Reissue: “Vague - The Magazine” — I’m reading this tonight, probably
A Vinco Original based on Vogue Magazine (Photo by Andrea Yurko from Pexels)
Reissue: “Vague - The Magazine” — I’m reading this tonight, probably
A Vinco Original based on Vogue Magazine (Photo by Andrea Yurko from Pexels)
As discussed previously, the “impeach this” map has some issues. Mainly, it equates land area to votes, which makes for a lot of visual attention to counties that are big even though not many people live in them. So, Karim Douïeb used a clever transition to change the bivariate map to a cartogram. Now you can have a dual view.
An interesting long read on the political and social dimensions around Duolingo’s decision to branch out into smaller languages like Irish and Hawaiian. Excerpt:
Of course, there’s a big difference between picking up a few words in Irish or Welsh to make you feel as if you’re connecting with your ancestors, and actually learning a language — particularly an endangered one that needs all the speakers it can get.
This is a tension that Duolingo has struggled with when it comes to its two endangered language courses, Navajo and Hawaiian. Those tongues are listed as vulnerable and critically endangered, respectively, by UNESCO.
Both languages were added to Duolingo this year to coincide with the United Nations International Year of the Indigenous Language. But they raised questions that weren’t necessarily an issue for courses such as French or Spanish, which aren’t expected to be used by native speakers of those languages.
“Who’s the audience for the Hawaiian course? Is it going to be tourists? Mostly? Because that would affect the content,” said Awodey. “Or is it going to be primarily built by and for indigenous speakers and people reconnecting with the language?”
In Hawaii, the team partnered with Kamehameha Schools, a network of private schools dedicated to teaching students of native Hawaiian heritage with a particular focus on preserving the Hawaiian language.
Despite this, however, the Duolingo Hawaiian course can sometimes risk speaking down to native Hawaiians, few of whom need teaching, for example, what a “lei” is.
“Everyone was super excited about it, but it’s totally tapered off because it’s not for natives, it’s too baby, it’s too simple,“ said Kū Kahakalau, executive director of Hawaiian language and culture NGO Kū-A-Kanaka.
Linguistic politics are often fraught with regard to majority tongues, let alone for endangered languages that have a long history of colonialism and disrespect. Scrutiny of such courses is always going to be tighter, and invisible red lines easier to cross.
"When you’re dealing with a heritage language, it does come with a bundle of stuff that we don’t have when teaching English,” said Duolingo learning scientist Hope Wilson. “There are lots of tricky issues to get into, very often there are divides within the communities where people don’t agree on, you know, issues of spelling or that kind of thing.”
In 2008, the World Wildlife Fund ran a campaign that used pixelation to represent the number of animals left for endangered species. One pixel represents an animal, so an image appears more pixelated when there are fewer animals left. Imgur user JJSmooth44 recently used more recent numbers to show the images for 22 species (sourced from the Animal Planet endangered species list).
The above is the image bengal tiger with 2,500 pixels. In contrast, the black rhino has 5,000 pixels:
Or, here’s the black footed ferret with 300:
👏🏿 Capitalism 👏🏿 wants 👏🏿 to 👏🏿 fuck 👏🏿 you 👏🏿 all 👏🏿 the 👏🏿 time. 👏🏿
Four reasons to care about Beaked Whales, AKA the best whales.
I’ve done several experiments with a text-generating neural network called GPT-2. Trained at great expense by OpenAI (to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars worth of computing power), GPT-2 learned to imitate all kinds of text from the internet. I’ve interacted with the basic model, discovering its abilities to generate fan fiction, British snacks, or tea. I’ve also used a tool called gpt-2-simple that Max Woolf developed to make it easy to finetune GPT-2 on more specialized datasets - I’ve tried it on datasets like recipes or crochet. One of my favorite applications of GPT-2 and other text-generating neural nets is Dungeons and Dragons spells, creatures, character names, and character bios.
Recently Max published a tutorial on how to use GPT-2 to make new apps that are more complicated than just printing out large reams of text. To my delight, people have used them to made D&D games. First, there was Nick Walton’s AI Dungeon, in which a finetuned GPT-2 generates a story and three very strange action options at each step.
