Shared posts

18 Jun 16:04


by Donovan Beeson

LetterlockingLetterlocking is a technique of folding a letter so that it becomes its own envelope. The letter is often secured with a wax seal and is designed so that it cannot be easily opened and resealed. To read the letter, seals must be broken and/or some paper must be torn. This provided security to correspondence long before the advent of micro-printing and obscuring envelopes.

The expert of letterlocking is Jana Dambrogio, a conservator at MIT Libraries. She's found examples from Queen Elizabeth I, Machiavelli, Galileo, Marie Antoinette and others. There are numerous ways to lock a letter, and many can be found at the well-researched and resource rich Additionally, there's a YouTube channel featuring different styles, including ones from the Harry Potter movies.

Letters locked this way always remind me of notes that we used to pass in school, with their elaborate ways of folding to keep our secrets safe. I've gotten a few letters mailed to me like this and it always hurts me a little to rip into them. I was reminded of this art by pen pal and book artist Sara, whose photo illustrates this post and who sent me a great recreation of a Butterfly Lock. Don't they look lovely? Have you sent or received a locked letter? Do you have a favorite technique? Donovan

09 Jun 15:49

Wrists & Apprentices

by (Ian Gilman)

always been fascinated by this... I worked with Ian a bit at Rdio. I met one of his "hands" at the time and she was super cool too. Gives me hope when I fret about future injuries I might sustain in life...

I've been working with apprentices since the early 90s, but I haven't really written about it here; I suppose it's about time!

Every year or so my apprentice graduates and I hire a new one. I recently went through that hiring process, and I'm always a little overwhelmed by all of the interested (and interesting!) people. It's distressing that I can only hire one, especially since I seem to be one of the few people offering this sort of thing in the web development industry.

Anyway, a little history… I started programming when I was 9 and went pro when I was 17. I became obsessed and didn't take care of my body, and by the time I was 20 I had developed a chronic wrist injury that I still have decades later. Maybe I should have walked away from computers, but by then I was hooked! That was a dark time, but eventually I struck upon a solution… I could dictate my code to someone else who could be my hands. Turns out this can be very effective and rewarding (even if it does require some patience).

I use the term apprentice because they're never just a typist… It's impossible to be the conduit for all of that code without picking up a lot of things along the way. I liken it to learning a foreign language by going to a foreign country and hearing people speak it all day long. As we work, I try to explain things along the way, and encourage my apprentice to ask questions. At the beginning I may have to spell everything out, but over time the apprentice picks up the patterns and I can speak at a more high level. The more they understand of what we're doing, the more powerful a team we become!

When I started doing this in the early 90s, pair programming wasn't a widely known practice, but nowadays it's much more common. What I'm doing with my apprentice is much like pair programming, except that the experience gap between my apprentice and me is wider than for most pairs (sometimes my apprentices start out knowing nothing about programming, though that's rarer these days with all the online code learning resources), and we never swap who's typing. Many of the benefits to pair programming still apply:
  • Two pairs of eyes on the code means fewer mistakes
  • We are focused on the job all day long; having someone else there makes it harder to procrastinate
  • Knowledge exchange; my apprentice is learning from me, and I'm learning from talking things through with them
  • We are able to discuss design challenges and alternatives to come up with better solutions
You might think all of this communication must slow us down, but quite the contrary… When we get rolling we really fly! Two minds are better than one.
    It's a very close working relationship… We sit just a few feet apart and talk constantly together all day long, week after week. Many of my former apprentices have become lifelong friends of mine. It's also very satisfying to see their careers develop after they move on to the next thing.

    Often people ask me about my "apprenticeship program" and how they can replicate it at their company or in their region. First off: yes, you should! There are tons of promising novice programmers out there who just need a bit of guidance and an opportunity to grow. There seems to be no shortage of software jobs, but it's difficult for someone new to break in. Anyone who can tap into that budding talent gets a competitive advantage. Meanwhile, the apprentices get a head start with invaluable learning by being directly involved with real projects. Better training and knowledge exchange means better developers, which means a better industry. For more thoughts on why (and how), see Software Training Sucks: Why We Need to Roll it Back 1,000 Years from Rob Walling. I've also written about the benefits of apprenticeship culture before.

    I think what I've been doing gives pretty good results, but of course it's also tuned to my situation… After all, the driving need here is for me to be able to get my work done. If I didn't need them to type for me, I would want the apprentice to move to greater levels of individual contribution gradually over time. As it is, I do recommend my apprentice use their off time to focus on their own projects and bring them in to discuss with me, to help cement their learning.

    Anyway, my recommendations:
    • Pick someone who shows promise and passion but doesn't have a lot of experience. Don't just go for college students on break (like many internship programs), or you'll miss out on all the folks coming out of boot camps or who've learned with online resources. 
    • Get them working on real projects right away (whether this be in a company setting or on open source). Real projects are the only way to turn theory into skill. The sooner they get started, the sooner all of the lessons and exercises they've done will actually make sense. Besides, this way they're being productive from the beginning.
    • Start them out pairing with someone who's already established. Make sure the mentor/apprentice relationship is explicit and that both sides understand what's expected. I think it's good for the less experienced programmer to do the typing, because otherwise it's easy for them to zone out while the more experienced programmer whizzes around, but your mileage may vary. It may feel slow at first, but you're sharing valuable information, and things will speed up as your shared experience grows. 
    • Next step would be to have them make their own pull requests and have the experienced programmer critique them. This exercises different parts of the brain than the pair programming, and helps them move into the driver seat. Actually, I suppose you could do this step live, with the more experienced programmer doing the typing based entirely on dictation from the apprentice, but giving feedback along the way. Either way, you'll already have a rich shared understanding to build on.
    • Move them gradually up to more levels of autonomy, until one day they become the mentor for the next apprentice!
    So that's my story, and some thoughts on bringing apprenticeship to your neck of the woods. I know it's already happening in some parts of the industry (within companies and at places like Apprenti), but I think it would be great for there to be more of it! Any skilled trade with a complex set of tools and a rich culture can benefit from the kind of cross-pollination and dialogue engendered by apprenticeship, and I'd say software development certainly fits the bill.

    What do you think? I'm sure I've just scratched the surface… Hit me up with questions if you've got 'em!
    03 Jun 17:58

    etirabys: Given names in Korean are almost always two syllables, with the first syllable usually...


