Jeremy Williams brings us a stunning LEGO rendition of a Martian rover, inspired by Mark Watney’s vehicle in the film The Martian. The levels of realistic greebly detail on this model is amazing, adding immensely to the sense of realism. Couple that with some excellent photography and you’ve got a cracking piece of work.
The model has a detailed interior and features twin-axle steering, independent suspension, and 2 (count ’em) Power Functions motors.
As soon as he posts a video (hint hint), then we’ll update this post to show the rover in its full glory. Fabulous stuff.
Enlarge / Little ol' headphone jack's causing a big ol' fuss. (credit: Andrew Cunningham)
As the rumors that the next iPhone will drop the 3.5mm headphone jack have intensified, I’ve been keeping tabs on the specific argument that Daring Fireball’s John Gruber made yesterday: that removing the headphone jack from the iPhone is the modern-day equivalent of removing the floppy drive from the iMac in the late '90s. It caused some pain at the time, but it was the way things were moving anyway, and in the grand scheme of things it was a smart thing to do.
The people on the “get rid of the headphone jack” side of the debate normally choose some version of this position as the justification that the jack is “old” and so getting rid of it represents “progress.” And the fact of the matter is that Apple has been pretty good at this kind of progress over the years, picking up new technologies like USB and SSDs and dropping aging ones like the DVD drive well before those technologies had gone (or ceased to be) mainstream.
But the headphone jack is not the floppy drive. It’s not the 30-pin connector. It’s not the DVD drive. It’s not even USB Type-C. It’s not, in other words, directly comparable to all those other times when Apple has been “right” to remove or change something, both because of the ubiquity of the headphone jack and the quality of the supposed replacements.
This week I was doing one final reread of Alice in Wonderland (a 1962 paperback version) and was struck by some archaic spelling:
"I've had nothing yet," Alice replied in an offended tone; "so I ca'n't take more." "You mean you ca'n't take less," said the Hatter: "it's very easy to take more than nothing."
Elsewhere the same style was applied to wo'n't and sha'n't.
Just out of curiosity I ran ca'n't through Google's Ngram viewer (result above), which shows that double-apostrophe'd contractions have not disappeared (though I can't tell whether the modern usages are simply new editions of older books).
A quick web search yielded these comments by Lewis Carroll in his Preface to Sylvie and Bruno Concluded:
Other critics have objected to certain innovations in spelling, such as “ca’n’t”, “wo’n’t”, “traveler”. In reply, I can only plead my firm conviction that the popular usage is wrong. As to “ca’n’t”, it will not be disputed that, in all other words ending in “n’t”, these letters are an abbreviation of “not”; and it is surely absurd to suppose that, in this solitary instance, “not” is represented by " ‘t”! In fact “can’t” is the proper abbreviation for “can it”, just as “is’t” is for “is it”. Again, in “wo’n’t”, the first apostrophe is needed, because the word “would” is here abridged into “wo”: but I hold it proper to spell “don’t” with only one apostrophe, because the word “do” is here complete.
Wordsmiths, grammar Nazis, copyeditors - any thoughts?
With World War II behind, the Netherlands was rapidly rebuilding its infrastructure, and the vast highway system required many gas stations. But resources were scarce, so the Dutch turned to stylish minimalism to make best use of what they had. Willem Marinus Dudok, a Dutch architect, was commissioned by Esso Netherlands to design a gas station. He came up with a modernist building which was fairly simple yet elegant. We previously featured LEGO builder Andrea Lattanzio’sEsso van and many of the interior decorations, but now he’s worked hard to replicate the entire building, and has managed to incorporate each and every detail of the functional and inexpensive design. Check out the original building to compare with Andrea’s interpretation.
Make sure you check out the rest of the photographs because the amazingly detailed and beautiful interior is fantastic. The workbench, sliding doors, cracks on the wall, the lamp, the decoration, ventilation and pretty much everything is well crafted!
Markus19840420‘s faithful recreation of Mulder’s office from The X-Files is adorned with details including numerous articles clipped on the walls and miscellaneous books and trophies. Even the pencils tacked on the ceiling made their way into the build.
When a handful of Westboro Baptist Church members showed up Saturday at the funeral of Orlando shooting victim Christopher Leinonen, counterprotesters donning large, white angel wings were there to shield mourners. Members of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater put together the wings as a symbolic but also literal screen between the WBC and funeral attendees. An Orlando Police tweet later proved the efforts to stop the WBC worked.