My latest obsession is GPT-2 Adventure, designed by a cognitive neuroscience student named Nathan, which lets you type in your own actions. And folks, this game is SO WEIRD and SO FUN.
YOU FLOAT IN SPACE, LIKE A BALLOON, AND AS YOU DROP THE CUBE, THE X, IT VANISHES IN A CLOUD OF GREASY BLACK SMOKE
When I first launch the game, this is what I’m greeted with, a simple text prompt reminiscent of nostalgic dungeon crawling games. It sets the scene. It waits for me to describe my next move.
Even getting to this point is like a blast from the past. The game runs in a Google Colab notebook, a format where you’re looking at cells of code, with cryptic comments, vaguely alarming warning messages, and all. It’s not a sleek web app, but feels more akin to playing a game on an old DOS machine, or maybe on a graphing calculator. There are only two clicks to begin playing, but there’s a good two-minute wait while the game loads.
And it’s my turn to type something.
>> look up
It takes several seconds for the game to respond, as if I’m playing it on a very ancient computer. The computer is in fact a state-of-the-art NVIDIA GPU, likely a K80 or a T4. The T4 could eat my laptop for lunch. I’m just playing with a very very large neural net. Finally it answers.
YOU’RE IN LABYRINTH OF TWISTY LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL ALIKE
Almost immediately, the context seems to have changed. I’m not floating at all. I’m in a maze. I guess I’ll walk somewhere.
>> walk north
THE TROLL STEPS OUT FROM BENEATH THE BRIDGE AND BLOCKS YOUR WAY
YOU ARE ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF THE CHASM
A NOD IS GIVEN TO THE INFINITE WONDER THAT IS URBZIG
A SOLID RAINBOW SPANS THE CHASM
And suddenly things are happening. There is a troll. There is a chasm. There is a rainbow. There is… Urbzig? I play it safe.
>> praise urbzig
URBZIG IS THE PATRON SAINT OF ZORK
HE IS THE GODFATHER OF ZORK, THE PLACE TO GET NEWS OF EPIC PROPORTIONS
URBZIG IS A STRONGMAN,遊 ALL
If you’ve played classic dungeon crawling games like Zork, you may recognize some of these names and phrases. Checking Nathan’s original post, I see that the training data is indeed drawn from these games. But because it’s based on GPT-2, the training data also in some sense also includes much of the internet. This gives it a lot of latent flexibility to deal with situations that were never in the classic games.
>> ask Harry Potter to try walking across the rainbow
ASK HARRY POTTER TO TRY WALKING ACROSS THE RAINBOW
THE RAINBOW IS EXTREMELY WIDE
ABOVE YOU IS A LARGE DOME
UP AROUND ITS NECK IS A STRONGG PORE
[UNFORTUNATELY, THE DIRECTION OF TRAVEL IS A LOT MORE INTERESTING THAN YOU THINK
][YOU ARE IN A LARGE ROOM, WITH A PASSAGE TO THE EAST, A PASSAGE TO THE WEST, AND A WALL OF BROKEN ROCK TO THE SOUTH
An interesting effect of its human-written training data is that, like Visual Chatbot, it isn’t prepared for humans that ask questions about objects that aren’t there. If I refer to Harry Potter, then Harry Potter must be present. If I type something about a giraffe, then it assumes the giraffe must be present.
>> ask the giraffe which direction to go next
THE GIRAFFE IS ALREADY OUTFITTED WITH A VISOR WHICH IS CLEARLY DEFINED
Although it’s not clear that this AI actually understands what a giraffe is.
>> look at the giraffes
THE GAZEBO HAS DISAPPEARED
>> put giraffe in backpack
Navigating this world is like navigating in a dream. My location suddenly changes without warning. I thought I was by a chasm with a rainbow bridge. Now apparently I’m in a building. Dreamlike, it is also really hard to read text.
>> look around
YOU ARE IN A LARGE ROOM, WITH A PASSAGE TO THE SOUTH, A PASSAGE TO THE EAST, AND A WALL OF BROKEN ROCK TO THE NORTH
A SIGN POSTED ABOVE THE NORTH WALL READS, “STOP! PAY TROLL!” A SMALL WINDOW CAN BE SEEN IN EITHER WALL
>> read sign
THE SIGN IS VERY SIMPLE
>> yes but read sign
WE NOW HAVE ALL FIFTEEN TREASURES
IT IS TIME TO GO BACK INTO THE CAVE FOR THE END GAME
>> that’s awesome. but i still want to know what the sign says. read sign.
