Shared posts

13 Nov 04:36

Carolyn Hax: A family Facebook fracas, and how to deal with it

by Carolyn Hax
Her middle-aged brother and their senior father engage in online sniping.
06 Oct 01:56

Primary colors.


This blog just keeps giving!

Primary colors.

28 Sep 10:26

Stacked: Photos by Peter Stewart

by Jason Jose


An expansive series by self-taught photographer Peter Stewart that explores the dense urban environments and architecture of Hong Kong's high rise public housing. Similar to Michael Wolf's Architecture of Density series, the images capture the urban fabric of one of the most populated and vertical cities in the world to contend with the lack of lateral space. The soaring buildings focus on the repetition of patterns and form as Hong Kong's population rapidly grows and it's architecture expands along with it.

See more of Peter Stewart's work on Behance or at his website.
28 Sep 10:16

An Interactive Digital Installation Inside a Shopping Mall in Singapore

by Jason Jose

Beautiful! Will visit next time I’m in SG.

I was in Singapore last week and while checking out the sights, I walked into this shopping mall to escape the heat and humidity. As I was headed to the food court section, I stumbled on this digital installation by Japanese art collective teamLab entitled Nature's Rhythm and Strokes of Life. The work consists of a 15m diameter circular lighted rink and a 20m cylinder above consisting of a collection of light points. In the first scene, thousands of fish swim and react to the movement of people on the rink while a flock of birds flies through the cylinder in the air. Each person on the rink has a color, and the nearby fish receive the same color. In the second scene, Spatial Calligraphy is drawn in three dimensions when people stand on the rink giving life to flowers, birds and butterflies. The flowers that bloom changes throughout the year. Simultaneously the calligraphy appears in the cylinder above as a three-dimensional light sculpture of brushstrokes. The work is rendered in real time by a computer program, neither a prerecorded animation nor imagery on loop and the work as a whole constantly changes, never repeating previous states. Fortunately, there was this little kid running around the rink interacting with the work that made it even more special.
27 Sep 22:08

List: How to Talk to Cancer Patient Without Being a Complete Twit


Generally sensible advice.

Rule #1:
Consider carefully before asking, “How are you?”

We all do it. It’s actually one of the few shreds remaining of what used to be called “etiquette.” We all ask the question, and when we are asked we mostly answer, “Fine.” It’s just a social convention.

But when someone is in the throes of an illness that causes fatigue, nausea, fever, chills, soaking sweats, deep pain, and/or death — and that’s just the illness; never mind what the treatments do — well, to say the least, it makes for an awkward conversational opener.

The sick person can go with social convention and just say, “Fine,” but you’ll both know it’s a lie: problematic at best. Or he/she could tell you how she/he really is, but that will inevitably be a complex answer that makes you both late for your next appointment. And let’s face it, you didn’t really want to know, did you? The question slipped out before you thought it through.

Rule #2:
Do not underestimate the nobility and wisdom
of minding your own beeswax.

Unless you are the physician of record, keep your goddamn medical opinions to yourself. It is not your job to determine what, if any, treatments are appropriate. Especially when said treatments are painful, debilitating, and expensive, and the other choice is pushing up daisies, kindly remember that it is not your life on the line. Even if you feel absolutely sure you would make this or that choice were you in the patient’s shoes, those are in fact the patient’s feet in there, not yours. You don’t know what you would do. Nobody does.

Please do not insist that you know, or know of, a fabulous doctor the patient really should see in a city inconveniently distant from the patient’s residence, because of course the doctors in the patient’s own vicinity can’t possibly be as good as the one that a friend’s friend’s son saw for treatment.

Please do not recommend “must-see” websites.

Likewise please bite your tongue — hard — if tempted to recommend against prescribed treatments. Even if you really, really believe that everything is curable with the right herbs, vitamins, positive thoughts, acupuncture, Tesla coils, and cannabis, keep it to yourself. Save it for your own cancer treatment, should that happy occasion arise.

Rule #3:
Try listening with your mouth shut.

Avoid the temptation to tell the story of your great-uncle Fred, who had cancer and was given sixteen rounds of chemo and enough radiation to flash-fry a buffalo, yet lived to the ripe old age of 73. (He was 72 when he got diagnosed, but never mind.) You might think these survival stories are helpful/encouraging, but you shift the burden onto the sufferer to listen attentively to you.

Likewise, do not compare the patient’s circumstance with people you know or know of, who had it so much worse. Your Cousin Tilly lost not only all her hair, but her teeth, tongue, and eyeballs? It may surprise you to learn that nobody, ever, was cheered up by hearing how lucky they are not to be even sicker.

