Category Archives: humour

Tossing a bitcoin

I’ve just taken delivery of my first physical bitcoin.  I hadn’t realised it was topologically single-sided: you think of more complex shapes like the Möbius Strip or Klein Bottle as being interesting, but seeing it in this simply-connected coin came as a surprise to me.

Tom Stoppard was ahead of his time.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern didn’t need an Infinite Improbability Drive to toss 92 consecutive Heads (or whatever it was): it was a single-sided bitcoin, and every toss is heads.  Impressive to have written about that 50 years ago.

And so much for all the hype around the new British pound coin!



Enough of that.  The genre of April 1st jokes has gone distinctly stale in our times, as the mass of weak and contrived stories fail to fool anyone.  Especially online, where most readers of anything I write will be seeing it outside today’s time window.  Even those who get it by live feed or aggregator.

This morning in my feed I saw a particularly feeble line in my El Reg feed.  Reg now behind invisible bitcoin paywall.  They’re now running bitcoin-mining Javascript in readers’ browsers.  I clicked it over breakfast, because I thought it might have collected some amusing comments.  The comments failed to amuse, but they lead on to an audacious and imaginative joke, for which kudos to El Reg even if it’s not entirely intentional.

Every comment bears the grinning troll icon!

This is clearly just for today or this morning, depending on how they interpret the tradition (maybe it’s really elaborate, and sniffs your timezone for a best guess of when to display them)?  But the ingenious thing is that this applies not just to the feeble joke article, but every article, through the history of El Reg.  Suddenly the Reg every day is April 1st tradition really comes into its own, as tall stories like yesterday’s one about World Backup Day display all grinning trolls.

And suddenly the seeds of doubt are sown over all the serious stories.  This is surreal, and turns it into a brilliant new twist on an old tradition!

Happy event

A happy event is only truly complete when it is universally shared and celebrated.  So when your friend and colleague announces a happy event, it is vital not just to congratulate him/her/them, but also to share your joy as widely as you can.

Firstly, be sure to select the right means of communication.  Congratulations expressed in such an ephemeral medium as IRC, or (heaven forbid) the human voice, are lost so quickly, and anyone who is not present is denied the opportunity to share.  Likewise an old-fashioned card or private email, text message or similar is a selfish act of not sharing.  A message on the principal’s blog is almost as bad: it’s so rude and impersonal to make people come to your comment, when you could be sending it to them (and besides, some people might have already read the blog and forget to return to see your congratulations).

The right thing to do of course is to post your congratulations to big and busy mailinglists.  The medium is suitably personal, with every happy subscriber getting an individual copy of your joy.  These days of course everyone has unlimited storage and bandwidth, so be generous.  And don’t forget that even in a techie community, not everyone will read your message on a ‘phone or even a laptop.  It takes quite a lot of “Re: Happy Event” messages to fill a big screen with joy, and it’s not a truly happy community if there are so few messages as to leave other topics visible on someone’s mailer!

Oh, and congrats to DrB.

Joke or in-joke?

My littlebig[1] brother has just blogged about christmas.

Well, not exactly about christmas.  Rather about explaining christmas to his missus, who grew up in a culture that doesn’t have it.  And what he explained wasn’t christmas in general, but christmas day in our family.  Even more particular than that, the circumstances as he describes them can’t’ve existed in full for more than a couple of years, though much of what he describes is perennial.

As ever, his narrative is superb, and in this instance it’s also very funny: I can’t recollect when I last laughed that much!  But a moment’s reflection leads me to wonder: is it objectively that funny, or is it also (or even just) because what he describes is, like an in-joke, something he and I know all about, but the outside world can only infer?

[1] He’s the youngest of the family, but also the tallest.