Shared posts

22 Apr 16:45

Kickstarter Builds a School Library

by birdie

ABC Local: Kickstarter has been used to fund everything from new gadgets to space missions -- but in Berkeley, CA a group of kids just successfully used it to fund a library. A can-do attitude is at the core of the REALM Charter School's curriculum. Now in its third year, the school has classrooms full of technology and teachers full of energy, but no library. The eighth grade class is about to change that. "I really want the future students to love it because we worked really, really hard on this," student Agustina McEwen said. Call it a legacy, when they graduate, they're leaving behind a gift. They're calling it "x-space." "It's a space made out of x's and we use these x's to make

everything in here" Agustina said.

From the bookshelves, to the tables and chairs, it all started in their design class taught by a local group called Project H. "It's sort of humbling and awe inspiring to watch a 13-year-old build something that came from their head, that they prototyped on their desk, and now is full scale," Project H founder Emily Pilloton said.

23 Apr 11:21

Dive into the world of home libraries

by Blake

Dive into the world of home libraries

Is the book you are looking for too expensive or always unavailable in your local library? Would you like to save both money and nature and rather buy a used one?

BiblioFair helps you find publications available for sale, donation or lending in home libraries located close to you!

06 Apr 14:16

Watch The Unknown Known

by Jason Kottke

Errol Morris's latest documentary on Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, just came out in theaters. But it's also available right now to rent/buy on Amazon and iTunes. Here's a trailer if you need convincing.

Tags: Donald Rumsfeld   Errol Morris   movies   The Unknown Known
07 Apr 00:49

Cobain gone for 20 years

by Jason Kottke

Saturday was the 20th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain at the age of 27. Many have written of the anniversary, but I liked Dennis Cooper's piece published in Spin a few weeks after Cobain's death.

Cobain's work nailed how a ton of people feel. There are few moments in rock as bewilderingly moving as when he mumbled, "I found it hard / It's hard to find / Oh well, whatever / Nevermind." There's that bizarre, agonized, and devastating promise he keeps making throughout "Heart-Shaped Box": "Wish that I could eat your cancer when you turn black." Take a look in his eyes the next time MTV runs the "Heart-Shaped Box" video, and see if you can sort out the pain from the ironic detachment from the horror from the defensiveness.

(via NYT Now app)

Tags: Dennis Cooper   Kurt Cobain   music   Nirvana
07 Apr 16:15

First episode of Silicon Valley

by Jason Kottke

HBO put the entire first episode of Mike Judge's new show Silicon Valley up on YouTube:

Tags: Mike Judge   Silicon Valley   TV   video
15 Apr 18:31

The young eagle hunters of Mongolia

by Jason Kottke

Asher Svidensky's photographs from Mongolia of apprentice eagle hunters are fantastic. (FYI, they hunt with eagles, not for them.) Among Svidensky's subjects is a 13-year-old girl, Ashol Pan:

Mongolia Eagle Hunters

At the end of the photographing session, I sat down with her father and the translator to say my goodbyes, and I asked him this:

"How did it feel watching your daughter dressed in Kazakh uniform, on a mountain top, sending the eagle off and calling it back again?"

"Very good"

"And honestly... would you have considered truly training her? Would she become Mongolia's first ever female eagle huntress?"

I expected a straightforward "No" or a joking "Maybe", but after a short pause he replied:

"Up until two years ago my eldest son was the successor of the eagle hunting tradition in our family. Alas, two years ago he was drafted to the army, and he's now an officer, so he probably won't be back with the tradition. It's been a while since I started thinking about training her instead of him, but I wouldn't dare do it unless she asks me to do it, and if she will? Next year you will come to the eagle festival and see her riding with the eagle in my place."

From the father's answer I realized that the idea of women's participation in keeping the tradition is a possible future, but just like many other aspect of Mongolian life, it's an option which women will need to take on by themselves.

(via @rebeccablood)

Tags: Asher Svidensky   Ashol Pan   hunting   Mongolia   photography
16 Apr 13:23

Rumsfeld to IRS: taxes are too damn complicated

by Jason Kottke

Uh oh, Donald Rumsfeld and I agree on something. Each year, with his tax return, Rumsfeld sends a letter to the IRS explaining that neither he or his wife are sure of how accurate their taxes are because the forms and tax code are too complex. Here is this year's letter:

Rumsfeld Tax

If only he had been less certain of his accuracy in an even more complex situation, like, say the whole WMD/Iraq War thing.

Tags: Donald Rumsfeld   IRS   taxes
22 Apr 14:15

London traffic scenes from the 1890s

by Jason Kottke

Film shot of London street scenes, mostly from the 1890s and 1900s.

There's also a brief shot of Paris in 1900 right at the end. See also the extremely rare footage of Queen Victoria visiting Dublin in 1900. The Victorian era seems so long ago (and indeed she began her reign in 1837) but there she is on the modern medium of film. Yet another example of the Great Span.

Tags: London   Queen Victoria   video
07 Apr 00:46

Something Like a Star

by Pat

Tonight, Oot brought me a penny he’d found on the floor.

“Look,” he said. “It’s burned.”

Say something to us we can learn By heart and when alone repeat. Say something! And it says, 'I burn.'