A sick person does not wish to hear about your even-worsities. Broken health is not a race to the bottom of the heap of experiences. A sick person has enough to attend to without having to nod understandingly over your tales of woe, and murmur polite nothings. That’s supposed to be your job.

Rule #4:
Avoid euphemisms.

People are generally not as stupid as we like to believe, and a person gazing into the double-barreled shotgun of life-threatening illness knows only too well what he/she is facing. Don’t avoid saying the C word thinking the shock will be too much for them to bear. Believe me, if the doctor has already phoned with biopsy results (and it is never good news when the doctor makes the call), they have already borne more reality than you can dish out.

Do not refer to debilitating illness as a “journey.” Life is a journey. A trip to Italy is a journey. Major illness is a road washout at 55 MPH in the dark with no warning signs.

Do not, puh-leeze, especially in the person’s obituary, cite his/her “courageous battle with cancer.” A person doesn’t endure the debilitating indignities of chemo/radiation/surgery because he/she is brave. A person endures these things because the only alternative is daisy-pushing—it is actually the path of least resistance. Doctors might be doing battle with cancer, but the poor patient is simply the battlefield.

Rule #5:
Don’t look on the bright side.

Screw the bright side, when a person’s life has just taken a hard left turn. Don’t say, “I hear that hair grows back better after chemo!” This is, to say the least, cold comfort.

Rule #6:
Just because you learn of someone’s misfortune,
that doesn’t make it your business.

No media postings! Ill health is personal, private, and in its strange way intimate. Please: no Facebook posts, tweets, blanket emails, or blogs. Do not initiate any Make-A-Wish or Kickstarter campaigns on behalf of the patient, without his/her express consent. Remember that you don’t own this situation, for which you may be grateful indeed.

Rule #7:
Leave your religion out of it.

Even if someone shares your faith, count on them not being cheered by the news that their extreme illness is part of God’s plan. For someone who does not share your views this comes as the penultimate, if not the ultimate, in ice-cold comfort. If cancer really is part of God’s Intelligent Design for the world, then ole God needs to go back to the drawing board. This is just not something You should inflict on Your children for whom You are supposed to have such infinite love. (Sounds more like an Abusive Father, really.)

Anyway: don’t go there. Offer to pray, if you feel so moved. But above all don’t carry on as though this wouldn’t have happened if only the patient’s faith had been stronger. And if you dare to say, “Everything happens for a reason,” you deserve a longish term in whatever Hell your religion has to offer.

Rule #8:
Thank you for offering to help.
What exactly did you offer to help with?

“Call me if there’s anything I can do” is another of those situations where you are placing the onus on the sick person: to keep track not only of whirlwind appointments, medications, side effects, and a staggering array of logistics, but now a list of people, including you, no you are not the only one, who have offered nebulous help. What, exactly, are you capable of and willing to do: Rides? Meals? Housework? Shopping? People with overcrowded brains are more likely to remember specific things, and more likely to believe you really meant it and weren’t just salving your conscience so that you will be able to say, “Well, I offered to help, but they never called me.”

Thank you for your best intentions. Thank you for not wanting to be a twit.

27 Sep 22:05

Finally, a world map that's all about oceans

by Frank Jacobs

Love this!

  • Athelstan Spilhaus designed an oceanic thermometer to fight the Nazis, and the weather balloon that got mistaken for a UFO in Roswell.
  • In 1942, he produced a world map with a unique perspective, presenting the world's oceans as one body of water.
  • The Spilhaus Projection could be just what the oceans need to get the attention their problems deserve.

This is a world map unlike any other. Uniquely, it centres on Antarctica. Disturbingly, it rips Asia and the Americas to shreds. And compellingly, it presents the seas and oceans – 71% of the Earth's surface – as a unified body of water.The map was designed by a renaissance man who also invented the skyways of Minneapolis and the secret weather balloon that caused the Roswell Incident. And yet you've never heard of him.

Dr Spilhaus was not just a distinguished meteorologist and oceanographer, but also a prolific inventor. During the Second World War, he developed the bathythermograph, a device for measuring sea temperature at great depth – making it easier to detect German submarines.

In 1948, he moved to the Minnesota Institute of Technology in Minneapolis. Perhaps because of the huge contrast between the harsh local winters and Cape Town's Mediterranean climate, he conceived of a network of elevated covered walkways between buildings, sheltering people from severe weather. The Minneapolis Skyway System is currently 11 miles long, connecting buildings across 80 city blocks.

Following his work on the undersea thermometer, Dr Spilhaus helped develop a similar system of weather balloons for the Air Force, to spy on Soviet nuclear testing. When one such balloon crashed in New Mexico in 1947, the wreckage was whisked away with such speed and secrecy that the rumour mill went into overdrive. Some today still claim the crashed device was an extra-terrestrial space ship – the infamous 'Roswell UFO'.

