Shared posts

24 Jun 03:19

Flat-Packed Pastas That Pop Open When Cooked

by Jason Kottke

Flat Packed Pasta

Inspired by space-saving flat-packed furniture, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a technique for making pasta shapes that start out flat when dry but “morph” into their final 3D shapes when cooked. The secret is stamping different groove patterns into the pasta dough.

The solution: something Wang, Yao, and their co-authors term “groove-based transient morphing.” They found that stamping flat pasta sheets with different groove patterns enabled them to control the final pasta shape after cooking. According to the authors, the grooves increase how long it takes to cook that part of the pasta. So those areas expand less than the smooth areas, giving rise to many different shapes.

The team found that the pasta reached its maximum bending angle after about 12 minutes and retained this angle for around 20 minutes before it began to bend back. The researchers were able to produce simple helical and cone shapes, as well as more complex saddles and twists (the latter achieved by introducing double-sided grooves).

I am assuming those grooves would also aid in holding sauce better, a topic we’ve delved into recently. You can read the full research paper on the morphing pasta here. (via the prepared)

Tags: design   food   science
08 Jun 14:01

Why virtual conferences are antisocial (but they don’t have to be)

I like conferences, and I’ve made a lot of friends through them. 

I also like the internet, and I’ve made a lot of friends through it. 

And yet somehow, as conferences were pivoting to online in 2020, I was finding myself at a lot of online conferences where I wasn’t even managing to catch up with my existing friends who I knew were also attending, let alone make new ones. Surely, we could do better. Let’s start by taking a step back and thinking about what makes each of these formats great for meeting people. 

The conference format is great not because of the program alone but in the structure of the conference around the program — being in the audience of a talk together means that afterwards everyone knows that everyone else in the room has experienced the same material and it is therefore a relevant topic of conversation. A conference program is not about raw information transmission — frankly, a decent blog post or paper would probably be more efficient and accessible for simple info transfer. Instead, a conference program is about creating a “magic circle” — a structure that brings together for a focused amount of time a group of people who care about the topics in the program, and that provides springboards for conversations within that group.  

This emergent benefit of conferences is easy to overlook because it often happens at the margins, disguised by physical and logistical needs. Grabbing some people from the conference to go out for dinner, running into people from the conference at the hotel breakfast buffet, striking up a conversation in a registration lineup, staying in the conference city a day early or late to meet up with fellow attendees, proposing a meetup on twitter with other people from the conference hashtag — it’s so much more than just the official post-plenary reception or networking hour. It took me several years to figure out how to “do” conferences effectively by creating more occasions like these because of how the “third place” aspects of conferences are so often neglected from the point of view of the official scheduling. (Ray Oldenburg, the sociologist who coined the term “third place” points out that third places are often “shabby” and overlooked.) Not surprising then (disappointing but not surprising) that the social part of conferences is overlooked in the pivot to online. 

But, you could argue, maybe online is inherently unsuited to forming social connections? Wait, but like, hold on a sec. 

The internet is great because it allows people to find others who share their impossibly niche interests, dramatically reducing barriers to access, especially in terms of geography, cost, and findability. Although the internet doesn’t remove all barriers (timezones, language, and access to devices are still relevant, for example), we now take it for granted that you can easily find other people talking about a book that’s now out of print or stumble down a rabbit hole of an obscure musical genre that could never have gotten a mainstream record deal. People are willing to be real with each other in ways that matter: I have longtime internet friends where I know quite a few details about their mental health status even though I don’t know, for example, how tall they are. Marvelling at the capacity for the internet to connect people with niche interests or secret feelings across geographical barriers is so utterly mundane now that it makes me sound like a nineties tech utopianist to even lay it out. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still real. 

With two such promising ingredients, it almost seems like the combination of online + conference should be better than an offline conference. What went so spectacularly wrong? And it’s not just one lackluster event — why is an enjoyable online conference so difficult across the board? 

The problem is that in a physical conference, the social side comes essentially for free. Sure, there are things that organizers can do to enhance it, like providing food on site, designating ample breaks and social hours, choosing venues with well-positioned common areas to run into people and a good neighbourhood density of offsite food options, and communicating clearly about ancillary digital spaces like hashtags. But I’ve been to conferences that do none of these things (ahem, especially academic ones), and while it does make for an event that’s unfriendly for first-timers, once you know a few people and a few conference-management tips, you can still hack the conference into a reasonable social experience. After all, you can still run into people in the lobby, hang back after a talk to chat with someone, or grab a few people to go to lunch with.  

