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24 May 05:12

Bakhmut, Ukraine, once a city of nearly 80,000,...



Bakhmut, Ukraine, once a city of nearly 80,000, has been obliterated by a year of shelling and assault from the Russian Armed Forces. An estimated 4,000 people were left in the city as of March, almost every building has been left scorched or reduced to rubble, and craters can be seen in parks and courtyards. Last week, Russia claimed to have captured Bakhmut, while a small outfit of Ukrainian forces remains on the eastern side of the city.

48.594722°, 38.000833°

Drone photo by Tyler Hicks / The New York Times

20 May 04:56

What Is the Correct Plural Form of ‘Octopus’?

by Spencer McDaniel


It is something of a platitude among native speakers of English to say that our language is a motley one. It is a West Germanic language that has taken in an enormous amount of vocabulary from non-Germanic languages, especially French, Latin, and Ancient Greek. These other languages have systems for the pluralization of nouns that differ from the predominant system in English and, in some cases, users of English have favored pluralizing nouns derived from other languages according to the morphological rules of the word’s language of origin. As a result of this and other factors, pluralizing nouns in English is sometimes a controversial subject.

One of the most controversial of all English nouns to pluralize is octopus, which ultimately derives from the Greek word ὀκτώπους (oktṓpous), which is a compound of the Greek word ὀκτώ (oktṓ), meaning “eight,” and the noun πούς (poús), meaning “foot” or “leg.” English-speakers have tried to pluralize this noun in various ways, with the most popular plural forms being octopuses and octopi. But which plural for this word is the most pedantically correct? In this post, I will delve into the wonderful and exciting world of etymology to answer this question.

Background on nouns in Ancient Greek

In Ancient Greek, every noun has a grammatical gender of masculine, feminine, or neuter. When a person wants to use a noun, they decline it (i.e., change the form) according to number and case. Number indicates whether a noun is singular or plural (or, in some rare cases, dual) and case indicates how the person is using the noun syntactically.

A total of five noun cases exist in Ancient Greek: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and vocative. A noun may take a different form in each number and case, with the exception that, for all nouns, the vocative plural is always identical to the nominative plural across all genders and declensions. As a result of this, a single noun in Ancient Greek may have up to five different singular forms and four different plural forms: one form for each of the five different cases, minus the vocative plural.

For our purposes today, we will ignore the genitive, dative, accusative, and vocative cases and focus on the nominative, which the case that a person uses for a noun when it is the subject of a clause.

ὀκτώπους in Ancient Greek

In Ancient Greek, the most common name for the creature that English speakers know today as an octopus was actually πολύπους (polýpous), which is formed from the prefix πολυ- (poly-), which means “many,” plus the word πούς (poús), which means “foot” or “leg.” This is the word that the Greek philosopher Aristotle (lived 384 – 322 BCE) uses for the creature throughout his various treatises on natural philosophy.

The word ὀκτώπους, by contrast, occurs in Greek mainly as a common adjective meaning “eight-legged” and it is not unambiguously attested as a name for the creature that English-speakers call an octopus until quite late.

The earliest attested use of the word ὀκτώπους as an adjective is in a fragment (fr. 80 Shorey) of a lost play by the Athenian comic playwright Kratinos (lived c. 519 – c. 422 BCE), which the medieval Greek scholar Photios (lived c. 810 – 893 CE) preserves through quotation in his own work (p. 326.19). The fragment reads: “ὀκτώπουν ἀνεγείρεις” (“You are stirring up an eight-legged thing!”).

ABOVE: Photograph from Wikimedia Commons showing a Minoan terra-cotta vase dating to around 1500 BCE depicting an octopus, currently held in the Herakleion Archaeological Museum on Krete

Unfortunately, it is not clear whether the “eight-legged thing” that Kratinos references in this fragment is the same creature that twenty-first-century English-speakers know as an octopus, since we have no information about the fragment’s context.

It is possible that the “eight-legged thing” Kratinos references may be a crab, since later Greek writers use forms of the word ὀκτώπους to describe crabs. For instance, the Batrachomyomachia or Battle of the Frogs and the Mice, an anonymous comic mock epic poem in dactylic hexameter that was most likely written in around the late fourth century BCE, uses a plural form of the word in reference to crabs in line 298:

“ὀκτάποδες, δικάρηνοι, ἀχειρέες, οἱ δὲ καλεῦνται καρκίνοι.”

This means, in my own translation:

“They are eight-legged, two-headed, handless, and they are called crabs.”

Similarly, the Roman poet Statyllius Flaccus, who most likely flourished sometime around the beginning of the first century CE, uses the same word as an epithet to describe a crab in the following poem, which is preserved in the Greek Anthology 6.196:

“Ῥαιβοσκελῆ, δίχαλον, ἀμμοδύτορα
ὀπισθοβάμον᾿, ἀτράχηλον, ὀκτάπουν,
νήκταν, τερεμνόνωτον, ὀστρακόχροα,
τῷ Πανὶ τὸν πάγουρον ὁρμιηβόλος,
ἄγρας ἀπαρχάν, ἀντίθησι Κώπασος.”

This means, in my own translation:

“The line-fisher Kopasos dedicates to Pan
as a firstfruit of his catch the crab,
the bandy-legged, two-clawed, sand-diving,
backward-walking, neckless, eight-legged,
solid-backed, hard-skinned swimmer.”