It wasn’t a bad guess, everything said. A good guess, but wrong. It’s corroded.

For half a moment I thought about correcting him on this, but I didn’t.

Looking back, I could come up with some excuse for *why* I didn’t correct him. I could claim that corrosion is sort of like a slow chemical burning. But that would be bullshittery. The truth was, at that moment, it didn’t feel right to correct my boy. So I didn’t. I went with my gut.

“Maybe it got too close to the sun,” Oot said.

This was another good guess. Though it was probably wrong as well.

What pleased me is that my decision to keep my mouth shut paid such an immediate dividend.

If I’d told my boy the truth right away, he would have nodded and said, “Oh of course!” Or “Oh, I see!” And he would have gained a tiny fact. Namely, that a coin that looks like this is corroded. (Something he could have parroted back to me. But that he wouldn’t have understood in any meaningful way.)

But that’s not what happened. Instead, left to himself. His curiosity was engaged. He asked a question of himself, “How could this have gotten burned?”

Then he came up with an answer: It might have gotten to close to the sun.

This isn’t a bad guess. He knows fire would have to be pretty hot to burn metal. A match isn’t going to do it. What’s hotter than that? The sun.

And here’s the thing. He’s wrong. But the process he’s going though is good. What he’s actually doing, asking questions and attempting to figure out the answers, it’s the roots of rationality. The process he’s undertaking is the core of all true philosophy and science.

He looked at the penny again. “Actually,” He says. “It looks like moss.”

It’s called “verdigris,” I thought. It’s like rust, but it happens on copper instead of iron. Also, interesting fact, it’s mildly poisonous.

I thought that, but I kept my mouth shut.

Why? Because I am occasionally wise.

Because this is not the internet.

(Comic loveliness from the brilliant XKCD, of course.)

Because when a child comes to you in the full flush of discovery, brimming with excitement, correcting them is not the proper thing to do.

Because the truth is, facts can be small, sad things.

But learning to ask questions and guess at answers? That is the beginning of true understanding. Those are the bones of the world.

*     *     *

I have news. I’ll be posting about it as soon as I have internet in my house again. Stay tuned.

30 Mar 05:36

Happiness in a new old house

by Neil Gaiman
Tonight I can think
of nothing more perfect
than to read a new book,
as the log fire burns
and the rain beats down

01 Apr 05:15

My Giant, My Heart

by shreve

my giant my heart

I’ve had this blog on a photo-intermission because Frisco has been very sick. About a month ago, my vet – whose general bedside manner is Mr. Happy-Go-Lucky – told me to prepare for the worst. He didn’t expect Frisco to make it another week. I’ve been pretty much living in the barn, and everything in my life that I could put on pause, I have. I’ve been so sad and so scared and so dirty, but it’s also been a special time, in a weird way. Tragedy incinerates everything that is not important.

We don’t know what has caused Frisco’s decline. He recovered from foot rot in January, then this ailment came on a few weeks later. Blood tests, fecal tests, organ tests have not shed much light nor given us any definite answers, and his treatment has been varied, including everything from antibiotics to flower essences to, most interestingly, a magnet. I fed Frisco a very large, very strong, pill-shaped magnet as a measure against Hardware Disease, which may or may not be at the root of his illness. Cattle are indiscriminate eaters, and if a small piece of metal or wire or a nail or fencing staple is littered in a pasture and then baled into hay, a cow may inadvertently eat it. Once swallowed, the metal can puncture the stomach wall, nearby organs, cause infection – basically, wreak havoc within. Eating a magnet can help remedy this: the magnet draws the metal out of the stomach tissue (as long as it is not aluminum) and holds the offending piece tightly against the magnet at the bottom of the stomach, where it remains (they don’t poop it out). The magnet will also catch any future metal the animal may ingest.

The past few mornings, Frisco has been eager to leave the barn and go out to eat at the hay bunk with Daisy and Fiona. His weight loss has been severe and is very frightening, yet his eyes and spirit are bright and lively. His appetite has improved, though he is still weak and wobbly. This afternoon I was down at the corrals, leaning against the fence, watching him. He ate some hay. He drank some water. He lay down in the sun. I went over and sat next to him, leaning back against his massive shoulder. I stroked his cheek, timed his pulse rate with my phone. He was tired. He closed his eyes. And then he swooped his head around, wrapped his neck around my body, laid his head on my chest, and fell asleep.

frisco napping on me

{I wish I had a go go gadget arm to have captured this scene from a distance! Alas. This image is two overlapping photos spliced together, hence the “missing” corners.}


26 Mar 14:12

Weigh-in Wednesday: 290.2 lbs

by John Sousa
I've lost weight since I weighed myself a week ago. You'll have to take my word for it but I've lost between 1 and 4 pounds. From now on, though, Weigh-in Wednesday will be a regular feature: I'm trying to get healthy in all aspects of my life.

I started with my mental health at the beginning of the year but that's a discussion for another time but it's going well.