Physical events come with decades and centuries of social infrastructure disguised as practical necessity and conference ritual that organizers have never really had to think about as social. Organizers put coffeebreaks in the schedule because every other conference they’ve been to has coffeebreaks and because of a vague assumption that people need caffeine, without considering the social benefits of giving people a reason to move around and shared objects to strike up conversations about. Imagine if every conference organizer also had to take on the architecture and interior design and urban planning of the conference space, and we can understand why the pivot to online conferences has gotten off to a rough start. 

The reason why virtual conferences are antisocial is that conference organizers aren’t used to thinking of the social side as a core part of their jobs, because they didn’t have to care about it as much offline. (It’s not just conferences, by the way — this post from danah boyd makes many similar points about knitting together a healthy social fabric among students during online teaching rather than just having them hear from instructors in isolation, and I’ve also been greatly inspired by The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker, which is about the principles that can make social gatherings of all genres effective and even transformative, and which I’d strongly encourage reading whether you’re planning on hosting a conference or a birthday party. I’m just focusing on conferences here for simplicity.) 

So if we accept the premise that conference organizers have a social responsibility to their attendees, not just an informational responsibility to them, and that this responsibility is both more challenging and more important for online conferences, we’re now left with a second question: how is this social responsibility to be accomplished? 

In the next post I’ll talk about how I figured out a structure for a better online conference, the ideas from other people that I was inspired by, and the organizational team that put together a model online-first conference called LingComm21, the first International Conference on Linguistics Communication, which we hope you can draw inspiration from. 

Part of a series called LingComm21: a case study in making online conferences more social. Stay tuned for the following posts on subsequent Mondays, or subscribe to my newsletter to get the full list of posts sent to you once they’re all out

  1. Why virtual conferences are antisocial (but they don’t have to be)
  2. Designing online conferences for building community
  3. Scheduling online conferences for building community
  4. Hosting online conferences for building community
  5. Budgeting online conferences or events
  6. Planning accessible online conferences
15 May 14:22

Selfie boy – 3 living and 3 dead update

by opusanglicanum
Sithel

I love opusanglicanum's mix of traditional methods and wacky subjects- love those skeletons!

Boy number one – athlieasure is intersting to translate into the opus style.

like the rest he will need a few details adding with underside couching

04 Mar 15:54

Legend, The 36 Year Old Movie That's A Love Letter To Tom Cruise's Thighs, And Other Thoughts

by Jen
Sithel

oooooo Legend 💛🍿 this is a fun look back at it

This review will be an extremely long read riddled with spoilers, a little snark, a lot of silly, some hilarious photos, and INTENSE NERD-DOM.

You have been warned.

So a week or two ago I suggested we watch the infamous 1985 fantasy flop, Legend, and discovered something alarming: John had never seen it.
 
That's right, he'd never seen Tim Curry in bull horns. Or Mia Sarah from Ferris Bueller dramatically flouncing through a Claritin commercial. Or Tom Cruise rescuing a fairy with a chicken foot for a hand out of a giant pie shell in hell.

This could not stand.

Let's get one thing out of the way first: Legend is not a good movie. Roger Ebert gave it two stars, and to this day it has a 38% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. It flopped HARD at the box office, and is often blamed for killing fantasy movies in general until Peter Jackson came along with Lord of the Rings.

Nope, Legend is not a good movie.

But it is a GREAT movie.

Pretty much everyone agrees you don't watch Legend for the story, you watch it for the jaw-dropping visuals. And when I say jaw-dropping, I mean take-your-breath away STUNNING, even 36 years later:




If one of your aesthetics is "running barefoot through the misty moors in a shredded ballgown", then THIS IS YOUR MOVIE, fam.

I was amazed how well I remembered it, too, considering I haven't seen Legend in probably 20 years. I could even recite some of the dialogue, and immediately noticed when the version we rented cut Meg Mucklebones' scene short.

That cut scene nagged me, so I turned to Google... and immediately fell down a 20+ hour rabbit hole of all things Legend. (Haha, whoops.)

So now, in no particular order, here come my favorite fun facts and personal observations from this amazingly beautiful, amazingly bad movie:

- Legend Is a Love Letter To Tom Cruise's Thighs

Tom Cruise was 22 during filming and fresh off the set of Risky Business - the movie that gave us the world-famous underwear dance. Not to be outdone, the producers of Legend decided Tom would not only be pants-less the entire movie, he would also be prohibited from walking upright for most of it.

» Read More
26 Jan 16:07

Trash Compactor Party

Sithel

OoOoo! Exciting LARP idea!!

What an incredible smell you've discovered.
18 Jan 18:43

filmnoirsbian:WHY ARE YOU HAUNTED? A survey

Sithel

this is awesome and definitely a strong foundation for a future tabletop game! 😍

filmnoirsbian:

WHY ARE YOU HAUNTED?

