Shared posts

18 Sep 16:50

Apple's Patriot-Act-detecting "warrant canary" dies

by Cory Doctorow

It's been less than a day since the company published its new, excellent privacy policy -- but Gigaom has noticed that the latest Apple transparency report, covering Jan 1-Jun 30 2014, has eliminated the line that says that the company has received no secret Patriot Act "section 215" requests, which come with gag orders prohibiting companies from discussing them. Read the rest

03 Sep 16:49

Texas Instruments' wildly successful, wildly overpriced calculator

by David Pescovitz

According to the Washington Post, Texas Instruments owns 93 percent of the US market for graphic calculators thanks to its ubiquitous TI-84 model, a ridiculously high profit margin product that hasn't been updated much for a decade.

02 Sep 04:00

September 02, 2014

01 Sep 23:30

Bitcoin For Kids

by drew


The “Bitcoin For Kids Trilogy” is a book series which claims to teach children how to run a business using Bitcoin. Considering that many of the top Bitcoin advocates have had their Bitcoins stolen through software attacks, this doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea. Coupled with the fact that the primary uses for Bitcoin continue to be gambling, illegal pornography, guns, and drugs, it seems like probably the worst thing you could encourage your child to do on the computer. But, hey, if you think your nine-year-old should be communicating with Russian gun-runners on the deep web, go for it.

01 Sep 04:00

September 01, 2014

Just a reminder, the Pluto shirt is available a little while longer.
20 Aug 22:31

Security researchers buy pornoscanner, demonstrate how to sneak in guns & bombs

by Cory Doctorow

My boyfriend's research on boing boing

Researchers from UCSD, the U Michigan, and Johns Hopkins will present their work on the Rapiscan Secure 1000 at Usenix Security tomorrow; the Secure 1000 isn't used in airports anymore, but it's still in courts, jails, and government security checkpoints (researchers can't yet get their hands on the millimeter machines used at airports). Read the rest
29 Aug 04:00

August 29, 2014


Can I just print this out and give it to all my advisees?

29 Aug 15:07



26 Aug 00:32

For years, NSA shared massive amounts of surveillance data with domestic law enforcement

by Xeni Jardin
"The National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a 'Google-like' search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept." Ryan Gallagher has more.
22 Aug 19:06

Giant rubber duck joins tall ships festival off Los Angeles coast

by Xeni Jardin

I went to this thing today. The duck was very large.

Giant inflatable rubber duck installation by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman floats past the Battleship Iowa through the Port of Los Angeles as part of the Tall Ships Festival, in San Pedro

Over a dozen tall ships and a 6-story-high Rubber Duck sailed into the Los Angeles harbor Wednesday, kicking off the Tall Ships Festival LA. Read the rest

26 Aug 19:00

gwnne: my partner tried to call me a sweetheart the other day...

by iamacollectionofmiscellanyandtea


my partner tried to call me a sweetheart the other day but he misspelled it and I read it as “sweetbeard” and then I decided that this is what dwarf couples call each other

so, naturally, here are two dwarves on a date

25 Aug 00:07


21 Aug 18:10

sttngfashion: Reader Claire sent us this awesome photo of “24th...


Reader Claire sent us this awesome photo of “24th Century Casualwear” that is basically 100% perfect. As she explains it: “I met all the basic requirements: asymmetrical hemlines; color blocking; secondary colors; inappropriate fabrics (the top is made of wool felt); and weird straps that don’t serve an obvious purpose.” This color story of dried-blood brown, deep mustard, and Eddie Bauer 1997 Hunter Green is absolutely something we’d see on one of the Enterprise’s non-uniformed denizens.

I also LOVE the little “purse” she made to go with it! Claire says: “I designed the labels on my computer and had them printed on bumper sticker stock; the black lines are Chartpak tape, which is what they used to do all those lines on props and sets on the show.”

A+ COSPLAY, CLAIRE. You are ready for a casual coffee date at Ten Forward.

I love the idea of making casual wear based on the cues of Starfleet uniforms.  Super rad!

21 Aug 04:00

August 21, 2014

19 Aug 21:56

Sunil Dutta Tells It Like It Is About American Policing

by Ken White

Sunil Dutta, a "professor of homeland security" at Colorado Tech University, was an LAPD cop for 17 years. Today, the Washington Post ran his column explaining how citizens should interact with the police.