But my body is not cooperating. The huge weight gain happened in the year after I went up to 150mg of Zoloft, it's not uncommon. But while it addressed my anxiety (no panic attacks that whole time) by keeping my emotions bottled up, it did nothing to address the underlying despair, the wish for a peaceful, silent death by hanging. That's how I always fantasized it: a cord around my neck. Just imagining it would soothe me. I never made a plan, I never bought a rope or experimented with a belt or kitchen twine but as lie down to sleep if I was overwhelmed I'd think of that it would make me happy.

So getting a 269.89-Bipolar II Disorder  diagnosis and moving to the Seroquel has helped so much. The first month I didn't want to die. That was good. Then a week after stopping Zoloft the withdrawal effects (nausea, dizziness, vertigo) kicked in and that sucked ass. They went away after a week, and now instead of not wanting to die, which was a huge improvement, I want to live.

I'm freaking people out a little bit because I'm discovering/remembering that I'm passionate about things. I'm finding that my deep ambivalence about most things was maybe a symptom of my depression: who can muster to give a shit about something either way when you're sole focus is nodding and uh-huh-ing people along so they'll leave the house for the day, fuck yeah now I can go back to sleep.

So, as my Lenten Sacrifice I'm trying to get my body in shape. I got through a week of Focus T25 and I was having fun before my body started attacking me: my joints swole up, my ankles and knees popped as I stood or sat or walked around, and my hands and wrists especially ache and burn and hurt and are puffy and swollen. I went to my doctor and they gave me some blood tests which came back positive for the markers for Rheumatoid Arthritis. I checked my family history and my great-aunt June had it and my mom says she has and that wearing copper bracelets and anklets has cured it, which I really hope it has but it sounds to me like some homeopathy bullshit for people who don't have health insurance.

So they gave me an appointment for May 30, and I asked the lady, "What the hell am I supposed to do for the next 10 weeks?" and she said they'd call me back. Give me some fucking something. Drugs. Weed. Make it stop. Something.

I've changed my diet and I'm looking for yoga classes and I'll probably take water aerobics with the blue-hairs at the community pool.

At least I'll make friends.

When I was depressed my body hurt and it was fine, because I deserved it, I was a stupid lazy liar. I was comfortable in it: I could absorb the pain.

Now, as my brain heals, I'm deeply alienated from my body. It's trying to kick me out. I'm spending lots of time in waiting rooms now, hanging on, fighting back. Getting old.
26 Mar 09:00

A Picture-Book Like No Other

by Maria Popova

Yay! Moomin!

The gloriously illustrated story of an errand turned adventure turned existential parable.

The Moomin series by Swedish-Finn artist, writer, comic strip creator, and children’s book author Tove Jansson (1914–2001), recipient of the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Medal, is among the most imaginative storytelling of the past century. Partway between children’s books and comics, her lovable family of roundish white hippopotamus-like creatures have captivated generations since their birth in 1945. The crown jewel of the series is arguably the 1952 picture-book The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My (public library) — a playful and philosophical tale that falls somewhere between Øyvind Torseter’s The Hole (which was possibly inspired by Jansson) and Dr. Seuss, with a touch of Edward Goreyesque creaturely magic and Alice in Quantumland mind-bending. Parallels notwithstanding, Jansson’s singular sensibility makes this vintage treasure one of the greatest children’s books of all time, so unlike anything else that ever existed before or since that it inhabits a wholly different yet timelessly welcoming universe.

The story is driven by a clever what-comes-next guessing game as we follow little Moomintroll on an errand that turns into an adventure that turns into an existential parable. Moomintroll, brimming with the boundless optimism typical of Jansson’s Moomin family, sets out to help the distraught Mymble find her sister, Little My — an irreverent, independent-minded, sharp- and even acerbic-witted heroine who stands as the naughty but necessary anchor to the Moomin buoyancy. That dynamic — the eternal tussle between skepticism and openness that keeps life in balance — is one of the story’s powerful underlying themes, and yet it only amplifies rather than detracting from the joyful hopefulness of the overall message.

Beautifully illustrated and hand-lettered in rhythmic verse, the book features gorgeous and brilliantly placed die-cut holes, reminiscent of I Saw a Peacock with a Fiery Tail, which lend the story an enchanting quality that plays into our human restlessness for knowing what’s around the corner, cleverly reminding us that what we think we see is often a distortion of what actually is.

And while the book was Jansson’s first to be adapted for iPad, what screen could possibly replace the immeasurable tactile magic of this beautifully, thoughtfully designed paper masterpiece?

Tove Jansson with her Moomins in 1956. Photograph by Reino Loppinen.

The Book about Moomin, Mymble and Little My, translated into English by Sophie Hannah, is impossibly wonderful in its entirety. Complement it with a contemporary counterpart of Scandinavian storytelling sensibility, Øyvind Torseter’s The Hole, one of the best “children’s” books of 2013 (with scare-quotes for the reasons Tolkien so memorably outlined).

Thanks, Jad

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24 Mar 12:39

When 616 People Don’t Stop to Help a “Lost” Child

by lskenazy

Readers — Here’s an experiment carried out in London:


Would we stop to ask if she's ok?

Would you stop? Why or why not? 

A TV station had two little girls, 5 and 7, take turns looking lost in a large shopping center. Only one retiree stopped to ask if the child was okay.