A survey

14 Jan 05:58

Figurine of Wondrous Boredom: Glass Dragon

by Dyson Logos

Inspired by our Monday night game where we discovered that the “enemy” wizard had a whole collection of little glass figurines of dragons from various craftsfolk around the lake…

In fact there are a near-infinite selection of these Figurines of Wondrous Boredom – the Soapstone Bear, the Little Earth Mother, Big-Eyed-Clay-Kitten, and so on. Each has the same general function – they break into pieces if dropped. Most are less dangerous than the glass dragon as they don’t break into razor-sharp nearly-invisible bits of glass.

28 Nov 16:21

Today is Worldwide Backup Day

by Seth Godin

Google is not your friend, it’s a tool.

It’s been 2,702 days since they shut down Google Reader and people still remember.

Or consider that Google can shut you out of all their services with no recourse or appeal possible. All your data, photos, calendars, emails… gone.

But yes, you can back up your data. Do it today…

Visit this page to start the process. It’s free. Hopefully, you’ll never need it. Press a few buttons and back up your data to a cloud service so that it’s in two places–This should happen automatically, but since it doesn’t, it’s worth doing.

The internet was originally designed as a resilience machine, designed to heal itself and work around interruptions. And the essence of it was a distributed, peer-to-peer network that worked precisely because it was open. As data is hoarded, manipulated and monetized, that original intent has been turned upside down.

Resilient systems don’t have to trend toward monopoly. In fact, it’s better when they don’t. And don’t forget to backup your data.

[PS the post from earlier today was skewed by homonyms. Thanks to alert readers for pointing it out… sorry about missing it, but the metaphor is still worth thinking about.]

28 May 14:23

Regency Novel or Pandemic Life

by Wrong Hands
Sithel

I've been saying something (less eloquently) like this to anyone who would listen... thought the idea of "living in a regency novel" would be more fun :(

21 May 02:02

The Thrilling Tale Of How I Managed To Give Myself Jet Lag During An International Lockdown

by Jen
Sithel

Suko, I'd wonder if this is a fate you're narrowly avoiding... but I'm sure you're much more responsible about your sleep... right... right?? 👀
(or rather, this will be you after retirement and freedom from the chains of a normal work schedule)

One of the best/worst parts of staying home these past months is that time has lost all meaning. I quickly discovered that the only thing keeping my night owl tendencies in check was life outside the house, so once that life evaporated, I took it as permission to shed my last clinging remnants of "normalcy" and embrace my Best Vampire Life.

And it was glorious.

At least for a while.

Nighttime is so peaceful, you guys. If you've never stayed up all night to write then I highly recommend it. There are no leaf blowers going, no phones ringing, no notifications clogging your screen. You can be alone with your thoughts and actually focus on a single thing at a time. So I leaned into the siren call of productivity and stayed up later and later, working all night and going to bed around dawn.

That schedule wasn't TOO bad, considering I usually stayed up 'til 3AM anyway, but there was a problem. I'd opened Pandora's box, y'all. I'd unleashed the beast. My internal clock was off the chain, drunk, and staggering around the living room in its underwear demanding we "KEEP THIS PARTY GOING WOOOOOO"

So I stayed up later. And later.

I told myself this was actually a good thing, because I was seeing the sunrise for the first time in decades. I'd open all the shades around 6:30 and watch the house slowly lighten with dancing rays of light, and listen to the nesting cardinals and mocking birds sing. It was so beautiful, so restful. The perfect way to end my day.

Once I was staying up 'til 7 or 8am, though, I realized I could get even MORE work done if I wrote the Facebook updates before going to bed. Except the CW post doesn't go up 'til 9AM.

So I stayed up past 9AM.

Once I was awake past 9AM I discovered more things I could do before going to bed: Now I could return phone calls and DMs, even chat with my early-bird friends who I usually never got to see.

I'll spare you the rest of this word journey, and skip to the part where I woke up to start my day at 11 o'clock... PM. By this point I never knew what day it was, because I'd wake up on a Tuesday and go to bed on a Wednesday. I lived in the in-betweens, a hazy purgatory of days... and it felt like it. To quote a famous scientist, I felt "so funky" 24/7: a little spacey, a lot disconnected, and I can only imagine what my poor cortisol levels were doing.

Sleeping through my online therapy session was a wake-up call... literally, since my therapist had to text John to ask where I was. (John was going to bed himself around dawn, so we'd both forgotten what day it was.)

I tried reining in my hours a bit, but by this point my internal clock was completely upside down. I was going to bed between 1-3PM, a full 12 hours off from my usual schedule - so I didn't know if I should move backwards or forwards!

Then came Mother's Day weekend, and the infamous Key Lime Donut Incident.