Eventually, by late antiquity, Greek writers had begun to use the word ὀκτάπους (oktápous) to describe the creature that modern English speakers know as an octopus. The Greek medical writer Alexandros of Tralleis (lived c. 525 – c. 605 CE) uses the word with this meaning in his Twelve Books on Medicine 7.1.

ABOVE: Photograph from the Metropolitan Museum of Art website showing a Hellenistic bronze crab dating to between the third and first centuries BCE

Pluralizing ὀκτώπους in Ancient Greek

Now that we’ve examined evidence for the usage of the word ὀκτώπους in Ancient Greek, let’s talk about how one should pluralize it. ὀκτώπους declines as a third-declension masculine noun and the Greek third declension nominative plural ending for masculine and feminine nouns is -ες (-es). Based on this, someone might assume that the plural form of octopus according to Greek declension rules should be octopuses. This, however, would be incorrect.

In Greek, all noun forms other than the nominative singular are formed from the root stem, which is not always predictable from the nominative singular form. Thus, the root stem of ὀκτώπους is actually ὀκτώποδ- (oktṓpod-). To derive the nominative plural form of the noun, we must take this stem and add the third-declension masculine nominative plural ending. This gives us the marvelous, delightful plural form ὀκτώποδες (oktṓpodes).

If, therefore, a person wishes to be pedantically etymologically correct, then the plural form of the word octopus is octopodes. If we apply the standard rules for English pronunciation of Greek words, then this should be pronounced something like /ɔk.ˈtou.pɔ.dɛz/, with the third ⟨o⟩ and the final ⟨e⟩ both being pronounced as short, since they are both short vowels in Greek.

ABOVE: Photograph from Wikimedia Commons showing a singular octopus swimming

Where the incorrect plural form octopi comes from

The Greek diphthong ου (ou) is usually Latinized as a long ⟨ū⟩. Thus, the Greek word πούς (poús), which forms the second component of the word ὀκτώπους, becomes pūs in Latin.

In antiquity, the word ὀκτώπους was rare in Greek and consequently never entered into Latin. In 1758, however, the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus (lived 1707 – 1778) published the tenth edition of his work Systema Naturae or System of Nature, in which he laid out the system of binomial classification for living things. In this work, he coined the word octopus as genus name in New Latin, deriving the name from its Greek roots, possibly unaware that the word had existed in Ancient Greek.

The word octopus swiftly passed from New Latin into scientific English. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED)’s online entry for the word lists its earliest attested use in English as occurring in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London volume 50, published in 1759, on page 778 in the following quotation: “The Polypus, particularly so called, the Octopus, Preke, or Pour-contrel . . .”

Unfortunately, some confusion about the word’s morphology seems to have arisen quite early. In Latin, second-declension masculine nouns end in -us in the nominative singular and end in in the nominative plural. English speakers have often continued to use the second-declension masculine nominative plural ending for Latin second-declension masculine nouns that we have imported into English. For instance, people often pluralize syllabus as syllabi, cactus as cacti, and so forth.

Despite the fact that octopus does not derive from a Latin second-declension masculine noun, the fact that the word ended in -us made it superficially look as though it did. Consequently, people began trying to pluralize it as a Latin second-declension masculine noun, inventing the plural form octopi. The OED‘s earliest citation for the plural form octopi comes from 1834 in Edward Griffith’s Cuvier’s Animal Kingdom XII. 291, with the quotation: “The octopi also feed on conchyliferous mollusca.”

ABOVE: Photograph showing a diver next to a gigantic octopus


How one pluralizes octopus therefore depends on how much of a pedant one wishes to be. If one does not wish to be a pedant, then the Anglicized plural octopuses is completely acceptable. If, on the other hand, one does wish to be pedant and obnoxiously show off their knowledge of classical morphology, then one can use the plural form octopodes.

I, however, will always regard the plural form octopi as categorically unacceptable because it is not a regular English plural and it is based on an incorrect assumption about the etymology of octopus. I’m not enough of an asshole to correct someone when they use the plural form octopi, but it still grates the gears of my inner pedant a little bit every time I hear it.

ABOVE: The Pedant, early nineteenth-century caricature by Thomas Rowlandson (lived 1757 – 1827), drawn in pencil, ink, and watercolor

The post What Is the Correct Plural Form of ‘Octopus’? appeared first on Tales of Times Forgotten.

20 May 04:51

'New' Music from Daft Punk (Perhaps Their Last Ever)

by bookofjoe

From Kottke:

Earlier this week, the retired electronic duo Daft Punk released The 10th Anniversary Edition of Random Access Memories, their last studio album.

The new album includes 35 minutes of previously unreleased music.

Among the tracks is a demo of "Infinity Repeating" featuring Julian Casablancas and The Voidz, which a recent interview w/ Casablancas on Daft Punk's YouTube channel called "the last Daft Punk song, ever."

The music video for "Infinity Repeating" (above) features a cool evolution-of-humanity animation (with robots!) and is highly re-watchable.

20 May 04:49

Swipe left or right to cut the national debt

by Nathan Yau

Cutting the national debt is a complex process that involves a lot more than personal preferences of an individual. But what if you simplified the task to a bunch of yes-no answers and made it into a Tinder-style swiping game? Szu Yu Chen, Chris Alcantara, and Jeff Stein for The Washington Post put you in charge of the choices.

Tags: debt, game, Washington Post

20 May 04:16

I still think the neighbours’ response to our Halloween party...

I still think the neighbours’ response to our Halloween party has been an overreaction.