    Given names in Korean are almost always two syllables, with the first syllable usually being shared with your siblings and cousins (all the children of the same generation of a family, basically). I just grew up with this and didn’t think it was weird until I had cause to explain it to someone yesterday, at which point I stopped and wondered if I was making all of this up, it seemed so weird, how the heck do they coordinate that? Do the parents of the first kid of the new generation decide, or something? That doesn’t sound right. I looked it up, and it turns out that family lines keep a constant character array in a poem:

    The sequence of generation is typically prescribed and kept in record by a generation poem (bāncì lián 班次聯 or pàizì gē 派字歌 in Chinese) specific to each lineage. While it may have a mnemonic function, these poems can vary in length from around a dozen characters to hundreds of characters. Each successive character becomes the generation name for successive generations.[1] After the last character of the poem is reached, the poem is usually recycled though occasionally it may be extended.

    Generation poems were usually composed by a committee of family elders whenever a new lineage was established through geographical emigration or social elevation. Thus families sharing a common generation poem are considered to also share a common ancestor and have originated from a common geographical location.

    Which is mindblowingly cool, I think.

    28 May 16:44

    learninglinguist: Linguistics alignment chart from Nathan...


    Linguistics alignment chart from Nathan Sanders on Twitter.

    Linguistics takes on the alignment chart meme.

    15 May 20:22

    What Scientists Saw When They Put a Crocodile in an MRI Scanner and Played Classical Music



    What Scientists Saw When They Put a Crocodile in an MRI Scanner and Played Classical Music:


    Our brains are the product of millions of years of evolution. Scientists would very much like to know how some of the most ancient brains functioned and evolved over time, but that’s obviously not possible, owing to the complete lack of primordial brains to work with. As a good consolation prize, however, scientists can work with crocodiles—an animal that originated more than 200 million years ago, barely changing over the eons. Accordingly, scientists can study crocodiles to understand at which point certain brain structures and behaviors first emerged.

    The point of the new study was to determine how the crocodilian brain might respond to complex sounds, and to see how the resulting brain patterns might compare to those observed in mammals and birds. The scientists were hoping to identify precursor brain structures and functions that allow for the processing of complex sights and sounds.

    To observe how complex visual and auditory stimulation triggers activity in the reptilian brain, a team led by Felix Ströckens from the Department of Biopsychology at Ruhr University Bochum set about the task of scanning Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) brains using a functional MRI (fMRI) scanner. These devices are typically used in diagnostic and research settings, and even for studying mammals such as dogs, but this is the first time a cold-blooded animal has been analyzed in such a machine. The results of the new study now appear in the science journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. (Full Story)

    I believe the best summary of the results is “Crocs like Bach.” 

    For the experiment, the researchers exposed five juvenile crocodiles to various visual and auditory stimuli. The visual cues consisted of flashing red and green lights, which flickered on and off at changing strengths and intervals. Simple auditory cues involved random chord noises between 1,000 Hz and 3,000 Hz. For the complex sounds, the researchers played a part of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 (which was used previously in other animal studies, thus providing a good baseline).

    Results showed that different areas of the crocodilian brain activated in the presence of complex sounds compared to basic noises. And in fact, the patterns observed resembled those seen in mammals and birds exposed to music. These observations suggest that the structural and functional aspects of sensory processing are present in the reptilian brain, and that these abilities were preserved and passed down the evolutionary family tree (assuming that modern crocodiles share similar brain structures as their ancestors). It’s a fascinating result, said Ströckens, since crocs are a relatively ancient group of species. “Thus it could be that these processing principals evolved much earlier than we thought before,” he said.

    13 May 20:39

    The International Phonetic Alphabet consonants found in English,...

    The International Phonetic Alphabet consonants found in English, with keywords and relevant parts of the mouth highlighted and colour-coded. (Source.) 

    04 May 02:30


    #tbt to when I walked out of a steakhouse/salsa club dreamworld looking like this...thanks for showing me a good time in Colombia @sophieh.chung 🤗
    03 May 19:00

    Cloning Napoleon’s Nieces

    by Marc Taro Holmes

    I was at the museum traipsing through a show on Napoleon. Ran across this double portrait by Jacques-Louis David portraying Napoleon’s nieces Zénaïde and Charlotte.

    In the painting, (according to the didactic panel), they are posing as steadfast echoes of the Empire.

    Crowned with gold tiaras, perched on a chaise decorated with imperial bees (?) < apparenlty a Bonaparte logo), brandishing a letter from uncle Joseph, no doubt encouraging them to produce lots of sons who might yet become future emperors. (Zéni. had 12 kids, Lottie – dunno –  couldn’t find that info – but they both died in childbirth).

    In any case – I felt like making a study, and so, here it is. And, as always, it’s about as faithful as anything I paint :) I want to learn – but I learn by play :)

    I’m no expert, but it’s my understanding the jury is out on the practice of master copies.

    Other than the secluded chambers of artist’s ateliers or the Chinese art factories – is anyone else doing them?

    Send me some links if you are! Please post in the comments. I’d like to hear what other people are doing.


    When I went to school, we were discouraged from copying historical painting. Other than as appropriation in the context of critical analysis. Which is a fancy way of saying – other than making fun of them.

    I understand of course that we were being positioned against of all the misogyny and class warfare and imperialism inherent in the work. (I can get behind that). And as good students, we would turn our backs on the patriarchy of representation and make conceptual art. (That — I couldn’t quite get there).

    But isn’t it more interesting what we can learn from this painting?

    I find it fascinating how this is a kind of propaganda. The use of art, beauty, and elegance to portray a kind of right thinking young lady doing their part for the empire.

    What virile King of Spain wouldn’t want one of these ladies as wives?

    Deposed King Ferdinand as it turns out, refused Zéni’s hand. Forcing her to marry her cousin Charles – sire of those 12 pure-blood kids.


    The best thing you can say (about the death of master-copies) is that art colleges are not trying to produce skilled-but-slavish craftspeople any longer. Rather, we want free-thinkers.

    I think this is fallout from the post-war obsession with originality in art, which is can be blamed on the explosion of (artificial) value in contemporary art, and the perceived need for every single piece to be 100% from our own mind – so we’re always adding value to our portfolio.

    This is something collectors want – as they need a body of work they can collect, market, and profit from.

    It’s not necessarily anything artists should want – as they need to be thinking first about developing their skills.

    You know – if you ask me :)


    18 Apr 15:56

    Heaven’s Vault is an interesting-looking symbol-deciphering game...

