Media Diet

Jason Kottke does these posts where he lists all the stuff he's been reading or watching or whatever. Normally I would do this sort of thing on Twitter but I've been avoiding that and feeling much better lately. I have been missing this outlet though, so have a completely self indulgent, and probably one-time post about what I've been playing, watching, listening to and reading recently. I'm not grading mine, though - this is all A+ stuff.


God of War

I feel like I blasted through this game very quickly. I don't usually have time to complete games, but I was making time for this. We may have also got a new TV for it. The development of Kratos and Atreyus' relationship was very well done, if a little generic, and the fusion of Norse and Greek mythology was very intriguing, as someone with no knowledge of either.


Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze

I have a soft spot for DK games, but missed this on the Wii U because my Wii U died and I was probably busy playing Mario Kart. DK always has great platforming. Dixie Kong for life.


Oddmar

This is a delightful platformer in the same vein as the brilliant new Rayman games. Touchscreen controls, but not in a way that made me want to smash everything I could reach before burning my house to the ground.


Worth It

The premise is pretty simple here, but the combination of Andrew, Steven and Adam is a winner. We binged these pretty quickly, then moved onto some of the lifestyle ones. Feel free to pretend that Worth It UK doesn't exist. I was worried my skin was going to crawl off my skeleton.


PewDiePie

We've been watching a lot of PewDiePie and I have found him to be quite funny and lacking in bullshit. But something has changed recently and he's been irritating me quite a lot. I think when the whole racism thing kicked off with him, he stopped wearing his politics on his sleeve, out of self preservation, but they're still there.


Casey Neistat

I have a pretty fickle relationship with Casey. He is a master storyteller - I'm fairly certain I would watch his stories on any subject, but there are some pretty heavy caveats there. 1. he has an annoying habit of earnestly reporting on tragic current events. He seems like a sensitive guy, and I understand why he does this, but something feels quite insincere about it. 2. it feels like he makes stories at the expense of everyone around him. He's been getting a lot better recently; taking time off to spend with family, but he has a pretty old-skool-business, work-yourself-to-death work ethic that I don't like. It's obviously working well for him which is cool, but I don't love it.


Abroad in Japan

Even if you don't have any interest in Japan, you should try this. Chris Broad is an engrossing presenter, and does a brilliant job of demystifying a culture that is pretty shrouded in mystery!


Brooklyn Nine-Nine

Maybe my favourite comedy. Perfect casting, and never gets old. I watch this show so much. Ask Charlotte, I watch it all the time.


Craig of the Creek

I loved this cartoon from some of the people who worked on Steven Universe. Watched them all with Tabitha and she loved it too.


The Armed - ONLY LOVE

Experimental hardcore from an incredibly consistent band. Pretty impressive given how varied their output is (if you're into this sort of thing - if you're not it'll all sound the same)


Boss Keloid - Melted on the Inch

Caught these guys at ArcTanGent and didn't love it, but this album was a pleasant surprise. A few superb hooks stand out, but the whole thing overall is very good.


møl - JORD

If there's something I've always wanted more of, it's bands doing what Deafheaven do. møl reduces that formula to super accessible pop songs you can listen to any time.


Rationale - Rationale

This guy's voice is incredible, and the album is full of amazing pop/RnB songs.


Slaves BC - Lo, and I Am Burning

Blackened hardcore nice guys making more enjoyable blackened hardcore. If you like excessively violent music: listen.


Bleachers - Gone Now

Lovely, melancholic pop songs, with insane production. Not joking, this album is perfectly produced.


N K Jemisin - The Broken Earth series

Oh my god, these books. Such a vivid, bleak future. I don't want to give anything away, but this is a brand of fantasy that I can fully get behind. It's so heavy and desperately sad in places, sometimes I have to take a break because I just can't take it any more.


One of my favourite things to ever happen

Tabitha is growing up so fast. When I look back on old videos of her, I barely recognise her. To spend time with her is becoming more and more like spending time with a peer, with the odd exception. It's definitely my favourite part of parenting so far.

That being said, this evening she did something so adorably childlike that I had to make a note of it somewhere that has some persistence so that I can one day revisit it or be reminded of it.