Many of you know I'm on a modified Low FODMAP diet to manage a lifetime of gut pain. Happily I can eat most donuts without issue, so long as they don't have milk in them, but I forgot how heinously bad High Fructose Corn Syrup is to me - and how most fruit-flavored donuts are packed with it.



So I ate a delicious Key Lime Krispy Kreme, and 8 hours later was in so much pain that it started to scare me, and triggered my first panic attack in 4 months. I spent the next day on the couch spooning a hot-pack, and since I couldn't sleep through the pain anyway, my addled brain decided I may as well add on to this misery pile and try to turn my sleep schedule around.

» Read More
16 May 04:08

Alive or Not

Sithel

👌I think about this a lot

Computer viruses currently fall somewhere between prions and fire.
25 Mar 15:07

Photo

Sithel

Yes. All of them.



07 Dec 10:11

Flu Shot

Sithel

This is the best advertisement for a flu shot ever... ... which reminds me I still need to get mine... but Suko, you should go be good! Go click on a risky URL and let me know how it goes ;)

"Wait, how often are you getting bitten by snakes? And why are you boiling water?" "Dunno, the CDC people keep showing up with complicated questions about the 'history of the property' and 'possible curses' but I kinda tune them out. At least one of them offered me the flu shot."
03 Dec 16:19

More Love Letters : 12 Days of Letter Writing

by Donovan Beeson
Sithel

Hmmm... might jump in on some of these... have never written a letter as part of a larger group... but would like to write smaller/briefer letters as practice... can I be nice enough though? Hmmm...

More love
If you're looking for a meaningful postal connection beyond just your annual holiday cards, I highly recommend getting involved with More Love Letter's 12 Days of Letter Writing. Their's is a project we at L.W.A.H.Q. wholeheartedly support and champion at any time of year, but we felt like this project in particular was a good highlight of the spirit of the season. They have selected twelve people in need of support and are posting an address a day. From December 2 - 13, they'll share a new letter request each morning. You'll have the day to write to someone who needs more love, encouragement, and light. Write as many letters as you want! I find their Instagram page to be the easiest way to find out who to write. Our love goes out to all the letter writers and all the letter readers. Sig

03 Dec 16:02

How Generative Music Works

by Paul
Sithel

really enjoyed the presentation of this site

How Generative Music Works 🔊 2019-12-02 14-35-22

Tero Parvianen has en excellent introduction to Generative Music with lots of live examples. Well worth 20 minutes of your time with lots of food for thought.

How Generative Music Works

27 Nov 05:30

Braveheart's Speech

Sithel

OoOOo! The Old Reader Trending section yields some fun posts...

Description: William Wallace is giving his speech before a battle, like in the movie Braveheart.

William Wallace: \
25 Oct 07:09

Vewy bad wabbits

by opusanglicanum
Sithel

"Bad Rabbits"

I’ve been trying to get a new kit or two done for the Harrogate knit and stitch show at the end of next month, and I decided I needed bad rabbits

but I’ve also put them in the shop, if anyone wants one before that.

I normally take my handbag embroidery into schools to work on at breaks etc, but decided to put this on a small frame and take it to work with me, because My sewing time at home is taken up with other things at the moment – plus I was doing some crime and punishment storytelling with some year sixes last week, so it seemed kind of appropriate. Children are often interested in my embroidery, but I used this to talk about the dangers of travel by road in the middle ages, and the fact that all medeival rabbits are actaully hares and therefore female also makes this a picture of two women beating up a man.

The whole time I’ve been working on it kids have been more interested than usual. Today, as I was doing a history visit and was putting the final touches whilst the children handled the artefacts we’d been talking about, one particularly sneaky Y3 sidled up behind me while his teacher wasn’t looking, and asked what I was doing.

“sewing” says I

“sewing what?”

“bad rabbits” i says

“is that a movie?”

“hmmm”, I says “I don’t think so, but it sounds cool. I would definitely go and see bad rabbits the movie.”

“me too,” he agrees, and sidels back to his seat.

So if any Hollywood types are reading this, when you make “bad wabbits – the motion picture” myself the and sneaky young gent from Year three would like a large cheque for creative consultancy, thanks.

 

Gareth has been insisiting for the last week that no one, not ever, will buy  an embroidery kit of two rabbits beating some poor bloke up, so ffs, would someone please buy one just to shut him up?

(he also says telling you so someone will buy one is cheating – see how insufferable he is? This man can not be allowed to be right, there’s some sort of feminist principle at stake)

21 Oct 17:19

Haven’t been writing, have been reading

by B. Zedan

I’m going through some old public posts from my Patreon that never got shared here and cross-posting in an attempt to get back into blogging, like them old days of the early 2000s. This one is from November 2018.