    Heaven’s Vault is an interesting-looking symbol-deciphering game that’s apparently “like Guitar Hero for linguistics.” From a review in The Verge:

    Initially, the premise for Heaven’s Vault sounds like a typical video game. You play as a young woman named Aliya Elasra, accompanied by her temperamental robot Six, and together you explore a series of moons that were once home to a mysterious ancient civilization. But the ruins aren’t filled with violent aliens to kill or powerful weapons to discover. Instead, what the civilization left behind is words, and it’s your job to figure out what they mean. […]

    The first time you see a hieroglyph, you essentially have to guess what it is. The game will show you a pictorial, and then give you a few options for what it might mean. A symbol could mean either “temple” or “garden,” and, initially, all you have to go on is the context of where the symbol is and what it looks like. If you guess wrong, you aren’t punished. In fact, the game lets you carry on thinking that could be the meaning of the word. As you explore, you’ll keep seeing symbols repeatedly and learn new ones that can give you a better idea of what others mean.

    Eventually, if you’ve guessed wrong, Aliya will realize that it isn’t right, and the definition will be reset. By that time, you may have worked out what it really means by discovering other hieroglyphs or by learning something new about your location. It’s a system designed specifically to make you feel unsure and thus more like a real archaeologist. The game’s creators want you to fumble around. “We deliberately delay that process a little bit so that it goes on for slightly longer than you might be comfortable with because that feeling of not quite being sure is important,” says Inkle co-founder Jon Ingold.

    The language itself has around 1,000 words, and the team describes it as being “logically constructed.” The idea is that the symbols aren’t random; each has a meaning, and that meaning is always the same. […]

    While the language itself is real, the team admits that, in order to make it work for the purposes of the game, it’s not exactly the most functional language. “It’s complete in the sense that it’s fully logical, but it’s also not a super useful language,” Humfrey explains. “We have around 1,000 words, which is just enough to be useful for the purposes of the game.” He likens it to Guitar Hero for linguists: it’s enough to make you feel like you’re doing the job, but it cuts out a lot of the more tedious busy work. 

    Read the rest of the review.

    This game reminds me of the symbol-deciphering puzzles in the Linguistics Olympiad – I hope it leads people into wanting to learn more about linguistics! 

    11 Apr 16:12

    SFIFF 61: Day Two

    by Adam

    A perfectly serviceable documentary about Hal Ashby, which wins one over through the force of clips from his best movies (Harold and Maude, The Last Detail, Being There). The film focuses intently on the art, and on the process of making that art (long, marijuana-fueled sessions in the editing room), with only a glimpse here or there of biography. The 1980s output is mostly left out of the story, acting as a source of frustration leading up to Ashby's untimely death. The presentation is largely conventional, with many talking heads, but a few touches stand out, particularly the use of clips from his movies to illuminate passages from his letters. In the end, one is left with the intense desire to revisit these films again (hopefully on the big screen).

    First Reformed

    Writer-director Paul Schrader returns, yet again, to the themes of Taxi Driver in this stark tale of a priest searching for something, anything, to hold onto. Ethan Hawke, as the priest, is magnificent. And the formalism of the film is something to behold: shot in the nearly-square 4:3 format, the framing of every scene fits its subject perfectly, while leaving the audience on-edge. As a statement about the state of the world today, the film is not entirely successful. But considered on its own terms, it's a gripping and visceral treat.

    11 Apr 16:06

    SFIFF 61: Weekend One

    by Adam

    Adam is blogging again! Yay!


    I went in hoping for an ethnographic documentary in the tradition of past festival favorite The Iron Ministry. But the intimacy of this film, with its singular attention to one man (Kabwita Kasongo, a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo) and one activity (manufacturing a load of charcoal and taking it to market 50km on his bicycle), gives the movie a conflicted identity. It seems to aim for a fully observational mood, with no interviews or recognition of the camera by the people onscreen. Yet being so close to the subject throughout an arduous journey makes it hard for the audience not to wonder why the director (a white Frenchman, unseen but keenly felt due to constant fluid camera movement) doesn't offer Kabwita a helping hand. I found the end result uncomfortable to watch, even if the film itself is compelling and well-crafted.

    Some online research suggests that this may be a "hybrid" film, with the protagonist playing a fictionalized version of himself, and if that were so, it would make me feel better. I appreciate a "show, don't tell" style, but this is one place where just a little bit of context would have improved the experience greatly.

    Claire's Camera

    I still can't grok Hong Sang-soo.

    Winter Brothers

    The biggest disappointment of the festival so far, this did offer great visuals and atmosphere, as promised. But the story, about a miner whose moonshine starts to make his coworkers sick and who pines after his brother's sister, did not develop coherently. And the characters offered the audience nothing to hold on to.


    A universal tale, out of Brazil, of the way children eagerly leave home, and how parents (especially mothers) cope. Fernando, a high school handball star, gets an offer to join a professional team in Germany; he has to leave in three weeks. Meanwhile, his mother Irene is about to finally get her high school diploma. What stands out most from this piece is the palpable sense of family-ness, especially between the four brothers (two young twins, an awkward 12-year-old, and Fernando) and between Fernando and his mother. On paper, this would be all-too-heartwarming for me, but the end result, with such a specific sense of place (a crumbling house, next door to a house yet-to-be-built) and feeling, won me over.

    Composed entirely of shots of stars, compiled from hundreds of films, this exceeded my already-high expectations. Like any compilation, one of the joys is identifying familiar scenes. Sometimes this is straightforward enough, but the similarity of the shots, and the refusal to show anything other than stars, makes it amusingly maddening at times. But as fun as it is, what really struck me was how this is actually a history of cinema: the clips are arranged in chronological order, beginning at the dawn of the medium and going straight through to the present. You can see tropes emerge and develop over the time, sometimes for technological reasons and sometimes just for storytelling purposes. As soon as it ended, I wanted to watch it again, but so far it seems to be a festival-only phenomenon, but I intend to closely follow the movie's website to find out when it'll be nearby. I recommend you do the same.

    Bonus content
    Guy Maddin: State of Cinema Address

    Always something of a wildcard, this annual festival tradition fell to Guy Maddin this year (the programmer introducing Maddin jokingly noted that it was just an excuse to bring Maddin to San Francisco, since he doesn't have a new film this year). Clearly uncomfortable with the responsibility of talking about something as momentous as the "State of Cinema", Maddin nonetheless mostly succeeded in giving a fascinating lecture on the psychological vulnerability and openness inherent in authorship, and how that ties into the history and present of cinema, from Finnish melodrama to Ed Wood to Tarnation, and on into the YouTube era.