A man of many talents, Dr Spilhaus built some 3,000 varieties of children's toys and for 15 years authored a science-focused, globally syndicated weekly comic strip called Our New Age. In 1954, Dr Spilhaus became America's first representative on the executive board of Unesco, the UN's educational and cultural department. A few years later, president Kennedy appointed him to direct the U.S. exhibit at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. "The only science I ever learned was from your comic strip", JFK told him.

"Population" Our New Age. Text by Athelstan Spilhaus, drawn by Gene Fawcette. First published June 19, 1960

Image: Picturing Meteorology

Dr Spilhaus also proposed the establishment of Sea Grant Colleges – a network of institutes of higher learning focusing on the exploitation and conservation of marine areas. Which brings us back to the sea, and to this map.

Designed in 1942 while Dr Spilhaus was working on his bathythermograph, it reverses the land-based bias of traditional cartographic projections. The Spilhaus projection – a combination of the Hammer and Spielmann projections – places the poles of the map in South America and China, ripping up continents to show the high seas as one interrupted whole.

The earth-sea is perforated by Antarctica and Australia, and fringed by the other land masses. Two small triangles, one at the top of the map and the other on the lower right hand side, mark the same spot: the Bering Strait – as a reminder that what we're looking at is not in fact a vast inland sea, but a body of water that circles the entire globe.

On most maps, the oceans are so vast that they become easy to ignore. Rather than just use them as background noise, this map focuses on the watery bits of our planet. That's not just a refreshingly different viewpoint but, it could be argued, also a desperately needed one.

Our oceans produce between 50% and 85% of the world's oxygen and are a major source of food for humanity. But they are in mortal danger, from overfishing, acidification, plastic pollution and climate change. Maritime 'dead zones' – with zero oxygen and zero marine life – have quadrupled since the 1950s. Low-oxygen zones have increased tenfold. The trend is fuelled by climate change (warmer waters hold less oxygen) and, in coastal zones, fertiliser and sewage runoff from the land.

Perhaps this map can do what Earthrise did for the planet as a whole. Taken in 1966 by astronaut Bill Anders of Apollo 8 – the first manned mission to circle the moon – that picture shows our planet rising above the lunar surface, an inversion of the moonrises so familiar to humankind. It's been called "the most influential environmental photograph ever" because it so clearly visualises the earth as a single, fragile ecosystem.

Earth rising above the lunar horizon; image taken by Bill Anders of Apollo 8 on 24 December 1968. The land mass visible in the lower right-hand side is northwest Africa.

The oceans need a similarly powerful unifying visual. Even though it's over 80 years old, this projection reminds us that saving the planet is pointless if we don't also save the seas.

This map was designed for Libération by Clara Dealberto, a French graphic designer who has a side project producing strange new countries. Titled Nouvelle Américopasie – atlas aléatoire d'un continent imaginaire ('Random atlas of an imaginary continent'), it generates new fantasy countries out of two existing ones, adding up their inhabitants and areas, and mashing up their flags and names. Here are a few examples:

La Frafrak ('Fraraq'), a compound of France and Iraq – a country with 104 million inhabitants, and a surface just under 1 million km2.

L'Ethiotalie ('Ethiotaly'). This reunion of Italy and its former East African colony Ethiopia would have 163 million inhabitants, and cover 1.4 million km2.


L'Etasuxique ('Amerexico'), a fusion of Mex, Tex and four dozen other U.S. states. The combination would be home to 450 million Amerexicans, spread over 11.3 million km2.


Strange Maps #939

Got a strange map? Let me know at

27 Sep 22:00




24 Sep 17:21

You Can Never Go Back to the Old Twitter

by Alexis C. Madrigal

I effectively quit Twitter in 2012. Do people still tweet?

Twitter is bringing reverse-chronological timelines back. It won’t be the new default, but CEO Jack Dorsey announced that you’ll be able to go back to the simplest way to organize a timeline with a setting change. Uncheck “show the best tweets first,” and out will go the algorithmically shaped experience—tweets from 4h ago, lingering with tweets from 10s ago—and in will come the old rhythm, the newest tweets first.

Reverse-chron was the schema of what was called Web 2.0. For a time everything was reverse-chron (except Wikipedia). Blogging was reverse-chron. Twitter was reverse-chron. It’s the logic of news: put the new up top. But in the Twitter context, reverse-chron also lets people be all together in real time, watching this thing, the Emmys, the game, the dissolution of the republic, the hurricane, the hearing.

That was the original appeal of Twitter. It put the there in the web. Where was the internet happening? Right there, where all these people were processing it together. It could feel like the “internet reacted” all at once, all its peoples hashing it out.