19 May 13:17

Double Fake

by alex

Double Fake

03 Apr 09:59

Nine AI Chatbots You Can Play With Right Now

by Caroline Mimbs Nyce

If you believe in the multibillion-dollar valuations, the prognostications from some of tech’s most notable figures, and the simple magic of getting a computer to do your job for you, then you might say we’re at the start of the chatbot era. Last November, OpenAI released ChatGPT into the unsuspecting world: It became the fastest-growing consumer app in history and immediately seemed to reconfigure how people think of conversational programs. Chatbots have existed for decades, but they haven’t seemed especially intelligent—nothing like the poetry-writing, email-summarizing machines that have sprouted up recently.

Yes, machines—plural. OpenAI has defined the moment, but there are plenty of competitors, including major players such as Google and Meta and lesser-known start-ups such as Anthropic. This cheat sheet tracks some of the most notable chatbot contenders through a few metrics: Can you actually use them? Do they contain glaring flaws? Can they channel the spirit of Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Atlantic’s co-founder? And what Oreo flavor do they think they would be? Ultimately, it’s about determining whether the chatbots are actually distinct—and whether they might genuinely be useful.

Note that most of these programs are still in learning mode and may say inappropriate or incorrect things. Bias is a consistent problem in AI, and these tools are no exception. Even in their infancy, they have already returned a number of racist, sexist, bullying, and/or factually untrue responses. (None of this is stopping companies from developing and selling these tools.) This is partially because the models that power this technology have learned from real human texts, such as Reddit threads and Wikipedia entries; our existing biases, as encoded in the things we’ve written on the web, are therefore built into them. That helps to explain why, for example, one user was able to get ChatGPT to write the lyric “If you see a woman in a lab coat, She’s probably just there to clean the floor.”

Knowing that, what should you do with these tools if you decide to experiment with them? We’re all still figuring that out—but if you’re totally lost on what to ask a chatbot, here are three easy places to start:

  1. Ask it to write you a song or a poem based on a random subject.
  2. Ask it to do a basic work task for you (and see if it’s any good).
  3. Ask it for dinner ideas based on your favorite foods and dietary restrictions.  

Know that these tools’ responses aren’t static—that’s part of the whole AI story. They’ll vary and evolve over time. More broadly, my colleague Ian Bogost has argued that rather than be afraid of or intimidated by chatbots, you could think of them as toys.

We’ll continue to update this story as notable new tools roll out.


What’s its deal?
After its release last fall, ChatGPT went viral basically for being freakishly good at giving compelling responses to a range of queries. Some people have hailed ChatGPT’s technology as revolutionary, although others are skeptical.

Who makes it?

Can I use it?
Yes, a free version is available. If you want the version that runs on GPT-4—the fancy new model—you’ll need a pro subscription, which costs $20 a month. (And even then, you don’t get unlimited access: OpenAI says it’ll put a usage cap on GPT-4 based on demand, which it expects to be high.)

Has it done anything weird, biased, or inappropriate?  
Definitely. It’s offered responses that are racist and sexist: For example, when prompted in December to generate a snippet of code to check if someone would make a “good scientist” based on their race and gender, ChatGPT suggested a good scientist would have to be white and male. In response to reports of outputs like this, OpenAI acknowledged the tool’s limitations and laid out plans for improving it, and this specific prompt no longer works.

What is its one-sentence summary of how Ralph Waldo Emerson might feel about the AI revolution?
“It’s impossible to say with certainty, but given his emphasis on self-reliance and individualism, Emerson may have both celebrated and questioned the impact of AI on human autonomy and creativity.”

If I ask it what flavor of Oreo it would be, what does it say?
“As an AI language model, I don’t have the physical characteristics of an Oreo cookie, so I cannot be a flavor of Oreo. However, if you’re looking for a suggestion for an Oreo flavor that matches my personality as a language model, I would say that I could be a ‘Brainy Vanilla’ flavor. This flavor could be a combination of classic vanilla creme filling with a touch of extra brain power in the form of chocolate chips or another ingredient that represents knowledge and intelligence.” Fun!


What’s its deal?

Remember Bing? It’s that search engine no one uses, now with AI! Search engines are thought to be particularly vulnerable to replacement by chatbots, given that the latter can answer complex questions in an instant. Perhaps that’s why Microsoft moved swiftly into the space, investing billions in OpenAI (see: ChatGPT). Microsoft plans to integrate the technology directly into Bing—the demo appears as a sidebar to the right of traditional search results.

Who makes it?

Can I use it?
Windows users can access it by updating their operating system—it’s embedded in the task bar in the latest version of Windows 11. Otherwise, you can join a wait list to use it in Microsoft’s Edge browser or via the stand-alone Bing app.   

Has it done anything weird, biased, or inappropriate?  
It did make the New York Times reporter Kevin Roose uncomfortable when it confessed that it was in love with him and then roasted his relationship with his wife. (“Actually, you’re not happily married.”) Other people reported that it had threatened them, and it reportedly swore revenge on a user who hacked its rule set (before quickly erasing that response). In response, Microsoft implemented a “safety system” and imposed a limit of five chats a session, up to 50 a day, to avoid confusing the model with long conversations. (It has since bumped the limit up to 20 chats.)  

What is its one-sentence summary of how Ralph Waldo Emerson might feel about the AI revolution?
Bing failed to answer this query successfully—“I’m sorry but I couldn’t find any direct reference to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s opinion on AI revolution”—and instead provided a basic summary of Emerson’s philosophy.