    04 Apr 15:52


    by Dyson Logos

    Sometimes you want a map or document to look like an old-school illustration in an adventure book. Well, sometimes I do at least. Hand-drawn parchment scrolls and similar borders were a big thing in books, magazines and advertisements when I was getting into D&D.



    So I went all meta and drew paper on paper. I tried to go for a slightly different style of paper than I usually do. And now that I’ve done that, I figure I should let you use it too! So here it is, free for your own personal (non-commercial) use.

    I’ve drawn enough little (and big) pieces like this that I should probably go through the blog and collect them all into one place for your convenience… maybe later this week.


    24 Mar 16:42

    Poem: I lik the form


    That link to bredlik is pretty great also


    My naym is pome / and lo my form is fix’d
    Tho peepel say / that structure is a jail
    I am my best / when formats are not mix’d
    Wen poits play / subversions often fail

    Stik out their toung / to rebel with no cause
    At ruls and norms / In ignorance they call:
    My words are free / Defying lit'rate laws
    To lik the forms / brings ruin on us all

    A sonnet I / the noblest lit'rate verse
    And ruls me bind / to paths that Shakespeare paved
    Iambic fot / allusions well dispersed
    On my behind / I stately sit and wave

    You think me tame /
      Fenced-in and penned / bespelled
    I bide my time /
      I twist the end / like hell

    * “lik” should be read as “lick”, not “like”. In general, the initial section on each line should be read sort of phonetically.

    Written for World Poetry Day, March 21, 2018. When I had this idea earlier today, I thought it was the worst, most faux hip pretentious idea for a shallow demonstration of empty wordsmithing skill in poetry ever. So I had to try to write it. I mean, how often do you get to fuse the iambic dimeter of bredlik - one of the newest and most exciting verse forms - with the stately iambic pentameter of the classic sonnet?


    05 Mar 05:43

    Deflecting “How are you?” via Grice’s maxims


    A friend who’s going through rough times lamented to me that, when acquaintances ask her how she’s been, she doesn’t feel like it’s honest to say “fine”, and the acquaintances don’t actually want to hear the full story. I told her what I do in analogous situations: say any (at least mildly interesting) fact about something you experienced in the last few days. For example, “My cat got stuck in a cereal box today” or “I found a new brunch spot last weekend”.

    This works because of the unspoken principles of conversation called Grice’s maxims, particularly the maxim of relevance: whatever you say in response to a question will be interpreted as an answer to that question, at least in spirit. And random facts can be interpreted as “here’s something that’s on my mind”, which people will take as a valid answer to “how are you”.

    Push this too far and it breaks down; responding with “I cut my toenails this morning” will be read as a non sequitur and possibly rude. But anything that could plausibly be a story you would tell a friend will work for this. Plus, any followup questions will be on a non-painful topic!

    I do a similar thing when replying to the eternal linguist question, “how many languages do you know?” 

    I used to let that lead me into a list of languages with my precise level of fluency, which would make the other person say “wow” but not have much else to reply with, or a mini-lecture of how not all linguists speak a whole bunch of languages, which got tedious to keep delivering and other people didn’t particularly enjoy it either.  

    These days, I mention just two or three languages, but I switch up which ones I mention depending on what I think the other person would be interested in talking about and what I’m in the mood for (French often leads into a discussion of Canadian politics, some people just give off a certain vibe that they’d be really excited about Latin, and so on.) When I’ve gauged it really well, I can get away with just mentioning a single language. Sample dialogues: 

    “How many languages do you speak?” 
    “Well, it’s really interesting living in Montreal because of course there’s so much French…”
    *conversation now becomes about French in Montreal*

    “How many languages do you speak?”
    “French of course, and it was really interesting studying Latin in high school because…”
    *conversation now becomes about Latin and/or language study methodologies*  

    The Gricean part is that, like with “how are you?”, people never seem to notice or mind that they’re not getting a number in reply. “How many languages?” is a conversational gambit of “you seem like a person who’d be open to having small talk about languages” or “tell me more about your linguistic experiences” (the same way that “how many pets/children do you have?” is a common small talk question). I recently had a conversation on twitter about doing this for “how many instruments do you play?” when the number gets too big and difficult to quantify, and it seems like it would work there too, although I personally won’t be in the circumstances to test it.

    11 Feb 18:21

    "Certainly, then, words like mama and dada wouldn’t necessarily stay the same, or even close to the..."

    Certainly, then, words like mama and dada wouldn’t necessarily stay the same, or even close to the same, in languages around the world and over tens of thousands of years. So what happened?

    The answer lies with babies and how they start to talk. The pioneering linguist Roman Jakobson figured it out. If you’re a baby making a random sound, the easiest vowel is ah because you can make it without doing anything with your tongue or lips. Then, if you are going to vary things at all, the first impulse is to break up the stream of ahhh by closing your lips for a spell, especially since you’ve been doing that to nurse. Hence, mmmm, such that you get a string of mahs as you keep the sound going while breaking it up at intervals. […] Nichols has proposed that the reason a language like Yukaghir’s pronouns for I and you look so much like the mama/tata alternation—as well as why French has moi and toi and English once had me and thou—is because even as these languages have changed over time, the sounds of the words for I and you have been influenced by the way mama and tata differ. The m sound is used for what is closest—mama for Mommy and “me” for the self. The t sound—often learned just after m—is for what’s just one step removed from the closest: Daddy hovering just over there, which we can understand would feel like “you” rather than “(Mommy and) me.

    - Why ‘Mom’ and ‘Dad’ Sound So Similar in So Many Languages” from The Atlantic
    (via principleofplenitude)
    07 Feb 16:37

    No. 2

    by Donovan Beeson

    Confession time: I really don't like Valentine's Day. (I loathe its more recent compatriots even more. Looking at you, Sweetest Day.) I am not a romantic individual and dislike the idea of obligatory calendric gift-giving. That said, I sent some Valentine gifts this year, but ONLY because I found the best, most perfect gift. 

    "Inspired by the humble pencil, artists Rory Sparks and Catherine Haley Epstein have created an homage in scent. The scent was created with a nose on a box of Blackwing pencils, and the ideas of freedom, focus and unlimited possibilities in the head. Throughout history and to this day millions of incredible design projects start with the pencil. It’s with this guiding principal we present “No. 2” the first fine fragrance, hand-crafted and meticulously packaged in honor of the pencil."