The mentor from the SFWA I was recently paired with recommended Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer, a book I 100% would not have picked up on my own.  I’m reluctant to read guide and writing process books, partially because I hate what their tone tends to be and partially because it’s all about stuff I cannot even give two shits about. But I’ve connected with my mentor well enough that I trusted her judgement and I liked how she’d presented it, as a way to think about the writing process and get more receptive to ideas. I often feel a little overwhelmed by fragments and figments, so why the hell not give this book a try?! Also, I had a big ol’ Amazon gift card from winning an employee of the month equivalent at work (??!!) so I got a physical copy as per her recommendation, since it’s full of illustrations and diagrams. 

I pretty much fell in love with it right away. I feel so blessed whenever someone can recommend something to me, and this book really seems written for anyone, on any level of skill, who wants to tell stories. I’m going to share some of my favourite bits in the first two chapters I’ve read.

The first quote is from the first page of the first chapter and basically sold me on this book. The second is from basically the end of the second chapter and I like how they work together.

“Inspiration” is often inadequately defined as the initial spark or sparks that lead to a story. In fact, the word describes a continuing process that occurs throughout the development of a particular piece of fiction—an ongoing series of revelations put together by your subconscious and conscious minds working in tandem.

The particles known as words accumulate, each sentence building up or changing in ways both minute and potentially earthshaking, our perception of characters, the mood and events.

Storytelling is something that happens in layers and moments that rely on each other, like adding washes to a painting or the process of stitching and ironing and stitching and piecing a piece of clothing. These are things I know but I need to see and be reminded of. Related to the above quotes is this, from somewhere in the second chapter:

Don’t become impatient with the amount of time it takes for a story or novel to come alive in your mind before you start writing. Thoughtfully considering what you write is an essential part of the process.

Remembering it’s okay to let an idea stew is good. I make food this way all the time, why can’t I remember it’s okay to let thoughts render all the fat off the bone! Like food also it’s good to remember you have fuckups and failures to know what not to do, and that the writing process can be a flexible one.

The layout of Wonderbook is sort of like a textbook, with insets and margin notes and special sections by people who know what they’re talking about. This is a bit from a section by Kim Stanley Robinson on exposition: 

It’s also always okay to have one character explain something to another. This needn’t be an “As you know, Doctor” embarrassment, because in reality we teach each other things all the time, sometimes crucial things: so moments like these are simultaneously exposition, characterization and plot.

A lot of the book so far isn’t really so much saying a lot of the formulaic, hero journey, seven-point-plot, Save The Cat advice is wrong as it is spending time explaining the organic nature of storytelling and the range of ways to tell a story available.

My mentor encouraged me to just try to do one short story a month, which is what I had been trying to do and failing, but I think with her encouragement it’ll be easier. Get in this grind! Get in this pattern! Don’t keep getting distracted by the things I’m reading!

My mentor also suggested some very awesome short stories to me and I tore the hell through them, so let me share some faves with you!

The Ticket Taker of Cenote Zací by Benjamin Parzybok
Immersion by Aliette de Bodard
The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere by John Chu
Makeisha in Time by Rachael K. Jones

The post Haven’t been writing, have been reading appeared first on B.Zedan.

19 Sep 14:39

Keep The Post Office Public

by Donovan Beeson
Sithel

:(

Post office public
Lately, it seems like nothing but doom-and-gloom reporting when it comes to the U.S.P.S. Just yesterday, the court found that the latest stamp increase of a nickel was illegal. Every other op-ed I read about it has a new speculation, and none of them are good, if you want my own opinion about it. Recently, Amazon announced they wouldn't use FedEx for a portion of their shipping anymore. That touched off a rumor that Amazon is going to launch a bid for privatizing the U.S.P.S. 
 
The U.S.P.S. is already working with Amazon in a deal that might look good on paper, but seems to be running the postal people into the ground. Everywhere one looks, it seems like the "experts" want to solve the problems of lower revenues with cuts in service, both to the public and the postal worker. In addition to pension and insurance changes, 5-day delivery is being floated; so based on what is happening right now, that would probably mean only Amazon delivery on Saturday/Sunday. 
 
If the U.S.P.S. becomes privatized, we will all suffer and not just those of us in America. Almost half of all the mail in the world is processed by the U.S.P.S.  It delivers more in sixteen days than UPS and FedEx deliver together during the entire year. I don't have the answers here, but I do think that the congressional mandate that benefits for future employees of the post office be pre-funded is ludicrous and should be eliminated. The U.S.P.S. should also have greater control over themselves. They run without any tax dollar benefits, but are constricted in their operations as if they were funded by the government. It really seems like a rock and hard place situation for them. 
 