Now, I don’t think that means every human who passed by the kids was and heartless OR afraid of being mistaken for a pedophile. I easily might have passed by, too, if I was in a hurry and barely noticed the child, or if she looked like she was playing a game, or if I assumed a parent was probably nearby. Nonetheless, I love this column by Carol Sarler, “The Price of Paedophile Hysteria,” on the fear that probably stopped at least some adults from intervening:

…The over-imaginative minds of adult Britain are in literally hysterical thrall to paedophilia, to the idea that danger lurks in the soul of every passing stranger, while the truth – you know, facts and suchlike – is rejected without reason.

I have lost count of the times that I have written that the number of abductions and deaths of children at the hands of strangers has remained constant since the Fifties (six or seven a year). Or pointed out that, given that our population has grown, this is effectively a reduction.

Or forcefully reiterated the dreadful reality that the physical risk to children is infinitely more likely to lie within their own homes. Nobody wants to know. They’ve got their bogeyman fixed firmly in their heads….

It is impossible to believe that in a civilised, compassionate society there weren’t many passers-by who wanted to help – yet too great was their fear of being thought to be a ‘kiddie-fiddler’, either by other passers-by or indeed by the little girl herself.

Pernicious as this fear is, it is growing apace. I have a friend who organises large festivals where, inevitably, children get lost.

Yet instructions to staff have become super-stern in recent years: if you see such a child, no matter how great their distress, you may not approach – and you certainly may not touch, so the instinctive  cuddle you ache to offer is a no-no.

Instead, they have to radio the location of the child to a central control, who will dispatch an ‘accredited’ member of staff to the scene. And if that means the child screams and panics for another 20 minutes? So be it.

Read her whole column here (it’s under the story of the experiment). And ponder whether we are making kids more safe or less with our predator obsession. – L

21 Mar 14:54

The overprotected kid

by Jason Kottke

On the reading list for this weekend is Hanna Rosin's cover story in the most recent issue of The Atlantic: The Overprotected Kid.

I used to puzzle over a particular statistic that routinely comes up in articles about time use: even though women work vastly more hours now than they did in the 1970s, mothers -- and fathers -- of all income levels spend much more time with their children than they used to. This seemed impossible to me until recently, when I began to think about my own life. My mother didn't work all that much when I was younger, but she didn't spend vast amounts of time with me, either. She didn't arrange my playdates or drive me to swimming lessons or introduce me to cool music she liked. On weekdays after school she just expected me to show up for dinner; on weekends I barely saw her at all. I, on the other hand, might easily spend every waking Saturday hour with one if not all three of my children, taking one to a soccer game, the second to a theater program, the third to a friend's house, or just hanging out with them at home. When my daughter was about 10, my husband suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult. Not 10 minutes in 10 years.

It's hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation. Actions that would have been considered paranoid in the '70s-walking third-graders to school, forbidding your kid to play ball in the street, going down the slide with your child in your lap-are now routine. In fact, they are the markers of good, responsible parenting. One very thorough study of "children's independent mobility," conducted in urban, suburban, and rural neighborhoods in the U.K., shows that in 1971, 80 percent of third-graders walked to school alone. By 1990, that measure had dropped to 9 percent, and now it's even lower. When you ask parents why they are more protective than their parents were, they might answer that the world is more dangerous than it was when they were growing up. But this isn't true, or at least not in the way that we think. For example, parents now routinely tell their children never to talk to strangers, even though all available evidence suggests that children have about the same (very slim) chance of being abducted by a stranger as they did a generation ago. Maybe the real question is, how did these fears come to have such a hold over us? And what have our children lost -- and gained -- as we've succumbed to them?

Tags: Hanna Rosin   parenting
24 Mar 14:18

The end of polio declared in India

by Jason Kottke

In 1988, India had over 200,000 cases of polio reported. For the past three years, they've had 0. At the end of this month, the WHO will announce the end of polio in India.

America experienced the height of polio in the 1940s and '50s, when about 35,000 people became disabled every year. Fear and panic spread and parents were known to warn their children to not drink from public water fountains, avoid swimming pools and stay away from crowded public places like movie theaters. Perhaps the most famous case of polio in America was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the first president with a significant physical disability.

The development of the Salk and Sabine vaccines helped lead to eradication of polio in the United States in 1979. In India, too, vaccination was critical.

"There were three keys to our success," Kapur says. "Immunize, immunize and immunize."

Vaccines. And now my kids don't die.

Tags: India   medicine   polio   vaccines
24 Mar 19:28

My Little Brony (or, My Little Pony really ISN'T Okay)

by John Sousa

Boom! John lays it down. CONSTANT VIGILANCE!

I'm sorry that this guy's son is worried about being bullied because he likes My Little Pony.

But how could he write this:

Women’s magazines and princess movies are still a horror show of female subjugation, but the battle against that involves encouraging girls to be as masculine as they want to be. “Strong is the new skinny,” etc. But men and boys are mostly shamed for expressing anything outside of the macho ideal.

But not recognize this?


What is that fairy horse girl with the high-heeled dominatrix boots?

This guy’s son is (maybe, potentially, how would we know if he won’t actually where it outside his house) shamed for “not conforming to the macho ideal.”

I’m sorry if I have to object that my daughters, the target audience for the commercial for toys that is the “My Little Pony” cartoon that his son so loves, are being sexualized at a young age.