But this was a myth. No such thing was happening, no matter how it felt. Time and again, Twitter has been shown not to be representative of the country’s viewpoints or interests (let alone the globe’s).

It was different in the old days, though. Most everyone seems to agree on this. And maybe it was the mishmash of tweets that randomly passed through the tubes at the same moment that made it so.

Twitter always had a high-modernist novel’s scope—you peer into the boxes, and see someone having tea, a war you should have known was going on, a parent’s take on a 4-year-old, the latest ProPublica investigation, a screenshot of some idiot, a video of a black person being killed by police, an ad for Quiznos, and then Donald Trump tweeting about the television program he’s watching. The stack of information was contextless, traumatizing, and bizarre, but also energizing, the way a city makes you walk faster. It did that, but for your mind.

[How Twitter fuels anxiety]

But Twitter’s algorithm increasingly selected the most popular tweets to show you—which tended to be the ones that made you go “What! Ah! Ooooh! Eff that!” To pull down your thumb was to ingest different (quantitatively proven) emotional cues one after the other, your brain a player piano, simply responding to the notes in the feed. No one meant to build such a machine, but there it was. And it was addictive as hell.

At the same time, the things people said on Twitter became real things. Real historians extensively corrected people’s fantasies about the Confederacy on Twitter. People got hired and fired because of Twitter. Innovative companies’ share prices tanked when their CEOs said weird things on Twitter. And, of course, the president did things on Twitter.

This platform juices us up into strange emotional states, and now, whatever people say or do on the platform has ever-more real-world consequences. “Never Tweet” was born, on Twitter.

Reverse-chron cannot reverse the development of the platform, nor the changes that have come to the world outside Twitter, the high-keying of everything. But maybe reverse-chron will ever-so-slightly push Twitter away from what it became and back toward something simpler. The most potent tweets will not all be stacked together. Twitter could still be the place that surfaces important topics that the mainstream media ignores, but with slightly less emotional whiplash. Twitter could feel less like a battleground and more like a healthy corrective conversation. Poco a poco, change for the better?

Probably not, though.

Over the last few years, I’ve tried everything to make Twitter not Twitter. I limited my usage, turned off notifications, turned off retweets, used tools like Nuzzel to sort links from talk, and culled and diversified who I follow.

Other people unfollow everyone, mute extensively, nuke their accounts, try to switch to Mastodon (or whatever), or simply await the rapture, scrolling.

[Twitter’s new features aren’t what users asked for]

None of it really does anything to the service itself. It doesn’t return Twitter to the edenic state I remember, and loved, the one that introduced me to new social worlds, brought my attention to important injustices, the one that Kathryn Schulz called “sentences with friends.”

Twitter has become like New York. You love it, you hate it, you can’t leave it, it makes you crazy, it’s getting you down, you leave it. Because the media is all there, and everyone on Twitter sort of becomes part of the media, when you leave, you write an essay detailing the euphoria, the sense of loss, the superiority you feel over those who have stayed, the shrinking halo of relevance that hurts like a phantom limb.

You go back, probably, shamefully re-install it in your mind, tweet a few times to see how many people make fun of you for quitting. But everyone forgot four minutes after you left, so, like, whatever.

For me, as the years have gone by, the specific stories, the jokes, the information, the wins—matter less and less. This haunts me. It makes me recall a line from Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas by the MIT scholar Natasha Dow Schüll. She’s interviewing a compulsive gambler at a slot machine, and this woman tells her that she’s stopped caring about winning. “Why, then, does she play?” Dow Schüll writes. “‘To keep playing—to stay in that machine zone where nothing else matters.’”

Nominally, I’m on Twitter to be informed, to catch potentially useful information, to see the world from other perspectives. All of which happens.

But, emotionally, I’m just on Twitter to be on Twitter. Whatever happened to me over the last 10 years cannot simply be reversed by reverse-chron. In real life, timelines are not so easily rearranged.

24 Sep 17:19

Sparrow Mart in Los Angeles

by swissmiss


Hey Los Angeles, don’t miss Lucy Sparrow’s Supermarket, filled with 31,000 felt products. It’s a visual firework! Mad respect for this woman!

23 Sep 07:22

The season of fruit, a harvest of thought

by Austin Kleon
Thoreau’s drawning of a heron


Henry David Thoreau wrote of a melancholy he felt in late August for the year which was quickly passing. His diary entry for August 21, 1852:

The sound of crickets gradually prevails more and more. I hear the year falling asleep.

