OTB#30: Stalker

Stalker. Andrei Tarkovsky. 1979. ⚅

I was so sure I’d already blogged about this movie that I didn’t re-buy it for this Officially The Best blog series. But then it turned out that I hadn’t, so I rebought it on bluray. Which took weeks to get here.

And now it turns out that the bluray won’t rip! So I can’t watch it anyway!


So I downloaded this 1.4K version off of the interwebs.

Like an animal.

[an hour passes]

Geez. I mean, I’ve seen this movie a couple times before, but I had almost forgotten how hypnotic it is. It feels like no time has passed since I put it on.

[more time passes]

This movie is so thrilling that it’s difficult to sometimes grasp what’s so thrilling about it. I mean, it’s basically three guys playing “the floor is lava”, but with more complicated rules. The philosophical slash religious ramblings don’t really do anything for me, so it’s mostly… the set design? I guess? The set design is out of this world: Everything looks so old and gnarly and… artistic. It’s like watching a Vaughan Oliver dream.

Did I mention that everything is moist? I’m guessing all the actors got pneumonia when making this.

[the end]

Man, that’s a good movie. I guess you could write a bunch of books about what “it’s about” (like the Zona book (which is great)), but I don’t really think it matters much: It’s undeniable that every scene here is gripping.

It’s fascinating how that happens without any of the actors being very interesting. It’s all a matter of placing the camera and having a groovy bunch of set designers, I guess? Sure, sure, that’s plenty moronically reductive, but prove me wrong.

This blog post is part of the Officially The Best series.

Useful Consumer Review

A few years back, I got a Dyson robot vacuum — the 360 Eye. I’d tried various other robot vacuums before, like the iRobot thingie, but the problem with those is that they’re… so noisy.

I mean, not to me: I can just leave the room and sit somewhere else. But they seem to be designed to rush over the floor as fast as the little motors can take them, and then crash into the walls. The noise for the people living below me would be unbearable, so I gave the iRobot away after trying one for five minutes.

I mean, it’s CRASH BONG BONG BONG BONG CRASH BONG BONG BONG on my 1890s floors.

The Dyson is a lot better: It runs around quite slowly, and it’s got sensors, so it doesn’t crash into the walls.

But here’s the problem:

It’ll jam itself up on any slightly higher surface and then, inexplicably, get stuck there.

So it’s basically unusable, because I’d have to rescue it from mats, doorsteps or my funky chairs in the loving room every five minutes.

But then, a month or so ago, they released a new version. Now with more intelligence and a fun name: Heurist.

So, after using it for a month, what would be the perfect picture to illustrate the problems it has?


It’s even worse than the first version: It’ll really work hard at jamming itself up on things. The 360 would often give up if it hadn’t succeeded in half a minute, but this one will never give up, and will stand there rushing towards anything until it runs out of juice or it’s successfully jammed itself into a position it can’t get itself out of. Like up above.

The increased intelligence Dyson talks of mainly means that it’ll get confused more. For instance, in the kitchen, it finds the chairs (normal ones, with legs) endlessly fascinating, and will just circle the chair legs until the battery runs out.

And the UX on the Heurist is as awful as the 360:

You can push a button, and then… nothing happens. Then a minute later, something happens. It doesn’t really communicate to you what it’s thinking about all that time.

So… Dyson’s made another useless robot vacuum.

The mechanics of the vacuum is really good, though. It manages to pick up an incredible amount of dust.

It’s just the software. It makes the robot useless. Software programmers should like be better.

Self-Hosting WordPress Even More

I know, I know; all blogs that’s hosted on WordPress inevitably turns into a blog about WordPress… Sorry! This is just a post of aimless complaining about an issue that’s so minor you won’t believe it, but these days there aren’t anybody on my lawn that I can shout at.


I started this blogging lark like a decade ago using WordPress.com, because I really didn’t want to host WordPress myself. WordPress.com is easy, safe, and the support from Automattic is unsurpassed.


The problem is that the fine people at Automattic have a tendency to make changes.

I know, the outrage! How dare they improve their products!

But even small changes have annoying effects. Like, for instance, their Jetpack super-plugin, which I’ve used to post oh-so-interesting tweets so that the huddled mass over at Twitter can enjoy my oh-so-interesting blog posts. This is what they’ve looked like since when I started:

The tweets have the blog title, a link to the blog, and then the first image from the blog. Nice and simple and, most of all, predictable. I think the Tweet stream looks kinda purdy?

So then, the other week:

The horror!

They switched to a different format. Now the image is apparently a random one (they probably have Highly Advanced AI to pick it out, right?), and then there’s an excerpt of the text (which makes little sense of context, it seems to me), and the image is small and ugly.

Or even worse! From that movie log blog:

Perfection, right? Right? (I used So Much Math to compute the correct font size to get the same apparent director name size since the aspect ratios are different, and the X size on Twitter is constant, but not on my blog. I’m so proud.) It changed to:

Ack! Gasp! Sad!

So you’d think there’d be a way to customise the twittering in the Jetpack settings? I looked and I looked, and I found nothing.

Reader, you’ll never guess what I did next: I moved the site from WordPress.com to a self-hosted DigitalOcean droplet.

It’s probably more expensive, and it’s definitely a whole lot more work, but I just can’t deal.

I know, if you’re using a service like WordPress.com, you can’t expect to get everything your way, but there’s a feeling of being helplessly trapped in a system where you have no control over minor things — for instance, the snappy server-rendered WordPress dashboard suddenly becoming unavailable on some sites, and you have to use the slow, low-density React based interface, and having no way to switch back.

Oh, and not being able to post MP4s on a personal plan, which I just think is ridiculous — why force people to post enormous GIFs when MP4s are so much nicer and smaller? Yes, Automattic needs to make money, but that’s just churlish, these days.

So if anybody at Automattic is doing an A/B testing thing to determine the success of this Twittering feature, you can count my slightly lower invoice next month as a vote.

I Am So Observant

They’ve been … grinding away at the stairs in this building for the last few days. The house is from the late 1800s, and (apparently unusually) the tiles in the stairwell are made from concrete, not ceramics. So they’re porous, and grow ever-more dirty over the years?

I’m not an expert. I didn’t know that this was a thing.

So they’re “cleaning” the tiles (i.e., taking off the top layer) with a grinding thingie.

But I came home now and looked at the tiles and though “well, that was a lot of noise for no change at all”, and then I noticed that they hadn’t done the corners yet:

I guess… that’s… a slight difference? No?

I’m so observant.