First, Dutta talks about the challenges cops face from rude civilians:

Working the street, I can’t even count how many times I withstood curses, screaming tantrums, aggressive and menacing encroachments on my safety zone, and outright challenges to my authority. In the vast majority of such encounters, I was able to peacefully resolve the situation without using force. Cops deploy their training and their intuition creatively, and I wielded every trick in my arsenal, including verbal judo, humor, warnings and ostentatious displays of the lethal (and nonlethal) hardware resting in my duty belt. One time, for instance, my partner and I faced a belligerent man who had doused his car with gallons of gas and was about to create a firebomb at a busy mall filled with holiday shoppers. The potential for serious harm to the bystanders would have justified deadly force. Instead, I distracted him with a hook about his family and loved ones, and he disengaged without hurting anyone. Every day cops show similar restraint and resolve incidents that could easily end up in serious injuries or worse.

Note how Dutta unsubtly conflates genuinely dangerous things — like threatening to set off a gas bomb — with curses, "tantrums," and "outright challenges to my authority." This sleight-of-hand miscategorization is how cops convince us they need the power to order us to refrain from gathering in one place to protest or put away that menacing cell phone or stop being developmentally disabled around them. See, cops know what is dangerous, and if you say they shouldn't be able to tell you not to do whatever they say is dangerous, you're really saying you should be allowed to set off gasoline bombs at the mall.

We are still learning what transpired between Officer Darren Wilson and Brown, but in most cases it’s less ambiguous — and officers are rarely at fault. When they use force, they are defending their, or the public’s, safety.

"Rarely" is an empirical term; Dutta does not cite evidence. Certainly cops are very rarely deemed responsible by the justice system for use of force. But a rather rather large number of people are killed by police every year; we don't know exactly how many, and we have no reliable resource to test law enforcement asserts that the killings are justified. Never mind lesser violence, like tasing and pepper spraying people, or things not classified as uses of force, like forcible torture and rape of suspects under the guise of "investigation," or situations where police got innocent people killed through idiocy.

But this is Dutta's main point:

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

Note now nicely this dovetails with Dutta's first point. First, Dutta gets to decide what is dangerous and what he can order you to cease doing. Because gas bombs! Second, if you keep doing it, that's a tasing. Or a beating. Or a shooting.

Dutta's message is this: a cop can always tell you what to do, and you have to take it, or else. (The "else" is violence.)

We have a justice system in which you are presumed innocent; if a cop can do his or her job unmolested, that system can run its course. Later, you can ask for a supervisor, lodge a complaint or contact civil rights organizations if you believe your rights were violated. Feel free to sue the police! Just don’t challenge a cop during a stop.

This is either blissfully naive or breathtakingly dishonest. Do we have a justice system? By name, yes. Is it effective in deterring cops from abusing citizens or punishing them when they do? No. If you go and ask that supervisor to lodge a complaint, better have a lawyer's phone number, because you may get threatened and harassed. If you hope the cop will be charged criminally for misbehavior, you're going to be waiting a very long time for no result. When it comes to breaking the law, the system treats you one way and cops another.

But Dutta's rationales are mere window dressing. His core message is this:

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you.

The outrageous thing is not that he says it. The outrageous thing is that we accept it.

Would we accept "if you don't want to get shot, just do what the EPA regulator tells you"? Would we yield to "if you don't want your kid tased, do what the Deputy Superintendent of Education tells you"? Would we accept "if you don't want to get tear gassed, just do what your Congressman tells you?" No. Our culture of individualism and liberty would not permit it. Yet somehow, through generations of law-and-order rhetoric and near-deification of law enforcement, we have convinced ourselves that cops are different, and that it is perfectly acceptable for them to be able to order us about, at their discretion, on pain of violence.

It's not acceptable. It is servile and grotesque.

Sunil Dutta Tells It Like It Is About American Policing © 2007-2014 by the authors of Popehat. This feed is for personal, non-commercial use only. Using this feed on any other site is a copyright violation. No scraping.