Am I overreacting? Look at the “Suggested Age” in the Target Ad. Ages 5 and Up.

Fuck fashion magazines. My daughters are taught that this is attractive from Age 5.

And hey, when they’re done with “My Little Pony,” they can move onto Monster High. Brats. Barbie. By the time they’re old enough for Fashion Magazines, they may have already developed and eating disorder:

Doctors aren't certain what cause eating disorders. They suspect a combination of biological, behavioral, and social factors. For instance, young people may be influenced by cultural images that favor bodies too underweight to be healthy.

And don’t get me started on the Rape Culture we live in, where girls are taught that boys want them to dress a certain way to get them to notice them, but then when they’re raped, they’re blamed because they dressed so sexily.

And it’s selling these toys, not the “Six Elements of Harmony” that the author and his son thinks are so “great,” that are the point of “My Little Pony.”

By trying to connect his son’s wearing of a hoodie (again, not in public) to his dressing like Robert Smith in high school, he’s missing the point, entirely. The Cure and David Bowie and The New York Dolls (and, fuck, even fucking POISON) challenged traditional notions of masculinity and femininity with their appearance. If his son were to seriously challenge the sexist double standard, he would be wearing a halter top, micro tutu, and high heeled boots. Instead, he’s just putting money in Mattel’s pockets by buying a fucking hoodie that nobody but guests in his house and readers will see. It’s propping up, with his dollars and bullshit encomiums to the “Greatness” of the Six Elements of Harmony, the very feminine ideal (the opposite of his “Macho Ideal) he claims to abhor.  

And of course, my daughters have loved “My Little Pony,” although they inherited the old-school, non-sexualized version; this is before they evolved into “ Equestria Girls Twilight Sparkle dolls,” which are seemingly invented for Bronies to jerk off to.

And don’t EVEN get me started on the songs.

And no, I don’t prevent them playing with Barbie or Monster High, but I do have to be vigilant, and make an earnest effort to talk to my girls about body image and self-esteem and building healthy relationships.

16 Mar 20:23

10 Different Options to Create Online Posters

by Naomi Bates

Because of the technology that educators and students are using as well as the infrastructure being provided by school districts for devices, libraries and classrooms, more and more, are embracing the paperless society.  Although advertising with paper posters can still bring buzz, more and more people are looking at websites, both personal or professional, and what is posted on them.  With that in mind, here are the top 10 online poster creators you can use (in no particular order) **UPDATE AT BOTTOM FOR NEW SITE!!  Create your own poster to share, save, or print with already provided templates you can custom design.  Incorporates QR codes as the main theme in all templates.  No registration required.

Keep Calm-o-matic –  We all know the familiar Keep Calm posters.  Here’s a place you can create your own.  After creation, it is part of the many other public Keep Calm posters created.  You can post it on social media outlets as well as save it as a pdf.  Login only required if you’d like to keep your posters private.

Poster My Wall – www.postermywall.comCreate a poster by choose a background, and  adding anything from text to photos to clipart.  Also has a flickr search function.  Download it or share it on Facebook.  You can purchase higher quality downloads if you’d like to print.  No registration required

Canva –  This site not only allows you to create a poster, but you can also create many other things including a blog graphic, presentation or a card.  Choose from hundreds of different options but be aware that there are higher quality options that cost (typically $1.00 per graphic).  Share on social media outlets or save and publish online.  Registration required.

Picmonkey –  This isn’t just a photograph editor, it can create beautiful posters as well.  Add text, background, images and frames, then take it to the editor.  You can save to your desktop or share via social media outlets.  There are parts of the site that are premium and require payment but the free parts are more than enough to create beautiful posters.  Registration required.  

Lucid Press -  This is the more sophisticated poster maker that looks a lot like MS Publisher.  It allows for more freedom of creativity with many  different functionalities.  You can share it via social media, share the link or publish it online.  Registration is required.

Flyer Lizard -  Easy to create posters that already have the templates and backgrounds to work with.  All you need to supply is the text and photo if you choose to.  There’s an option to add a QR code or even an audio clip from SoundCloud.  You can share via social media or save it.  Registration required

Motivator -  We’ve all seen the motivational posters with the black frame and a motivational saying at the bottom (usually with a soaring eagle as a picture).  Here’s your chance to create your own motivational poster.  Upload images from your own photos, Facebook, or Flickr Account.  This is a premium account and registration is required

Bannersnack -  With a free account you can create a banner and download or embed it.  With the free account, you get 1GB of storage, gif only download, and no more than 10k views a day.  Registration is required and premium plans are available

Recite This -  Choose from an assortment of poster backgrounds by sliding through your options.  The only thing you need to create is your text.  Share it via social media, a permalink or email.  No registration required. 

Muzy (app) is available for Andoid, Iphone, Ipod, or Google Play.  Create a poster using your own photos from Facebook, photo album, or Google Images (be careful with this doesn't differentiate between Creative Commons and copy written images) and add text to create an online poster.  Share it via Instagram or Facebook.  Registration required.

