mat's recent activity

  1. Comment on Biosphere 2 - The Lost History of One of the World’s Strangest Science Experiments in ~science

    mat Link Parent
    Unfortunately he's not all that internet inclined, being the kind of dude who's much happier sitting in a forest or a garden than at a computer. I can barely get him to answer an email, let alone...

    Unfortunately he's not all that internet inclined, being the kind of dude who's much happier sitting in a forest or a garden than at a computer. I can barely get him to answer an email, let alone write a blog or do an AMA! He's one of those people who has a million amazing stories about "that one time in the Mexican rainforest" or "when I was crewing a research ship off Chile" or "as the sun came up I saw the polar bear coming towards the tent" but you never get the impression he's showing off about it, it's just his life is full of amazing things.

    Genuinely one of the most interesting and more importantly, one of the nicest, people I know.

    1 vote
  2. Comment on Biosphere 2 - The Lost History of One of the World’s Strangest Science Experiments in ~science

    mat Link
    "The hummingbirds were dying. Cockroaches were everywhere. And then Steve Bannon showed up." A good friend of mine was one of the last biospherians. He has many stories about the place, which fit...

    "The hummingbirds were dying. Cockroaches were everywhere. And then Steve Bannon showed up."

    A good friend of mine was one of the last biospherians. He has many stories about the place, which fit in with the general tone of what's written here. Also, while he is generally the kind of person who rarely has a bad word to say about anyone, he has a number of choice words about Steve Bannon.

    Biosphere 2 was a really interesting idea, and looking back it seems obvious it was destined to fail from the start - but then hindsight always is 20/20. Things were learned and some actual science did come out of it.

    3 votes
  3. Comment on Kitchen spices look startlingly different in the wild in ~food

    mat Link
    The BBC did a really interesting series about spices a while ago. If you can find a means to watch, it's well worth it and very interesting. Some of the fun facts I can remember: Most vanilla is...

    The BBC did a really interesting series about spices a while ago. If you can find a means to watch, it's well worth it and very interesting.

    Some of the fun facts I can remember:

    • Most vanilla is grown in Madagascar, where the bees which pollinate it don't live. So each flower gets pollinated by hand, and vanilla is one of those awkward plants which each flower only opens once for like 15 minutes at 3am. Mexican vanilla is pollinated by bees and, in my opinion, much nicer anyway.

    • There are only a handful of people left alive who know how to roll cinnamon quills. True cinnamon is relatively hard to find and fairly expensive, a lot of the quills and powder sold as cinnamon is actually cassia.

    • Many spices can only be processed by hand due to being very delicate. All saffron is harvested by hand, as are cloves, but peppercorns are harvested by foot - the stems are stomped to release the corns before processing.

    6 votes
  4. Comment on How do you find new books to read? in ~books

    mat Link
    In addition to everything else mentioned here, Amazon's "people who bought this also bought.." is quite good. Find a book you know you like and see what they suggest to go with it. I don't...

    In addition to everything else mentioned here, Amazon's "people who bought this also bought.." is quite good. Find a book you know you like and see what they suggest to go with it. I don't generally buy books from Amazon because their DRM is a faff but it's a fairly good means of book discovery. I've found quite a few new (to me) authors that way.

    3 votes
  5. Comment on What have you been listening to this week? in ~music

    mat Link
    Good news everyone! Blackpink, the All Saints (ahem, showing my age there) of K-Pop, have a new EP out Also Heilung have a single out, Norupo, taken from their upcoming new album, which I'm very...

    Good news everyone! Blackpink, the All Saints (ahem, showing my age there) of K-Pop, have a new EP out

    Also Heilung have a single out, Norupo, taken from their upcoming new album, which I'm very excited for. In addition I've been listening to 90s indie band Sleeper's new stuff, and have recently discovered Norwegian singer Aurora.

    1 vote
  6. Comment on 'I hate what they’ve done to almost everyone in my family' (An article about Fox News poisoning.) in ~news

    mat Link Parent
    If you're not sure what "closed minded, bigoted and intolerant" means, just watch some Fox News editorial pieces. They are, as openly as they can be, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic...