After dinner this evening, Tabitha wanted a little extra, and there were some leftovers. Charlotte asked her to bring a bit of tissue from the table and throw it in the bin. On her way to the bin, Charlotte swapped the tissue for the leftovers, and Tabitha carried on, on autopilot, and threw her food in the bin.

She turned around slowly to us and said "I've just done something really silly. I threw my food in the bin" and was very upset about it. After a lot of giggling (this is exactly the sort of thing Charlotte and I do on a regular basis), and consolation, Tabitha was fine and we were all having a laugh about it.

It was so sweet and sad the way she realised what she'd done, I want to replay that moment again and again.


Stress

Aside from the obvious, my least favourite thing about stress is how it completely silences the little creativity I have. I've been working to a very difficult deadline the last few weeks, and it's meant I've had to ignore a load of other work that's been piling up. I've been working evenings to try and make sure I'm responding to email and people aren't getting more mad with me, but it's not enough. This week, I took a couple of days off and ended doing a full day's work in total over those days. I am smart.

Taking pictures is my only creative outlet. I always have a camera with me but I don't use it as often as I should. I've reached a realisation that I'm completely stalled on taking pictures. Normally I see things I want to photograph everywhere, but it's just not happening right now and I need a kick to get back into it. Not having that outlet makes me feel quite unfulfilled. Narcissistic though it may be, one of the main reasons I take photos is to look at them. I love looking back over photos I take, and all I have right now are screenshots of horrible tweets and photos of food I probably shouldn't have put into my body.

Time to stop being a baby and go and point my camera at things.


On Approaching a Toddler

Parenthood is a curious thing. As Charlotte grew more and more pregnant, a bizarre thing happened: people felt compelled to share their observations on her physical appearance, almost constantly.

"My, aren't you big?!", they'd say. "When are you due? Must be soon!"

When it comes to compliments, I respond dreadfully. I'm not used to receiving them from total strangers, so when it happens (now that I have a beard), I become incredibly self-aware, and almost embarrassed by my own existence. I forget the things you're supposed to do, like being grateful, and I start searching for ways to return the compliment from whence it came. "Err, thanks. You too?" (this was once a genuine response to a woman telling me I had a nice beard), "Oh, I like your...bag?".

Suffice it to say, strangers complimenting me makes me feel uneasy. I find them to be an incredibly intimate thing. When the people I love and trust compliment be, it becomes one with my stride. I say things like "thank you, they're just normal Levis" and, "yeah, I'm really happy with the way it looks right now". But when a stranger compliments me, I withdraw, and become uneasy.

The reason I mention this is because I've witnessed this behaviour in Tabitha, too. We'll be in a shop, and when we're in the queue, someone's desperate to make some small talk and they'll say to her "oh, aren't you beautiful?! Your rosy cheeks!" and she completely changes, just as I do. She hides behind me - she withdraws, and I don't know how I'm supposed to handle it, or even if I am. It obviously makes her uncomfortable, but some people mistake this shyness for something else, and carry on. "Oh, your beautiful blue eyes and blonde hair! I wonder where you get that from", and I just want to grab the person by the head and scream at them to read the situation: "she's not happy with what you're saying. She's fucking hiding from you. You are objectifying my wonderful daughter, making her aware of physical traits that she'll come to hate me for, and giving her a complex that she'll take with her for the rest of her life".

When I was five, I got my first school picture taken, and the first thing my aunt said was "oh, aren't your ears weird?! They're not straight, they're not level, they're different sizes!". Ask anyone who knows me - the reason I pierced and stretched them beyond recognition is to take control of this thing that I hate about my appearance, and the thought of someone doing that to Tabitha at three years old makes me furious.

I've decided that this is a systemic problem - when you have a child, people will come up to you and just start talking to you. That's not something I can stop. So, I'm going to try to teach Tabitha some things to say in response to these uninvited compliments, and hopefully (I mean she's three) teach her to value the things about her as a person, rather than the things about her as an object. The sorts of phrases I have planned are:

"Oh, aren't you beautiful?!"

I love reading books.

"Look at your rosy cheeks"

I can play the harmonica! she can't, but she tries and it's brilliant

And can I please request that when you're greeting a child for the first time, don't dive into their physical traits. If you can't show an interest in something about them as an individual, just keep your mouth shut until you can. I know you think you're being nice, but you might just be doing more harm than good. And if you can't keep your opinion to yourself, just talk to the adult with the child and tell them you think they have a great kid.

