July 2018

June 2018

May 2018

Fixing a hole

I ride a bicycle, to the extent that it’s probably “enthusiastically”. Among other things, this must mean I can make pronouncements about bicycling equipment. Great.

Getting a puncture is annoying, isn’t it? My usual commute is particularly bad for thorns and shards of stone – oh, woe unto me. But I suppose repairing a puncture – adhering a little patch of rubber to the punctured inner tube, fixing a hole where the air was getting out – is satisfying.

Relentless innovators haven’t relented in innovating in the field of puncture repair. A recent innovation is “quick” sticky patches which obviate the supposed drudgery of using a tube of vulcanising rubber solution. Some hucksters call these patches “glueless”, which is patently poppycock as there’s still glue involved – it’s just already on the patches.

At some point, I bought just such a kit, offered by Meqix of Taiwan. It’s very fancy – some patches, some minimalist magnetic tyre levers, and some other items all fit neatly inside a sleek metal case. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it’s like if Jonathan Ive designed a puncture repair kit, but really it reminds me of one of Asus’s high-end laptops. It even comes with the world’s smallest zester, for … making your tyres citrusy? (Well, actually, it’s for preparing the surface of the inner tube for the patch – but sandpaper, also provided, is a better tool for doing that.)

It’s fine. I still have, and use, the levers – it’s nice that they’re magnetic, even though I suspect the magnetism of destroying at least one debit card. But the patches. They don’t help with the most dreaded part of repairing a puncture – levering the tyre off the wheel, and finding the hole. They don’t adhere to the inner tube very well. Traditional bring-you-own-glue patches do a better job, and give more satisfaction.

Which puncture repair patches do I like? Years ago, I had some dispiriting puncture repair experiences, with some low-quality backstreet rubber patches. I would fix a puncture, and then air would start leaking out from beneath the patch. Was I doing it wrong? Was I a bad person? Then I chanced upon some Rema Tip Top patches, and everything changed. It turns out that product review website The Wirecutter agrees, which is a nice affirmation:

After splitting very tiny hairs over 36 hours of testing, our official endorsement goes to the Rema Tip Top TT-02 patches, which do everything the competition does, but better. All of these patches have beveled edges; the beveling on the Rema is thinner and finer than what you’ll find elsewhere. All of the patches flex with the tube; the Rema flexes better. The edge of the patch is also ruffled, which makes the task of peeling up the patch from the glue more difficult because there’s more edge surface area to bond—that’s a good thing. You can save a couple of bucks by going with a generic brand, but I wouldn’t. There’s nothing more annoying than a failed patch at an inopportune moment.

So we have a good way to repair punctures, but what would be even better? No punctures at all. Can you tell where this is going? To be continued.

Bus Times

It started when I was a graduand. Needing something to fill the gaps between dark nights of the soul and job applications, I did what anyone would do and made something with open data.

Great Britain publishes some impressively comprehensive public transport data. It’s not perfect – the TransXChange format is the last word in steaming architectural astronautery – but it’s vastly better than nothing.1 So I made what I called bustimes.org.uk2, although for some months there were no actual times – an oversight for which I deservedly received short shrift.

https://t.co/57xy4EThUM is a profound act of trolling. Immense detail on many bus services, street view, maps… but no times.

— David H 🐚 Rezzed 🔜 A Maze (@nachimir) 6 December 2015

Gradually, emails calling me a worthless, time-wasting prick encouraged me to develop new features, and I must say abusive email–driven development is as fine a methodology as any.

People kept finding and using the thing. In a time of brittle single-page web apps (like the one whose address is printed on every bus stop in the land), building an old-fashioned progressively enhanced website – everything having its own cool URL, accessible to search engine crawlers and mobile telephones – is a revolutionary act. And horrible programmatic advertising3 can actually be lucrative – well, it’s much more money than I deserve.

At some point, I added a contact form. And oh, in came the emails: I was no longer a worthless, time-wasting prick, but apparently I was the person to ask about lost property and to answer complaints about bus services. I’ve since added some words explaining that I’m not, and contact details for most bus operating companies, but nobody reads anything on the web.

And so here I am. Almost three years later, it’s a fine specimen of what insufferable jerks call a “lifestyle business”, a “passive income”, ugh, although I inexplicably maintain a time-zombie full-time corporate stooge job as well. March was the most successful month ever, as a cold wave disrupted transport and I found myself complicit in “disaster capitalism”.

What next? Development will continue. The entire history of everything is needlessly preseved on GitHub (here’s a link to the first commits).


  1. Here’s a good explanation of why it matters, and how impressive it is.

  2. I bought bustimes.org – which used to house a similar cool independent website – at the end of last year, from some sort of domain name squatter. I had international expansion on my greedy mind. There was a sobering dip in traffic when I moved from .org.uk to .org – it’s a modern parable – but things have picked back up now.

