List encounters of the third kind

Content warning: over a thousand words about the appearance of a certain kind of list. How many times have you seen or written a list like the one below? Label: one or more sentences, maybe a short paragraph. one or more sentences, maybe a short paragraph. one or more sentences, maybe a short paragraph. one or more sentences, maybe a short paragraph. one or more sentences, maybe a short paragraph.Other label: one or more sentences, maybe a short paragraph. one or more sentences, maybe a short paragraph. one or more sentences, maybe...

Review: The Sense of Style

Most writing sucks. Academic writing is dull and turgid, business and political writing is incoherent and stuffed with mostly meaningless jargon, and much journalism is borderline illiterate. The internet, for all that it has done to advance humanity’s knowledge, has also perpetrated the heinous crime of making everyone a writer – and just like most people can’t draw a portrait, assemble an engine, sing an opera or jump a salchow, most people can’t write. In the face of all this bad writing, it’s very easy for people of a certain temperament...

Mine cryptocurrency instead of clicking ads

Long-time readers will notice a new addition to the left side of the blog – a small piece of text just under the header: Click on it and you’ll see something like this: This is an experiment in blog monetisation, powered by Coinhive. The traditional easiest way to monetise a blog is to toss some adverts here and there – above, below, beside and interleaved with the content. I’ve never run anything like that on this blog because I hate advertising. I use an adblocker wherever...

Review: Why's (Poignant) Guide to Ruby

Out of an anal-retentive desire to put as much of my output in a central place under my control, I’ve added and appropriately back-dated a bunch of old book reviews I like and still agree with to this blog. This was going to be one of them, but I ended up expanding it enough that I decided back-dating would be dishonest. Why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby, available for free on this lovely domain hack, is the strangest book about programming you’ll ever read, combining instructional...

Review: The House in Fata Morgana

The so-called visual novel is a game format that’s very big in Japan and kind of obscure everywhere else. If you’ve never encountered one, you can think of the genre as computerised puppet theatre with a little bit of audience participation. They tend to be plot-driven affairs with enough gameplay to send a pure ludologist into a frothy rage (i.e. not very much). In the majority of these games, the player’s input is limited to clicking through dialogue and making CYOA-style choices every few thousand words....