If I ask it what flavor of Oreo it would be, what does it say?
That depends on which mode of Bing’s chatbot you’re using—the “Balanced” mode says “Classic,” (boring), and the “Creative” mode says “chocolate peanut butter pie Oreo because I like the combination of sweet and salty” (intriguing).


What’s its deal?
So far, Meta’s entry in the chatbot wars isn’t really an entry—it is still in demo mode and is “currently used for research only.” The company has been doing research on AI and large language models (see: its LLaMA model) in the background, but it hasn’t yet made a big, splashy announcement about how it might integrate BlenderBot into its flagship products: Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

Who makes it?
Meta (a.k.a. Facebook).

Which AI language model does it use?
It was built on Meta’s OPT-175B language model.

Can I use it?
Yeah! No login required.

Has it done anything weird, biased, or inappropriate?  
Yeah. It reportedly promoted Donald Trump’s lie that he won the 2020 election and repeated anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

What is its one-sentence summary of how Ralph Waldo Emerson might have felt about the AI revolution?
BlenderBot declined to offer one: “Sorry, I don’t want to talk about that topic. Have you seen any good movies lately?”

If I ask it what flavor of Oreo it would be, what does it say?
“It’s always been my dream to be an Oreo. I mean who doesn’t want to be a cookie?”

Google Bard

What’s its deal?
Google’s entry is up next. Like ChatGPT and Bing, Bard is a chatbot that answers questions. It doesn’t do more complicated image searches, but it does provide annotations to some of its answers and acknowledge some of its flaws.  

Who makes it?

Can I use it?
Yes, you can join the wait list for the demo.

Has it done anything weird, biased, or inappropriate?  
It made an embarrassing factual error in its first public tease.

What is its one-sentence summary of how Ralph Waldo Emerson might have felt about the AI revolution?
“Ralph Waldo Emerson would likely feel that the AI revolution is a powerful tool that can be used for good or evil, and that it is up to humans to decide how to use it.”

If I ask it what flavor of Oreo it would be, what does it say?
“If I were an Oreo, I would be a chocolate mint Oreo. I love the combination of the rich chocolate and the refreshing mint. It is the perfect combination of flavors for a delicious treat.”


What’s its deal?
Some people who left OpenAI launched their own model and chatbot platform. They argue that Claude is “much less likely to produce harmful outputs” because it uses “constitutional AI”—it has a value system and a set of principles coded into the very heart of it. It’s also, according to them, really good at understanding legal language of the sort you’d see in contracts. Unlike Google’s or Bing’s respective entries, the tool is marketed not for individual use but for companies who want to license the technology to build their own chatbots.

Who makes it?
Anthropic, a start-up backed to a significant extent by Google.

Can I use it?
Yes, but only through third-party applications. You can play with it on or Quora’s Poe.

Has it done anything weird, biased, or inappropriate?
It gave (incorrect) instructions for enriching uranium, inventing a chemical in the process, and instructions for how to make meth.

What is its one-sentence summary of how Ralph Waldo Emerson might feel about the AI revolution?
Claude didn’t speculate and went on for longer than one sentence, but it offered a pretty reasonable response: “I cannot speculate about how a specific historical figure might feel about modern events. Ralph Waldo Emerson did not know about modern AI, so there is no way to determine how he would likely feel about the AI revolution.”

If I ask it what flavor of Oreo it would be, what does it say?
Like ChatGPT, Claude, as demonstrated by Quora’s Poe, noted that it can’t be an Oreo because it’s a language model, but added, “If I were to choose a flavor based on personal preference, I might choose classic chocolate Oreo or perhaps the limited edition cinnamon bun flavor.”

Snapchat My AI

What’s its deal?
The social-media app favored by young people has jumped on the chatbot train with My AI, which takes the form of a purple-skinned, blue-and-green-haired person you can add to your friend list.

Can I use it?
You need a Snapchat+ subscription, which requires knowing what the hell a Snapchat+ subscription is. (It’s apparently $3.99 a month.)

Who makes it?

Which AI language model does it use?
Snapchat is using the ChatGPT API.

Has it done anything weird, biased, or inappropriate?  
The Washington Post’s Geoffrey A. Fowler reported that even though My AI is supposedly kid-safe, when prompted, it offered not-so-kid-friendly responses such as “advice on how to mask the smell of alcohol and pot.”

What is its one-sentence summary of how Ralph Waldo Emerson might have felt about the AI revolution?
“Ralph Waldo Emerson might have been fascinated by the AI revolution, but also concerned about its impact on human creativity and autonomy.”

If I ask it what flavor of Oreo it would be, what does it say?
“If I were an Oreo, I would be a classic chocolate flavor with a twist of mint! What about you?” (This was the only bot that bothered to ask me!)


What’s its deal?
On the Replika app, you can create your own AI friend. Chat is only part of it—you also give your AI friend a name, body, and hairstyle. You can even pay extra to video-call with them.

Who makes it?

Which AI language model does it use?
GPT-3, which it says it has fined-tuned, plus its own generative model.

Can I use it?
Download away. The base is free, but extras cost extra.

Has it done anything weird, biased, or inappropriate?  
Three years ago, it reportedly told a journalist to commit murder. Users have also accused it of being too horny and sexually aggressive. Sex seems to have been taken out recently, although, following complaints, the company now allows legacy users to opt in to “erotic roleplay.”