  3. I fear that a lot of the money comes from advertising contemptible adware, “potentially unwanted programs”. Rome2rio piously blocked MyTransitGuide – an eminent PUP, bizarrely published by a company with Chelsea Clinton on its board – but there must be dozens of different ones, and Google’s tools for blocking them are inadequate. So I spinelessly take the money.

Index of /

“Open Directories Are the Only Interesting Places Left on the Internet”, writes Jason Koebler at Motherboard. That’s a needlessly provocative headline, but it’s a fair point. Searching with your favourite search engine for “index of” “parent directory” and something apposite is often a good way to surface lists of interesting files.

But it reminds me: perhaps the clearest sign of something being good is when unpleasant people start to exploit it for selfish reasons. So it is with directory listings.

I could speak from personal experience, but instead here’s a Boards of Canada fan posting on a forum about coming across what appeared to be an Aladdin’s cave of rare tracks, but was in fact a fake listing generated using the MusicBrainz database to trick people into completing “offers” (enter a thoroughly dubious competition or survey – give your details to some spammers).

Who’s behind these sites? Is it like the Macedonian fake news complex? Do they make much money? A key question for them must be “how do you sleep at night?” Yet I can’t help but admire their plucky entrepreneurialism.

The doyen of the fake “index of MP3” game was surely wallywashis.name, which no longer appears to exist – but there are others left, like unknownsecret.info. They’re all a bit different, but share these rather brilliant terms and conditions:

You must brush your teeth and floss at least twice daily.

You agree to reject critical thought by condemning it as the realm of conspiracy theorists and cranks.

You must not harbor expectations of downloading mp3 content from this site.

(I can’t really do it justice just by quoting excerpts. Seek out the whole thing yourself.)

The webmaster may ask for collateral in the form of your first born child as a sign of good faith before permitting you to use this website.

Ye gods, the “Herod clause” is real.

I think all of the writing is a beautiful work of art, subtly hinting that the thing is a scam.

Our most successful users gladly enter their personal details into our advertiser’s surveys. They enjoy our advertisements on their own terms.

Successful users of this site will experience the unexpected.

sirens.rocks:

DO NOT CONTACT US

We are minerals. You will be ignored.

We can not help you reach the sirens. This site only pertains to their rocky perch.

11 responses to the New York Times headline ‘Bulletproof, Slow and Full of Wine: Kim Jong-un’s Mystery Train’

"Bulletproof, Slow and Full of Wine” is also the title of my autobiography https://t.co/JthIHU4sY5

— Amy Fiscus (@amyfiscus) 27 March 2018

Bulletproof, slow, and full of wine sounds like my superhero alter-ego https://t.co/MOjuGzZxqx

— Jennifer Ko (@JnestorKo) 27 March 2018

Based on this headline, I have more things in common with Kim Jong-Un’s train than I realizedhttps://t.co/RzEjq4PJez

— Amy 🐳n (@AmyKWhalen) 27 March 2018

Good morning I go by the name Mystery Train now because I too am bulletproof, slow, and full of wine. Thank you Kim pic.twitter.com/45vc0bOePF

— maitane romagosa (@muhtawnee) 27 March 2018

Same, tbh. (Well, two out of three.) | Bulletproof, Slow and Full of Wine: Kim Jong-un’s Mystery Train https://t.co/tTWvewQB3Z

— S (@vidiot_) 27 March 2018

Incidentally I check off two out of these three boxes:
Bulletproof, Slow and Full of Wine: Kim Jong-un’s Mystery Train https://t.co/Q3j3PSEAwi

— Matt (@TVnewsMatt) 27 March 2018

‘Bulletproof, Slow and Full of Wine’ also describes Kim Jong-Un himself fairly well. https://t.co/4ivEgVuPZ1

— 𝕏𝕖𝕟𝕚 𝕁𝕒𝕣𝕕𝕚𝕟 (@xeni) 27 March 2018

Incidentally, "bulletproof, slow, and full of wine" is the subtitle of my upcoming autobiography.

— 90's Tote Bag Richardson Vape Foodie Pour Over (@johnnycrich) 27 March 2018

“Bulletproof, Slow and Full of Wine” has long been my favorite outtake from the Let It Bleed sessions. https://t.co/WHpL3pUDzS

— William Gibson (@GreatDismal) 27 March 2018

Me. After enough wine, that is.

— Carl James (@carldjames) 27 March 2018

Also one of Cole Porter's lesser known, and liked, works.

— Nick Childs (@npchilds) 27 March 2018

If you’d like to join in, I think there’s room for an “I like my … how I like my …” in there somewhere.

Trousers II

After I last mentioned trousers, who knew I’d return to the subject so quickly? Certainly not I.