    If you're not sure what "closed minded, bigoted and intolerant" means, just watch some Fox News editorial pieces. They are, as openly as they can be, racist, homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic and more. It's really pretty clear they're not nice people. Moral relativism has a place but at some point it's just not convincing and if you're not careful you can start to look like you're an apologist for the bad guys (just to be clear, I don't think you are, but some people do look like that when deploying the "but what if you're the intolerant one?" line).

    You could argue that Popper's philosophy is coloured by the fact he lived through the rise of the Third Reich. You might then suggest that him watching the Nazi rallies in Germany turn into the rise of Hitler and ultimately the Anschluss which led to his exile from his native Austria led to him concluding that words turn into actions and speeches are much easier to stop than tanks, and that was poor reasoning on his part. On the other hand, you might say that experience and empirical evidence is a solid basis upon which to build an idea and Popper is all about empirical proof (seriously, he's the canonical guy for critical rationalism)

    Your example of the KKK isn't a good one, because in places where the KKK are allowed to rally, there's a huge problem with racism. There might not be lynchings any more but it's not exactly a solved problem by any means. If society doesn't say "you guys dressing up like murderers and making speeches about how your race is superior is NOT OK AND FUCKING STOP IT" then the people doing that think it's acceptable and while they might not be tying people to the back of horses any more, you don't want to be a black dude stopped by the cops in KKK country.

    The idea that because society deems a number of things reprehensible right now, we shouldn't do anything about those things because at some point society might decide your thing is reprehensible is a form of the slippery slope fallacy, which is logically fairly wobbly. The reductio ad absurdum counter argument is where don't we stop? I was going to say "do we let the white supremacists hold rallies" but then I realised you'd already suggested that was acceptable and I honestly can't think of an example worse than the KKK right now. Interesting how your argument for is the same as my argument against.

    10 votes
  7. Comment on What are you playing this week? in ~games

    mat Link Parent
    You know what, when I ask an offhand question about a game and I get like 6 paragraphs in reply, I almost don't even need to read it. I know that's a game I want to play because anything which...

    You know what, when I ask an offhand question about a game and I get like 6 paragraphs in reply, I almost don't even need to read it. I know that's a game I want to play because anything which someone can get that passionate about telling some random dude on the internet about, I want to see for myself. (I did read it though, of course)

    Thanks! I really appreciate you putting in the effort to reply in such depth. I will pick up a copy of Dos2 when I get the chance and I'm already quite excited about the prospect. I'm a part-time working adult, but do have a six month old so gaming time is very limited - but I'm completely OK with just putting in a couple of hours every other day for 3 (or more) months if a game is good.

    2 votes
  8. Comment on What are you playing this week? in ~games

    mat Link Parent
    I haven't played the Divinity games, so you'd rate them as From-level good? Interesting. I like a complicated RPG. Might put that on to the to-play list. Anywhere you'd recommend to start? I am a...

    I haven't played the Divinity games, so you'd rate them as From-level good?

    Interesting. I like a complicated RPG. Might put that on to the to-play list. Anywhere you'd recommend to start? I am a console peasant so PS4 only I'm afraid.

    1 vote
  9. Comment on What are you playing this week? in ~games

    mat Link Parent
    From are the only developers I'll buy their games on release day without reading a single review. The Souls games are my favourite game series possibly ever -, I enjoyed Bloodborne but not as much...

    From are the only developers I'll buy their games on release day without reading a single review. The Souls games are my favourite game series possibly ever -, I enjoyed Bloodborne but not as much because I prefer the slightly more measured approach of Souls, but it was still very enjoyable. I hear there's a bit more stealth in Sekiro which is perfect for me, I love stealth games.

    So yeah, very much looking forward to doing a whole lot of dying. Might be a few months yet, but I'll get there eventually.

    1 vote
  10. Comment on What are you playing this week? in ~games

    mat Link
    Doom. The 2016 version, because it showed up cheap on the PS store. As a huge fan of the original games (Wolf3D is one of my earliest gaming memories) I didn't think I'd like it and at first, I...