As long as they keep taking our letters, we'll keep sending them. We value what the mail and the postal service do for our community, both in life and online. We should keep the U.S.P.S. ours. Sig
 
P.S. Instagram image from the Arizona Correspondence Society, featuring a rubber stamp from The Well-Appointed Desk.
 
12 Sep 15:13

Unreachable State

Sithel

Sounds like comments I've written before in my code...

ERROR: We've reached an unreachable state. Anything is possible. The limits were in our heads all along. Follow your dreams.
28 Jul 19:18

hi hello alert so that classic tumblr flowing jungle river post...

Sithel

I look forward to reading this section! My copy arrived this week!



hi hello alert so that classic tumblr flowing jungle river post is now cited in a real book like an actual paper book and it’s called because internet and it’s all about the evolution of internet language and how TUMBLR DID THE THING and you can get it here

25 Jul 05:43

Spreadsheets

Sithel

To real

My brother once asked me if there was a function to produce a calendar grid from a list of dates in Google Sheets. I replied with a single-cell formula that took in a list of dates and outputted a calendar. It used SEQUENCE(), REGEXMATCH(), and a double-nested ARRAYFORMULA(), and it locked up the browser for 15 seconds every time it ran. I think he learned a lot about asking me things.
23 May 14:52

Alternate Histories

Sithel

I love this one more than usual for some reason...

"So their universe wouldn't have the iconic photo of a screaming Truman being hoisted aloft by the newspaper-printing machinery..."
04 May 23:02

Heists And Escapes

Sithel

What I spend my evenings thinking about when I'm stoned...

The interactive experience is built on a single theological framework that unites Dante, George R. R. Martin, every major heist movie, and Erin Gloria Ryan's "Kevin is dead" Home Alone theory.
27 Apr 19:59

Borderlands Cafe to Close

by Borderlands Books
Sithel

:'( Sad to see it go, but also reasonable... can't actually say I patronized the cafe much... I'm going to miss them on Valencia when they're gone...

by Alan Beatts

Most of the time I think that it's better to explain a thought process first and put the conclusion at the end.  But sometimes it seems better to do it the other way around. This is one of those times.

We're shutting down the cafe element of Borderlands this Tuesday, April 30th.  It's not a wonderful thing, but it's not a terrible thing either.

We opened the cafe in 2009, right in time for the recession to really start to bite (at least in the Bay Area).  Keeping the cafe going took a lot of very hard work, not just from me and Jude, but from all the original crew.  But we did it and the cafe became a modest success.  Certainly we found a group of great regular customers who liked the place we made and what we did.

All of us at the cafe also had a chance to work with a wonderful group of people.  Numerous friendships were made, many of which exist to this day.  Relationships were started (some of which I probably still don't know about) and roommates were found.  It was, and still is, a great community.

But, over the past two years, it has become very hard to find and retain staff.  Food service jobs always have high turnover and Borderlands was better than average (our first employee still works with us and many of the staff have been with us for multiple years).  But, in the last two years and despite hiring almost constantly, we have almost always been short by one person.  At times we've been short by two or even three.  For a business that at full staff only employs nine or ten people, that's been very difficult for all of us -- especially Z'ev (the cafe manager) and me.

Why it's been so hard to find staff is something that I can only speculate about, but my guess is that it's not a simple matter of displacement, gentrification, or the higher cost of living in SF.  Though that has played into it, I think that it's also a matter of there being plenty of jobs out there that pay better and are easier than slinging coffee.  Working in a cafe is damn hard.  Certainly, I wouldn't choose it as a job if there was much else on offer.

Another factor is that high school students don't seem to be looking for food service jobs.  At one point more than half of the staff were in high school.  (Now, only one of them is, and he'll be graduating soon.)   The reasons for that are beyond me, but it may just be another aspect of the things I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

But, for whatever reason, we've had a hard, hard time keeping the place properly staffed.  And that's one reason for closing.

Another reason is that Borderlands was a cafe built for Valencia Street in 2010.  All of us suspect that it's not the right sort of cafe for 2019 or 2020.  Our aim was to make a place that was pretty simple.  No large selection of coffee varieties, no high-end teas, no very complex food with tasteful presentation.  To be clear, we're not against any of those things (hell, most of us like 'em) but we were aiming for a place to grab a cup of good coffee, a bagel, and have a chat with a friend.  Or play chess.  Or read.  Or write.  A place to relax or be creative.

I think that folks are looking for something different now.  Maybe more complex, maybe more of an experience, or, to be painfully honest, maybe something that's just simply "better" than what we do.  Whatever people are looking for, we don't seem to have it, and so business hasn't been very good.  Last year especially wasn't very good.