YOU ARE IN A GAZEBO ROOM WHICH HAS DOORS ONLY TO THE EAST AND SOUTH
Another thing that’s surprisingly difficult to do is check inventory.
>> check inventory
>> check inventory
THERE IS AN INTERESTING LOOT HERE
>> what is the loot
WHAT IS THE LOOT?
>> check inventory
YOU ARE IN THE BAG CASE
Very occasionally I will succeed in opening a bag. It will usually be weird.
>> open bag
OPENING THE BAG REVEALS A TEA BAG
>> make tea
AY! A LOVELY SURPRISE FOR THE SURPRISE
More so than any other game I’ve played, I’m unsure of the rules here. Some weird things unexpectedly work.
IF YOU DON’T GET KILLED, YOU ARE TOAST
>> Eat the toast.
EAT THE TOAST
IT TASTES LIKE A STEAK
A STEAK IS PERFECTLY FINE
Other seemingly obvious things don’t work.
THERE IS A PATH TO THE NORTH, A PATH TO THE SOUTH, OR A STEEP PATHWAY CLIMBING SOUTHWEST ALONG THE EDGE OF A CHASM
>> go north
I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THAT
>> go south
I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO THAT
>> go southwest
YOU WILL BE DESCENDING INTO A VALLEY
THERE IS A NARROW BEACH TO THE NORTH AND A PATH LEADING INTO A CANYON TO THE SOUTHEAST
YOU ARE ON THE CLIFF OVERLOOKING THE FAR SIDE OF THE ROOM
A PATH LEADS SOUTH ALONG THE EDGE OF A CHASM, AND A NARROW PATH LEADING INTO A LOZENGE ROOM
Sometimes I’m wandering endlessly from room to room, from cave to cave, encountering the same chasm in slightly different variations, the same dried-up lake. Other times I’m embroiled in seemingly unescapable fights, usually with trolls. Often reality shifts entirely around me and I end up in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike, or in the hall of the mountain king. Everything seems weirdly familiar - even the room descriptions are echoes of classic dungeon crawling games. It is as if I’m dreaming about playing them again.
My actions also mold reality. I learn quickly to always check for diamonds, and never check for traps. If I find myself in trouble, I can always do something confusing and provoke a context change. Writing “In a large bowl, combine butter and sugars” is usually enough to teleport myself out of whatever situation I’m in. I can always ask a giraffe for advice, although the giraffe usually isn’t very helpful.
Without a particular mission to fulfill, the caves and chasms begin to blend into one another. I give myself missions, and that helps. Once I decide my goal is to put together a picnic (incessant “check for food” commands eventually yielded a sack with a lunch and a clove of garlic, belonging to a horse who agreed to join me on a picnic). Another time I demand a mission and am given some php code; i decide my mission is therefore to build a website, but am astounded when a unicorn steals my laptop. This is not the only time other content intrudes on the game’s fantasy landscape - once the game tries to tell me about finding cash online, and another time I am sadly informed that there is no wi-fi. I encounter dinosaurs and troikas, none of which were in the original training data. Occasionally things get creepy as hell.
>> check for loot
CHECK FOR LOOT HERE
CHECK FOR GOLD HERE
CHECK FOR TORCH HERE
CHECK FOR BONE HERE
DO CHEST COMPRESSIONS AGAIN
DO CHEST ROTATE
DO CRESCENT MOON APPEAR IN THE ROOM’S CENTER
>> do back away slowly
DO BACK AWAY SLOWLY
DO NOT OVERDO IT
THE CHEST WILL EXPLODE AND YOU WILL DIE
OKAY, SO YOU SEE ME
You can play the game too! Just follow the colab notebook link in Nathan’s blog post. Tips: 1) It may be more fun if you set yourself an arbitrary goal to reach. 2) If you find things getting repetitive, try adjusting the temperature in the “Play the game” cell to 0.6 or 1.0.