Tackk -
 I discovered this website through the co-founder on Twitter, and LOVED it instantly!  Easy to use, easy to share, you have your choice of backgrounds, photos and information you supply.  While the format is set, the creativity is all yours! 
21 Mar 20:45

Don't help your kids with their homework

by Jason Kottke

Don't do your kid's homework. Try not to even help them that much. It's better for their development. And it's better for you not to have to relive your school years. That seems like sensible advice. Until all the other parents in the school start helping their kids on their homework. That's when you'll be tempted. But still, really, don't.

What they found surprised them. Most measurable forms of parental involvement seem to yield few academic dividends for kids, or even to backfire-regardless of a parent's race, class, or level of education.

Do you review your daughter's homework every night? Robinson and Harris's data, published in The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement With Children's Education, show that this won't help her score higher on standardized tests. Once kids enter middle school, parental help with homework can actually bring test scores down, an effect Robinson says could be caused by the fact that many parents may have forgotten, or never truly understood, the material their children learn in school.

Tags: education   parenting
19 Mar 23:41

Where Does Time Come From?

by Jessie Roberts
by Jessie Roberts

Dr. Demetrios Matsakis, the Chief Scientist for Time Services at the US Naval Observatory, addresses the question in a terrific short documentary:

(Hat tip: FlowingData)

20 Mar 15:25

When The Eiffel Tower Disappears

by Katie Zavadski
by Katie Zavadski

paris smog

On Monday, pollution in Paris got bad enough to warrant a response:

Using a system commonly used in China, vehicles with license plates ending in odd numbers are banned from the roads today. Tomorrow, it switches to those ending with even numbers. The length of the ban will depend on the change in pollution levels. The key type of pollution driving the ban (no pun intended) is PM10 particles, which are each fewer than 10 micrometers in diameter. “The safe limit is 80 microgrammes of PM10 particulates per cubic metre, but on Friday, the level peaked at 180 microgrammes prompting authorities to urge people to stay indoors as much as possible and to leave their cars at home,” The Guardian writes. To try to cut pollution levels, the government also offered free trips on public transit over the weekend and until the ban is over.

The ban was lifted after a day, when conditions started to ease up. Feargus O’Sullivan suggests that a long-term solution for Parisians may be more pricey:

What France really needs to do, according to a number of environmentalists, is slash its dependency on diesel-powered engines. An estimated 60 percent of French vehicles currently run on diesel. This higher than average level dates from the 1960s, when French governments promoted diesel in the mistaken belief that it was cleaner than gasoline. In fact, diesel has both higher carbon emissions and carcinogenic fine particles, the form of invisible pollution from which France is currently suffering a major spike. The noxiousness of diesel has led to a paradoxical debate where far-from-benign gasoline emissions have gained the perverse position of being perceived as the lesser of two evils. France’s heavy investment in diesel vehicles means that, to date, there’s been little effective pressure to reduce the country’s diesel dependency —even this year, Paris introduced 320 new diesel-powered public buses.

Previous smog-related coverage here.

(Photo via Damián Bakarcic)

20 Mar 20:00

Restoring Pleasure

by Katie Zavadski
by Katie Zavadski

About a decade ago, members of the Raëlian religion began raising funds for a so-called Pleasure Hospital in Burkina Faso, which would restore the clitorises of women who had undergone female genital mutilation. The hospital had been slated to open in early March, but it was blocked by the local government. Sue Lloyd-Roberts reports that the American surgeons, led by gender-confirmation surgery expert Marci Bowers, moved their operating room to a local doctor’s clinic:

Bebe, a 24-year-old, is among the first. Is she scared? “No, I am not scared,” she says. “I am just angry. They cut me when I was four and it still hurts. Whenever my husband approaches, I just don’t want him.”

Bebe is given a local anaesthetic for the procedure which is a surprisingly simple one. Bowers investigates to see how badly Bebe has been mutilated. “No matter how severe it is,” Bowers explains, “we can always find the clitoris.” Although the visible part of the clitoris is cut off during FGM, it remains below the surface. “Voilà,” Bowers says as she finds it and pulls it up. “The clitoris now looks amazingly normal, part of an unaltered female anatomy.”

By the end of the first day, the team have “restored” eight women. The word is getting out, beyond the borders of Burkina Faso. By day three, women from Senegal, Mali and even Kenya come to the clinic to ask for the operation.

But the government swiftly canceled the licenses of the foreign doctors:

An official at the Health Ministry tells me that the opening was cancelled because Clitoraid [the organization behind the Pleasure Hospital] had not provided essential documents. All of which sounds reasonable until the Health Minister tells another journalist that “medical organisations should be focused on saving lives and not advertising their religion in an attempt to convert vulnerable people.”

Wendy Syfret talks to Clitoraid spokeswoman Nadine Gary:

How central is orgasm to Raëlian philosophy?

Pleasure is the most important part of the Raëlian philosophy, but the central part is simply explaining that life on planet Earth was created scientifically by people like us. Ladies like us and men who were created in their image. When you enjoy your clitoris, you can think that women creators have a clitoris just like you and have created you in their image, so you can enjoy yourself like they enjoy themselves. So is orgasm central to the Raëlian philosophy? Yes. You know we don’t masturbate every second of the day, but we don’t shy from it.

Previous Dish coverage of FGM here.