    Doom. The 2016 version, because it showed up cheap on the PS store. As a huge fan of the original games (Wolf3D is one of my earliest gaming memories) I didn't think I'd like it and at first, I had real trouble because my mouse hand kept - literally, sometimes - twitching. I've played loads of FPS games on consoles since my Master Race days (I was hardcore into Quake 2 deathmatch back in the day) and it's never been a problem but something to do with it being Doom is reawakening ancient neural pathways to do with mouse and keyboard gaming. I still find combat a bit clunky - entirely due to the controller, not the game - but am enjoying it a lot more now.

    Very very looking forward to Sekiro but my gaming time is drastically limited at the moment (thanks, baby!) so will hold off on that for a while yet. I have a few other games to play before that so at least it should be cheaper by the time I'm ready to play it.

    5 votes
  11. Comment on What have you been listening to this week? in ~music

    mat Link
    I was turned on by a friend to the latest album by Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and I was mostly sold just on the name, but their music is some pretty good drone/psych/stoner metal/sludge. Well...

    I was turned on by a friend to the latest album by Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and I was mostly sold just on the name, but their music is some pretty good drone/psych/stoner metal/sludge. Well worth a listen if you like that kind of thing and even if you don't.

    Also Cosi Fanni Tutti's newest work, TUTTI which is superb. Sometimes straight up drone noise, sometimes industrial, sometimes chilled out and ambient - she's still got that creative spark she always had. Really great stuff.

    4 votes
  12. Comment on Tipping thoughts? in ~life

    mat Link
    A lot of places I eat here in the UK include service in the bill, so I don't leave a tip in that case. If service isn't included and the service has been above average, I'll usually leave 10-15%...

    A lot of places I eat here in the UK include service in the bill, so I don't leave a tip in that case. If service isn't included and the service has been above average, I'll usually leave 10-15% or so. But I'm perfectly happy to leave without a tip, especially if service has been bad.

    The situation in the US where service staff rely on tips to get a liveable wage (or less) is barbaric but it's not so much a problem with tipping per se, more shitty business owners and/or a government which doesn't care to do anything about it.

    4 votes
  13. Comment on Which messenger(s) do you currently use? If you had your preference, what single messaging service would you prefer to use? in ~talk

    mat Link Parent
    Eh, that doesn't make it worthless. Signal Protocol still means your messages can't be snooped in transit (unlike SMS) and you can't be man-in-the-middled. You can always turn off backups. I think...

    Eh, that doesn't make it worthless. Signal Protocol still means your messages can't be snooped in transit (unlike SMS) and you can't be man-in-the-middled. You can always turn off backups. I think they're off by default but don't quote me on that.

    I'm not sure what counts as 'massive' amounts of metadata but I don't really care all that much. Given the choice, I'd rather FB didn't have that data but I'm not very bothered that they do.

  14. Comment on Which messenger(s) do you currently use? If you had your preference, what single messaging service would you prefer to use? in ~talk

    mat Link Parent
    Whatsapp was designed from the ground up to be secure, user-focussed and resistant to advertising. It originally used Open Whisper's Signal Protocal and as far as I know still does. The founder...

    Whatsapp was designed from the ground up to be secure, user-focussed and resistant to advertising. It originally used Open Whisper's Signal Protocal and as far as I know still does. The founder recently left Facebook (to start the Signal Foundation with Moxie Marlinspike) over disagreements about how to monetise the platform, in that they wanted to and he did not. Story goes that he walked away from $850m in stock options to do so. Brian Acton is a multi-billionaire but that's still pretty ballsy. What Facebook will do with Whatsapp remains to be seen.

    I have heard rumours that good quality e2e crypto is a design goal for FB's unified Messenger/Insta/Whatsapp messaging service, and they're moving to make messaging a core part of their business over the coming years. Zuck likes knowing stuff about his users but I think he likes not letting the government read their messages slightly more.

    2 votes
  15. Comment on Which messenger(s) do you currently use? If you had your preference, what single messaging service would you prefer to use? in ~talk

    mat Link Parent
    Given the choice I'd use Signal, but I don't have the choice - I have to use the service that the people I want to talk to are using, or I don't get to talk to people. If I could get people to...

    Given the choice I'd use Signal, but I don't have the choice - I have to use the service that the people I want to talk to are using, or I don't get to talk to people. If I could get people to change then I would do, but all that ends up happening is one or two people install it then never use it. I like my friends more than I like Signal, so I don't use Signal.