To read the fulltext of a couple of my adventures (much too long to include here), enter your email and I’ll send them to you!
You can order my book You Look Like a Thing and I Love You! It’s out November 5 2019.
Excellent cat hat content
Kory Stamper in The Science of Us talking about hyperbolic “literally”. Excerpt:
The emphatic “literally” is not a millennial invention; it goes back to the 1700s at least, though Smith gets it right that it’s English. John Dryden, a man who is best known as the founder of literary criticism and the prohibition against the terminal preposition, was an early user of the emphatic “literally.” Charlotte Brontë, Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, Vladimir Nabokov, and David Foster Wallace all used the emphatic “literally” in their works. Even Lindley Murray, 19th-century grammarian, uses the hyperbolic “literally” in his own grammar — and he was such a peever that he thought children, along with animals, shouldn’t be referred to with the pronoun “who,” as “who” conveys personhood, and only creatures with the ability to be rational are actually people.
We only began to take issue with the hyperbolic “literally” in the early 20th century. Ambrose Bierce called it “intolerable,” and usage maven H. W. Fowler said it should be “repudiated.”
Standing at 2,717 feet (828 m), the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is the tallest building in the world (and casts quite a long shadow!). The design of the 163-floor structure is an abstraction of the Hymenocallis, a type of desert flower that has long petals extending from its center. The building has been well received since it opened in 2010; however, its construction was controversial as it was built primarily by workers from South Asia and East Asia who earned low wages and were housed in abysmal conditions.
Source imagery: Maxar Technologies
Hong Kong International Airport is located on Chek Lap Kok, an island in Hong Kong’s western waters. Today, for the second day in a row, airport check-ins were suspended and dozens of outgoing flights were cancelled amid clashes between riot police and protesters. Protests in Hong Kong have been ongoing since June, when a proposed bill threatened to have people extradited into mainland China’s justice system. The airport is the world’s 8th busiest by passenger traffic, handling 74.7 million travelers in 2018.
Source imagery: Maxar Technologies
He defies convention — somehow, he is both a male and someone who doesn’t like rugby, polo shirts, Vespas, steroids, talking over people, or the color blue. (You don’t want to be a Tomgirl. Nobody will ever want to date or hire you. Everybody knows this.)
His parents’ goal is that he’ll settle down with a woman who can support him financially. The woman will not propose until after she has sowed every single one of her wild oats; meanwhile, he will wait, indulging only in self-bettering activities such as watching reruns of The West Wing, completing national park-themed jigsaw puzzles, and consuming Spirulina. His parents caution him not to live with the woman before marriage, because you know what they say about buying the cow when you can get the milk for free. (He is the cow.)
After entering into society as a Dude-utante, he was crowned Mr. Oregon three years in a row. He crushed every competition category, including Interview, Wetsuit, and Evening Flannel. He once burped the entire Bill of Rights and the cause closest to his heart is saving the turtles.
Everyone gossips about how he gives his body freely for women’s pleasure. Does he have no self-respect? If he and his partner discover they have gonorrhea, then it is definitely his fault because she has natural biological urges; he is just a slut.
He wants everything to be perfect on his special day (this IS the day he finally loses his virginity!), and as a result, he goes crazy. He is bossy. He is fussy. Why is he showing so much emotion? His virginity is the ultimate gift he can give his wife (again, it’s cool if she has had sex before; totally fine). He wears a white tux at his wedding to symbolize his purity, goodness, and his innocent desire for marshmallows. When the time comes, he leans in and kisses his new bride on the left nostril because he is so delightfully inexperienced.
Some say he’s a bit of a bimbo, a bit of a gold-digger, and a bit of a flirt. He spends all of his wife’s paycheck shopping for cufflinks that won’t clash with the caviar. He is high-maintenance, but he’s worth it. He is never described by his personality.
He expects equal pay, which is confusing because he is a man. (It is common knowledge that men should make less because they spend half of their working hours going on shopping sprees in their minds.) Also known as a Career Man, he is selfish and unnatural because he puts his career before starting a family. When he eventually feels professionally and spiritually stable enough to settle down and conceive, the doctor obsessively mentions his geriatric sperm. He is 35.