18 Mar 19:21

Busting the mattress racket

by Jason Kottke

Maybe it doesn't belong in the annals of great literature, but Seth Stevenson's Slate piece on mattresses from November 2000 has been stuck in my brain for more than a decade. Mattresses are a scam, says Stevenson:

Is there a more maddening industry? They confuse us with silly product names (the Sealy Posturepedic Crown Jewel Fletcher Ultra Plush Pillowtop or the Sealy Posturepedic Crown Jewel Brookmere Plush?). They flummox us with bogus science ("pocketed coils"? "Microtek foundations"? "Fiberlux"?). And they weigh us down with useless features (silk damask ticking?). It's like buying a used car, and almost as expensive -- I've seen mattresses going for $7,000. What's a consumer to do?

The secret to mattress shopping is that the product is basically a commodity. The mattress biz is 99-percent marketing. So just buy the cheapest thing you can stand and be done with it, because they're pretty much all the same. And that's all you need to know. But do read on -- the world of sleep products is quite fascinating, and I'd like to share it with you.

So when I had to do some mattress shopping recently, I remembered reading a thread on Hacker News about Tuft & Needle. T&N is a start-up that, in the parlance of Silicon Valley VCs, is disrupting the mattress industry by offering products of similar quality at dramatically lower prices with an emphasis on customer service. Recode recently ran a piece on the company and their founders.

Park and Marino, who previously worked together at Los Angeles tech startup Mulu, turned to mattress-making in 2012 after Marino was disappointed by a $3,000-plus mattress. So the two posed as the owners of a small mattress store and called around to vendors to uncover the real cost of making Marino's expensive purchase. The final calculation -- a total of about $300 -- confirmed their suspicions: There was significant opportunity to improve.

When I looked on Amazon, Tuft & Needle's mattresses were, as billed, the top-rated mattresses on the site. So I bought one. (I also bought a DreamFoam bed, which is even cheaper than Tuft & Needle and also highly rated.) The beds from both companies come rolled up and vacuum packed. Once you puncture the thick plastic packaging, air comes whooshing back into the mattress, inflating to its proper size over a matter of hours. This process sounds exactly like the repressurization of an airlock from any number of sci-fi movies. As far as comfort goes, I can't tell the difference between these beds and the $1700 memory foam mattress from Design Within Reach.

So yeah, if you're in the market for a mattress, do some poking might just save a few hundred dollars. (Note: these beds are memory foam beds, which are not everyone's cup of tea. I switched to one several years ago and love it. YMMV.)

Tags: business   Seth Stevenson   Tuft and Needle
20 Mar 16:02

Medieval maps from the 11th to 14th centuries

by Jason Kottke

From Retronaut, a collection of maps dating from 1000-1300s.

Maps Before Maps

How were maps perceived 1000 years ago? Did they blow people's minds with physically impossible views of cities, states, and continents? Could a circa-1200 scholar imagine himself looking down from several miles in the air and seeing the same thing he was seeing on a map?

Tags: maps
18 Mar 09:00

Meanwhile: An Illustrated Love Letter to the Living Fabric of a City and Our Shared Human Longing to Be Understood

by Maria Popova

A tender reminder that however vast our differences, we are bonded by the yearning to feel seen for who we are.

I’ve written before that every city needs a love letter. Though Meanwhile, in San Francisco: The City in Its Own Words (public library) by illustrator extraordinaire and frequent Brain Pickings contributor Wendy MacNaughton — who gave us the wonderful Lost Cat, one of the best books of 2013 — may be “about” a city, in the sense that the raw inspiration was drawn from the streets of San Francisco, it is really about the city, any city — about community, about subcultures and belonging, about the complexities of gentrification, about what it means to have individual dignity and shared identity.

Like a modern-day Margaret Mead armed with ink and watercolor, not a critic or commentator but an observer and amplifier of voice, MacNaughton plunges into the living fabric of the city with equal parts curiosity and compassion, gentleness and generosity, wit and wisdom, and emerges with a dimensional portrait painted with honesty, humor, and humility.

Beneath the individual stories — of the bus driver, of the hipsters, of the old men in Chinatown, of the librarian, of the street preacher — lies a glimpse of our shared humanity, those most vulnerable and earnest parts of the human soul that we often overlook and dismiss as we reduce people to their demographic and psychographic variables, be those race or gender or socioeconomic status or subcultural identification. Embedded in these simple, moving stories is MacNaughton’s tender reminder that there is no greater gift we can give each other than the gift of understanding, of looking and really seeing, of peering beyond the persona and into the person with an awareness that however different our struggles and circumstances may be, we are inextricably bonded by the great human longing to be truly seen for who we are.

We meet the Mission Hipsters, who might as well be the Williamsburg Hipsters*, or the Insert-Any-City’s-Neighborhood-That-Has-Become-Synonymous-With-Hipsters Hipsters, an affectionate portrait of the cultural trope, down to “hand-knit dog sweater #62″:

And speaking of dogs, any dog-lover would relate to MacNaughton when she writes, “I don’t know any of the dog owners’ names, but I know all their dogs.’”