Kirill Mazurov, who has once blown our minds with an incredible ER-1250 bucket wheel excavator, keeps proving his talent for elaborate Technic models. The original John Deere 648L skidder is a heavy logging machine, and even in this scale (only half a meter long) it does look massive yet extremely smooth and stylish.
Believe it or not, there are 9 PF-motors inside this little beast. Together they are responsible for 8 various functions which makes this model as functional as the real one. And if you’re still not impressed, here’s a video of the skidder pulling trees and climbing some hills:
You can find many more awesome creations in Kirill’s photo stream. Don’t hesitate to check it out!
The world is urbanizing faster than ever, with over half of the planet’s population currently living in cities—more than any time in history. But when did this trend of “urbanization” start? It turns out its roots go back much farther than we thought.
I’m connected on this lovely site called BookBub — they watch the booksellers and send email notifications of all the free/cheap e-books offered that day, so it’s a way to build up a fine collection of reading material at little cost, and also get introduced to new authors. Except for a few quirks…
I signed up to be notified of any science books that are bargains. There never are any.
I signed up for the science fiction category. There’s a regular flood of those — but I’ve noticed a familiar and tiring theme: so many books about the end of the world, zombies, plagues, etc., all about doughty heroes and heroines bravely surviving the aftermath and boldly going forth to battle the undead/bad humans who are now infesting the depauperate world. So not only is the story about 99% of the human population dying horribly, but then the story swirls around the protagonist marching about, fighting and killing other survivors (see also The Walking Dead). It makes no sense (ditto, The Walking Dead).
There is an apocalyptic novel I’ve enjoyed: Earth Abides, by George R. Stewart. But that one isn’t about a battlin’ hyper-competent survivalist type who defeats his enemies and rebuilds the world by conquest — it’s about a lost soul numbed by the deaths who builds a cooperative community to survive, and that community rarely acts as an arm of the hero’s will. That’s a lot harder to write about than slash, slash, slash, as David Brin discusses.
No, the plague of zombies and apocalypses and illogically red-eyed dystopias has one central cause — laziness. Plotting is vastly easier when there are no helpful institutions or professionals, when power is automatically and simplistically evil, when there’s no citizenship and the hero’s neighbors are all bleating sheep. Relax any of those clichés? Then suddenly an author or director has to put down the joint (s)he’s smoking and think. That is why “competence porn” – about folks taking on tomorrow’s problems with energy, focus and good will – is so rare. It is also why a cliche-fatigued public is starting to turn eyes, raising them from fields of undead, looking not toward demigods, but toward engineers. See this explicated in my article, The Idiot Plot.
The yearning for more engineers in stories is Brin’s, not mine — I’d like to see more human beings struggling with complexity using a diverse toolkit, rather than pulling a soldering iron, a 3-D printer, and a rifle out of their back pocket, and solving all human problems by reconnecting the hydroelectric dam. But the laziness and simplification idea is dead on, and probably explains why a cheap book service is telling me about works by novice authors trying to build an audience and a reputation. Not that there is anything wrong with that — it’s good for new writers to have an outlet. But it’s bad news when genre writing digs itself an even deeper subgenre rut.
I am also cliche-fatigued and turning my eyes to new fields. Not engineering, though. I just logged in to BookBub and closed my eyes and clicked randomly on the page of preferences. We’ll see what happens.
After last year’s E3, we produced a gender breakdown of the games showcased at the press conferences held by Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and other companies. There was a lot of discussion during last year’s show about perceived improvements to female representation, and while the numbers indicated that things could have been worse, they also showed that they could be a lot better. 9% of games featured last year centered on playable female protagonists, with 32% centering on playable male protagonists.
This year, however, it’s unfortunately clear that whatever positive momentum may have existed on this front going into last year’s E3 has dissipated. Of the 59 games showcased at press conferences held by Sony, Microsoft, Bethesda and Ubisoft, as well as on the first part of Nintendo’s Treehouse stream, only a paltry two feature exclusively female protagonists, and both of these games were returns from last year’s E3: ReCore and Horizon: Zero Dawn. (Bound is a gorgeous-looking game with a female protagonist coming to PlayStation but it was not featured during the press conference.) Meanwhile, 12 times as many featured games–24 in all–are centered on defined male protagonists or groups of men. These games include the newly announced titles Days Gone, God of War, Dead Rising 4, and Death Stranding.
