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I can think of only one reason to take refugee children away from their parents at a border, other than sheer cruelty. That is to scare other families, so they won’t try to reach your country.

There’s word we use for causing fear for political ends: that word is terrorism.

Against A Dark Background by Iain M Banks (Books 2018, 13)

Back to the great reread. Some thoughts here. This book is 25 years old. Twenty-five! I think I’ve read it twice before, but (and you won’t be surprised here if you’ve been following along) I don’t remember much about it.

I didn’t recall, for example, that Sharrow, the protagonist, was a noble; or that it’s set as we approach the decamillenium on and around what I at first assumed to be an Earth colony, although one that is long detached from Earth. And it’s in a similar state to the last one I read, Feersum Endjinn, in that we’re in a decadent stage, where technology was more advanced in the past, but things have been lost or forgotten.

The most notable example of that, of course, is the Lazy Gun, the big maguffin at the heart of the story. I had thought it was semi-mystical, or at least alien in origin. But now I think maybe not, it’s just from the more advanced past.

Turns out it’s not anything to do with Earth, of course. Golter is a planet round an extra-galactic star. The million-light-year distance to any other star seems to be the “dark background” of the title. Though I still don’t really get why it’s called that.

Anyway, I still loved it. And strangely the ending felt less bleak than I had remembered. Though it’s still pretty dark. And it turns out he published an epilogue online. Which doesn’t change anything, but it was nice to read.

You know those pocket computers we all carry? Will we ever stop calling them “phones,” do you think? When did you last make a phone call on yours? And even if the answer is “today,” is that the main thing you use it for?

They Took Something Very Weird and Made It More Usable

Good piece by Paul Ford, writing at Bloomberg on Microsoft buying GitHub:

[GitHub] has a well-designed web interface. If you don’t think that’s worth $7.5 billion, you’ve never read the git manual.

He means the man pages, I assume.

GitHub is “the central repository for decentralized (sic) code archives,” which is mildly amusing. But this:

In the pre-git era, you updated your software annually and sent customers floppy disks. But if you’re running a big software platform, you might update your servers constantly—many times a day or every 20 minutes.

is a bit over the top. There were a lot of changes between sending out floppies and continuous deployment.

I question his (lack of) capitalisation. The command is git, all lower case. But if you’re talking about the application, you should spell it “Git”, with the capital. I think so, anyway. You would write about “CVS”, even though the command was (is) cvs; and “Subversion,” with the command svn. But at least it’s not as annoying as people who write it in all-caps.

Lastly, when he says, “Computers are mercurial,” I’m assuming he’s wryly referencing what was once Git’s major rival in the distributed version-control space. Nicely deadpan, if so.

New iPad Keyboard

My iPad’s Smart Keyboard broke, and was out of warranty, so I thought I’d try the Logitech (or “Logi”, as they now call themselves) Create Keyboard. Backlit and everything. No bad.

I do (mostly) like the keyboard itself, I think. Certainly I should be able to get used to it quite quickly. But I’m not loving the whole package: as I feared it might, it makes the iPad comparatively bulky.

I think I’ll keep it, though, and see how I get on. I may, for example, only take it out with me if I think I’ll definitely use it.

On the other hand, that could get annoying: the best X is the one you have with you, after all. And it was using the Smart Keyboard (and having the long commute down to Croydon with (more or less) guaranteed seating) that helped me to finish my novel last November.

Oh yeah, having a holder for the Apple Pencil is a nice addition.

Looking forward to Nick Cave, Patti Smith, etc at All Points East in Victoria Park today. They’re not keen on publishing the full lineup, but I finally found the clashfinder.

No major clashes except for Patti & St Vincent. But a bit of zigzagging between stages needed.