And a year later on August 18, 1853:

What means this sense of lateness that so comes over one now,—as if the rest of the year were down-hill, and if we had not performed anything before, we should not now? The season of flowers or of promise may be said to be over, and now is the season of fruits; but where is our fruit? The night of the year is approaching. What have we done with our talent? All nature prompts and reproves us. How early in the year it begins to be late! It matters not by how little we have fallen behind; it seems irretrievably late. The year is full of warnings of its shortness, as is life.

He was one of our great chroniclers of seasons, and felt, very strongly, that we had seasons within us. Here’s what he wrote the next year, on August 7, 1854:

Do you not feel the fruit of your spring and summer beginning to ripen, to harden its seed within you? Do not your thoughts begin to acquire consistency as well as flavor and ripeness? How can we expect a harvest of thought who have not had a seed-time of character?

23 Sep 06:02


by Johan

These names are amazing!

Thanks to a clever member of the Twitterati, we learn to our delight that there was a sixth century consort of the king of the Neustrain Franks of the Merovingian dynasty (previously here, here and here), wife of Chodebert I who ruled Paris and the western part of Gaul, called Ultragoth.
Charitably, Childebert is credited for bringing Roman Catholicism to Spain, at the request of his sister Chlortilde who claimed she was being berated and abused for her faith by King Amalaric of the Visigoths (an attested follower of Arius), who brought an army to settle this domestic dispute and invaded the peninsula, ousting the heretical Visigoths in favour of a dynasty more closely aligned with the Church.  Childebert also plundered some relics from Spain, including the dalmatic vestments of Saint Vincent of Saragossa, which Ultragoth found suitable homes for. Likely spelt Ultrogothe (or Vulthrogotha, which is also cool) in Franconian, not to be a spoil-sport, there’s no indication of frequency or popularity for the name but other female regnants and consorts (which seem to never be repeated) included Ermengarde, Himiltrude, Chimnechild, Radegund, Amalberga, Bilichild, Waldrada, Fulberte, Wulfegundis and Wisigard. Nothing else is known of Childebert’s wife other than that she, having failed to produce sons and therefore heirs, and her daughters, Chrodoberge and Chrodesinde, were sent into exile after the king’s death—as was their custom, and his share of the kingdom reverted to his younger brother, Chlothar.
22 Sep 04:40

lynati: Kory Stamper on twitter: Happy to announce I’m offering a new fall class, “Singular ‘They’...


I would take this class!


Kory Stamper on twitter

Happy to announce I’m offering a new fall class, “Singular ‘They’ is 700 Years Old, What Is Your Problem, OMG,” which will consist of me standing on a desk yelling at you in Middle English. (3 credit hours)

21 Sep 11:24

on ‘multipotentiality’


Oh, dear: i see myself in this, but I also think purpose (Purpose!) is the key.

Do you have so many interests, curiosities & passions that you often struggle to figure out what to “do” with your life or career? Well, maybe you don’t have to choose—you’re a “multipotentialite,” and embracing that can open up many new paths forward. 

Here’s what Emily Wapnick, who helped coin the term (and runs the wonderful site, Puttylike) had to say about her fellow multipotentialites:

My Definition

A multipotentialite is someone with many interests and creative pursuits.

Multipotentialites have no “one true calling” the way specialists do. Being a multipotentialite is our destiny. We have many paths and we pursue all of them, either sequentially or simultaneously (or both).

Multipotentialites thrive on learning, exploring, and mastering new skills. We are excellent at bringing disparate ideas together in creative ways. This makes us incredible innovators and problem solvers.

When it comes to new interests that emerge, our insatiable curiosity leads us to absorb everything we can get our hands on. As a result, we pick up new skills fast and tend to be a wealth of information.


The aspect of multipotentiality that worries multipotentialites the most is the tendency to become bored. Boredom usually hits once we’ve learned what we are meant to learn on a particular topic, and instead of moving on, we try to continue down a path we’re no longer interested in. Boredom is our body’s way of telling us that it’s time to move on to something new.

Multipotentialites don’t define “finishing” the way a specialist (and indeed, most of society) does. We learn what we came to learn and then move on to the next interest. This may not always look like “finishing” to the outside world, but it is.

Modern Society Doesn’t Understand Us

Unfortunately, mainstream society tends not to value or recognize multipotentiality and labels this sort of “jumping between interests” flaky, immature behaviour. For a specialist, that might be true. But for us multipotentialites, saying goodbye to one passion to explore a new one is how we’re wired. It’s our gift.

18 Sep 13:04

Velcro® makes a music video about why you shouldn't say "velcro"

by Matt Kahn

I can't quite parse this. Do they really think this will help prevent Velcro being used as a generic term?? IS it a parody? In these times, does every use of the word parody now need to be followed by a (?)?