Many of the stories, which were originally created for MacNaughton’s column Meanwhile in The Rumpus, are also a meditation on the realities, often tragicomic realities, of modern life:

Others offer a lens on the invisible and often misunderstood threads that hold a community together, like the board games people play on the sidewalks of Chinatown, any Chinatown.

We’re reminded, too, of the heartening resurgence of maker culture in the digital age.

One of the most poignant stories is that of two intersections “a block away [yet] a universe away”: 5th and Mission streets on the one hand, a mecca for rapid gentrification and $6 soy lattes, and 6th and Mission on the other, a land of homelessness and produce scarcity. There are, MacNaughton writes, four types of people on 6th and Mission: residents of single-room occupancies, folks who sleep in a shelter and hang out on 6th street during the day, those who work on 6th street, and passers-by. On 5th and Mission, the four archetypes come from a different world: programmers, tourists, business people, and … Australians. (Among the book’s many gifts is MacNaughton’s penchant for infusing even the most uncomfortable of subjects with warm and amicable wit.)

Then there are the old-school Dolphin Club Swimmers, who plunge into the freezing waters of the Bay to swim alongside the dolphins as an eccentric yet immensely life-affirming antidote to the bystander quality of modern life.

But as a lover of libraries, I found the most heartwarming section to be the one about the San Francisco Public Library, where we meet Leah, “the first and only full-time social worker dedicated to a library, anywhere,” Charles, a formerly homeless man now employed at the library’s health and safety division, and the library’s colorful patrons, a microcosm of the city itself.

Mostly, however, Meanwhile is a gentle invitation to do as the title implies — pause and spend some time with those invisible, in-between moments that often slip unnoticed as we float in the trance of our big-plan-making lives. Because, after all, John Lennon was right when he sang that “life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans” in Double Fantasy. It is in those meanwhile-moments, captured in MacNaughton’s beautiful ink-and-watercolor illustrations, that the fantasy collapses and the dizzying vibrancy of reality springs to life.

Bonus joy: A number of the spreads from the book are available as prints.

Images courtesy of Wendy MacNaughton / Chronicle Books

* This illustration is the only one from the book not from the Rumpus series — it was originally created for a Bold Italic piece by Stuart Schuffman.

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14 Mar 16:02

The Long Shadow of Chernobyl

by Jason Kottke

Gerd Ludwig Chernobyl

National Geographic photographer Gerd Ludwig has visited Chernobyl nine times over the past twenty years. The Long Shadow of Chernobyl is a forthcoming book collecting Ludwig's photos, which includes an essay by Mikhail Gorbachev. The publication of the book is being funded via Kickstarter. There is also an iOS app.

Tags: books   Chernobyl   Gerd Ludwig   photography   The Long Shadow of Chernobyl
14 Mar 18:18


by Jason Kottke

Interviewly presents interesting Reddit AMAs in a more readable format. Compare Bill Murray's thread on Reddit to the one on Interviewly.

Tags: Bill Murray   interviews   Reddit
17 Mar 19:58

Stand clear of the diving boards, please

by Jason Kottke

I love this rendering of an abandoned Paris Metro station reimagined as a swimming pool:

Paris Metro Pool

This and several other renderings were created by OXO Associates for Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet's Paris mayoral race. The others imagine subway stations turned into theaters, nightclubs, and underground parks.

Tags: architecture   Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet   Paris   subway
18 Mar 15:25

The shoe master

by Jason Kottke

Hitoshi Mimura

That is a bespoke running shoe made by a small company started by Hitoshi Mimura, who is considered one of the top shoe designers in the world. Mimura had great success at Asics, outfitting Olympic gold medal runners with shoes lighter, grippier, and more breathable than those worn by competitors, but now he has struck out on his own.

"I take 13 measurements of the foot, each foot has to be measured separately," explains the sensei of shoemaking. "I only trust hand-measuring. Currently, each shoe takes about three weeks to make, mainly due to determining which materials to use." Preparation is also key. "For a world championships or Olympics I check the course once or twice. I went to Beijing three times."

A NY Times feature on Mimura written before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing emphasized the designer's reliance on rice husks in the soles for grippiness. Mimura takes his job and his responsibility to the runners very seriously:

Surreptitiously, Mimura made soles of two slightly different thicknesses, to compensate for the fact that Takahashi's left leg was eight millimeters -- about a third of an inch -- longer than her right leg. She had tried a pair of the uneven soles before the Sydney Olympics, but felt uncomfortable.

Still, Mimura felt Takahashi needed such shoes to win and to avoid a recurrence of pain caused by the disparity in her legs. Without Takahashi's knowledge, Mimura gave her the uneven soles, then wrote a letter of resignation, in case she failed to win gold.

"I decided to take full responsibility because I made this pair against her wishes," Mimura said of the letter. "I didn't have to hand it over. It's still in my desk."

That is belief in yourself and in your craft. Many people believe in "giving people not what they want but what they need" but how many of them will put their livelihood on the line for it?

Tags: 2008 Summer Olympics   design   Hitoshi Mimura   running   shoes   sports
13 Mar 21:09

Face Of The Day

by Andrew Sullivan

So handsome!


The former US secretary of state and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff facebooks:

Throwback Thursday – I was doing selfies 60 years before you Facebook folks. Eat your heart out Ellen!