17 Aug 07:24

Norwegian atheist's velicoraptor trike

by Cory Doctorow

This guy is probably an asshole but man I want a dino bike.

Norwegian artist Markus Moestue pedalled it around the countryside to protest "the dogmatic religious education of children."

Crossing the Bible Belt [Markus Moestue]

(via JWZ)

17 Aug 04:00

August 17, 2014

Only 5 days left to submit for BAHFest!
14 Aug 16:48

Industrial cake-decorating robot

by David Pescovitz

Bakery equipment manufacturer Unifiller's robot can frost and decorate a cake much more efficiently than you. (via Laughing Squid)

14 Aug 19:11

All beer labels have to be approved by one guy, and he's a nutcase

by Rob Beschizza
A man named Kent "Battle" Martin is the "Beer Bottle Dictator", said to be loathed by the business for his capricious and arbitrary decisionmaking. Read the rest
08 Aug 14:25

97p shop slashes tags to 95p in price war with 99p shop

by Rob Beschizza

If you click through to the American dollar store story it's basically "poor people - not as wacky as I hoped" and it's really gross.

2013-07-17 14.10.38.jpg  richard green 99p shop Richard Green took this shot of discount stores on an ultra-competitive high street in Barking, England. Given the greater purchasing power of a pound, one assumes prices could fall quite a ways before attaining true American "dollar store" minimalism.
06 Aug 17:39

The most awesome party west Michigan has ever seen

by Mark Frauenfelder

Matthew says: "Mr. James Taylor is interviewed about his epic "Party of the Century" in west Michigan. I particularly like the guest at about 30 seconds into the interview."

24 Jul 07:15

Great video explainer: Vint Cerf on ICANN and NTIA

by Cory Doctorow

The "father of the Internet" explains why the Congressional posturing and global freakout about the US National Telecommunications and Information Administration stepping back from management of the Internet domain name system is misplaced. Read the rest

25 Jul 16:47

Video: computer hacking in 1980s movies

by David Pescovitz

"80s Computer Hacking: A Supercut." List of movies below: (more…)

30 Jul 15:29

Perfectly-timed photos

by David Pescovitz

A fantastic collection of photos taken at perfect moments, mostly culled from Reddit. Read the rest

21 Jul 14:43

If Facebook Was A Guy

FACEBOOK: Hi, I’m Facebook.
ME: Nice to meet you, I’m Ryan.
FACEBOOK: What’s your last name? Where do you live? When were you born? What’s your phone number? Is that work or mobile? Can I have your work number too?
ME: Facebook, I just met you.
FACEBOOK: This is what friendship is to me.


ME: Hey, you know what’d be lots of fun? If we had a picnic!
FACEBOOK: Hey, you know what’d be lots of fun? If you told me the names of every single person you know!


FACEBOOK: Hey Ryan, do you know this person?
ME: That’s Sarah. I haven’t spoken to her for years.
FACEBOOK: Okay, here’s a shot of her bedroom and some pictures of her children as they sleep.


FACEBOOK: Hey Ryan, do you know this person?
ME: I… maybe? I may have seen him at a party.
FACEBOOK: He likes The Big Bang Theory. You wanna be friends, right?
ME: No.
FACEBOOK: I’ll ask you to be friends with him every time I see you again for the next six months.


FACEBOOK: Your friends went to the beach. Do you have any comments on these pictures of your friends at the beach?
ME: Huh?
FACEBOOK: I’m showing their swimsuit pictures to everyone. Do you like them? You can tell me if you like them. It’s fine if you like them.
ME: They’re… okay, I guess?
FACEBOOK: Okay, I just told them and everyone they know that you like their swimsuit pictures.


MY FRIEND STEVE: Hey, Facebook just said we’re not friends anymore? What the hell, Ryan?
ME: Huh?
FACEBOOK: Hah hah hah


NSA: Hey Facebook, what can you tell us about Ryan?
FACEBOOK: Age, interests, relationships, activities, where he was last night, what he looked like while he was there, the last five places he’s lived - what do you want?
NSA: That’ll be great, thanks. Do we need a warrant?
FACEBOOK: Nah, just make a fake account and friend someone who is friends with Ryan. That’s good enough for me!
NSA: Hah hah hah


FACEBOOK: Hey, did you know your aunt is racist?
ME: I… no?
FACEBOOK: Here’s something they wrote about “the foreigners”.
ME: Why would you think I’d want to see this?
FACEBOOK: Do you like what you see? You can tell me if you like it. It’s fine if you like it.


