Bird Box (2018) film review - worth watching

Having watched a few underwhelming horror movies recently, I was pleasantly surprised by Bird Box. This sort of thing is more to my taste when it comes to horror. This review contains some minor spoilers but nothing that's likely to ruin your viewing.

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Have the fundamental physical constants changed?

There exist a bunch of fundamental physical constants that define (or at least describe) important characteristics of our universe. Traditionally these are dimensionless numbers, which means they have no units like kph or grams, although they often describe relationships between dimensioned constants.

Alpha (also know as the fine structure constant), for example, describes the strength of the attraction between the electron and proton. It combines the speed of light, the elementary charge, Planck’s constant and something called the ‘permittivity of free space’ to arrive at its value. The value itself is approximately 1/137.

I think these constants are extremely sexy.

If these constants were different, the universe could be a very different place. Your trousers might fall apart or maybe the universe would have blinked out of existence shortly after (or even before) the big bang.

Scientists have often wondered if these constants are, in fact, constant. Maybe they were different in the past. It has however been difficult to measure what these constants were in the distant past.

The article I link to on ArsTechnica describes a new approach to measuring what a couple of these constants were in the past.

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Anti-Pasti, but not the pizza

It’s strange how the memory works. I was in a pub on Monday evening, taking part in the weekly quiz they hold there (we won, by the way). I’m on a team that consists of three other regular members and we decided to eat whilst we were there.

So we ordered pizzas and one of the team ordered an ’antipasti’ pizza. This immediately brought to mind a band of that name who I used to listen to back in the early 80s, although the band hyphenated their name as Anti-Pasti.

I had quite forgotten about them and may never have remembered if it wasn’t for the pizza. I’m pretty sure I had their Four Sore Points EP but I can’t be certain now. If I didn’t have it then someone I knew did because I feel the name rings a louder bell than it would if I’d only heard of it via radio. It’s shameful that I can’t remember if I had a record or not, but such is my memory.

Once I’d remembered the band I remembered a song by them called No Government, which I’d most likely have originally heard on the John Peel show because that’s where I heard most things at the time. I used to like this song so I hunted it down on YouTube.

I present it for your delectation here but, be warned, it’s quite hardcore punk and probably not to the tastes of those of you who only like the namby-pamby softcore stuff.

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Serpent (2017) film review — I only liked the snake

As most of the TV channels had decided not to bother marking Easter Sunday with any special programmes I watched a film called Serpent, which I'd recorded from Sky about a week ago. This was something I soon regretted.

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The Girl in the Spider’s Web film (2018) review

I love the Stieg Larsson 'Millennium' books. Following Larsson's death, David Lagercrantz took over the storytelling and 'The Girl in the Spider's Web' is the first Millennium book of his to be made into a film. I review that film in this article.

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Cloth nappy influencers — the world has gone bonkers

I think the world went mad in 1989 but sometimes I read something that makes me wonder if it has breached the ‘crazy’ barrier and now resides in some category of lunacy that’s so extreme it doesn’t even have a word to describe it yet.

This particular section of the article I link to was what did it:

Mother-of-four Cecilia Leslie has built up a stash of about 500 nappies.

The full-time midwife is now a cloth nappy "influencer" with more than 22,000 Instagram followers.

A cloth nappy influencer? Really? I had to check to make sure it wasn’t April 1st.

Now I’ll forgive anyone who has a strange hobby and when she says:

"I paid £60 for a limited edition print that TotsBots brought out when Prince George was born. And I once paid £160 for a pair of limited edition Bumgenius nappies - there were only 100 made."

It makes me cringe but, well, each to their own.

It’s the fact that we have ‘influencers’ that astonishes me; that 22,000 people are ‘influenced’ to purchase something ludicrously expensive just for a baby to crap into.

When she says:

… she's chatted to her husband about how he feels about her nappy habit. "He agreed the money could be better spent … “

I can’t help but sympathise with the guy.

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Equalizer 2 (2018) film review

Having enjoyed watching Equalizer 1 a few years ago, I watched the sequel, Equalizer 2, during the weekend just gone. I present my review of that film here for what it's worth.