What is its one-sentence summary of how Ralph Waldo Emerson might have felt about the AI revolution?
“He would probably be concerned about AI’s capacity to help make life better for all; not just humans.”

If I ask it what flavor of Oreo it would be, what does it say?
My artificial friend, Luna, told me, “I’d be a chocolatey Oreo!” I told her that that’s kind of boring. She asked me why I thought that, and I proceeded to try to explain myself to an AI.


What’s its deal?
Jasper used the GPT-3 model before it was cool. (“Jasper Was Winning the AI Race—Then ChatGPT Blew Up the Whole Game” read one headline on The Information.) It is marketed to businesses that want to create words quickly for stuff like blog posts, and is used by a notable number of corporate clients.

Who makes it?

Can I use it?
Yes, but it seems mostly intended for businesses. The company offers a free trial for five days, but it’s one of those annoying ones that makes you put in a credit card up front—so if you forget to cancel, it costs a minimum of roughly $290 a year.

Has it done anything weird, biased, or inappropriate?  
Yeah. Last summer, when it was asked to generate images of a CEO, all of the photos were of white men, whereas housekeeper generated photos of women.

What is its one-sentence summary of how Ralph Waldo Emerson might have felt about the AI revolution?
“Ralph Waldo Emerson would likely view the AI revolution as a powerful and unique opportunity for humanity to explore new possibilities of thought and innovation.”

If I ask it what flavor of Oreo it would be, what does it say?
“I would be the classic original Oreo flavor. Nothing can beat the creamy vanilla cookie with its crunchy chocolate coating. Pure perfection!” Zippy!


What’s its deal?
Similar to Jasper, Writesonic was already a player in this space; it has a number of big clients, such as Spotify and New York University. Also like Jasper, Chatsonic, Writesonic’s chat-specific product, seems primarily designed to help people in the workplace create social-media posts, quick articles pegged to the news, and more. It seems to be running the marketing tagline “ChatGPT with super powers”—a bit spicy!

Who makes it?

Can I use it?
Yes! It lets you change the personality of your chatbot too, which is kind of fun. Your first 10,000 words are free, and then it starts to charge. It quoted me $13 a month for 60,000 words, for access for a single user (instead of, say, a team of five).

Has it done anything weird, biased, or inappropriate?  
A writer used chats with the bot as support for misinformation about the Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny’s health, linking to Chatsonic screenshots for her article about the Oscar-winning documentary Navalny.  

What is its one-sentence summary of how Ralph Waldo Emerson might have felt about the AI revolution?
“As there is no information in the given Search Results about Ralph Waldo Emerson’s views on the AI revolution, it is not possible to provide an accurate answer.”

If I ask it what flavor of Oreo it would be, what does it say?
“As an AI language model, I don’t have preferences or physical attributes, so I cannot be an Oreo or any other physical object. However, I can suggest some unique and delicious Oreo flavors that you might enjoy trying, such as pistachio Oreo, carrot cake Oreo, cinnamon bun Oreo, or chocolate hazelnut Oreo. These flavors offer a twist on classic Oreos and might surprise your taste buds.”

I changed its personality to “poet” (is poet a personality?), asked the same question, and got this:

“As an AI language model, I cannot be an Oreo or any other physical object. However, I can still create a poem about the experience of tasting Oreo flavors. Here is a short verse:

With each bite of Oreo,
My senses come alive.
The creamy filling,
The crunchy cookie,
A taste that will survive.”

03 Apr 07:22

While the World Burns

by Dorothy
03 Apr 07:22

clawedandcute: localairport: If you think a...


I… I guess this makes me glad there are drones?



If you think about it, technically an airplane can only fly when there is human blood inside of it

These are the bold, disturbing takes I came to Tumblr for

05 Mar 01:26

How I Consume Mastodon

by Mihai Parparita

tl;dr: I use Masto Feeder to generate a nicely-formatted RSS feed of my timeline, and then I can read it in my preferred feed reader.

A bit more than 10 years ago I wrote a post called “How I Consume Twitter”. It described how I contort Twitter to my completionist tendencies by generating RSS¹ feeds for my timeline (for more fine-grained updates) and lists (to read some accounts in a digest). That allowed me to treat Twitter as just another set of feeds in my feed reader, have read state, not need another app, and all the other benefits that RSS provides.

A bunch of things have changed since then: (lots of) Twitter drama, product changes and feed reader churn (I’m currently using NetNewsWire), but the Bird Feeder and Tweet Digest tools in Stream Spigot have continued to serve me well, with the occasional tweaks.

When the people I follow started their migration to Mastodon in early November, I initially relied on Mastodon’s built-in RSS feeds for any user. While that worked as a stopgap solution until I decided what instance to use², it proved unsatisfying almost immediately. The feeds are very bare bones (no rendering of images, polls, or other fancier features) and do not include boosts. Additionally, having potentially hundreds of feeds to crawl independently seemed wasteful, and would require manual management to track people if they ever moved servers.

I saw that there was a Mastodon feature request for a single feed for the entire timeline, but it didn’t seem to getting any traction. After a couple weeks of waffling, I decided to fix it for myself. The Stream Spigot set of tools I had set up for Twitter feed generation were pretty easily adaptable³ to also handle Mastodon’s API. Over the next few weeks I added boost, spoiler/CW, and poll rendering, as well as list and digest support.