FACEBOOK: Hey, this corporation wants to engage with you.
ME: What? No.
FACEBOOK: They paid me money so you’re going to listen to them whether you want to or not.
CORPORATION: Hi, are you getting married? Do you want to buy diamonds? You mentioned diamonds earlier so you should buy our diamonds.
ME: I was talking about the James Bond movie, Diamonds Are Forever.
CORPORATION: We can sell you that too.
ME: Wait, how did you know I was talking about that in the first place?
FACEBOOK: Hah hah hah


ME: Facebook, I don’t want to be friends anymore. Forget everything I ever told you about myself.
ME: Facebook, did you delete everything?
FACEBOOK: I did. Sorry to see you go.
ME: …
ME: …Facebook, if I said I wanted to be friends again, what would you say?
FACEBOOK: Here’s all your old shit again! I never deleted anything!
FACEBOOK: Hah hah hah

15 Jul 18:37

#599: It’s awkward when I run into my former students. How can I get better at these interactions?

by JenniferP

I like this question/answer in general, but am mostly sharing for the "awkward stories", all of which I can imagine happening with my students. Except I would handle them with far less grace.

Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall with text "Professor McBadass"

There is more to teaching and life than having a good small-talk game.

Dear Captain Awkward,

This question is not so much about a single major situation or a crisis as it is about a recurring, if minor, situation that I encounter again and again. I am a graduate student at a medium-sized research university where graduate students do a lot of teaching. As a result, I encounter former students on campus on a very regular basis. I hope very much to keep teaching college students long-term, though who knows what my future holds.

The problem I have is this. My classes are often fairly popular with students, in part because my teaching persona is very warm and approachable, and in the classroom, I am good at not taking myself too seriously and putting other people (i.e. students) at ease. In real life I am none of those things: I am awkward, introverted, and ill-at-ease with social acquaintances, and I overread Every. Damn. Detail. of routine social interactions. I often feel that students who run into me in public social settings (at coffee shops, libraries, etc.) are surprised by what they perceive as a change in my affect, and that–put bluntly–I make them feel uncomfortable when they greet me after our class is over. I hate that. I feel I talk too long, or not long enough, or that I greet them when they’d rather avoid me, or that I avoid them when they’d rather greet me.

I should say that, while many college instructors resist or resent outside encounters with students, I don’t feel that way at all. I enjoy keeping up with former students. Even more importantly, I think that students at my large, cold, competitive institution need as many one-on-one adult contacts as they can get, and that it’s important for them to feel like they are part of a supportive social network made up of people of many different ages. I think that having good, positive, low-key, supportive encounters–not with every single student, but with students who actually want to say “hi” or catch up briefly in passing–is an important part of my job. But I’m not good at it.

I’m asking you because I know you are a college professor, and I imagine that–like me–you have a lot of students who would like to keep in touch, or who check in when you pass them in the hallway. Any advice on how to make these encounters productive, or at least comfortable?

Wants to Be That Supportive Former Teacher

Giles and Buffy from the Band Candy episode. He's smoking and dressed ridiculously.

Librarian by day, dorkus malorkus by night.

Thanks for this letter. You’re describing a situation that comes up in my life a lot, and it’s also something I deal with without necessarily thinking about it. Metacognition time!

In and around class, there is a structure and a hierarchy that governs interactions between students and instructors. One aspect of it is that the instructor will have an open door policy (literally, with office hours), and the instructors will often set explicit rules around how and when communication should happen (email only, texts are fine until 9pm but not on weekends, etc.) This is important to keep in mind: Different institutions and different disciplines will have different cultures and vastly different expectations about how “friendly” and/or accessible professors are supposed to be and how much they are expected to interact with students. At a certain kind of small school the expectation might be that students have your home number and that you’ll take calls anytime. In another place “come to office hours or make an appointment, otherwise, work it out yourself” might be the expectation. I’m sure it would not surprise you that expectations are heavily skewed by gender, race, and age and that double-standards prevail in deciding who is “a gruff but beloved eccentric” or “focused and professional” vs. “Unavailable and uncaring.”