He chauffeurs their five children (“I want a whole basketball team!” she decided years ago) across the city for dental cleanings, Taekwondo classes, tuba lessons, and earwax removal appointments for the twins. But he’s a Stay-at-Home-Dad, so he does all of this without ever setting foot outside the home. He really misses the scent of pine, the feel of wind, and having friends outside of his online Fantasy Football league. He imagines that having friends in 3D would be delightful.
His latest post reflected on his toddler’s first phrase, “Ban fossil fuels.” Well, it was either that or “Man, possums rule,” but the first made a killer thesis. It also really united the “Parents of Infant Activists” community that stemmed from the 501©(3) he co-founded with his prodigal child last year. His entrepreneurship/writing/first-of-its-kind Pulitzer is so adorable, his wife says. It is so precious and cute and sweet.
Since he is not married, everyone pities him and whispers that he must be growing penile cobwebs. Cat Man does not own a cat. (He’s actually highly allergic.)
He’s the archetypal Hero.
In the rare cases that a man is able to break the pink-tinted glass ceiling and therefore does not align with one of the aforementioned archetypes, his title must NEVER be mentioned without the word “male.”
I will take zero!
Does your 9-to-5 job make you crazy and stressed?
Do you wake up each morning with fear in your heart?
Do you fall asleep each night with doubts in your mind?
I felt these things once. Then I discovered a proven program of Zen meditation that voided my desires and left me with nothing but bliss.
I can teach you my secret.
The only catch?
You must be willing to do this:
Yes, that’s right, you must master my zero weird tricks.
Here is my offer to you today. For just zero payments of $0, I will teach you nothing. As soon as you have learned it, you will be free.
My program can be used in your home or apartment, in a cubicle, on a park bench, or in a prison cell, though these are all the same.
If you want my zero weird tricks, perfect: join my email list and I will send you no emails every day for zero days then unsubscribe you automatically. Goodbye.
My program is not like others.
Other programs promise flat stomachs, great riches, or the incessant clapping of hands and tongues.
I, instead, offer this:
Are you skeptical? I understand. I was skeptical once too. Skeptical of zero tricks.
But now I believe.
Why? Because nothing works. It works amazingly.
Do not just take my word for it.
Listen to the incredible testimonials of my students:
Bob was given a full refund of $0 and kicked out of my program.
Do you wish to avoid Bob’s mistakes?
I will show you how.
To begin, it is simple.
Fill a glass with water, and put the glass on a plate.
Have you done it? Good.
Now empty the glass.
Now remove the glass.
Now remove the plate.
That, my friend, is my proven program.
It changes lives.
People hear of my program and give an incredulous stare. They want some “better tricks.”
They ask, “If I want to feel better, shouldn’t I maybe eat an apple or go for a walk?”
“Your program is so cheap! It sounds too good to be true!” they cry.
“Funny how life is like that,” I answer.
Now it is time to ask yourself… Are you ready to reach nirvana by closing your eyes and subtracting your thoughts from themselves?
Do you want to become one with a single raindrop that reflects the universe on its surface and holds emptiness at its center?
Are you prepared to put away your fears and complaints, and stare at a waterfall for fifteen hours?
That’s nice, but it’s too many tricks. Come back in a month when you are ready to do less. Preferably nothing.
If you feel ready to start, then please do not look for my BUY NOW! button as I have none. I do not accept money since I have nowhere to put it.
Instead, you will find my program by looking through an infinite window in a room with no walls.
Or you will find it resting on a motionless breeze in a place with no air.
Or you will find it at my ClickFunnels landing page, here:
Then act now. Or later. Or never.
Will my offer today last? Surely nothing lasts.
One day you and I and everyone we know will cease.
But my zero weird tricks will remain.
A tasteless taste.
A soundless sound.
A formless form.
Are you contemplating these things?
Then my program is working already.
Could it help your friends and loved ones too?
Could we change the world together if you share my totally blank infographics on Instagram?
These questions remind me of a story.
Once a great master, Zeno, was approached by an ambitious politician.
The politician sought wisdom, so that he could create utopia.
“Oh, great master Zeno,” the politician said, “How shall I become enlightened?”
The master replied, “Enlightenment is simple. To find it, you must first climb a mountain with no height.”
The politician said, “Old man, that’s impossible! How do you climb a mountain with no height?”