Initially we planned to deal with that by changing what we offered.  That's the reason we added more food options this year.  But, Jude, Z'ev and I realized that none of us had the time to really re-imagine the place.  Jude's working like hell to stay on top of the store and Z'ev's doing the same with the cafe (and they are both doing extraordinary jobs, under challenging circumstances).  I've got my hands more than full with the construction work on the Haight Street building, along with my work in the office.  So, we don't have the time to remake the cafe.  And, I don't think any of us really have an appetite for it either.

And that's another reason to close.  We don't think that the cafe is actually very well-suited to the market and, as a result, we're losing money.

The final reason is very personal.  As I think most of your know, one of our long-time booksellers, Cary Heater, passed away quite suddenly at the beginning of this year.  She was my oldest friend and she wasn't born much before me.  As it would for many people, that prompted me take a look at my own life and mortality. Very specifically, I looked at how I'm spending my life. Because that's what we all do -- you only get so much and, despite not always realizing what a valuable coin it is, we spend it until it's gone.

I have enjoyed running the cafe and I kind of like it.  But I love being a bookseller, more than anything I've done in my life.  I also love being with my friends and the family I've chosen.  As much as I can, I want to spend the coin of my life on the things that I love . . . not on things that I "kind of" like.

And that is the final reason that we're closing.

I'm very grateful to all our customers who have supported us over the years.  And I'm especially grateful to the customers who have made it truly fun to work the counter. But most of all, I'm grateful to the staff who made Borderlands Cafe a great place.  The real credit for what we made goes to them.

All Best Wishes,
Alan

PS  If you're wondering if this will have any effect on the bookstore; it won't.  The cafe and bookstore have always been run as separate businesses and so the cafe's closure has no effect on the store at all.

PPS  If you're wondering what's going to happen to the location; for the month of May we'll be using it for author events and as a showroom while we sell off the cafe's equipment (and, perhaps, some of the excess stuff in the bookstore -- we are going to be moving soon, after all -- anyone out there want a cat-clawed bookshelf? It's pretty cheap).  After that, there will be a soft-story retrofit which, thankfully, won't impact the bookstore very much.  Finally, the location will go on the rental market, because we have terminated our lease, effective May 31st.

PPPS  Also, through May, the cafe will be available to the groups who have regular meetings.  Z'ev and I will be working with those groups to find other places that they can meet but, for at least a month, they'll still have a place.  They'll just need (or, "have the opportunity to") bring their own drinks and food.
18 Apr 05:03

Wanna See the Code?

Sithel

Beautiful analogies. Fitting. So perfect. Yes.

And because if you just leave it there, it's going to start contaminating things downstream even if no one touches it directly.
30 Mar 05:25

Copyright is a pain in the a&& and artists should stop worrying about it.

by Marc Taro Holmes
Sithel

This is great. Good info, good feeling

19March28_Infringment_Mat

Because I’m a painter, I move around in a constant state of inspiration.

Everywhere you go you see paintable things. You can’t look at the sky most days without seeing a great painting.

It’s unavoidable.

Naturally, I’m also addicted to social media – just like most of you – I’m constantly inspired by images I see online. 

I’m also constantly anxious and afraid to do anything about that inspiration.

19March28_Infringment_ Compare

For fear of Copyright Violation! (Cue Sinister Music).

As artists, we’re always hearing; “You can’t copy someone else’s artwork! You can’t paint from someone else’s photo!”

These regulations are always popping up in calls for entry, or in commentary about work online.

“That’s not real art, it’s just a copy!”

As if painting in nature, standing in front of the landscape, isn’t just a copy? Or sitting with a model or a still life or some flowers. Artists are just the world’s most subjective camera.

19March28_Infringment_Details (3)

So – I did some research and here are my thoughts:

  • I am not a lawyer so this is my lay-informed opinion.
  • Yes – diverting business income by taking work and re-selling it is wrong. Classic example: downloading artwork and making it into t-shirts. < (People have done that to me).
  • Also, commercial use of a recognizable likeness of someone’s face – this is a theft of income. Every human has the right to be paid for the (commercial) use of their image. (Though, not in every legal jurisdiction. Personality Rights are not recognized in NYC for example).
  • Same goes for commercial use of a building, a car, or even street art if it ends up in a photo. (Designers and Architects have the same rights).
  • No direct, mechanical copy FOR PROFIT < this is common sense.

BUT:

  • NON-commercial use of anything (art, photos, likeness) is totally fine.
  • Copies by students are an easy example. Copied work appearing in your illustration or portraiture portfolio is less obviously ok – but IS considered fair-use. (It’s a true demonstration of your skill, not a commercial product. The commercial product is the future work you might gain, not the copy itself).
  • AND >>>> most people don’t know this >>> one-of-a-kind original art is almost always ruled non-commercial.
  • The Graphic Artist Guild of America says: “Generally, works of fine art are not considered commercial even if they sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Courts are more likely to consider artwork commercial if it is sold as mugs or t-shirts…”
  • The key difference being, art is (generally) sold once (or a handful of times). The intent is not mass production.

