Moon over Antwerp

Today was the first day of spring, and the day of a partial eclipse. Partial, in this case, being about 90%. It was also very cloudy, which was both fortunate and unfortunate. Unfortunate because the sun – and the eclipse – were often both hidden behind the banks of clouds. On the plus side, however, was the fact that when the clouds did thin a bit, I was able to point my phone at the show.

This, after a bit of tinkering with exposure levels, is what I managed.

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Quote of the Day: Toy Story or Rise of The Machines?

IBM’s Cognitive Computing Engine is, after all, the construct of a 100 year-old non-unionised American corporation. Its world view is bound to differ somewhat from that of a liberal European like myself.

Seamus Quinn on on Elemental Path, who are promising to connect your kids toys to IBM’s Cognitive Computing Engine.

I hadn’t heard of Elemental Path or CogniToys before, but I dop find the idea of giving large corporations such direct access to our kids more than a little disturbing.

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Lawns are Awesome

One of the nicer parts of NewsBlur, my RSS reader of choice, is the Global Shared Stories feature which allows you to take a peek at the stories everyone else is sharing. It’s not something I look at regularly, but I do glance at it every now and then and it was through this that I found this post from Nick Bradbury.

Nick doesn’t like lawns.

Where I live, in the spring you have to start mowing the lawn every week. By summer you have to water it to keep it from dying. Then fall rolls around and you have to rake up the leaves or else they’ll smother the grass. And then you hope it’ll survive the winter.

It feels so pointless constantly taking care of something that shouldn’t be there in the first place. If it was meant to be there it would survive without any help.

Here’s a confession. Last year, for various reasons, we completely failed to mow our lawn at all. It’s still there though.

As far as leaves go, I did sweep the drive and those leaves ended up on the compost. Raking the lawn, not so much. Or at all. It’s still there, though.

From his post, I think that Nick has way too high an expectation of how his lawn should look. For me, a lawn is primarily functional – it’s a place where the kids can jump off trees, invent games, build snowmen and a enjoy an unconstrained play area.

Admittedly, the kids do help me with outdoor work such as cutting wood, building chicken coops and weeding the garden (but not the lawn – never the lawn), but this comes entirely from the kids. They see me doing something and want to be involved, so I find ways to involve them – even if that means the task will take somewhat longer.

Ultimately, with a lawn, with anything, knowing what you want out of it is as essential as recognising how much effort you are willing to put into it. If you want a pristine patch of grass, and are willing to put in the effort to maintain it, that’s fine. Personally, I’m not to worried about that. Admittedly, we did plant a reasonably hardy variety of grass that – so far – has survived the trampling and, if any weeds do manage to survive both being mown and being constantly trodden on, then good luck to them. All that really matters to me is that the surface remains soft enough that the kids will bounce when they fall.

Lawns are awesome, but you need to decide first to have an awesome lawn.

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Duffercast 9: The first Dufferette

Yule Goat Episode 9 of The Duffercast went live today and, unusually for us, we managed to release the sort-of Christmas show sort-of in the right season. Well, our Christmas tree hasn’t been taken down yet.

Two duffers started a discussion. They were later joined by a dufferette and then a third duffer joined in. Why make life simple when we can complicate it.

Go enjoy the dufferdom at Duffercast 9 – The First Dufferette Ever!

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Mister Frosty

It snowed today. And there was still enough snow this afternoon to build a snowman. So Alex built a snowman.

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Exploding Kittens on Kickstarter

This looks awesome

Exploding Kittens is a highly strategic kitty-powered version of Russian Roulette. Players take turns drawing cards until someone draws an exploding kitten and loses the game. The deck is made up of cards that let you avoid exploding by peeking at cards before you draw, forcing your opponent to draw multiple cards, or shuffling the deck.

The game gets more and more intense with each card you draw because fewer cards left in the deck means a greater chance of drawing the kitten and exploding in a fiery ball of feline hyperbole.

The game is the creation of Matthew Inman of The Oatmeal and a couple of game designers (Elan Lee amd Shane Small). Not entirely surprisingly, the Kickstarter campaign reached its funding goal in 20 minutes. I backed it anyway because: Exploding Kittens.

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Tout est pardonné

Charlie Hebdo The cover of the next issue of Charlie Hebdo has been released (via). The caption reads “All is Forgiven.”

And while I’m on the subject, I have seen some – frankly rather weaselly – accusations levelled at the paper. I have a couple of responses to these.

First, and most importantly, even if the paper had taken a racist, xenophobic or anti-immigrant editorial line, that is still no excuse for cold-bloodedly murdering a bunch of writers and cartoonists. There is never any excuse for cold-bloodedly murdering writers, cartoonists, or anyone else.

Secondly, the claims are untrue and those making them are, at best, both ignorant and too lazy to check their facts. The point to bear in mind here is that Charlie Hebdo is a French paper commenting on French domestic news. When someone cherry picks an image and, without understanding the context, the target or the joke, uses it to level accusations, they are veering from being ignorant to being disingenuous. So, with that in mind, here’s a collection of anti-racist cartoons by Cabu for Charlie Hebdo from Daily Kos (via).

It is worth reiterating that there is no right to not be offended. Indeed, if you live in a free society people will say things that you find offensive. Equally, some of the things you say will offend others. When people use fear of offence to justify placing limits on which opinions can and cannot be expressed, they are not supporting the oppressed; they are pandering to the theocrats, the fascists and the mobs that would take our freedoms away.

Without freedom of expression, we do not have a free society. Freedom of expression, like all our freedoms, cannot be taken for granted. It needs to be re-asserted. Repeatedly.

This is what Charlie Hebdo did.

Long may they continue.

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Quote of the day: Enough

crayon At some point, we need to stand up for the civil liberties and human rights that are fundamental to our values. Those values are not racist; they do not undermine religious freedom and tolerance, and they do not oppress ethnic minorities.

Those values are about every individual holding certain fundamental rights by virtue of them being human. Rights to life, to liberty, to freedom of movement and assembly. Rights to choose who one marries, or whether one even marries at all. Rights to not be tortured or harmed. Rights to express oneself, to determine one’s own religious belief, to freedom of thought and conscience.

Until we remember how central those values are to our society, and how dear we must hold and protect them, these horrific attacks will go on.

Rosa Freedman

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More consolidation: Squirt

After spending some time cleaning up the mess of repsoitories that I have generated over the past few years, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at Squirt, a slightly larger project. In this case, Squirt still has its own repository but I have removed some branches. Now, instead of creating a seperate branch for every point release (because this is going to become very silly very quickly), I have two branches: development and master.

Obviously, the intention is to use development for any code changes and once I am happy with them, they will be pushed to master. Hopefully this will encourage to be a little less tardy about keeping the master branch up to date.

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