    Seriously. It's perfume AND it's art. It smells like a freshly-sharpened pencil. I'm delighted and thought you might be too. Donovan

    28 Jan 03:15

    February Will Soon Be Here

    by Donovan Beeson

    Letter writing
    February is almost here, folks. February is a BUSY month in our letter-loving world. There's that funny old Valentines thing some people like, but we've also got International Correspondence Writing Month (AKA InCoWriMo) and Month of Letters(AKA LetterMo)! Both websites operate on the same basic principle- send one letter every day* in the month of February. (*Or every weekday. It's the shortest month; you can do it!) Respond to all the letters you receive. Talk amongst yourselves about the sending of mail through their forums and gain a bunch of internet kudos. It's a great month to be a letter writer! Who's playing along? How are you preparing? Got any fun tips or downloads to share? Let's share in the comments! Donovan

    22 Jan 16:27

    stanzicapparatireplayers: anemotionallyunstablecreature: a6: u kno when u keysmash but the jumble...


    This is great! Ha! I'd never heard of "crytyping" before but I've definitely done it. Also, +1 for the Dvorak joke at the end :D




    u kno when u keysmash but the jumble of letters dont convery the right Feeling so u gotta backspace and re-keysmash to turn ur HKELSXPXA to a JKFSDKAS

    Vaguely wondering how future anthropologists will explain this…

    *raises hand* Hi. So - the use of a keysmash is emotive. You use it to indicate that you’re so overwhelmed with emotion that you can’t even type, you’re just flailing at the keyboard.

    So why is there a difference between a “hkelsxpxa” and a “jkfsdkas” or an “asdfs”?

    Because language evolves! It’s actually really exciting to think about, but there’s a reason why slang is continually changing and why Old People are usually characterized by not knowing the slang variants that are being used by The Youth - it’s because the way we use words changes over time, especially in response to technological or environmental changes.

    And text-based communication - texting someone on your phone, or chatting with friends on Skype or Discord - is actually really new, this is something which started in my lifetime. And grammatical rules have been evolving and settling into place around that form of communication.

    For instance, linguistic researchers have noticed that anyone who’s grown up with texting being a normal thing will usually not end their texts or IMs with a period unless they’re angry or annoyed. This is because it’s a lot harder to do a run-on sentence in those mediums; you can just hit ‘enter’ and go to a new line. A period, then, becomes an indicator of emphasis, instead of an indicator of “there is nothing missing from this sentence” - and it’s an indicator of negative emphasis (rather than the positive emphasis that an exclaimation mark can give).

    So, the keysmash has its own grammatical rule. And it’s one that makes sense, considering that it’s entirely possible for a keysmash to be caused accidentally - by something falling onto the keyboard, or a cat walking across it. The rule, then, is that a deliberate keysmash and an accidental one need to be distinguishable.

    So a deliberate keysmash will nearly always use keys only in the home row, and usually in a particular order that isn’t likely to have happened purely accidentally.

    So, future anthropologists will likely explain it as a marker of language evolving to work with a text-based medium where expressions and body language are difficult-to-impossible to convey. Much like emojis, crytyping, and whether or not you put punctuation at the end of a sentence (and in what context you do so), keysmashing is used to convey how you feel - in a way that body language and facial expressions would usually be expected to fill in the gap.

    I did a survey once of people who use keysmash and over half of people reported that they’d adjust a few letters or delete and re-smash when it didn’t look “right” (except for the poor Dvorak users, who had kind of given up on keysmash entirely because their vowely home row made theirs emotionally illegible to other people).

    22 Jan 16:20

    The End of the Rainbow

    The retina is the exposed surface of the brain, so if you think about a pot of gold while looking at a rainbow, then there's one at BOTH ends.
    17 Jan 02:38

    Why Do Cartoon Villains Speak in Foreign Accents?

    Why Do Cartoon Villains Speak in Foreign Accents?:

    An interesting article in The Atlantic about cartoon villain accents. Excerpt:  

    In many of the cases studied, villains were given foreign accents. A modern-day example is Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz, the bad guy in Phineas and Ferb who speaks in a German(ish) accent and hails from the fictional European country Drusselstein. Meanwhile, the study found that most of the heroic characters in their research sample were American-sounding; only two heroes had foreign accents. Since television is a prominent source of cultural messaging for children, this correlation of foreign accents with “bad” characters could have concerning implications for the way kids are being taught to engage with diversity in the United States.    

    The most wicked foreign accent of all was British English, according to the study. From Scar to Aladdin’s Jafar, the study found that British is the foreign accent most commonly used for villains. German and Slavic accents are also common for villain voices. Henchmen or assistants to villains often spoke in dialects associated with low socioeconomic status, including working-class Eastern European dialects or regional American dialects such as “Italian-American gangster” (like when Claude in Captain Planet says ‘tuh-raining’ instead of ‘training.’) None of the villains in the sample studied seemed to speak Standard American English; when they did speak with an American accent, it was always in regional dialects associated with low socioeconomic status.

    Some shows also gave foreign accents to comic characters, though British English was almost never used in this way. “Speakers of British English are portrayed dichotomously as either the epitome of refinement and elegance or as the embodiment of effete evil,” the study concludes. “What general sociolinguistic theory would suggest,” Gidney added, “is that American adults tend to evaluate British dialect … as sounding smarter.” Funny characters, on the other hand, often speak in German or Slavic accents (Dobrow offered as an example the associates of the evil Dr. Claw in Inspector Gadget), as well as in regional American dialects associated with the white working class.

    Animated shows aren’t too careful in depicting how dialects actually work; they often use sloppy approximations of an accent as opposed to accurate renderings. The two generalized indicators of a Slavic accent, according to the study, are pronouncing words like “darling” as “dah-link,” and “we” as “vee.” Often, accents have a combination of features associated with a patchwork of nationalities. But what’s true in all of these cases is that the accent is portrayed as foreign in a way that’s clear to the viewer. To Gidney, the common denominator in all of these vague foreign accents is “the binary distinction of ‘like us’” versus “not like us.” “Villainy is marked just by sounding different,” he added.  

    Read the whole thing.

    17 Jan 02:32

    My Stepfather’s Brief Artistic Inspiration

    by Marc Taro Holmes

    A few years back, (2016 ) my stepfather, who has advanced semantic dementia (similar to Alzheimer’s disease), had a six month-ish burst of creativity in which he made a series of paintings in acrylic.

    He started quite abruptly and stopped cold-turkey when he couldn’t make the color choices any longer.

    He had not, to anyone’s knowledge, ever made a drawing or painting in his life before these.