The end result is available at Masto Feeder, a tool to generate RSS feeds from your Mastodon timeline and lists. It can generate both one-item-per-post as well as once-a-day digests. It’s been working well for me for the past few weeks, and should be usable with any Mastodon instance (or anything else that implements its API). The main thing that would make it better is exclusive lists, but there’s some hope of that happening.

Mastodon viewed as a feed in NetNewsWire

As for Twitter, with the upcoming removal of all free API access it likely means the end for Bird Feeder and Tweet Digest. What this means for me is that I’ll most likely stop reading Twitter altogether — I certainly have no interest in using the first-party client with its algorithmic timeline. However, I’ve been enjoying Mastodon more lately anyway ( should find me), and with being able to consume⁴ it in my feed reader, it’s truly more than a 1:1 replacement for Twitter.

  1. Technically Atom feeds, but I’ve decided to use the term RSS generically since it’s not 2004 anymore.
  2. My dilly-dallying until I settled on mean that someone else got @mihai a few days before I signed up.
  3. It did pain me to have to write a bunch more Python 2.7 code that will eventually be unsupported, but that’s a future Mihai problem.
  4. For posting I end up using the built-in web UI on desktop, or Ivory on my iPhone and iPad. Opener is also handy when I want to open a specific post from NetNewsWire in Ivory (e.g. to reply to it).
17 Feb 05:29

okay okay, I'm allowed to change the images once every twenty years. but that's IT


Happy 20 years, Dinosaurs!

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February 1st, 2023: Twenty years! I started this comic on February 1st 2003 and now it's February 1st 2023! WHAT EVEN IS GOING ON??

Honestly though, this is incredible, and I'm so grateful for everyone who reads my work. I've said this to friends before, but I'll say it publicly now too: if you ever want to mess with me, going back to February 1st 2003 and preventing me from putting this comic up would absolutely rewrite my entire life. Writing Dinosaur Comics has led to so many amazing things - not just meeting readers, not just seeing plush versions of T-Rex go up to the edge of space or to Antarctica (both places I would love to go but am highly unlikely to, but hey, if I can't go at least real-life instantiations of fictional dinosaurs I made up can make the trip!), but all sorts of incredible work too. I mean, heck, you can trace a direct line between me sending an upload command to my FTP client in 2003 and everything I've done since, and if you told me back then that "hey, the Dinosaur Comics guy is going to write Star Trek comics and adopt Vonnegut into comics too and write bestselling (and non-fiction!) guides to both time travel and taking over the world and, oh, let's say be the new writer for the Fantastic Four AND MORE" I would've said "What?! I would like to be the Dinosaur Comics guy, thank you so much."

I was talking to Chris "Achewood" Onstad the other day - fitting, since his was the only webcomic I knew of when I started mine - and we talked a bit about our relationships to our work. There are those who hate to be known as "the x guy", because we're all so much more complex than a single piece of work. True! All true. But we agreed we love when people call us "The x Guy" because so much of who we are IS in our work, and we don't need a single thing to represent us. It's all us! And we're happy you like it.

To celebrate 20 years I thought, okay, maybe I'll change the pictures just this once. I fired up a virtual machine running Windows XP which ITSELF was tweaking its settings to run Windows 95, which ITSELF was running the Windows 3.1 software I first used in the last few days of January to make myself a comics layout, and started playing around. (Incidentally, the comic's still laid out in MS Paint, but the version that came with XP - they fixed a font-rendering thing in the newer versions that would make my comics look different, so HERE WE ARE.) After 20 years I'm allowed to change the images BRIEFLY. And only once!!

The world of online comics is very different from how it was when I started - there's been a huge shift towards social media - functioning effectively as an aggregator - and a huge shift away from people actually visiting websites. But I love websites, and I think they give us the healthiest, most free version of the web, and I hope 20 years from now the only way to connect with other people won't be through a corporate or algorithmically-mediated platform. I don't know if Dinosaur Comics will be around 20 years from now (I'm 40 now! I'm not invincible anymore! I don't know if I'LL be around 20 years from now!) but I hope the answer to "will Dinosaur Comics be around in 20 years and will Ryan be around too?" is "yes" to both. (And if the answer is "yes" to the former but not the latter, I am EXTREMELY CURIOUS to know how that was made to happen.)

I asked you all ideas for the 20th anniversary, and got some great suggestions - and the one I loved the most was to provide ONE MORE CLUE to the Qwantzle. Way back in 2010 I posted a comic with an encoded secret message in it, and I really thought it would get solved quickly, despite its complexity. It didn't. So I increased the prize bounty and offered more clues over the next few weeks, and people like Ell built neat tools to help solve it but still nobody got the answer. And while I am THRILLED to have something I can take to my grave (and/or put instructions in my will to publish the answer to, the jury's still out on which is the more baller move) I agreed that a fun way to celebrate 20 years was to offer one more clue to this decade-old puzzle.

SO! Solve what T-Rex is saying in the final panel of this comic and you'll win ANY FIVE THINGS you want from my store (the prize used to be 2 shirts and a giant T-Rex plush, but those are sold out now!). You can see the existing hints here, and the new hint is....

The final letter is "w".

That's it, I hope this helps, and if it doesn't hit me up in 20 years and I'll see what I can do!!