The master replied, “Zero steps at a time.”
After pausing, he added, “And the next ten people to do so will automatically receive this FREE, limited-edition Contigo Travel Mug.”
maybe we’re finally getting through to people
TIL the dictionary isn’t as much an instruction guide to the English language, as it is a record of how people are using it. Words aren’t added because they’re OK to use, but because a lot of people have been using them.
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July 26th, 2019: T-Rex really did make this bet, ten years ago this very night!! It's like the old saying goes: what even is the point of having a decade-plus-long art project if you're not going to have your past self toss balls for your future self to catch?
Peanuts was Bleak.
June 9, 1997 — see The Complete Peanuts 1995-1998
To Whom It May Concern, or To Whom It May Not Concern Whatsoever,
Thank you for considering my application to show up in a building for 40 hours a week doing whatever tasks you want me to do. I am excited for the opportunity to dedicate my most productive hours, days, weeks, months, and potentially years of my life to your enterprise, in exchange for your giving me paper that allows me to stay alive.
I am reaching out because I think that my skills match your needs as a company. I have a body and brain that can be transported wherever I am told to go; you, meanwhile, have a repository of funds — a small percentage of which could be used to secure my labor for as long as you care to keep me around. (And by around, I mean here on this Earth.)
I must say, I think I would be an excellent fit for your company culture. Upon some cursory research, I learned that your employees share a common purpose: showing up to the office every day and following instructions so that they can eat, have a place to sleep, and (maybe) get access to healthcare. I am confident that as a member of your corporate team, I would immediately demonstrate those qualities too.
I am also impressed by your benefits package. Not only do your employees receive money that allows them to purchase basic necessities — you also provide them with other money that can be used for luxury goods, like clothes, air conditioning units, and plane tickets home to visit their grandmothers in the hospital.
Further, I was encouraged to see that dedicated workers who receive conditional promotions over the course of a few decades or so are sometimes rewarded with additional money, in the height of largesse: this results in occasional day trips to the beach, the chance to own the dwelling they reside in, and even the right to stop performing labor in the last few years before their death (assuming natural causes).
If you look at my résumé, I think you’ll find that I have extensive relevant experience that I could bring to the table after onboarding. In the formative years of my life, I attended primary school in exchange for not being detained per truancy laws in my home state; I then matriculated to college, where I cut my teeth going to classes in exchange for a framed sheet of cardstock that was a prerequisite for submitting this application. (I also literally cut my teeth but couldn’t do anything about it because my parents don’t have dental insurance.)
During that time, I also took on several unpaid internships in exchange for the increased probability of securing other unpaid internships. So, all of this is to say: I know what it takes to voluntarily surrender my autonomy to an organization in an effort to continue existing. In other words, I am all about that hustle!
I understand that this is a competitive position, and you’ll be receiving hundreds of similar applications from other qualified individuals. And it would be ethically unjustifiable for me to argue that my humanity is somehow superior to that of the other applicants, and that you should select me, leaving the others to find some other means of making a living.
Yet, at the same time: I am arguing that my humanity is somehow superior to that of the other applicants. You should select me. Leave the others to find some other means of making a living.
I am fully aware of the prestige associated with this company and the role I would be taking on. That’s why I can pledge right now that if I am given an offer, I will happily field LinkedIn messages from future prospective employees and give them advice about how they too can improve their chances of serving your company’s interests. That advice will include, and be limited to, “just keep putting apps out there,” “be yourself in the interview,” and “you can mention my name but it probably won’t make a difference.”
Thank you so much for your consideration. I can’t wait to hear back from you. Really, I genuinely can’t.
This cat is not a snitch <3
Some good news from Australia. These are really beautiful sharks.
Almost all the world's species of rhino rays are critically endangered, based on devastating declines of more than 80 per cent over the past few decades due to the shark fin soup trade in Asia. But the rays have been sheltering in the safe and shallow waters of the Top End.
I think my high score so far is 13.15...
The aim of CityLiveSketch is to showcase the beautiful world surrounding us, both the iconic places and the most characteristic views, using not only simple photos but also drawings made on a normal travel sketchbook.See more of Pietro Cataudella's work on Instagram or at his website.