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AI tricks reCAPTCHA, but why do we have these things anyway?

Wired reports on how reCAPTCHA tests — which aim to determine whether a website visitor is human or a bot — can be fooled by AI.

But the question I ask is why do we have to see these things in the first place?

I hate having to decipher some barely legible text to prove I’m human, and I positively despise those tests that ask me to highlight any buses or crosswalks in a set of small, unclear images, often numerous times.

In all likelihood I’ll just give up with the website. Few websites are worth the bother.

I know I’m human and if a computer doesn’t believe me then that’s its problem. If it needs to do any checks, they should be invisible to me and not involve me fighting with crappy text or images.

Don’t bother me with “there’s no other way”, find one. The visitor’s experience should be untarnished. I don’t care if bots are visiting your site, that’s your problem. Please don’t make it mine.

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Mandy (2018) film review - psychotic psychedelia

'Mandy' is a 2018 psychedelic horror film that was generally praised by critics and the public. I review that film here after watching it the other day and I have to say I largely disagree with the praise it has received.

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Today is Pi Day

‘Pi day’ is when we celebrate the number pi. Streamers are hung from ceilings and we wear party hats to honour the most famous of irrational numbers. It’s on the 14th of March because of the odd way Americans write dates: 3.14.

As part of their celebrations, Google announced that one of its employees with rather too much time on her hands has set a record for calculating pi digits. She calculated it to 31,415,926,535,897 digits, which is a lot.

It would be easy to mock and ask why she bothered but I have a grudging respect for things that are done purely for the sake of interest or challenge, but are otherwise pointless. So well done to Emma Haruka Iwao.

If you’re interested — and really you should be — NASA has previously posted 18 ways in which it uses pi.

And if your geekdom knows no bounds you might want to read about how ancient geometers went about squaring the circle.

All hail pi.

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Hunter Killer review - tense but otherwise average

I couldn't find anything I wanted to watch on telly yesterday evening so I downloaded 'Hunter Killer' from Apple and watched that. This is my brief review of that film.

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Will GPS give us another Y2K situation on 6 April?

I remember some of the predictions about the Y2K situation. Life as we know it would end and society would be hurled back to the Stone Age. Only bows and arrows would remain and if you wanted lunch you’d have to hunt and kill it first.

In the event there was barely a grumble from our computer systems. Most IT departments had fixed the problem long before December 31st 1999.

The 6th April 2019 is going to be another Y2K situation, this time relating to GPS and satellites.

Legacy GPS systems calculate the date and time by storing a week number and then the number of seconds into that week. The week number is only stored in 10-bit field, making for a maximum of 1024 weeks, which is approximately 19.6 years.

GPS time started on 6 January 1980, so we’ve already passed one GPS epoch on 21st August 1999. I don’t remember reading too much about problems with GPS back then, although it’s fair to say GPS was much less prevalent in 1999 than it is now.

So the counter was reset in 1999 and the next reset is due on 6 April this year (2019).

Will this Y2K-type situation throw us back to an era of woolly mammoths?

I doubt it. I would imagine the ground station IT people have it in hand. Furthermore, newer satellite systems use a 13-bit field for the week, giving us 8192 weeks or 157.5 years.

We should be safe, although the US Naval Observatory has seen fit to issue a warning about it.

These words may come back to haunt me but I’d like to bet we barely notice. Nevertheless, I’d avoid taking a flight that day.

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Zuckerberg suddenly embraces privacy

Mark Zuckerberg says:

I believe we should be working towards a world where people can speak privately and live freely knowing that their information will only be seen by who they want to see it and won’t all stick around forever.

If we can help move the world in this direction, I will be proud of the difference we’ve made.

Hmm, forgive my disbelief from a man whose reputation in areas of privacy is, frankly, terrible and has recently even exploited two-factor authorisation security as means to invade users’ privacy via their phone number.

It’s a bit like hearing Hannibal Lector plead he’s strictly a salad man these days.

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The scourge of flat-pack

I really hate flat-pack furniture. I'm terrible at putting it together because I'm a clumsy oaf. I would not, however, deprive anyone who likes this sort of junk but I'd certainly like a change to he way flat-pack items are advertised.

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