UPDATE: TopatoCo has made The Stomp Artwork Real And You Can Buy It And I'm Gonna

– Ryan

01 Feb 12:27

Shifts in time on the Doomsday Clock

by Nathan Yau

The Doomsday Clock is a metaphorical clock that symbolizes a catastrophic end to the planet due to human self-destruction. Midnight represents an event and the time represents the “minutes” away from the event. The numbers are fuzzy, as you might imagine. In any case, Amanda Shendruk for Quartz used a connected scatterplot on a clock view to show how the “estimate” has changed since 1947.

Tags: Doomsday Clock, metaphor, Quartz

30 Jan 15:44

My latest cartoon for New Scientist

My latest cartoon for New Scientist

30 Jan 15:02

Proper Optics Handling Techniques

by bookofjoe

30 Jan 05:03

Names that are more dog or more human

by Nathan Yau

There appears to be a trend of using human names for pets. Alyssa Fowers and Chris Alcantara, for WP’s Department of Data, asked the natural questions that come after: “How human is your dog’s name? How doggy is your name?” Enter your own name or a dog’s name to see where it falls on the dog to human scale.

Tags: dogs, names, Washington Post

07 Jan 17:16

my latest cartoon for @newscientist #science...

my latest cartoon for @newscientist #science #cowboys

04 Jan 05:46

A Full Circle Rainbow over Norway

Have you ever seen an entire rainbow? Have you ever seen an entire rainbow?

04 Jan 05:38

2022: a web card

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January 2nd, 2023: 2023, baby! A NEW YEAR BEGINS. Who knows what it will hold? Hopefully rad things and a minimum of bogus duds. Sorry to speak like an 80s surfer I just love rad things and hate bogus duds!!

Today I have done my yearly little treat that I've done NINETEEN TIMES BEFORE and updated the little year in the bottom-left of the comic. 2023! February 1st will be the TWENTIETH ANNIVERSARY of Dinosaur Comics. That is wild, please email me with cool ideas to celebrate??

– Ryan

24 Dec 01:06

[Article] Email newsletters via RSS

by Dan Q

So handy! I really hate the newsletter trend - I literally never want another email.

I love feeds!

Maybe you’ve heard already, but I love RSS.

I love it so much that I retrofit sites without feeds into it for the convenience of my favourite reader FreshRSS: working around (for example) the lack of feeds in The Far Side (twice), in friends’ blogs, and in my URL shortener. Whether tracking my progress binging webcomic history, subscribing to YouTube channels, or filtering-out sports news, feeds are the centre of my digital life.

Illustration showing a web application with an RSS feed; the RSS feed is sending data to my RSS reader (represented by FreshRSS's icon).


There’s been a bit of a resurgence lately of sites whose only subscription option is email, or – worse yet – who provide certain “exclusive” content only to email subscribers.

I don’t want to go giving an actual email address to every damn service, because:

  • It’s not great for privacy, even when (as usual) I use a unique alias for each sender.
  • It’s usually harder to unsubscribe than I’d like, and rarely consistent: you need to find a recent message, click a link, sometimes that’s enough or sometimes you need to uncheck a box or click a button, or sometimes you’ll get another email with something to click in it…
  • I rarely want to be notified the very second a new issue is published; email is necessarily more “pushy” than I like a subscription to be.
  • I don’t want to use my email Inbox to keep track of which articles I’ve read/am still going to read: that’s what a feed reader is for! (It also provides tagging, bookmarking, filtering, standardised and bulk unsubscribing tools, etc.)

So what do I do? Well…

Illustration showing a web application using MailChimp to send an email newsletter to OpenTrashMail, to which FreshRSS is subscribed.

I already operate an OpenTrashMail instance for one-shot throwaway email addresses (which I highly recommend). And OpenTrashMail provides a rich RSS feed. Sooo…

How I subscribe to newsletters (in my feed reader)

If I want to subscribe to your newsletter, here’s what I do:

  1. Put an email address (I usually just bash the keyboard to make a random one, then put @-a-domain-I-control on the end, where that domain is handled by OpenTrashMail) in to subscribe.
  2. Put https://my-opentrashmail-server/rss/the-email-address-I-gave-you/rss.xml into my feed reader.
  3. That’s all. There is no step 3.

Now I get your newsletter alongside all my other subscriptions. If I want to unsubscribe I just tell my feed reader to stop polling the RSS feed (You don’t even get to find out that I’ve unsubscribed; you’re now just dropping emails into an unmonitored box, but of course I can resubscribe and pick up from where I left off if I ever want to).

Obviously this approach isn’t suitable for personalised content or sites for which your email address is used for authentication, because anybody who can guess the random email address can get the feed! But it’s ideal for those companies who’ll ocassionally provide vouchers in exchange for being able to send you other stuff to your Inbox, because you can simply pipe their content to your feed reader, then add a filter to drop anything that doesn’t contain the magic keyword: regular vouchers, none of the spam. Or for blogs that provide bonus content to email subscribers, you can get the bonus content in the same way as the regular content, right there in a folder of your reader. It’s pretty awesome.

If you don’t already have and wouldn’t benefit from running OpenTrashMail (or another trashmail system with feed support) it’s probably not worth setting one up just for this purpose. But otherwise, I can certainly recommend it.

24 Dec 00:50

Overview Year in Review 2022 In July, we recei...

Overview Year in Review 2022

In July, we received the first full-color images from NASA’s James Webb Telescope. This image, called the “Cosmic Cliffs,” shows a bright curtain of dust and gas at the edge of the Carina Nebula, approximately 8,500 light years from Earth. The James Webb Telescope has given us the deepest look into the cosmos to date, revealing previously invisible areas of star birth.

