search hasn’t been working and I’ve been too lazy/busy to fix it. So, it’s pointing to DuckDuckGo until I get the time to fix it.

Don’t trust visionaries until they show you the documentation. Or better, the implementation.

Do my eyes deceive me or does IntelliJ IDEA now finally have “allow caret placement after end of line” off by default?

Transport for London: “all our buses are going cash free, so you will no longer be able to use cash to pay for your bus fare”.

Finally. Now they just need to politely tell the people who get on the bus and have lengthy Q&A sessions with the driver as if he is a tourist information centre to piss off so the bus can get on with going to where it is supposed to be going.

Google Drive, Dropbox, SkyDrive and now iCloud Drive. The NSA should get into this market and cut out the middleman.

I’m seeing lots of people comparing Swift and JavaScript on Twitter. Swift is just like JavaScript if you ignore the static typing, type inference, class-and-inheritance-based object system, optional immutability, generics, named arguments, lightweight closure syntax, definable type-dependent infix operator functions, Java-annotation-style attribute system and pointers.

The extent of it being JavaScript-like is that it has ALGOL/C-like control structures.

There is a book called ‘Talk like TED’. I’d rather not. I’d rather speak like a genuine human being instead of a second hand car dealer in the marketplace of ideas flogging simplistic bit comfortable technobabble over the difficult and time-consuming work of understanding the world.

Leave the preaching for preachers.

Things Google thinks I'm interested in

According to Google’s “ad preferences”, I’m interested in the following things.

  • Action & Adventure Films
  • Action & Platform Games
  • Adventure Games
  • Arab & Middle Eastern Music
  • Arts & Entertainment
  • Bicycles & Accessories
  • Billiards
  • Bodybuilding
  • Bollywood & South Asian Film
  • Books & Literature
  • Business & Industrial
  • Card Games
  • Cartoons
  • Cats
  • Celebrities & Entertainment News
  • Collectible Card Games
  • Computer & Video Games
  • Computers & Electronics
  • Consumer Advocacy & Protection
  • Consumer Resources
  • Country Music
  • Crime & Justice
  • Dance & Electronic Music
  • Finance
  • Fishing
  • Fitness
  • Food & Drink
  • Games
  • Hair Care
  • Horror Films
  • Humor
  • Indie & Alternative Music
  • Live Comedy
  • Magic
  • Massive Multiplayer
  • Metal (Music)
  • Mobile Phones
  • Movies
  • Music & Audio
  • Musical Instruments
  • Online Video
  • People & Society
  • Performing Arts
  • Pets
  • Pop Music
  • Public Safety
  • Radio
  • Rap & Hip-Hop
  • Rock Music
  • Roleplaying Games
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy Films
  • Shooter Games
  • Soundtracks
  • TV & Video
  • TV Dramas
  • TV Reality Shows
  • TV Shows & Programs
  • Toys
  • Urban & Hip-Hop
  • World Music

I’m not sure what Google thinks I’m not interested in, but I shall state this publicly and on the record: I fucking hate country music.

If you sat down and tried to design an environment to actively prevent people from doing any work, you’d get very close to building the modern open plan office.

This lecture by philosopher M.M. McCabe is simultaneously depressing and inspiring if you give a damn about the future of universities.

Denying Elliott Rodger was a misogynist makes you as dumb as a creationist

I’ve managed to mostly hold my tongue in the last week regarding the murder spree conducted by Elliott Rodger in California. But I need to say something now.

I read Rodger’s manifesto last weekend. It makes very interesting reading, although it’s pretty terrible writing. The public debate about Rodger’s views and motivations has played out exactly as stupidly as I expected it to.

First up, there’s the gun fanatics. Every time there’s a killing spree or some prick goes and shoots up a school, they always try and find a way to say that easy access to guns really is no big deal. Their immediate reaction is to blame it on mental health and be done with it. Ignoring, of course, that it might not be a half bad idea if the US could actually make it so people with serious mental illnesses don’t get the right to own guns. Here in Britain, a family friend’s ex-husband started having serious mental health issues. Within a few days of his doctor diagnosing said problems, his shotgun licence was revoked and the police turned up at his house to take away his gun. Because that’s a sensible thing to do.

The gun-lovers can blame mental illness all they like, but their solution to people with serious mental illnesses having guns is… well, they don’t have a solution. Just lots of stupid fucking slogans like “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” (except like computers or photocopiers or cars, a gun makes the process ruthlessly efficient).

Then there’s another group of idiots: people who reckon that the best explanation for the crime is that, well, Elliott Rodger was a closeted gay man. Some idiot on Fox News gave that startling theory the other day. The evidence in the ‘for’ column seems to be: on YouTube, he is depicted listening to Whitney Houston and George Michael; he uses the word “fabulous” a few times; he is a bit swishy and effeminate in his mannerisms; and he buys expensive designer clothes. I mean, that seals the deal, obviously. He’s one of us. Send him the free toaster and the membership card for Club Queer.

I mean, it’s a great theory if you ignore the fact that his manifesto goes on at length about how he’s desperate for women to have sex with him, that he refers to getting instant erections when seeing hot blondes, that in his version of utopia, women would be disappeared from society, with a few left in chains to reproduce, and the men would be happy because there’d be no women and thus no sex to distract them from, I dunno, playing video games and watching sports.

I mean, it’s a notable thing about being gay: you are really mortified about rejection by women. Like, if you hear that a woman isn’t interested in sleeping with you, that’s terrible and ghastly and haunts you for all of about twenty seconds. It’s as mortifying as a vegetarian finding out that he won’t be getting steak for dinner. I read Rodger’s manifesto and while I can certainly empathise with the loneliness he expresses, it’s just really bloody lazy to equate any feeling of ‘outsiderness’ from sexuality with being gay. Back when I was 18 or 19, I would never have written that I’d seen a hot blonde chick at a shopping mall and I got an instant erection. Because, duh, not a dude. The “he was really gay” theory works great if you ignore the fairly fundamental fact that being gay actually includes being attracted to members of the same rather than the opposite sex.