    I’ve read that sudden outbursts of creativity are common in people with degenerative brain disease. I suppose, as they get worse and worse at communicating verbally, they’re looking for some other way to express themselves.

    At the same time they’re losing inhibitions and self regulation, and suddenly they find themselves able to access a state of un-fettered creativity.

    Even though these works are entirely abstract – just color and brush marks – I still imagine a surreal landscape or emotional ‘space’ created by the color.

    But there’s no way to know his true artistic intent – or even if there IS a thought process behind the work.

    There’s a jibe to be made between art schools: maybe this is no different from any abstract artist. Can we ever know that non-objective painting isn’t just completely random color choices?

    At this point he couldn’t sign his name or print letters, or even reliably operate our coffee machine. I watched him spend 20 minutes considering (unsuccessfully) how to assemble a screw, washer and nut. So I was surprised to see this amount of dexterity with a paint brush.

    He did some of the work, drawing with the paint tubes directly. Skipping the step of mixing color, using them sort of like a crayon. Squeezing paint onto the canvas.

    I had an instructor back in art school who did the same thing, though his works were monumental in size and many inches thick. Very expensive paintings.

    It’s worth noting, my stepfather has been red/green colorblind his whole life. So he sees these works more duo-chromatically than we do. Here’s a chart I found of what that looks like.

    That might make the red painting above look like this. (Color adjusted in photoshop). But, as there’s no way to know that for sure, I won’t make this adjustment with all the work.

    As well, he’s unable to tell us for sure in which orientation the art should hang. He can make a choice when you have a finished frame to show him, but it’s not clear he wouldn’t change his mind if you asked twice.

    We actually didn’t take the time to watch him at work. Which, I now regret. Ironic that I’ve been teaching art for a few years, but we never talked about his things. Of course I thought about trying to help him a bit. But it’s complicated. I didn’t want to do anything to jinx his process. He was producing things at a brisk pace. People get antsy if you hover when they’re painting. So why get in the way?

    Anyway, I’ve chosen the orientation for these. and that might impose a context onto them. I tend to think, this one looks like a mountain for instance, so I put it this way up.

    If you ask, is it a mountain, or is it a lake, he’ll just agree with whatever you suggest.

    I’ve always been somewhat stymied by pure abstraction. Not knowing how to think about it. My own work is fairly literal. I look at the world, and create a personal record. Sure I might exaggerate for effect. But essentially I paint what I see.

    With frontotemporal injury, there are people that see vivid hallucinations. Others can look at a clock and all the numbers are jumbled. Some don’t see faces on people’s heads. It’s fascinating to think that these marks might represent something he’s seeing, which we will never understand.

    When I look at this pale green surface, my realist’s brain wants to see a forest or jungle. It’s attractive because of the color harmonies. It seems like a ‘good mood’ kind of painting.

    His moods will change rapidly over a day. But even prior to losing his self regulation, he wasn’t the kind of person to be in a good mood for long.

    This dark forest is a little more of a reflection of his personalty.

    I am, in a way, jealous of his freedom to use color and marks without any concern about capturing reality.

    It seems like a person with dementia has an advantage over a fully functioning painter who might dabble in non-objective painting, but be unable to set themselves free of describing things.

    Unfortunately, his condition is irreversibly progressive.

    This burst of visual art was short lived. We didn’t keep exact track of the dates, but I’m recalling, it lasted about six months. Eventually the work began to lose the complexity of mark making and the clarity of color.

    These pieces are roughly in chronological order, though there was various amounts of time, and other works, in between.

    Just stop and look at this one for a moment.

    It might well be a completely random creation with no meaning. Made by a loopy old dude who’s just farting around.

    But if you stop and think; this is the artwork of a person who is trapped in his disintegrating mind, aware at times – or possibly at every moment – that he’s lost his intelligence, personality, now his physical independence, and fairly soon his self-awareness will be gone. It’s tempting to say that this guy who can’t speak, or even dress himself, is trying to communicate his state of distress.

    He made at least fifty (I haven’t counted exactly) of these paintings on 9×12″ canvas paper and some more on 5×7″ and 8×10″ stretched canvasses.

    I think the volume of work is indicative of their importance to him. There was nothing else in this time he would devote more than ten minutes to. He doesn’t listen to music, or watch TV. He won’t sit to be read too for any length of time. Somehow, these were  rewarding for him.

    He would very much enjoy seeing his paintings framed, or put into portfolio books. And he’s still quite proud of having made these when he sees them today. They’re one of the few things, other than family photos, which he will always comment on.

    “I did that. That’s mine”.

    Then, one day, there was a sudden decline, and this was as far as he could get.

    There’s a few of these essentially unfinished works, done in one color with only part of the surface considered.

    Soon after the these pieces, he refused to make any more work, saying he couldn’t do it anymore.

    We tried to keep things going by offering him India ink, hoping it would be easier with a single color.

    He made about five of these black and white drawings, and would not make any more.


    19 Dec 05:01

    feynites: runawaymarbles: averagefairy: old people really need to learn how to text accurately to...




    old people really need to learn how to text accurately to the mood they’re trying to represent like my boss texted me wondering when my semester is over so she can start scheduling me more hours and i was like my finals are done the 15th! And she texts back “Yay for you….” how the fuck am i supposed to interpret that besides passive aggressive

    Someone needs to do a linguistic study on people over 50 and how they use the ellipsis. It’s FASCINATING. I never know the mood they’re trying to convey.

    I actually thought for a long time that texting just made my mother cranky. But then I watched my sister send her a funny text, and my mother was laughing her ass off. But her actual texted response?

    “Ha… right.”

    Like, she had actual goddamn tears in her eyes, and that was what she considered an appropriate reply to the joke.I just marvelled for a minute like ‘what the actual hell?’ and eventually asked my mom a few questions. I didn’t want to make her feel defensive or self-conscious or anything, it just kind of blew my mind, and I wanted to know what she was thinking.

    Turns out that she’s using the ellipsis the same way I would use a dash, and also to create ‘more space between words’ because it ‘just looks better to her’. Also, that I tend to perceive an ellipsis as an innate ‘downswing’, sort of like the opposite of the upswing you get when you ask a question, but she doesn’t. And that she never uses exclamation marks, because all her teachers basically drilled it into her that exclamation marks were horrible things that made you sound stupid and/or aggressive.

    So whereas I might sent a response that looked something like:

    “Yay! That sounds great - where are we meeting?”

    My mother, whilst meaning the exact same thing, would go:

    ‘Yay. That sounds great… where are we meeting?”

