Via Ars Technica, I’ve learned that shady Amazon sellers have been using chatbots to automatically write item descriptions. The result is hot offers on items like “I cannot fulfill that request” and “I apologize but I cannot complete this task.” This is a natural progression from Amazon product listings which were simply misdescribed by humans.Continue reading “Engines of enshittification”
Before I started this blog, I posted for more than a decade at Footnotes on Epicycles. The blog software I was using was somebody’s indie programming project, and they had stopped maintaining it years before I migrated over here. Sometime in the last month— possibly due to a server update— the code finally stopped working. So I spent some time over the last couple of days hacking together a solution which makes all the old posts available at most of the same URLs.1
I recently signed up for the free trial of Apple Music. It’s like the old days in some ways. Less so in others.
Current music: Little Simz, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert
Current mood: nostalgicContinue reading “🍏🎵”
As a followup to my previous post, I’ve decided to share some webcomic recommendations.
In the early days of the pandemic, I reread two fantastic science fiction comics that were written from the beginning to tell a specific story.1 Both of these manage to pull off the trick of presenting extraordinary characters in a universe that is nothing like mine while still getting me emotionally invested in them.
I originally read them as were coming out, waiting for the each new page. This time, each story wiled away a shelter-in-place afternoon. Afternoons well spent.
- A Miracle of Science, by Jon Kilgannon and Mark Sachs, is set in a solar system overrun by mad scientists. It follows the adventure of Benjamin Prester, agent of the Vorstellen Police.
- Alice Grove, by Jeph Jacques, is about life in a fragile Eden. I can’t think of anything to say Alice herself that wouldn’t be misleading or a spoiler.
I’ve been reading web comics for almost 25 years. For most of that time, one of my daily reads has been Howard Tayler’s Schlock Mercenary. Many years ago, when everybody’s homepage had a page of links, I described it this way: “Schlock Mercenary is a space opera named for an amorphous blob who wanders the galaxy and shoots things. Jocularity abounds. It seems reminiscent of the Star Frontiers games I used to play, so it merits a nostalgia bonus.”
Tayler is an anomaly in several ways. He updated on a regular schedule for more than two decades, whereas most independent creators miss updates or go on hiatus at least sometimes. And he actually finished his grand narrative, rather than leaving it unfinished. Recently, the story came to a close with the eponymous hero’s dark matter apotheosis.1
The title of this post also points to the fact that webcomics really aren’t a thing anymore. I’ve had a half-written post about this in my drafts for over a year.Continue reading “On the end of webcomics”
Over on my website, I’ve posted an e-mail exchange I had with the late Hilary Putnam in 2011-12. The text of it has been knocking around on my hard drive, and it’s apt to get lost if I don’t put it somewhere. So posting it is as much for my own record keeping as for anything else.Continue reading “Putnam correspondence”
The Blue Room. Seen here in one of its early incarnations, twenty years ago when it was still at the old cybercity domain before moving to io and then later to pair, where tonight I’ve laid it to rest. Farewell old friend. We used to be something. pic.twitter.com/q1WmuTW6u3
— S. John Ross (@SJohnRoss) October 11, 2018
It resonated with me when John Holbo wrote recently: “Remember when there were blogs? Ah, those were the good old days.”
It gestured back to a day when the internet was built mostly out of individuals putting together things which they cared about and sharing them on a server somewhere in the world. The internet was the magic maze which let everybody else wander around and marvel at the wonders.Continue reading “Elegy for the Blue Room”