After the class is over, a lot of the bones of the professor-student relationship structure stay in place. For instance, former students will sometimes drop by current office hours or run into me on campus and want to catch up, or speed-pitch an idea, or ask a question about navigating the institution, and that’s mostly great. I like knowing about what films they are making now and bragging on their successes, I don’t mind writing recommendation letters at all, and I like feeling part of a friendly community that goes on after the class is over. Since filmmaking is collaborative, I often see former students again and again as my fellow crew members on shoots.  I’ve had to set boundaries about not reading screenplays not written in my class because if I said yes I would literally never do anything else, and that’s been met with disappointment but understanding. The culture of my institution is very informal. Students call us by first names, everyone dresses very casually, and aside from some obvious age differences, a stranger coming into a classroom could be forgiven for not knowing which person is the instructor. At another institution, as a young female instructor I might take pains to dress more formally and behave more formally while I learned the lay of the land, but for now it’s not even a noticeable leap to code switch from instructor role to regular person role.

Outside of on-campus interactions, social media is where I have the most interactions with former students. Lots of schools have policies about how this is supposed to work, mine doesn’t have one that covers part-time instructors, so this is my own policy: I don’t friend-request former students, period. I only accept requests from students after graduation or in some cases after they’ve completed the portion of the curriculum I teach in, so we know for sure that I won’t be their teacher again. I do it with the caveat that Facebook, etc. is my personal space for my personal interactions, views, politics, etc.; I’m not representing the school, and we’re all just humans here. And, where it gets a little weird, I only accept requests from students that I personally like* and want to be in touch with after the class. It has to be mutually voluntary, or else it’s a no-go. Over time, we find a flow that feels right. Depending on how the algorithm is feeling today, we might never actually interact there. Or, if we do, I might comment on their latest films and film-related stuff they share, congratulate them on big life events, and send internship and job postings or interesting film-related links the way I would with anyone I know from a professional context, but I leave their day-to-day social stuff mostly alone. I completely ignore posts about religion, politics, sex, drugs, drinking, etc. or anything where a comment from me might get contentious or sound parental, and I try to watch my snark factor. We’re in this age where online identities are hybrid and we’re using a single platform like Facebook or Twitter to interact with people we know from many contexts, and I think it’s a good idea sometimes to ask whether you are the intended audience for a given post before diving in.

As for the rest of it, remember when you were a kid and you ran into your teachers in a context outside of school and it was the weirdest thing? Teachers don’t….sleep at the school? They go to concerts and buy groceries? Two of my high school teachers fell in love and got married while I was a student there, and now I try to imagine them dating in our tiny town and my heart goes out to them for all the times they must have run into students when out together but before their relationship was public.”Please open your books to page 150” (THEY KNOW) “And let’s do the first 5 problems as a speed-quiz right now. You have 15 minutes.” (THEY DEFINITELY KNOW)

When your students run into you outside of class, one reason it might feel awkward is they are very likely doing a swift mental recalculation, trying to place you in context, and you are doing the same to them. “Whoa, who is that? That’s…okay…um, hi! I see you also…eat…breakfast?” You’re neither of you in the modes you usually wear to communicate with one another, and it takes a second for brain and mouth to sync up. I think that might generate a lot of the anxiety and awkwardness you feel, but I think it’s happening just as much to the student in those interactions.

Awkward Story Time: Once I was all dressed up to go to a friend’s drag show, wearing lot of makeup and a halter top that a friend had screen-printed for me that said “Classy Earl’s House of Class and Tits” (you could also see a bit more of the actual tits than would normally be on display), in the company of several drag performers who were also dressed to the nines. On the same train was one of my former students, his parents, and his grandparents, in town for Parent’s Weekend. He spotted me and his face lit up and he started moving toward me to introduce me to his folks. It turns out that it is hard to shake someone’s hand while crossing your arms over your chest, but it can be done.