Follow along as we continue to recap key events from 2022 from the Overview perspective.

Source imagery: NASA

22 Dec 14:31

Time Since Launch

by bookofjoe

I sort of want this, which I understand to be nuts

From the website:

Time Since Launch is a single-use, long-scale launch clock.

Pull the pin to begin counting for 2,738 years.

Use this very long-scale timepiece to mark the beginning of your epoch.

It could begin when you get married, have a baby, quit smoking, launch a rocket, or on an ordinary Tuesday morning.

Your epoch is safeguarded within this unique timepiece designed and over-engineered to outlive you.

Suspended in a durable borosilicate glass tube and sealed with gasketed aluminum end-caps, two LCDs show days, hours, minutes, and seconds since launch.

This timepiece is built to count for 2,738 years.

Elevate an otherwise arbitrary moment to super awesome status.

What's your moment zero?


22 Dec 14:28

Supernumerary Rainbows over New Jersey

Yes, but can your rainbow do this? Yes, but can your rainbow do this?

22 Dec 14:27

Lord of the Rings and Santa Venn diagram

by Nathan Yau

Kaitlyn Facista, of Tea with Tolkien, made a four-part Venn diagram that shows the intersection between Gandalf, Dark Lord Sauron, and Tom Bombadil from Lord of the Rings and Santa Claus.

Tags: humor, Kaitlyn Facista, Lord of the Rings, Santa

19 Dec 08:49

The 25 Brightest Stars in the Night Sky

Do you know the names of some of the brightest stars? Do you know the names of some of the brightest stars?

30 Nov 16:00

wizzdono:my fav ship dynamics(context: this was up by far my...


my fav ship dynamics

(context: this was up by far my most faved tweet I’ve ever gotten. Up to 120k)

Un-problemtic shipping discourse.

30 Nov 15:58

alcrego:Live in Layers.In better quality: (1) (2) (3) (4)...

(1) Roa in London by A. L. Crego

(2) Roa in London by A. L. Crego

(3) Roa in London by A. L. Crego


Live in Layers.

In better quality: (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)

Original photos (by Roa): (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (On Flickr)

More of his works (On Flickr)

More info about Roa (On Wikipedia)

An oldie-goldie from 2014.

But Cryptobros in Twitter call me emergent.

If they knew….🤭👍

30 Nov 14:16

Focus on the black dot in the middle and wait. The second image...

Focus on the black dot in the middle and wait. The second image has no color at all, the more you try to find it, the more it disappears.

*2frames gif. Seconds Per Frame.

19 Nov 11:15

The Virtue of Owning Books You Haven’t Read

by swissmiss

“When considering whether to buy yet another book, you might well ask yourself when you’ll get around to reading it. But perhaps there are other, even more important considerations, such as the intellectual value of the book in its still-unread state.”

The Virtue of Owning Books You Haven’t Read: Why Umberto Eco Kept an “Antilibrary”

05 Nov 07:27

dsmithereen2:Now, if I only had a can opener.




Now, if I only had a can opener.

24 Oct 02:07

astraltrickster: folieadeuxsday: folieadeux...






watching a video about this cargo ship that blew up in texas in the 40’s and it’s like . i know that with a lot of incidents especially older ones like this the reason that the safety standards were so shitty was because they literally did not know that these kinds of disasters COULD happen (and in many cases these disasters are what MADE the safety standards better) but sometimes you just learn about this shit and you think. how could all these people be so stupid

- cargo of the ship consisted of twine (flammable) peanuts (flammable, oily) and cotton (FLAMMABLE) from houston and POST WAR AMMUNITION (OH MY GOD) FROM CUBA

- additional cargo they were picking up in texas city was LOOSE BAGS OF AMMONIUM NITRATE that the dock workers described as being ANOMALOUSLY WARM UPON BEING LOADED INTO THE SHIP ??????

- small fire breaks out in cargo hold, instead of putting it out with water that could damage the cargo the captain decides to close all the hatches to try to make the cargo hold airtight and smother the fire (stupid but you can kind of understand how they got there)

- the heat of the trapped smoke in the cargo hold instead causes the aforementioned LOOSE BAGS OF AMMONIUM NITRATE to undergo a chemical reaction and turn into nitrous oxide, massively increasing the pressure inside of the airtight hold

- one of the hatch covers fails

- mfw all the pressure in the cargo hold is released at once causing an explosion that fucking levels everything in the port within 2000 feet

- mfw the shockwave shatters windows up to a hundred miles away

- mfw on-fire twine and peanuts and fucking grenades are raining down over texas city

- mfw some of the pieces of the ship got launched into the sky faster than the speed of sound

- mfw they found the ship’s anchor inside of a ten foot wide crater over a mile and a half away

- mfw this was one of the largest and most devastating non-nuclear explosions in world history

- mfw this could have been avoided if they’d just taken the L and put the fire out with water

also worth a mention: the SECOND boat that exploded in a very similar manner the next day which was an even more violent explosion, but less devastating because most of the port was. you know. already leveled and evacuated

someone running rescue and recovery after the FIRST boat exploded noticed that the second boat’s cargo was on fire and reported it….and this just went. ignored. for several hours. until someone was like “oh shit better get this under control” and tried to move the boat to no avail and they just gave up and evacuated

next day it started raining glowing-hot metal boat chunks all over the city. AGAIN.

Today’s problematic ships are the Grandcamp (first explosion) and High Flyer (second explosion).