But then, who knew there’d be so many goings-on in such a short space of time?

First, an upsetting development regarding my Hiut jeans. A sort of hole has opened up around what might be called the “seat of the pants” area. This could be used as evidence for some cojones-based flattery, but the more pedestrian story is that I ride a bicycle quite a lot.

There is this on the Hiut Denim Co website:

We stand by what we make. And keep standing by it even when things go wrong. That’s why we offer a free repairs policy for life on our jeans.

Brilliant! But:

We can’t offer this service on the Tech Jean as it can’t be darned liked a pair of jeans can.

My jeans are a Tech Jean. Oh well, fair enough I suppose. Now, some bloggers would probably try to argue about semantics – what is a pair of jeans? – there’s the word “jean” in “Tech Jean”, right? – but that wouldn’t really befit my brand. If it can’t be darned, it can’t be darned. (Maybe the word “tech” is an allusion to contemporary consumer electronic products, which are difficult to repair. Ooh.)

The other thing: Harpers BAZAAR reports:

Meghan Markle’s influence is being felt in full force by one Welsh company, who have skyrocketed to fame thanks to the Suits star.

Markle wore a pair of Hiut denim jeans during her official visit to Cardiff and, according to the company’s co-founder, the brand has not been the same ever since.

The only possible explanation is that this blog has an acolyte embedded deep within the palace. Hello, acolyte! What’s more, I think it adds to the growing body of evidence that the royal family is irrelevant, and blogging is much more relevant. The famous actor’s with-fiancée trip to Cardiff was back in January, months before I wrote anything, but I don’t really understand what difference that makes.

🚽

What I learned on the web this week:

  1. Pissing Match: Is the World Ready for the Waterless Urinal? (2011):

    [James] Krug is an unusual entrepreneur. Twenty years ago, he was a rising star in the film and television business. […] But 11 years ago, Krug became convinced that the world did not need another TV show. What it needed was a better urinal.

  2. :

    Major [Seattle] City Hall Scoop: The flushless urinals are corroding the pipes and must be replaced with old fashion[ed] flushing urinals. Dudes: You need to hydrate more so your pee isn’t so destructive.

    Apparently this isn’t a new problem. Non-flushing urinals are fine if the pipes are made from materials other than copper, which resist corrosion better. But sometimes building regulations stipulate copper pipes. I’m not curious enough to find out what Seattle City Hall’s pipes are made of.

  3. China’s New Frontiers in Dystopian Tech:

    Dystopia starts with 23.6 inches [60 centimetres] of toilet paper. That’s how much the dispensers at the entrance of the public restrooms at Beijing’s Temple of Heaven dole out in a program involving facial-recognition scanners—part of the president’s “Toilet Revolution,” which seeks to modernize public toilets. Want more? Forget it. If you go back to the scanner before nine minutes are up, it will recognize you and issue this terse refusal: “Please try again later.”

Cook Suck

“Internet food police” Cook Suck is good fun. I’ll keenly defend people’s right to eat whatever sub-diarrhoea terrible food they like, and even to publish photographic evidence inexplicably on Facebook – but Cook Suck writes very well about it when they do.

A quirk – well, apparently, a long-standing feature – of Unix graphical environments is being able to copy and paste text by some surprising combination of selecting text and clicking the middle mouse button. If you ever mindlessly select text while reading, are a fan of scrolling with a scroll wheel (who isn’t?), and are generally some kind of neophyte, this makes it all to easy to do accidentally. And so it was that I accidentally pasted one of Cook Suck’s profane outbursts into a collaborative Google Doc a few years ago.

Cool story.

Loyd Grossman follows me on Instagram, which is my one interesting fact about Instagram. (“Loyd Grossman” here means the actual former Masterchef and Jet Bronx & The Forbidden frontman, and not the brand of cooking sauces named in his honour.) More to the point, I follow him, and the steady mixture of art and gastronomy is excellent value. When the subject is edible, the captions inevitably contain adjectives like exemplary, superb, outstanding, and sensational. There’s an opportunity, there, for some data science (well, maybe just a Wordle) and/or some machine learning (well, maybe just a Markov chain).

The adjectives are well-warranted, as Grossman goes to some nice restaurants, and the pictures – like frankly everything I’m shown by Instagram’s algorithmic timeline – look delicious. Curiously, there’s never any sauce from a jar – and that’s OK! I can actually look at a picture of some sorrel dressing without my own life seeming bland by comparison. Even though it is.

For maximal self-esteem, it’s definitely good to laugh at people – presumably privileged people – who do silly things. American Exchange Students in Italy Start Fire by Cooking Pasta Without Water:

Due to an error in translation, a previous version of this article erroneously stated that the firefighters comforted the students by claiming that they didn’t know how to make pasta, either. This was not the case and we regret the error.