We were encouraged to see, however, that the showcase of Dishonored 2 once again focused on the playable female character, Emily, and that in the trailer for Mass Effect: Andromeda, the female version of protagonist Ryder was featured, whereas with the original Mass Effect trilogy, almost all promotional materials used the male version of Shepard. Dishonored 2 and Mass Effect: Andromeda were two of 29 games in which you either choose to play as male or female characters, or in which the gender of your character or characters appears to be unspecified, such as Fe. Of course, the option to choose is welcome. However, a purely binary understanding of gender was once again on display, with no games indicating the ability to choose from a wider range of gender identities and expressions. Furthermore, the fact that a whopping 12 times as many featured games center exclusively male protagonists than exclusively female ones indicates that the video game industry still has an extremely long way to go before approaching anything resembling gender parity.
This massive discrepancy means that for now, games continue to reinforce the deeply entrenched cultural notion that heroes are male by default. We live in a culture that regularly encourages girls and women to project themselves onto and fully empathize with male characters, but rarely encourages boys and men to fully project themselves onto female characters. When players are encouraged to see a game universe exclusively through the eyes of a humanized female character, it helps challenge the idea that men can’t or shouldn’t identify with women as full human beings.
Games can be a powerful tool for generating empathy. But as long as games continue to give us significantly more stories centered on men than on women, they will continue to reinforce the idea that female experiences are secondary to male ones.
Of course, the games presented during these press conferences don’t reflect the sum total of video games or games culture. They are, however, how the biggest developers and publishers choose to represent themselves at the industry’s largest annual event, and as such, they are a strong indicator of what some of the most powerful forces in the industry consider emblematic of the best and most exciting things that gaming has to offer.
How we came up with our data:
We counted only those upcoming games which were given full trailers, announcements, or demonstrations on stage, so games that only appear briefly in montages or sizzle reels or for which only a very small amount of teaser footage is shown (such as the upcoming Star Wars game from Visceral) are not included.
Survey on combat:
Of the 59 games featured, only 11 are nonviolent or appear as if they might not have mechanics involving combat or violence. (The card games Gwent and Elder Scrolls Legends use cards to symbolize battle, but we opted to count these two as nonviolent games.) In other words, about four out of every five games showcased employ combat mechanics, meaning that the player is either required to or can choose to engage in violence as a means of conflict resolution. (Last year, the ratio of games incorporating violent mechanics was closer to three out of every four.)
This isn’t about passing judgment, or equating the cartoonish pirate ship battles of Sea of Thieves with the far more realistic gun violence of Ghost Recon Wildlands. Rather, the data is presented simply to indicate how prevalent violence remains as an element in games across the board, because when violence is seen as a core component of game design, it limits our sense of what is possible and of the kinds of stories that can be told. There remains tremendous unexplored potential for games as a medium, and it’s necessary that the industry put more effort into exploring new mechanics and storytelling techniques rather than continuing to rely so heavily on established norms if the medium is ever going to achieve that potential.
Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) has had enough of the growing movement to drug test poor people who need government assistance. So on Tuesday, she’s introducing a bill that she says will make things fairer.
Her “Top 1% Accountability Act” would require anyone claiming itemized tax deductions of over $150,000 in a given year to submit a clean drug test. If a filer doesn’t submit a clean test within three months of filing, he won’t be able to take advantage of tax deductions like the mortgage interest deduction or health insurance tax breaks. Instead he would have to make use of the standard deduction.
Her office has calculated that the people impacted will be those who make at least $500,000 a year. “By drug testing those with itemized deductions over $150,000, this bill will level the playing field for drug testing people who are the recipients of social programs,” a memo on her bill notes.
Moore has a personal stake in the fight. “I am a former welfare recipient,” she explained. “I’ve used food stamps, I’ve received Aid for Families with Dependent Children, Medicaid, Head Start for my kids, Title XX daycare [subsidies]. I’m truly grateful for the social safety net.”
I am 100% behind this idea.
This is brilliant, and should absolutely happen.
Or it shouldn’t happen, and the insane, racist, classist policy of drug testing welfare recipients should be ended immediately.
The biological form of a mechanical gear was observed in nature for the first time in juvenile planthoppers (Genus: Issus), a common insect that can be found in gardens across Europe.
The insect has hind-leg joints with curved cog-like strips of opposing ‘teeth’ that intermesh, rotating like mechanical gears to synchronize the animal’s legs when it launches into a jump. The finding demonstrates that gear mechanisms previously thought to be solely man-made have an evolutionary precedent.
