Category Archives: writing

Two projects and an absence

My entry for NaNoGenMo 2016 is ANNALES, a procedurally-generated chronology of rulers, courtiers, tribes and intrigue:

Being a faithful narration of the history of the realm from the reign of Fobbial Artesia I to the present day

As transcribed by the algorithm annales-exe using the pseudo-random seed 1835917550 1 during the reign of Armey Engine III

“For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground / And tell sad stories of the death of kings”

Reign of Fobbial Artesia I the Unbridgeable.

Fobbial Artesia I, surnamed the Unbridgeable, won the throne by divination.

Fobbial Artesia I espoused Sidentilation with wild channession.

Rumours of morees in Wire Star.


Fobbial Artesia I the Unbridgeable gave birth to a son, Lavaloman, under the influence of Kabdhilinan.

Rumours of rederes in Vectary Viroth.

The source code is here and I’ll be blogging a bit about the technical details on when I get around to it.

I also got around to implementing my dumbest Twitter bot idea, @TVisoTropes.

I’ve been away from Twitter proper since the US election: my mental health has been poor this year, so I’ve had a couple of enforced absences, but the way I was reacting late stages of the campaign and Trump’s victory were pretty decisive in showing me that the way I’ve been using social media is really bad for my brain. I miss it a lot but I still don’t know how to return: maybe when my mood improves? Maybe I should start a new account and reset things?


Materiality: FAKE

DD4_layersI’ve got two short articles in MATERIALITY: FAKE, now online at Pinknantucket Press:

An uncanny valley in reverse is a brief illustrated attempt to explain the computational underpinning of deepdreams for a lay audience.

Vermiculation, on the use of fake rustic textures in classical architecture and its colonial domestic descendants.


Grouch Porn

Issue 3 of CRANK, a zine dedicated to petty grievances, huffs and pedantic setting-the-world-to-rights, is available now from Pinknantucket Press. Among other things it includes my explanation of why it’s gross to compare everything to porn, and the cover illustration in which I break my own rule.

Alexander Cockburn

Sad to hear the news that Irish-American journalist Alexander Cockburn has succumbed to cancer at the age of 71. To borrow one of his metaphors, it was exposure to Cockburn’s journalism at a tender age, via a chance discovery of his 1988 anthology Corruptions of Empire, which inoculated me against the error of thinking that his friend Christopher Hitchens had an admirable prose style.

Here is a collection of his articles. It’s nice to see that this includes a piece about the excesses of New York dining. Most of the obituaries I’ve read are strictly about his political work, but Cockburn is one of the funniest and most acute food writers I’ve ever read, and I’ve never forgotten his gloss on a recipe for cold fish curry:

Short of lowering one’s naked foot slowly into the weeds at the bottom of a pond it is hard to imagine a more depressing experience.

Geek Mook

Geek Mook!

Geek Mook was launched last Friday – it’s an anthology of stories, articles and artwork, including my short piece on code comments as a literary genre.

The Team Test

A thought experiment: think of a non-fiction writer whose work you admire, and imagine that the writer and yourself have been assigned to the same team for a work project. What would your immediate reaction be?

Writers I would be more than happy to work with: Ian Hacking, Mary Beard, Bertrand Russell, Umberto Eco, William James. With some trepidation: Auden, Brian Eno, Brigid Brophy.

Oh, dear god, no: Shaw, Robert Hughes.

(I don’t admire either but I thought of this test when trying to articulate my objections to the anonymous knobs who write The Economist or Christopher Hitchens, I can’t remember which. Imagine working with Hitchens. Stop laughing at the back. By the way, did you know that Hitchens defended David Irving? I only found out the other week, and I think it bears repeating.)