Thank you.


Here's the thing about ads

@jaci_KVLT

My very real internet friend whom I have never met, Jaci (protected account, but everything you need to know for this article is here), tweeted this thing today that pissed me off. I'm not mad at her; I'm mad at Wired. I'm also mad at ads, but not because I inherently hate advertising - because I hate all the underhanded, sneaky snooping that ad networks do to show relevant adverts to you.

To be technical for a second, ads are usually displayed on a website by embedding a bit of someone else's JavaScript. Every time a page loads on that site, that bit of JavaScript calls back to where it came from and, with the help of a cookie, says "hey, I've got this person here - what ad fits their profile?".

Now, you might be thinking "how much can this website know about me? I just got here" - well, that website you're on probably isn't the only website that has that code embedded on it. There are probably a lot of other sites with that code on. And every time you visit one of those sites, that ad provider makes a note of it, associates it with your browser, and can make a list of every site you've ever visited with that browser (save for a few cookie clearances here and there - we all regularly clear our cookies, right?).

The neat thing about JavaScript is how powerful it is. It can be used to add predictive search to a text field, it can be used to produce interactions when you move your mouse around, and it can be used to create effects when you scroll. The bad thing about this, is that it can be used to log every key you press on a website, track what you hover over when you move your mouse, how much you scroll, and how much time you spend. Security concerns notwithstanding, if you let me put some JavaScript on your website (which some of you do, and I'm grateful for your trust and I swear I don't abuse it), I can record anything your users do on your site that I think is interesting. You would probably never think to look, and your users probably wouldn't even notice.

Now, let's ramp it up a little with Amazon. You might have seen Amazon's ads on sites before. They probably show you stuff you've looked at recently. It's really smart and really simple, and they're building the best profile they can of you by how many websites they can convince to host their ad code. So when I read a review for Yokai Watch on Kotaku, Amazon can go "Yokai Watch, eh? We have that product! Show him an ad for it". This works, and where an ad network wouldn't be able to link your browsing habits to an individual, Amazon can. And they have a tonne of other information about you and your family and the products you buy. They're able to build a pretty decent profile of you, but their ad network isn't huge compared to their shop, so it's not a huge issue.

The funny, and mildly technical, thing about this is that they can do it even if you log out. You know when you go to Amazon and they say "Hey Whatever Your Name Is" but to do anything you need to supply your password? This is called "soft login" and it's a technique sites use to identify you as soon as they can, and for as long as they can. So if you log out, Amazon still keep you cookied until you log in as someone else or manually clear your cookies. So they know who you are the whole time unless you expressly tell then you're someone else, or no-one. Pretty creepy.

Now let's ramp this up as far as it goes: Facebook. Facebook is the biggest ad network in the world, and it only advertises on one site (to the best of my knowledge). It's the biggest because of two things:

  1. You (if you have an account)
  2. The Like button

How many sites do you see the Like button on? How many do you not see it on? It is everywhere. Even if you've never clicked it before, it doesn't matter. If you visited a webpage and the Like button was there, and you were logged in to Facebook, Facebook knows you visited that page, and they kept a record of it. Yep, even the porn site you didn't use private browsing on. Even the BitTorrent site you downloaded Game of Thrones from. They know.

Fortunately for you, if you're in prison, you're no good to Facebook, so they're probably going to be cool about it. Their interest is in being able to say to companies "look at how much we know about this person. We know this much about most of the internet-connected world. If you pay us money, we'll send good leads your way from our website: the most popular website on the planet".

So there you have it: the thing about ads. Most people don't care, and that's fair enough, but there are a growing number of people who do care and don't like the idea of all their browsing habits being recorded and bound to them by a third party. And that's why they block ads.

If you're interested in blocking ads, you could look at browser extensions for your desktop browser (Ghostery and ublock in Chrome and Safari) or iPhone (1Blocker). If you have suggestions for other platforms, please tweet them at me.

Update

  1. @AdamBurv recommends that you use Privacy Badger with ublock
  2. I realised that you can get Brave for iOS as well as the desktop.