I don’t read comics much — I was a fan and collector in my teenage years, but every time I pick one up now, there’s so much prior knowledge needed to make sense of what’s going on, that I just put it back down and walk away. It’s like a lot of art, in that it is constructed in an environment of art, and comments on that environment, and if you don’t know the framework it’s embedded in, you grumble about how your kid could do better than that.
So all I knew about the recent controversial story line in Captain America that revealed he’s been a secret agent of the evil organization Hydra all along is that this was not the Captain America I enjoyed in the 1960s and early 70s. This was a betrayal! I hadn’t been reading the comic book anyway, but now for sure I wasn’t going to read it ever again.
I didn’t have the context.
Now an article fills me in on what I’d missed about Captain America’s trajectory, and it all makes sense. You see, Marvel had first tried to introduce a black successor to Steve Rogers, white hero, and the fan base erupted. So Marvel brought back Steve Rogers…with a message.
And just like that, White Captain America was back. And to make Steve Rogers a Nazi was an excellent commentary not only on the fandom, but on the country itself.
See, the only reason there is a Captain America: Steve Rogers series is that the fandom wanted Steve Rogers back. And the reasons they wanted him back were the same kind of motivations and ideologies that are currently wreaking havoc with our election season. The fandom wanted to Make Captain America White (Great) Again. They were full of racist indignation at seeing a Black person take on the mantle of Captain America, one of the most venerated comic-book heroes. They wanted a return to the status quo. And when they got their wish, they’re dismayed that he’s kind of a fascist. Sound familiar?
Wait, wait, wait…a comic book is making a sly commentary on modern American politics and society, is holding up a mirror to its readers? Unthinkable. Only art can do that.
The man being held in connection with the death of MP Jo Cox has been named as Thomas Mair, who was described as a “loner” with a history of mental health problems…
Loner. Mentally ill. Yeah, that’s it. Explains everything.
No, it doesn’t.
These are the words of convenience used to exempt a person from criticism of his particularly dangerous ideology. The media will not consider that a far right political stance might have led someone to violence, so they strategically deploy the “mentally ill” excuse.
But this reporter didn’t even seem to read their own article. A little further down the page, they report on an interview the murderer gave years ago.
In 2011, Mair spoke of how he had volunteered to work as a groundsman at the nearby Oakwell Hall County Park, which had helped ease his mental health problems.
He told a local newspaper: “I can honestly say it has done me more good than all the psychotherapy and medication in the world. “Many people who suffer from mental illness are socially isolated and disconnected from society, feelings of worthlessness are also common mainly caused by long-term unemployment.
“All these problems are alleviated by doing voluntary work. Getting out of the house and meeting new people is a good thing, but more important in my view is doing physically demanding and useful labour.
Does that sound crazy to you? He was feeling isolated and disconnected, thanks to a social attitude that resorts to blaming mental illness for all kinds of unrelated problems. And here’s a reporter doing the same thing!
Then, of course, you’ve got to interview the neighbors to find out what kind of juicy deranged things the killer had been doing.
Kathleen Cooke, 62, said: “I am really shocked. He walked past my house this morning and said hello like he always does. He was wearing a grey T shirt and his white baseball cap like he always does and he was carrying a small rucksack.
“He is just a quiet bloke who keeps himself to himself. “He is very helpful and he helps local people with their gardens. There is one neighbour who is a bit frail and he keeps her garden tidy. He has helped me cut my hedge a couple of times.
“He has lived here for 40 years and has never been in any trouble and has never caused any trouble. He sometimes used to shout at the local kids if they played too near his house but that is fairly normal.
A quiet bloke who helps elderly neighbors with their gardens? INSANE. They should have seen all the signals right there.
How about a different story. Here was a lonely fellow, isolated and vulnerable, and what probably happened instead is that he was poisoned by an evil ideology.
Despite being born in Kilmarnock, Scotland, a decade-old website posting identified Mair as a subscriber to S. A. Patriot, a South African magazine that was published by the pro-apartheid group, the White Rhino Club.
The club describes the magazine’s editorial stance as being against “multi-cultural societies” and “expansionist Islam”. A blog post attributed to the group, dated January 2006, described Mair as “one of the earliest subscribers and supporters of S. A. Patriot.”
Racism, and anti-immigrant and specifically anti-Muslim bigotry, fed by a hate organization — that’s what led Mair to murder, not “mental illness”.
You don’t get to label Mair as dangerously insane unless you’re also ready to label these attendees at a Trump rally as “mentally ill”.