Early Fall Shorts

Posted on September 25, 2023 by psu

Today some short things that I could not turn into longer things.

Stop Making Sense

Today is Talking Heads day for me, as this long time favorite film comes back around again. I am now old enough to have seen all three incarnations of this movie as they hit theaters. Which is … something.

I have nothing more to say about this but plan to have a really good time.

Edit: I actually do have one more thing to say about this. Seeing it again I’m struck by how unbelievable it is that they could shoot this the way they did with the giant movie cameras of the time. And that this might not be appreciated enough in these days when you could just walk around the stage with a phone (or, more likely, any of the smaller digital cinema cameras, that are comparatively tiny) and do it (if you knew what you were doing).

Pod People

Aside from some light use of the classic and now mostly forgotten iPod Shuffle I have mostly avoided the smaller auxiliary computing devices that Apple makes. I carry their small pocket camera and Internet communication device around, because if you have to carry one you might as well carry that one. But otherwise I had never seen a reason to use their ear mounted or wrist mounted machines because they did not do anything that I was interested in doing.

The headphones never fit, and the large ones that did fit felt more like two small computers pretending to be headphones than actual headphones. And, I don’t like watches.

But as we have learned in other contexts, you never know how these things are gonna go. So lately I have found myself using both the ear pods and the watch, for various reasons that are too boring to go into.

The watch is, fine, I guess, for a watch. The bike ride tracking is finally good enough for me to get rid of a dedicated machine just for bike ride tracking. So that’s good. I guess I don’t miss as many text messages. Which is a mixed blessing. Everything else is a collection of incoherent and inscrutable machine-learning driven heuristics that try to dictate how to live your life (“time to standup! time to get moving!”) and make you feel bad for not fitting into the bell curves defined by the models. Also, we’re up to version 10 of the software and it still can’t do windowed averages for all of the exercise metrics? Really?

Oh well. At least it has some comfy bands that are infinitely adjustable.

The new ear pods were a surprise. I decided to try them on a whim after getting some for my brother. I expected them to not fit just like every Apple earbud product in since the original iPod. But surprise, they fit perfectly. I also expected that the idiotic bluetooth connection dance would again be 15 times worse than just unplugging from one headphone jack and plugging into another. But surprise again … it mostly just works. I’ve still had it decide to randomly not talk to my Mac once in a while. So it’s only 1.5 times worse.

Still, these are the best “listen to things in your brain holes while walking around” headphones I’ve ever used. So kudos. Now I can use my walks back and forth to the new office to polish off all those 57 disk boxed sets of the Bach Cantatas that I keep buying.

Internet of Shit

Back in the early pandemic we bought a new TV that hangs on the wall where my iMac used to be. The most nerve racking part of the process at the time was letting a guy come into the house to hang it for us.

The TV works great except for the fact that it’s actually a fucking computer that runs linux, so every few months it just hangs instead of turning on, so you have to unplug it from the wall to get it going again. Since the wall plug is actually on the floor, under a tall desk and difficult to reach I wanted to get a thing to do this by remote control.

Fortunately, a lot of folks appear to sell remote control power plugs. Unfortunately the ones they want you to buy these days are all “Smart Home” devices, which means they don’t fucking work.

Here is how it goes:

  • Take the plug out of the box.

  • Plug it into the wall and hold your phone near it so that it can set itself up using NFC.

  • Just kidding that shit never works. So unplug it from the wall and turn it over on its ass and take a picture of a small 4 digit code that has been silk-screened on the bottom of the device in a 7pt font in beige lettering that exactly matches the beige color of the body of the device.

  • Type that code into your phone to pair it up.

  • Spend 15min adding the device to your “Home” app.

  • Three months later when the TV goes wack attempt to use the “Home” app to flip the switch inside the plug by remote control. This won’t work because the device will have long since fallen off of your home Wifi network, so you won’t be able to talk to it without going through the whole setup process again.

Because I’m a dipshit I did this with two different wifi power plugs. They were probably just the same hardware and software stack with different brand labels on them … they both behaved in exactly the same useless way.

Having learned my lesson, I bought this thing:

This is the dumbest of all possible plugs with a switch connected to the dumbest of all possible RF receivers.

It just sits there waiting for a radio signal to come around and tell it to do its thing. No NFC, no pairing, no wifi, nothing “smart”. Now, every few months when my “smart” TV goes catatonic I just hit the button the thing and it reboots perfectly. This has happened twice since I bought it in the spring.

So to summarize:

  • Brainless RF controlled simple power plug with a switch in it: 2

  • Fancy WiFi Internet of Things Home Control Bullshit Devices that try to do the same thing: -3

The Smart Home shit gets an extra point off for the initial setup pain. Why anyone would trust anything in their house that they actually want to work most of the time to one of these moronic Internet Home devices remains unfathomable to me.

Yoneda Updates

I wrote this silly page about the Yoneda Lemma a couple of years back. Since then I have continued to noodle on it and fix a never ending list of small errors and nitpicks, including one where I left out an entire third of one of the statements of the result. I’ve noodled with the pdf version too. It remains the reference version and the best to read.

In fact even as I type this I just found two more horrible typos. Sigh.

New Bike Stuff

I got a new bike last year. It is a new-fangled “gravel” bike. Which I guess means the road bike people finally decided to make road bikes with wider more comfortable tires and a decent gearing range on them. But to do so they had to put the bike in a completely different category so the road bike people don’t feel like their manhoods are being threatened. Whatever.

I didn’t get to ride it much last year for reasons. But this year I’ve had it out a lot and it’s great. If I get my ride in today I’ll make 600 miles in one summer for only the second time in the last 10 years. Good times.

I also got some weird new bike shorts with pockets in them. I wonder why it took like 50 years of bike shorts for someone to finally try this. They are great.

Here is the bike in its peak natural habitat on a local road that has just been “resurfaced” (wink wink).

Happy fall.


  1. As predicted, Stop Making Sense was great.

  2. I got the 15 miles I needed today, so happy 600.