Intellectual property law is complicated.  I can't tell you how many people I've seen spend hours arguing a point about copyright, but who aren't willing to spend the five minutes it takes to learn the basic differences between copyright and trademark. An almost certainly apocryphal rumor holds that there is some employee at Xerox (or Kleenex, or Q-Tips) whose sole function is to search for uses of the brand name as a general term for the product, and send a cease-and-desist letter.  This is because, to maintain a trademark, trademarks must be distinct.  This is why I can't start a laptop manufacturer called "Laptops" and sue everyone.  However, if a term so lapses into general usage, it runs the risk of no longer being distinct enough to be a legal trademark, which leads to often over-zealous protection of trademarks.  To this end, Velcro®  produced a parody(?) music video admonishing the public to not say "velcro" unless they mean "velcro®."

Personally, I take solace in knowing that at some future date a music video of actors pretending to be lawyers singing about IP law may be played in an actual court of law.  God bless America.
16 Sep 08:57

A string of beautiful moving images from a promo for a French TV...



A string of beautiful moving images from a promo for a French TV station.

16 Sep 08:42

@insta_repeat on Instagram. “Déjà Vu Vibes 🌲 Wander. Roam....

@insta_repeat on Instagram. “Déjà Vu Vibes 🌲 Wander. Roam. Replicate”

08 Sep 14:54


by Mark Liberman

The responses!

Anonymous, "I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration", NYT 9/5/2018:

Subhed: I work for the president but like-minded colleagues and I have vowed to thwart parts of his agenda and his worst inclinations.

The Times today is taking the rare step of publishing an anonymous Op-Ed essay. We have done so at the request of the author, a senior official in the Trump administration whose identity is known to us and whose job would be jeopardized by its disclosure. We believe publishing this essay anonymously is the only way to deliver an important perspective to our readers.

The publication of this anonymous editorial has of course sparked speculation about the identity of its author. In particular, one strand of authorship-attribution discussion has focused on a single word, from the penultimate paragraph, suggesting that it's evidence for attributing the work to Mike Pence:

We may no longer have Senator McCain. But we will always have his example — a lodestar for restoring honor to public life and our national dialogue. Mr. Trump may fear such honorable men, but we should revere them.

This twitter thread seems to be the source of the "lodestar means Pence" speculation. Of course there's been some pushback, for example suggesting that we

Remember that some senior administration officials have been known to use the language often used by other officials in an effort to throw people off track.

Thus Jonathan Swan, "White House leakers leak about leaking", Axios 5/14/2018:

"To cover my tracks, I usually pay attention to other staffers' idioms and use that in my background quotes. That throws the scent off me," the current White House official added.

And another tweet pointed out that

"Lodestar" lost obscurity a few days ago.
Kissinger shined light on it.

Some other lexical features have also been highlighted, e.g. "first principles". I haven't seen anyone making the point that authorship attribution on the basis of one or two lexical features is going to be unreliable at best, but it's probably Out There. (And in dealing with national politicians and other high-status individuals in the modern world, authorship attribution also faces the problem that most of their "works" are actually written by flunkies…)

Meanwhile, it's interesting that in introducing the original op-ed and in the NYT's discussion of it, the paper goes out of its way to avoid gendered pronouns:

The unnamed official, whose identity is known to the Times editorial page department but not its news staff, described the president’s leadership as “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective” and cited “adults in the room” who strive to prevent disaster. At one point, the official wrote, there was talk of the cabinet invoking the 25th Amendment to declare Mr. Trump unable to discharge his duties, but no one wanted a constitutional crisis.

“We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous,” the official wrote. “But we believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic.”

“That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office,” the official added.

This has led to speculation about the possibility that e.g. Kellyanne Conway might be the author. But then there's this:

Update — Andy Borowitz, "Nation stunned that there is someone in the White House capable of writing an editorial", The New Yorker 9/5/2018:

Davis Logsdon, a professor of linguistics at the University of Minnesota, said that a team of language experts under his supervision has studied the Op-Ed word by word and is “in a state of disbelief” that someone currently working for Donald J. Trump could have written it.

“There are complete sentences, there are well-structured paragraphs, there is subject-verb agreement,” he said. “This does not appear to be the work of any White House staffer we’re familiar with.”

Stressing that he and his team of linguists are “not even close” to determining the author, Logsdon said that they were currently using the process of elimination to whittle down the list of possible scribes.

“Based on the mastery of language that we see here, it’s not Sarah Huckabee Sanders, John Kelly, Stephen Miller, or Kellyanne Conway, and it’s definitely not Jared,” he said.

Needless to say, "Davis Logsdon" does not actually exist. And Andy Borowitz is mean.