The final and most significant part of the stupidity around Rodger is this: the complete denial that his actions stem from misogyny. The last week has been a cascade of idiots trying to find ways to avoid saying the bloody obvious: Elliott Rodger hated women, he wanted to destroy women, to get vengeance against women for the harm he believed women had collectively done to him by rejecting him as a sexual partner.

If he had published a manifesto saying that he wanted to kill all black people or all gay people or all Jews, we would have taken him at his word. But he publishes a manifesto calling for the destruction of all women and we collectively hem and haw and find ways to avoid coming to the obvious conclusion: that he was a radical misogynist. His rhetoric is one of complete elimination. That he failed to go through with it, and in fact ended up killing more men than he did women doesn’t change the intention. (Incidentally, David Copeland, the neo-Nazi thug who set off bombs in Brixton, Brick Lane and Soho—targetting London’s black, Asian and LGBT communities respectively—only ended up killing people in the last of his attacks. Thankfully, he didn’t do nearly as much damage and destruction as he possibly could have done. Does that mean that his motivation to start a ‘race war’ by targetting minority groups wasn’t actually his motivation?)

Elliott Rodger was motivated by extreme, violent misogyny. No, that doesn’t make every man a conspirator any more than the KKK being motivated by race makes every white person responsible for their thuggery. There are communities of people where the kind of extreme misogyny that motivated Rodger is bred and spread: Rodger spent a lot of time posting on online fora associated with the seduction community—pickup artists and ‘The Game’. These are real communities of people who spend an enormous amount of time online hating women. I’ve read more posts from such forums than I care to think about. They have blogs, they have forums, they have chatrooms, they have a community, a lingo, a set of shared myths and narratives. It’s right there, you just need to hit up your favourite search engine and take a look.

Denying that misogyny is an actual thing, finding dumb moral equivalences betwen the extreme misogyny of large swathes of the so-called “manosphere” with some long-dead feminist writer who once frustratedly said ‘kill all men’ or somesuch tripe—this is all keeping one’s head in the sand. There are men who actually do hate all women, who want to kill or subjugate all women. Denying this fact in the light of Elliott Rodger’s murders puts you in the same box as creationists or anti-vaxxers or anybody else who is unwilling to see the clear and present reality right in front of them.

That reality is really fucking depressing. Reality often is. Denying that reality won’t make it go away.

Good advice on dealing with stupid Internet bullshit: “Beyoncé isn’t Beyoncé because she reads comments on the Internet. Beyoncé is in Ibiza, wearing a stomach necklace, walking hand in hand with her hot boyfriend. She’s going on the yacht and having a mimosa. She’s not reading shitty comments about herself on the Internet, and we shouldn’t either. I just think, Would Beyoncé be reading this? No, she would just delete it or somebody would delete it for her. What I really need to do is close the computer and then talk back to that voice and say, Fuck you. I don’t give a shit what you think. I’m Beyoncé. I’m going to Ibiza with Jay-Z now, fuck off.”

Via ashedryden.

The genetics of English history may be rather less important than the history of English history

I was reading this review of Nicholas Wade’s new book on genetics and race, named A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race, and Human History. This paragraph in the review particularly bugged me:

As a statistician and political scientist, I see naivete in Wade’s quickness to assume a genetic association for any change in social behavior. For example, he writes that declining interest rates in England from the years 1400 to 1850 “indicate that people were becoming less impulsive, more patient, and more willing to save” and attributes this to “the far-reaching genetic consequences” of rich people having more children, on average, than poor people, so that “the values of the upper middle class” were “infused into lower economic classes and throughout society.”

He’s trying to explain the socio-economic changes in England through birth rate. I mean, it’s not like anything historically important happened between 1400 and 1850. It’s not like the country’s power structure changed drastically: from the end of the power of Rome and the replacement by a Protestant church with a Bible in English, the trial and execution of King James I and replacement by Cromwell, the Act of Union with Scotland. I mean, none of that is likely to have caused social and economic changes.

Nor would the various wars, from the end of the Hundred Years War, passing through the War of the Roses, to the English Civil War. I mean, how would any of those things cause social and economic changes? Nor do the changes in science and technology mean anything: I mean, why would the creation of the printing press, the newspaper, the steam engine, modern medicine or telescopes change anything?

Social, political and economic changes are more complex than genes and birth rates. Who knew?

I’m trying out f.lux. My screen has gone orange and I don’t like it. This may be a very good way to get me to spend less time using my computer in the evening and more time doing something useful.

Great. Elliott Rodger killed six people and now we get to have another completely moronic debate about whether it was guns that did it or World of Warcraft or autism or mental illness or the men’s rights movement or misogyny or him being a repressed homosexual. All of these things are stuff I’ve seen on Reddit, Twitter and Tumblr in the last few hours.

Can we have like three days—maybe a week—where we can not argue about this stuff? Let all the evidence come out, let it soak in slowly and think and talk about it clearly and rationally rather than come to stupid snap judgements in 140 characters or less. That would make society far, far more sensible and make it so we could perhaps change things calmly and rationally to make it so we don’t have events like this in the future. Or we could just keep on banging on like idiotic ideologues.

I read Rodger’s manifesto. I don’t want to argue about it. I want to drink to take away the pain of humanity’s deep flaws, and I want to feel some hope that we might be able to make shit better.