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Lockdown Interlude

The dawn chorus woke me just after 5am this morning and I thought I’d share the sound of the birds in this locked-down city with you, dear reader.

Whoever you are, I hope you’re getting through this situation in good health. And if you’re reading this in the future, this was a little moment of a past crisis that I hope we all get through together.

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Leap Day

In the style of The Daily Mash

The leap day in February is the final fucking straw, scientists confirm

In a new study, scientists have confirmed that the entire country just wants February to fuck off and die – and the leap day is the final straw that will inevitably turn everyone into crazed homicidal maniacs.

Dr. Henry Brubaker of the Institute for Studies revealed: “we found that absolutely everyone is just hanging on until midnight on Friday 28th and won’t be able to take another second of this shit month. When we did trials involving human volunteers, every single one of them went into a deep and irreversible psychotic rage when we revealed that February has as extra day this year.”

The team’s leaked report recommends that the only possible way to avoid total social collapse is for everyone to get so totally hammered on the night of the 28th that they spend the whole of the leap day under a duvet with a plastic bucket and industrial strength painkillers.

An unnamed team member commented that “what makes it worse is that we get paid on last day of the month and I’m already too skint to afford any booze.”

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Information Design

I pass this sign every day when I return home from work, and its always irritated me. It sign reads:

IF YOU WITNESS A VEHICLE STRIKING
THIS RAILWAY BRIDGE
PLEASE CONTACT RAILTRACK USING
Telephone No: 0161 237 1025
AND STATE
“BRIDGE STRIKE: Fog Lane
STY 7m13¼ch”

Who thought that “7m13¼ch” made a good identifier? And especially one that had to be read and recited over a phone in a hurry. Why not a simple composite numeric key?

And why is one line of text in title case and all the rest in upper case? Grr…

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Exam Prep

Me to eldest child: Good luck with that physics exam today. (Joking) Remember – everything reduces down to the Schrödinger equation in the end, so that’s really all you need to know anyway.

Child: Would that be the time-independent version, or the time-dependent one?

Me: Err…

Child: Relativistic or non-relativistic formulation?

Me: Just do well in the exam, please.

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Poem

A couple of years ago, in response to a challenge from one of my children, I wrote a poem. It’s not a good poem, and even a Vogon would be embarassed by it. But nevertheless, a poem it is. A while back I found it tucked inside a book and, since there is unlikely to be a follow-up, immediately thought I should expose myself to ridicule by posting it here. It’s really bad.

Poem

For those who can’t read my writing:

Plato, in the cave,

Watches the firelight shadows dance.

And dreams of Wittgenstein

In the trenches

Lit by flickering phosphorous flares.

Neither of us know what any of this means,

Do we?

No, he says, but at least

We tried

See?

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Passwords UX

I’ve just been through the process of claiming a tax refund. To do this I first had to create  something called a Government Gateway Account. As well as giving me the slightly queasy feeling that I would now exist forever on yet another database I also, inevitably, had to create yet another password that I will henceforth have to remember. Also forever. Here’s the password creation screen:

Government Gateway Account password creation screen

Government Gateway Account password creation screen

This does not fill me with confidence. Not at all. Not even close.

Firstly the 12 character maximum length just screams “we store your password in plain text in a CHAR(12) column, so there” at me. Like its 1993 and we’re using CGI or something. No hashing. No salting. Just a nice text column that our legacy platform can read, and that the techs can run a SELECT on when you forget your password or they fancy a giggle.

And the no special characters rule instantly activates my “we don’t do SQL injection mitigation at the backend, and we don’t care” detector. Because the platform probably dates from before the time that anyone considered that it might be connected to the internet.

Oh, and the big fat BETA at the top: I get that it’s probably meant to look exciting, but it doesn’t fill me with hope. This is my government ID. Where’s the smartcard authentication? Can I use my Yubikey? Nah, none of that stuff.

Bah. Whatever. As long as I get my refund.

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Unreachable

// TODO: Requires testing on staging env. ** Do not run on production ** 
public bool Validate(Terms brexit)
{
    if (this.EU.Commission.Approves(brexit))
    {
        if (this.EU.Countries.All(country => country.Approves(brexit))
        {
            if (this.EU.Parliament.Approves(brexit))
            {
                if (this.UK.ConservativeParty.Approves(brexit))
                {
                    if (this.UK.Parliament.Approves(brexit))
                    {
                        return true;  // TODO: Gives "unreachable code" error!!??
                    }
                }
            }
        }
    }

    throw new HardBrexitException("No deal", brexit);  // Fallthrough
}