Awkward Story Time: Once I was on the eL at 2 am and I ran into a former student. After exchanging hellos we had one of the most awkward and stilted conversations in recorded history, because once we acknowledged each other it’s like we had sealed our fate and had to talk but didn’t really have anything to talk about. After a few minutes I said “It’s really nice to see you, but I’m tired and having a hard time thinking of stuff to say” and he laughed and said “Meeeeee toooooo” and then we sat in silence and I pulled out a book and he did too and this is why you should always carry a book.

Awkward Story Time: Once right after I got done teaching a class I went to lunch at a place next door and basically the whole class had gone to lunch together at that place, too, and it was like, “do I leave oh no they’ve spotted me now we have to talk” and they were like “Hi Jennifer!” and I said “Hello!” and then I think I paused a bit too long before automatically leaving so one of them said “Well, this is awkward” and I said “Yes, for me too” and then I remembered an urgent errand that I had to run at the Trader Joe’s across the street. I’m sure they laughed as soon as I was out of earshot, but I also laughed all the way to the grocery store. What was that, even?

Awkward Story Time: In production classes, once we’re well into shooting, I sometimes give out my cell phone number so that students can text me from location if they run into an emergency on set. Once a student sent me a 2 a.m. text offering to do some things. Private things. Described with a level of detail one would expect from a talented writer and visual artist. I wrote back “Hi (studentname), thanks but no. Maybe recheck the # you were sending to?” 10 horrible minutes later I got a text that said “wrong jennifer” and another one that said “sorry” (which I imagine happening in the smallest and most pitiful possible voice) and when I saw him in class the following week he wore his hoodie basically like this:

A still image from the show Arrow, where the character is shooting an arrow and has a hood pulled to hide his face.

I obviously did not mention it and by the end of the semester his hoodie was more like this:

Arrow in a slightly less covered-up hood

See? It can always get awkwarder. So let’s talk about the interactions you are having and most likely to have, and see if we can’t generate some scripts.

If you’re in the library working, or in a cafe, and you spot former students, let them be the ones to approach you. If they do not, but they do see you, it’s more than okay to just smile/nod/wave/acknowledge them somehow and then go back to your work or your meal or whatever. The most likely scenario is that they respect and understand that you’re busy and just want to get on with their own stuff. If you feel like it, swing by their table for a brief hello if you get up for a bathroom break or on your way out. This can literally be “Hi, nice to see you” as you walk by. If they do approach you, have a short conversation. You can ask them how they are doing. If you like, you can tell them briefly what you’re working on and how you are doing. It’s good sometimes to reset the expectations a bit, like, when we were in class we focused 100% on your work, but I also have my own work that is important to me the way yours is important to you.

At some point, you should take steps to end the conversation. I think this is one of the sources of awkwardness that is present. You still have an aura of authority about you left over from being their teacher, so some students will want some sort of permission from you to disengage, because they are worried about being rude to you and they don’t know how to end the conversation either. Other students will treat all interactions with you like extended Office Hours, where the Starbucks line or the library or the subway ride is a chance for them to ask you questions and discuss their work and their lives, without recognition that you might have your own reasons for being there and your own stuff to do. In both cases, you saying “Well, it’s nice catching up with you, but I do have to get back to my stuff. Good luck with (whatever)!” before YOU start feeling awkward and uncomfortable is a kindness, to them and to yourself. Undergraduate students are also learning how to adult at the same time they are learning about everything else, so cut them and yourself some slack. They might do awkward stuff, you might have to actively model a constructive way of interacting. You do actually know how to do this, because you do it when you’re in professor mode, so don’t let the idea that you are “naturally” geeky or introverted stop you.

If you get the vibe that a former student really had more to say or needed some more TLC than you could afford during whatever random sighting you had, you can always follow up by email: “Hello, I was very glad to run into you in the library the other day. If you’d like to continue our conversation, my office hours this semester are (schedule). Please stop by whenever you like, or make an appointment, I’d like to hear more about/ tackle your questions about/take a look at your thesis/walk you through the next slate of classes in the program when I can give you my full attention.” That’s an actually supportive and caring way to respond, and probably more useful in the end than trying to do serious listening or advising when you’re distracted with your life, but it also has some professional boundaries around it. If they never stop by, then it probably wasn’t that urgent, but they’ll still appreciate that you cared.