    And when I look at both of those texts, mine reads like ‘happy/approval’ to my eye, whereas my mother’s looks flat. Positive phrasing delivered in a completely flat tone of voice is almost always sarcastic when spoken aloud, so written down, it looks sarcastic or passive-aggressive.

    On the reverse, my mother thinks my texts look, in her words, ‘ditzy’ and ‘loud’. She actually expressed confusion, because she knows I write and she thinks that I write well when I’m constructing prose, and she, apparently, could never understand why I ‘wrote like an airhead who never learned proper English’ in all my texts. It led to an interesting discussion on conversational text. Texting and text-based chatting are, relatively, still pretty new, and my mother’s generation by and large didn’t grow up writing things down in real-time conversations. The closest equivalent would be passing notes in class, and that almost never went on for as long as a text conversation might. But letters had been largely supplanted by telephones at that point, so ‘conversational writing’ was not a thing she had to master. 

    So whereas people around my age or younger tend to text like we’re scripting our own dialogue and need to convey the right intonations, my mom writes her texts like she’s expecting her Eighth grade English teacher to come and mark them in red pen. She has learned that proper punctuation and mistakes are more acceptable, but when she considers putting effort into how she’s writing, it’s always the lines of making it more formal or technically correct, and not along the lines of ‘how would this sound if you said it out loud?’

    Reblogging for reference because I’m working on this exact question for the book right now. 

    14 Dec 16:49

    We Made A Life-Sized Thestral For Christmas, Because Of Course We Did

    by Jen

    man, I wish I had the space to build random things like this...

    So possibly our biggest surprise at the Potter Party last weekend was Tiny Tim, the life-sized thestral in the back yard. Yes, thestral. You know, the undead skeleton horses that can only be seen after you witness someone dying? I mean, HOW FESTIVE DOES THAT SOUND.

    via Pottermore

    It's all Home Depot's fault, of course, since they were selling life-sized horse skeletons for Halloween. We weren't about to drop $200 for it, though, so we waited 'til November 1st, called every Home Depot in the greater Orlando area, and on try #17 finally found one for half off. Still pricey at a hundred bucks, of course, but John was positively GIDDY at the thought of making our own thestral.

    So we did.

    And since this WAS for a Christmas party, we added a wreath around his neck to make him more cheery:


    After dark is when Tiny Tim gets his wow factor, though:
    » Read More
    11 Dec 04:59

    hoseph-christiansen: theawesomeadventurer: ultrafacts: Source:...




    Source: [x]

    Follow Ultrafacts for more facts!

    okay but this is a power move above any other

    It gets even better, because he was doing all of this on a pitch black night. This dude swam towards a lure, slapped at it with his glove, and when it got caught; he let himself float and tugged on the line so the fisherman thought he had hooked a 100+ pound salmon. Once he was finally up to the shore, he turned a flashlight on in the guy’s face and walked out of the water, saying “good morning, gentlemen. State fish and game warden, you’re under arrest.“

    At this point, the guy who had reeled him in had literally fallen over in shock, and the other people with him were scared shitless. The warden whipped some citations out of a plastic bag in his wetsuit, made the trespassers sign them, asked if they had any questions, and then gathered all of their fishing gear. And he just. Walked back into the river. And quietly swam away, without another word.

    This man is a legend.

    08 Dec 15:53

    Phon-kemon, gotta catch ‘em all! (By Edwin Ko on twitter.)

    Phon-kemon, gotta catch ‘em all! 

    (By Edwin Ko on twitter.)

    01 Dec 06:23

    Google Translate adds gendered stereotypes when translating from...

    Google Translate adds gendered stereotypes when translating from Turkish, which doesn’t mark gender in these sentences: “o” means both “she” and “he”. For example, “o mutlu” could translate just as correctly to “she is happy” and “o mutsuz” to “he is unhappy” but Google Translate favours the version that perpetuates a whole bunch of stereotypes – stereotypes that were, no doubt, present in the training data. (source, additional commentary, article with more information about how AI learns sexism and racism). 

    29 Oct 16:43

    A neural network designs Halloween costumes


    oh man, now I want to illustrate ALL of these!!



    It’s hard to come up with ideas for Halloween costumes, especially when it seems like all the good ones are taken. And don’t you hate showing up at a party only to discover that there’s *another* pajama cardinalfish?

    I train neural networks, a type of machine learning algorithm, to write humor by giving them datasets that they have to teach themselves to mimic. They can sometimes do a surprisingly good job, coming up with a metal band called Chaosrug, a craft beer called Yamquak and another called The Fine Stranger (which now exists!), and a My Little Pony called Blue Cuss.

    So, I wanted to find out if a neural network could help invent Halloween costumes. I couldn’t find a big enough dataset, so I crowdsourced it by asking readers to list awesome Halloween costumes. I got over 4,500 submissions.

    The most popular submitted costumes are the classics (42 witches, 32 ghosts, 30 pirates, 22 Batmans, 21 cats (30 incl sexy cats), 19 vampires, and 17 each of pumpkins and sexy nurses). There are about 300 costumes with “sexy” in their names; some of the most eyebrow-raising include sexy anglerfish, sexy Dumbledore, sexy golden pheasant, sexy eyeball, sexy Mothra, Sexy poop emoji, Sexy Darth Vader, Sexy Ben Franklin, Sexy TARDIS, Sexy Cookie Monster, and Sexy DVORAK keyboard. In the “technical challenge” department, we have costumes like Invisible Pink Unicorn, Whale-frog, Glow Cloud, Lake Michigan, Toaster Oven, and Garnet.

    All this is to say that humans are very creative, and this task was going to be tricky for a neural network. The sensible approach would be to try to use a neural network that actually knows what the words mean - there are such things, trained by reading, for example, all of Google News and figuring out which words are used in similar ways. There’s a fun demo of this here. It doesn’t have an entry for “Sexy_Gandalf” but for “sexy” it suggests “saucy” and “sassy”, and for “Gandalf” it suggests “Frodo”, “Gollum”, and “Voldemort”, so you could use this approach to go from “Sexy Gandalf” to “Sassy Voldemort”. 

    I wanted something a bit weirder. So, I used a neural network that learns words from scratch, letter by letter, with no knowledge of their meaning, an open-source char-rnn neural network written in Torch. I simply dumped the 4500 Halloween costumes on it, and told the neural network to figure it out.

    Early in the training process, I decided to check in to see how it was doing.