    If I were in a position where I did want to keep things quiet and/or couldn't risk even small things like metadata getting out I'd be less blase about it. But that doesn't change the fact that - at least for me - there appears to be no significant risk.

    2 votes
  16. Comment on Which messenger(s) do you currently use? If you had your preference, what single messaging service would you prefer to use? in ~talk

    mat Link Parent
    Buuuut email is so clunky though, and nobody uses crypto and my inbox is about 75% messages from shops saying they've posted my item and the threading sucks and inline media is flaky at best and I...

    Buuuut email is so clunky though, and nobody uses crypto and my inbox is about 75% messages from shops saying they've posted my item and the threading sucks and inline media is flaky at best and I either have to check it manually or I get notifications all day long for stuff I mostly don't care about and really the only human who emails me any more is my dad. It would be weird to email people at this point. Plus I've got group chats which run to thousands of messages. That's a LOT of re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: re: fwd: re: re: re: re: re: re: to deal with.

    I don't disagree email would work if I bothered getting email addresses for everyone involved and setting up aliases and so on, but then walking works if I want to get somewhere - doesn't mean it isn't faster and less hassle to take my bike.

    5 votes
  17. Comment on Which messenger(s) do you currently use? If you had your preference, what single messaging service would you prefer to use? in ~talk

    mat Link Parent
    I don't think you're acting maliciously here, I'm sure rather the opposite. But your well-meaning actions could be based on faulty premises. Maybe it really doesn't matter that there's a database...

    I don't think you're acting maliciously here, I'm sure rather the opposite. But your well-meaning actions could be based on faulty premises. Maybe it really doesn't matter that there's a database somewhere with my message metadata in.

    fwiw, I've spent years considering this. These issues have been on (OK, mostly off, but sometimes on) my mind since SMS came along, let alone Whatsapp. I'm aware of the technical aspects and my conclusion is that there's just nothing that bad happening and the risks are too small to bother about when you consider the benefits. I haven't heard anything that's particularly convincing otherwise.

    2 votes
  18. Comment on Which messenger(s) do you currently use? If you had your preference, what single messaging service would you prefer to use? in ~talk

    mat Link Parent
    Which databases? In the context of messaging services, the databases containing encrypted messages and non-encrypted metadata? Messages which, even if they were decrypted, are mostly just about...

    Which databases? In the context of messaging services, the databases containing encrypted messages and non-encrypted metadata? Messages which, even if they were decrypted, are mostly just about remembering to buy milk or silly gifs. That's not going to help anyone steal anything.

    Also "strewn all over the internet" isn't the case. I don't hugely trust Facebook (which is why I don't tell them things I actually want to keep private) but they do employ good information architects. A friend of mine is one of them. My data there, my data at Google - it's pretty well secured. My phone itself is likely easier to break into than their databases.

    1 vote
  19. Comment on Which messenger(s) do you currently use? If you had your preference, what single messaging service would you prefer to use? in ~talk

    mat Link Parent
    If my parents, sisters, in-laws and best friend don't get at least one or two videos/gifs/photos of their new grandson/nephew/godson doing some baby stuff every day or so I start getting messages...

    I don't really have a need for group chats with video files

    If my parents, sisters, in-laws and best friend don't get at least one or two videos/gifs/photos of their new grandson/nephew/godson doing some baby stuff every day or so I start getting messages asking if something is wrong... one group message to dump all that stuff to is such a time saver.

    Text messaging is not the right medium for that type of conversation. If I want to converse with someone about a variety of topics, I'll pick up the telephone and call them.

    Voice is good if you're talking to one person. In your timezone. Who is free to talk when you are. On the rare occasions I do call people I never expect them to answer and it's always a surprise if they do. Asynchronous conversation fits so much better into my life. Plus I prefer having a chance to think before I reply, which voice rarely affords. And sometimes I want to reply with an image or a link or something. Perhaps that's down to me having mediated so many of my friendships via message boards but that's just how my life has been for the last 20 years. Rich media messaging is just the personal message board of the current age.

    But to each their own, of course. Obviously if SMS ain't broken for you, no need to fix it.

    8 votes