Moral of all the Awkward Stories: Students are people. Teachers are people. People are awkward. You and your students can survive momentary passing awkwardness when you meet in public. You can be your introverted self, with a slightly more professional filter than you might use with peers or friends, and let go of the mantle of being the most supportive and inspiring and friendly teacher ever. If you make the interactions as comfortable as possible for you, these other humans will mostly get it and it will work out just fine, and if it doesn’t, one awkward encounter hopefully won’t undo all your good work. The class is over. The evals are in. Mostly your former students probably don’t think about you that much, and if they do you’ll probably never know about it. To be a teacher is to sow a lot of crops and never really know how or if they grew or what pieces of the class they retained.

Tom Cruise in sunglasses giving double finger-guns

Bonus Awkward Story Time: A friend of a friend did tech support in a fancy hotel with a lot of celebrity guests, and when at that job he had to help Tom Cruise connect to the internet, print some stuff off – a few minor things from time to time. Tom Cruise, as you may have guessed, is pretty intense. He makes deep eye contact and holds it and gives a firm handshake and uses your name a lot. The tech support guy was quick to say that he’s really nice, but that the niceness was so aggressive that it was a bit creepy, like you’re attending a one-man Tom Cruise show and you are the only audience member and you can’t leave because the Wi-Fi isn’t connecting and Tom Cruise is holding you prisoner in the tractor-beam of his gaze because he wants to make this moment PERFECT and MEMORABLE and everyone is feeling the strain of that. I’ve met Cruise, once long ago at a premiere in Prague (they were shooting Mission Impossible near my dorms when Interview With A Vampire came out, so he came to the premiere), and this bears out. He was really friendly to this awkward expat college student, but I think my hand is still a little mangled from the handshake and my soul still has a few spots missing from where his eyes scraped it when they looked into mine.

That is to say, Letter Writer, when you run into your former students you have a heightened sense of being visible and wanting very much to live up to a role. So does Tom Cruise. People will notice what he does, and they will talk about it amongst themselves (like we are doing now), so it’s not wrong or weird at all that he would be conscious of how he comes across or that he tries hard to be nice. But he should probably relax, like, a lot, because he will weird people out if he turns basic interactions into a show. He’s thinking way too much about himself and trying to hit his marks, to the point that he’s ignoring other people’s and probably his own comfort level in an attempt to give them what he thinks they want. This is a recipe for awkwardness anywhere; see also “the person who is trying to be the perfect date.” So, learn from this cautionary tale. It’s a good idea to be conscious of professional behavior when you run into students in other contexts, but It is okay and in fact preferable if you do not put on a “professor show” when you do. Look after your own comfort level in interactions. If you are a supportive teacher, they already know. If something misfires, it’s a big school, and there are other people who can also answer their questions and guide them through their education. Teachers don’t sleep at the school, and the students have to learn that sometime.


*This is mostly a non-issue, but not everyone is destined to be friends. Every now and then there is a student who follows me into the bathroom on class breaks to ask questions, and when I say “Can we talk about this later? I am busy right now” says “I don’t mind!” and keeps going, and when I say “Ok but I mind” and they say “Sorry” but keep talking anyway, graaaaaaaaaah! And then afterward I say gently “I want to answer your questions, but not in the bathroom” but then a few weeks later they do it AGAIN. It’s not even about not liking them necessarily, it’s just, hey, our interaction styles are really incompatible in a way that makes it a bad idea to have an ongoing, personal relationship.

15 Jul 04:06

pluckyyoungdonna: maryrobinette: shakespearean: A young...




A young Patrick Stewart as Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (1977-78)

Oh… Very much make it so.

ummmm whaaaat

*opens a heart shape locket, this picture is inside*

14 Jul 16:54

Artist arrested for distributing 3D file of her genitals

by David Pescovitz
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi was arrested for allegedly distributing the digital file of a 3D model of her genitals as part of project to make a vagina boat, reports The Independent. Read the rest
11 Jul 04:00

those incredibly, incredibly hot stars

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– Ryan

12 Jul 15:45

How to win pregnant, classic SF cosplay

by Cory Doctorow

An intrepid pregnant cosplayer had an inspired costume idea! It's from George Takei's Twitter feed, and a followup suggests that she's called Alison. (via Wil Wheaton)