19March28_Infringment_Details (5)

ALSO:

  • Being inspired by an image, making (and selling) a TRANSFORMATIVE work is totally NOT copyright infringement.
  • The existence of the new work does not in any way reduce the value of the old work. Often it actually increases value, by a kind of cachet effect. (The original work must be great if it inspires so many copies).
  • Examples of Transformative work:
    • Translating to a different media: Photograph recreated in line-art or weaving or say – an impasto oil painting.
    • Creating a composite image: Use multiple images for reference. To be safe, take no significant amount, or at least, equal amounts from each. (eg: collage).
    • Altering the source image: Enough that it would not be recognized by a stranger – not by the original artist. (They are too close to the issue). This also covers portrait-likeness. If a stranger (not the model) would not recognize the work, then you have not stolen their face – even if you admit to using their photo as reference.
  • Doing all of these things is bulletproof, but any one of these transformations *might* be sufficient to be within Fair Use. (It’s up to the judge).
  • Rules of thumb: Has the material taken from the original work been transformed by adding new expression or meaning? (Such as parody, or recontextualizing or juxtaposition). Was value added to the original by creating new information, new aesthetics, new insights, and understandings?

19March28_Infringment_Details (4)

OK! Still with me?
That’s my rant about why it’s OK to think and act upon your actual creative thoughts.

Every thought we think comes from somewhere.

You see something, you read something, and you combine old ideas into new ideas. There’s nothing new under the sun.

Don’t be ashamed of seeing a great painting or photo and thinking – man – I would love do my own version of that!

Trina Davies

All that said: you should still credit your sources.

[Photo: Trina Davies, Playwright of Waxworks, Shatter, Silence, The Bone Bridge and the GG-nominated The Romeo Initiative; http://www.trinadavies.com].

It’s just good grace between artists, and, if you are confident you’re doing transformative work, then there’s no reason not to.

19March28_Infringment_Details (2)

16 Mar 18:20

Quill: A Letter Writing RPG

by Donovan Beeson
Sithel

Iiiiiinteresting... I've never played a solo game before. Adam and I always joke about the solo versions of Race for the Galaxy... but this... this is... interesting...

QuillI've gotten a number of recommendations to look into an RPG called Quill. For the unfamiliar, an RPG is a Role Playing Game. Letter writing and role playing game are part of the Venn diagram that is my life; so this is something that I clearly should know more about. Maybe you should too! Let's learn together!

From the Drive Thru RPG blurb:

"Quill is a solo role playing game with a twist. Instead of hacking goblins and looting caves, you are writing letters. Rather than having attributes like strength or dexterity, characters in Quill use Penmanship, Language and Heart. In a game of Quill you will write real letters, with the aim to craft the best, most beautiful missive possible in order to get a favorable response. You will use words from the Ink Pot to inspire your letter - but be warned, should you roll badly you could end up writing a bad letter."

From the rules:

"In a typical game of Quill the aim is to impress your recipient into responding favourably to your letter. You will accomplish this through deft use of language and presentation, rolling dice to determine whether or not you succeed in using the right words, the best descriptors and the most beautiful penmanship. Once you have completed your letter – one which you will actually physically write yourself – you will count up your total score and discover how your letter has been received."

In the interest of science, I did download the PDF. To start, it's a little different from what I'm used to because it's a solo, meaning one player, game. My experience with role playing games has always been collaborative.  This game basically asks you to play along with the scenarios and characters presented in the rulebook. There are dice to be rolled to determine whether or not you can use the "Superior" word or add a "Flourish" to your point-winning phrase. It's all self-policed, but I find it a charming concept. I am unsurprised to read that teachers have been using it as a learning tool. People have been doing really fun things with it. Look at this!

Quill goes on the list of things that I would be all over if I had the time. How about you? Have you played? Would you play?  Donovan.gif

 

21 Feb 16:20

Night Shift

Sithel

oh god, this concept. I can imagine it being a thing in the not-so-distant future and I want it...

Help, I set my white balance wrong and suddenly everyone is screaming at each other about whether they've been to Colorado.
29 Jan 03:24

Biff Tannen

Sithel

oh my god, yes. A & I were just talking about this movie yesterday... also discussing dystopias and the nature of time and fate.... so I guess we're just part of a general mood sweeping many a-person... but this is flippin' uncanny.

I can't help myself; now I want to read a bunch of thinkpieces from newspapers in Biff's 1985 arguing over whether the growth of the region into a corporate dystopia was inevitable.