Daft Websites

If you were a ‘fan’ of my old website, which unfortunately went the way of the Dodo after a curious mishap involving a vicar, several guns and a penguin named Larry*, you’ll know that I’m somewhat prone to unleashing bouts of creativity upon the interwebs. I’ve had a few such interludes in the past few months, which I’d thought I’d share, because I’m feeling unusually self-indulgent.

52-17 Productivity

For a while now, I’ve tried, on and off, to use the Pomodoro productivity technique while at work (bursts of 25 minute activity, interspersed with varying length breaks). But I have to admit I never really found it worked that well for me, as 25 minutes never felt like enough time to get stuck into something. While looking about for alternatives, I stumbled upon the 52-17 method, which, as you might expect, is 52 minutes of activity, followed by 17 minutes of rest/doing something else. I tried it and found it much more to my liking, but was annoyed when I couldn’t find a decent timer. So I made one. http://52-17.com

Moviespot

I’m a fairly laid-back chap, but one issue of modern western life that really irks me is when I want to watch a film, I have to go to each app on my clumsy old PS3 in turn to search Netflix, Now TV and Amazon Prime to see if it’s available. So I made Moviespot to do the searching for me! It’s also turned out to be a good way to discover films I didn’t know, or had forgotten about. If you’re not British, though, don’t get too excited, it only works for the UK market. http://moviespot.co.uk

Long Password

Rather worryingly, I received an email a short while ago informing me that a service I use had been hacked and, allegedly, my username and password for said site had been published on the interwebs. I can’t say I ever found said list, but it did get me thinking about the ludicrous situation we seem to have got ourselves into in the world, where we are forced to used completely unrememberable p@55word5, which, it turns out, are just as easy to hack as passwords with just normal letters in. Turns out that if you want a less hackable password, adding a few pound and dollar signs doesn’t help at all, as usually they are still 6-10 letters long and can be brute-forced in no time. Instead, what you want is a loooong password (20 characters or more) that is easy to remember. It takes a lot longer to brute-force these as the number of possible permutations, even with just upper and lower case letters, rises exponentially with the length of the password**. So, enter my latest tour-de-force in noodling: http://longpassword.com

I hope you find some, or all, of these sites as useful as I do.


* OK, I admit, I accidentally deleted the database and couldn’t be bother to restore it.

** A 10 character password, with upper and lower case letters, plus numbers and common symbols, has approx. 2×1018 permutations, a 20 character password with just upper and lower case letters has approx. 4×1033 permutations.

Darwin and Dadd

This is a repost, of sorts, from my old blog. I still think this is really cool, and haven’t seen it mentioned anywhere else*.

About seven years ago, I took it upon myself to attempt, purely for fun, to adapt Terry Pratchett’s ‘The Wee Free Men’ into a screenplay. At some point during the process, around the point where Tiffany finds herself in a dream not too dissimilar to Richard Dadd’s “The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke”, I took the opportunity to print a copy of Dadd’s painting to hang next to my desk.

While mulling over the image, marvelling at the curious nature of the painting and the precision with which Dadd had placed everything, I noticed strange deformities of some of the Fairy’s depicted in the scene.

Click for bigger picture and compare it with the full size original at Wikipedia.Two things in particular jumped out at me. If you take a look at the painting you’ll see the Fairy Feller, his axe held aloft waiting for the sign from the grey-haired Patriarch. It struck me that the heads of the fairies between the Feller and the Partriarch were particularly deformed; they almost looked like eyes. What’s more, the folds of one of the fairy’s cloak looked like a nose, and the Feller’s hat looked like a mouth.

I looked more closely and noted that the mound upon which Oberon and Titania stand (just above the Patriarch), looked like the curve of the top of a head, and the coat of the fairy to the left of the pinky-red cloaked fairy looks like an ear.

It must be a face, I mused. Now that I could see it, it looked too prominent to be a coincidence. All I could see when I looked at the picture was the face, and wondered why I hadn’t noticed it before.

So I threw the image into Photoshop and messed around with the levels a little. A few things started to bug me:

  • Firstly, the pinky-red cloak of the (female?) squashed head fairy, directly below the Patriarch’s beard, lacks detail (which doesn’t match the clothes of the rest of the Fairies).
  • Secondly, if her head is meant to be an eye, it doesn’t quite tie up with the head of her partner (the other ‘eye’).
  • Thirdly, what’s with her partner’s foot? He’s crossing his legs at a very awkward angle.
  • Fourthly, the hidden face is almost at the centre of the painting but not quite, it felt a little too far to the right and off balance.

 

Then I noticed the gold curve that stretches round the right hand side of the Patriarch’s hat.fairy-feller-ape

And I saw it.

The profile of an Ape!

What’s more, it’s the profile of an Ape overlaid over the profile of a man’s face, much like Apple’s Finder icon.

Suddenly, it all made sense.

  • The cloak is the smooth pink part of the Apes face.
  • The eyes don’t match as the Ape’s eye is looking to the right, and the man’s eye is looking forward.
  • The awkwardly placed foot of the partner makes up the Ape’s nose.
  • When you put the outline of the Ape and the Man together it’s right, slap bang in the middle of the picture, thusly:

fairy-feller-man-ape

This got my brain whirring. Ape and Man… Evolution?

A small amount of research on the internet revealed Charles Darwin, father of the theory of Evolution, and Richard Dadd were contemporaries. I also found quite a few similarities between the two men.

  • They both travelled extensively in their early careers,
  • They both apparently suffered from Bi-polar disorder,
  • Both had strong links with Kent,
  • Dadd painted The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke between 1855 and 1864,
  • Darwin published Origin of the Species on the 22 November 1859.

So would Dadd, locked away in Bethlem in Beckenham, Kent, have known of Darwin’s ideas, perhaps even known Darwin, who, after all, lived a mere seven miles away in Downe?

Dadd painted The Fairy Feller’s Master Stroke for one George Henry Hayden, the head steward at Bethlem Royal Hospital at the time.

A quick Google search revealed records of correspondence between George Henry Hayden and Charles Darwin at darwin-online.org.uk. While the contents of the letters remain unknown, it’s not the greatest leap of logic to think that Hayden knew Darwin, possibly treated him, and spoke to Dadd about Darwin and his theories. As a gift, Dadd hid the image of the man and the ape in the painting for Hayden. Perhaps the hidden man is Hayden? Who knows? Pure speculation.

I’m with Neil Gaiman, who suggests that the ‘Pedagogue’ – the little bald, bearded chap (or Sneebs, as Terry Pratchett calls him), is in fact an old version of Dadd himself. I like the way he’s sat right on the shoulder of both the Ape and the Man.

* Not that I’ve looked too hard.