[See also "Lodestar 2", 9/6/2018]


01 Sep 14:02

In this Overview, spectators explore a variety of aircraft...


Aeroplane overviews are my favourite! ✈️

In this Overview, spectators explore a variety of aircraft during the Sound of Speed Airshow, which took place last weekend at Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Missouri. The event included aerial performances and ground displays of dozens of aircraft, including U.S. Navy Blue Angels, C-130 Hercules transporters, P-51 Mustangs, an F-16 Viper, and more.


39°46'19.0"N, 94°54'34.9"W

Source imagery: Nearmap

20 Aug 06:03

Asperitas Clouds Over New Zealand


So pretty!

What kind of clouds are these? What kind of clouds are these?

19 Aug 14:28

Kofi Annan (1938 – 2018)

by Morgan Meis

Vale, Kofi.


The post Kofi Annan (1938 – 2018) appeared first on 3 Quarks Daily.

18 Aug 01:18

One Panel Every 250 Years Since 30,000 BC

by Dorothy


14 Aug 14:51

Robot arm seeks out Waldo, using machine learning

by Nathan Yau

Sort of... terrifying?

The camera on the slightly creepy arm takes a picture of the pages in the book, the software uses OpenCV to extract faces, and the faces are passed to Google Auto ML Vision comparing the faces to a Waldo model. The result: There’s Waldo.

Tags: machine learning, robot, vision, Waldo

13 Aug 16:00

for New Scientist magazine


Ouch, also, true

for New Scientist magazine

13 Aug 11:51

Aerial view of sheepdogs herding sheep

by Nathan Yau

Worth watching!

Sometimes the visualization takes care of itself. Photographer Tim Whittaker filmed sheepdogs herding thousands of sheep, and the flows one place to another are like organized randomness.

Tags: drone, flow, herd, sheep

12 Aug 03:24

OutsideShort video by Vladimir Tomin is a series of sketches...


I love these!


Short video by Vladimir Tomin is a series of sketches imagining the real world manipulated through PC desktop software interfaces:

So that’s what it feels like to go outside


07 Aug 12:15

Patrick Stewart to reprise Star Trek role

by chozzles

Yes, I get all my important news from a Star Trek fashion tumblr. What of it

Patrick Stewart to reprise Star Trek role:

A little late to the game here, but… WHAT WILL HE WEAR? I’m not *not* opposed to it being this caj tee & jeans look. Thanks to friend of the blog Nathan for the tip!

02 Aug 21:01


by Victor Mair

Amazing fart battles. (I never thought I’d type those words!)

Japanese artists depicted almost anything imaginable concerning humans, animals, and the natural world, and they did so with great skill and emotional power.  One sub-genre of Japanese painting that I recently became aware of is that of the fart battle (hōhi gassen 放屁合戦):

"21 Classic Images Of Japanese Fart Battles From The 19th Century", by Wyatt Redd, ati (7/23/18)

As soon as I perused this astonishing scroll, I could not get the expression "artsy-fartsy" out of my mind, and I wondered how and when English acquired such a peculiar term.  Merriam-Webster says that it's a rhyming compound based on "artsy" and "fart", and that its first known use is 1962.

Note that, in the fourteenth image of this scroll (as presented in Redd's article), an unlucky cat is stricken by the foul stench-stream from a gentleman's anus.

That fart-battle scroll (hōhi gassen emaki 放屁合戦絵巻) is held by Waseda, which generously provides a high-res PDF for our viewing pleasure.

There are others, such as this drabber piece held by the Suntory art museum.

This blog post begins with an image from an even zanier fart-battle scroll.

Nathan Hopson says that his favorite may well be this early Meiji gem depicting heiryoku 屁威力 ("fart power") a play on the homophonous heiryoku 兵力 ("military power") being used to overcome the old bakufu forces.  It's interesting that here we have a three-character expression being used as a pun for a two-character term.

Japanese art never ceases to amaze me, both for its refined wit and for its somaesthetic sensitivity and creativity.

[h.t. John Rohsenow]

02 Aug 09:35


by justanotherguyincali

Oh, shit.

31 Jul 07:41

Google Reader: A Time Capsule from 5 Years Ago

by Mihai Parparita

So much fun.

Google ReaderIt's now been 5 years since Google Reader was shut down. As a time capsule of that bygone era, I've resurrected to host a snapshot of what Reader was like in its final moments — visit to see a mostly-working Reader user interface.

Before you get too excited, realize that it is populated with canned data only, and that there is no persistence. On the other hand, the fact that it is an entirely static site means that it is much more likely to keep working indefinitely. I was inspired by the work that Internet Archive has done with getting old software running in a browser — Prince of Persia (which I spent hundreds of hours trying to beat) is only a click away. It seemed unfortunate that something of much more recent vintage was not accessible at all.