    Sexy sexy Dombie Sexy Cat
    Sexy A stare Rowan
    Sexy RoR A the Rog
    Sexy Cot
    Sexy Purbie Lampire
    Poth Rat
    Sexy Por Man
    The Wombue
    Pombie Con A A Cat
    The Ran Spean Sexy Sexy Pon Sexy Dander
    Sexy Cat
    The Gull Wot
    Sexy Pot

    In retrospect, I should have expected this. With a dataset this varied, the words the neural network learns first are the most common ones.

    I checked in a little later, and things had improved somewhat. (Omitted: numerous repetitions of “sexy nurse”). Still the only thing that makes sense is the word Sexy.

    Sexy The Carding Ging
    Farbat of the Cower
    Sexy The Hirler
    A costume
    Sexy Menus
    Sexy Sure
    Frankenstein’s Denter
    A cardian of the Pirate
    Ging butter
    Sexy the Girl Pirate

    By the time I checked on the neural network again, it was not only better, but astoundingly good. I hadn’t expected this. But the neural network had found its niche: costume mashups. These are actually comprehensible, if a bit hard to explain:

    Punk Tree
    Disco Monster
    Spartan Gandalf
    Starfleet Shark
    A masked box
    Martian Devil
    Panda Clam
    Potato man
    Shark Cow
    Space Batman
    The shark knight
    Snape Scarecrow
    Gandalf the Good Witch
    Professor Panda
    Strawberry shark
    Vampire big bird
    Samurai Angel
    lady Garbage
    Pirate firefighter
    Fairy Batman

    Other costumes were still a bit more random.

    Aldonald the Goddess of the Chicken
    Celery Blue Frankenstein
    Dancing Bellyfish
    Dragon of Liberty
    A shark princess
    Statue of Witch
    Cupcake pants
    Bird Scientist
    Giant Two butter
    The Twin Spider Mermaid
    The Game of Nightmare Lightbare
    Share Bat
    The Rocky Monster
    Mario lander
    Spork Sand
    Statue of pizza
    The Spiding hood
    A card Convention
    Sailor Potter
    Shower Witch
    The Little Pond
    Spice of pokeman
    Bill of Liberty
    A spock
    Count Drunk Doll of Princess
    Petty fairy
    Pumpkin picard
    Statue of the Spice of the underworker

    It still was fond of using made-up words, though. You’d be the only one at the party dressed as whatever these are.

    A masked scorby-babbersy
    Magic an of the foand tood-computer
    A barban
    The Gumbkin
    Scorbs Monster
    A cat loory Duck
    The Barboon
    Flatue doctor
    Sparrow Plapper
    The Spongebog
    Minional marty clown
    Count Vorror Rairol Mencoon
    A neaving hold
    Sexy Avical Ster of a balana Aly
    Huntle starber pirate

    And it ended up producing a few like this.

    Sports costume
    Sexy scare costume
    General Scare construct

    The reason? Apparently someone decided to help out by entering an entire costume store’s inventory. (”What are you supposed to be?” “Oh, I’m Mens Deluxe IT Costume - Size Standard.”) 

    There were also some like this:

    Rink Rater Ginsburg
    A winged boxer Ginsburg
    Bed ridingh in a box Buther Ginsburg
    Skeleton Ginsburg
    Zombie Fire Cith Bader Ginsburg

    Because someone had entered about 50 variations on Ruth Bader Ginsberg puns (Ruth Tater Ginsberg, Sleuth Bader Ginsber, Rock Paper Ginsberg).

    It invented some awesome new superheroes/supervillains.

    Glow Wonder Woman
    The Bunnizer
    Light man
    Bearley Quinn
    Glad woman
    robot Werewolf
    super Pun
    Super of a bog
    Space Pants
    buster pirate
    Skull Skywolk lady
    Skynation the Goddess
    Fred of Lizard

    And oh, the sexy costumes. Hundreds of sexy costumes, yet it never quite got the hang of it.

    Sexy Scare
    Sexy the Pumpkin
    Saxy Pumpkins
    Sexy the Pirate
    Sexy Pumpkin Pirate
    Sexy Gumb Man
    Sexy barber
    Sexy Gargles
    Sexy humblebee
    Sexy The Gate
    Sexy Lamp
    Sexy Ducty monster
    Sexy conchpaper
    Sexy the Bumble
    Sexy the Super bass
    Pretty zombie Space Suit
    sexy Drangers
    Sexy the Spock

    You bet there are bonus names - and oh please go read them because they are so good and it was so hard to decide which ones to fit into the main article. Includes the poop jokes. You’re welcome.

    I’ve posted the entire dataset as open-source on GitHub.

    And you can contribute more costumes, for a possible future neural net upgrade (no email address necessary).

    Next time I go to a Halloween party, I’m going to write a couple dozen of these on index cards, fasten them to string, and drape it around myself. It’ll be a Halloween Costume Neural Network Halloween Costume. 

    26 Oct 14:47

    jumpingjacktrash: winterinthetardis: SO APPARENTLY MY ENTIRE...




    i’m sorry to laugh at you but this is adorable and hilarious

    Is there a Heritage Speaker Problems blog yet because this sounds like peak heritage speaker problems (text version).

    12 Oct 15:45

    New (& Digital!) Initiative Response

    by Donovan Beeson

    shared for the image...
    man, I want a stamp that says "THIS DOCUMENT DOES NOT EXIST" like that. Also, that's a pretty darn sweet seal on that envelope...


    Attention all intrepid postal aficionados! There are three brand new projects available to test your mailing mettle. That means there are now nine badges you can earn. The previous tasks are joined by

    1. Secrets Can you keep a secret? We hope so. 
    2. School Days Revisit the classroom with mail art.
    3. Prohibited Push the limits of what can be mailed.

    Push the boundaries of your correspondence by enrolling in the Initiative Response. This program is a call and response, based on themes and culminating in the endowment of an emblem upon completion of the tasks. Each initiative has three tasks you need to complete in order to be awarded that initiative's emblem. There is no time-limit or obligation to complete these tasks. Only those who submit completed initiatives will be awarded emblems. 

    Additionally, you can now choose to download the tasks. No stopping, no waiting for this creativity train. Of course, we have left the option of receiving your missions via the mail, but you can save a few pennies and us a stamp or two if you got the digital route. All mailed Initiatives are $12 while their downloadable options are $10. Looking forward to see what you come up with! Donovan

    12 Oct 15:44


    It's like I've always said--people just need more common sense. But not the kind of common sense that lets them figure out that they're being condescended to by someone who thinks they're stupid, because then I'll be in trouble.