Right before the shutdown I had saved a copy of Reader's (public) static assets (compiled JavaScript, CSS, images, etc.) and used it to build a tool for viewing archived data. However, that required a separate server component and was showing private data. It occurred to me that I could instead achieve much of the same effect directly in the browser: the JavaScript was fetching all data via XMLHttpRequest, so it should just be a matter of intercepting all those requests. I initially considered doing this via Service Worker, but I realized that even a simple monkeypatch of the built-in object would work, since I didn't need anything to work offline.

The resulting code is in the static_reader directory of the readerisdead project. It definitely felt strange mixing this modern JavaScript code (written in TypeScript, with a bit of async/await) with Reader's 2011-vintage script. However, it all worked out, without too many surprises. Coming back to the Reader core structures (tags, streams, preferences, etc.) felt very familiar, but there were also some embarrassing moments (why did we serve timestamps as seconds, milliseconds, and microseconds, all within the same structure?).

As for myself, I still use NewsBlur every day, and have even contributed a few patches to it. The main thing that's changed is that I first read Twitter content in it (using pretty much the same setup I described a while back), with a few other sites that I've trained as being important also getting read consistently. Everything else I read much more opportunistically, as opposed to my completionist tendencies of years past. This may just be a reflection of the decreased amount of time that I have for reading content online in general.

NewsBlur has a paid tier, which makes me reasonably confident that it'll be around for years to come. It went from 587 paid users right before the Reader shutdown announcement to 8,424 shortly after to 5,345 now. While not the kind of up-and-to-right curve that would make a VC happy, it should hopefully be a sustainable level for the one person (hi Samuel!) to keep working on it, Pinboard-style.

Looking at the other feed readers that sprung up (or got a big boost in usage) in the wake of Reader's shutdown, they all still seem to be around: Feedly, The Old Reader, FeedWrangler, Feedbin, Innoreader, Reeder, and so on. One of the more notable exceptions is Digg Reader, which itself was shut down earlier this year. But there are also new projects springing up like Evergreen and Elytra and so I'm cautiously optimistic about the feed reading space.

27 Jul 05:30

an entomologist rates ant emojis


Excellent ant reviews 11/10


Beautiful big almond eye, realistic and full of expression as she gazes gently at you. Elbowed antennae and delicately segmented legs and body. Gorgeous pearlescent sheen like she is glowing. This ant moisturizes. This ant is round and huggable. This ant is a star. 11/10.

Beautifully detailed, lifelike pose but with an unexpected neck and odd antennae, perhaps scared straight. Her eyes suggest she has seen things. Her expression confirms she has seen too much. She is haunted and I want to know more. 7/10.

Floppy antenna, pointy muppet face, oddly posed legs. What is she? She has no waist. May be she is some kind of bee in disguise? I find her unsettling. 3/10.

This ant has an unexplained, double-jointed thorax, and no evidence of a waist. Her four-footed pose suggests that she a centaur rather than an ant. Centaur ants would be cool. I’m not sure what was intended here. 2/10.

Good first impression, kind of bland in the details. This ant has no particular waist to speak of, floppy rather than elbowed antennae, and an inexpressive face. Her color scheme is soft and hazy. I like the sharp angles of her stylishly sophisticated legs. This ant may not know quite were she is going, but she knows how she is getting there. 6/10.

Were you even trying. 0/10

Gasp! This ant is elegant. This ant has a beautiful tapered thorax, a segmented abdomen, alert, elbowed antennae, and a light-footed pose. This ant’s face suggests curiosity and a desire to explore the world. This ant inspires me. I want to be like her. 10/10

3-legged, waistless centaur-ant with strange, limp antennae and a beak. I don’t know what this is? It kind of reminds me of a Hork-Bajir. 1/10, not an ant.

This ant… makes me sad. All of her legs are broken. The MS Paint art style and gradient abuse convey distress. She has a duck beak. Despite this, her expression suggests perseverance and determined cheerfulness. I want this ant to have a better life. I am rooting for her. 3/10

This ant is a bold and challenging mixture of photorealism and caricature. She is broad and low-built and seems very sturdy. She looks like she would help you move. This ant is a dependable friend. 9/10

A picture of an ant from a children’s book.  She is wearing little boots.  This ant is wrong in every way, and yet I can’t stay mad at her.  7/10

An interesting, top-down view of an ant; her legs are positioned with slightly jarring symmetry.  Nevertheless, her overall impression is that of a graceful, stylized design, like a pictograph.  She is suitable for adorning fine garments and jewelry or perhaps gracing the walls of a tiny ant church.  I like this minimalist ant.  8/10.

This is a termite. -10/10