Shared posts

01 May 15:25

Here to Help

"We TOLD you it was hard." "Yeah, but now that I'VE tried, we KNOW it's hard."
17 Apr 14:41

"Gretchen: It’s unlikely that you’d get a language that only has three colour terms and those terms..."

Gretchen: It’s unlikely that you’d get a language that only has three colour terms and those terms are turquoise, orange, and pink.

Lauren: Yeah, because that’s not covering a lot. I mean, it might be covering a lot of the colour space in your wardrobe but not for all speakers.

Gretchen: Admittedly there is a lot of turquoise  in my wardrobe.

Lauren: So it’s not surprising that late stage colours like pink and orange have really clear and recent etymologies in English compared to something like red or green or white. I remember when I learned this stuff in undergrad a friend of mine in the class just would not believe that you could cover brown, purple, and grey in one colour. She was just like “how could you have one word that covers all of those three??” And then one day she came to class and she was so excited and was like, “look, look at the scarf that I bought!” And it was true, you couldn’t tell, in certain contexts it looked brown and some contexts it looked purple and in some contexts it looked grey and that was her, like, theoretical proof those colours were close enough that it made sense to put them in one word.

Gretchen: Well the scarf actually brings us into an interesting point about why languages developed colour terms, which is that there’s often some relationship between produced goods whether that’s dyed fabrics or gemstones or other types of processed goods that people make into specific colours. Because if you’re thinking about the sky for example, you know, we say all the time the sky is blue, but it’s really not necessary to specify that the sky is blue. You can say the sky is dark or light, the sky is cloudy or clear, and if it’s clear and its light of course it’s blue! What other colour is it going to be? Or you can say something like the tree is living or the tree is dying, you don’t necessarily need to specify the tree is is green or that it’s red. In nature a lot of things only really come in one specific colour. Whereas once you start making cars you don’t say this car is ripe or it’s not ripe, or this car is cloudy or it’s clear, or this dress that you’re going to make is ripe or unripe or that this basket that you’re weaving is dyed a particular colour. Once you start dying stuff in colours it becomes more useful to talk about a finer variations or if you send someone to buy for you a particular thing in particular colour may want to specify exactly what that colours going be once you start colouring stuff artificially.

Lauren: So certain technological innovations can give rise to the necessity for finer distinctions and colour terms.

Gretchen: And some colour terms are etymologically linked to specific things that created those colours. Purple, for example, is linked to the name of the particular mollusc that was used to make purple dye back around ancient Greece.

Gretchen: I came across a women in Eastern Europe where specifically the older women had more colour terms related to traditional dyeing methodology for textiles, whereas the younger women had become disconnected from traditional dyeing terminology for textiles and could no longer identify words like madder and russet and stuff like this that are used in traditional terms – they tended to use more industrialised colour terms. This seems to be one of those “if you use it you get more words for it” areas, like with any specialised domain.

Lauren: Yeah, there’s a professional vocabulary distinction to be made there as well. I do remember reading something, and again we’re into uncited anec-data here, but I do remember reading something that said professionals can discriminate with more technical words, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they see more colours than people who don’t have these professional words. So you might give people two similar colour chips. And someone who does fabric work will say “that’s magenta and that’s russet,” whereas someone who doesn’t have to discriminate will be like, “Well, this one’s rustier and this one’s richer red.” They can still see the difference. It’s not like not having the word prevents you. Or, people who I’m friends with in Nepal who predominantly speak a language that doesn’t have a blue-green distinction, they still see the distinction, they still prefer fabric in one colour over another one.

Gretchen: Yeah, if you’re painting your bedroom yellow, you’re not going to be like, “I dunno, all yellows look the same to me” – you probably care whether it’s like a lemon yellow or a butter yellow or a golden yellow.

- Excerpt from Episode 5 of Lingthusiasm: Colour words around the world and inside your brain. Listen to the full episode, read the transcript, or check out the show notes for links to further reading.
(via lingthusiasm)
15 Apr 03:41

Family Craft Swap 2016

Some months ago, people in my family expressed interest in doing a sewing/craft swap.  I was assigned to be the moderator since I have the most swaps under my belt of those in my family.  So, after whipping up a short questionnaire, and cajoling my dad into taking part, I assigned the six people who decided to sign up to a secret partner.  If you're familiar with secret swaps, you know how they usually go.  This was not much like that, though.  I pretty much assigned partners and just checked in a few times to make sure people were on track.  Here are a few pictures and some descriptions of what I made.

After a month of brainstorming and indecision, I decided to make an applique quilt for my assigned partner (one of my older sisters) using scraps arranged in the shape of an elephant.  For my pattern, I printed up a large-scale elephant at the copy shop for about $4.  I traced the elephant outline directly onto my fusible backing then cut the fusible into several pieces corresponding with distinct parts of the elephant (trunk, legs, tail, etc).  Then I chose some coordinating fabrics in pink and orange, cut them into random shapes for the main body and curved pieces for the trunk.  The pieces were then carefully fused to the glue side of the fusible web.  I tried to arrange the fabric pieces so that darker and lighter tones demarcated specific parts of the elephant to give it a more defined shape.  I think I mostly succeeded with that.

Once all the fusing was complete, I removed the paper backing and fused the individual pieces to a piece of Kona (burgundy, I think).  I pieced a backing using more of the Kona and some pieced strips using more of the fabric from the front.  After putting all the pieces together and basting, I had to figure out how to quilt everything without going nuts.  I decided to quilt over all the raw edges using free-motion techniques to avoid all the needle-down rotating stuff.  It was my first time doing free motion (I hadn't yet done the watercolor quilting workshop at Handcraft Studio School) and it turned out pretty good.  I also zig-zag stitched all around the elephant to give even more definition to the shape when viewed on the reverse.

The finished piece is a lap-sized quilt bound with more of the lovely orange and pink flower fabric used in the applique.  For some extras, I included a fat quarter of a strawberry print fabric, some adorable wood buttons, jelly beans, a gift card, and paper flowers.  I know my sister will enjoy it all!
14 Apr 14:38

Designing The Cover for The Audacity Gambit: Painting

by B. Zedan

Ah, dang, this was written before I kind of raced ahead of my planned goal dates. The release date for The Audacity Gambit is April 26th and links to preorder and see the cover are here.


I knew that the simple image of an arbour on fire wasn’t going to be the right thing for the final cover for The Audacity Gambit, but I wasn’t quite sure how to balance the imagery I wanted and the right look of a sort-of-New-Adult-Fantasy-novel. If I was someone who did more planning outside my head, here’s where I’d show you some cool thumbnails of concepts.

White box with grey text that reads "This space intentionally left blank."

But, that’s not the kind of person that I am, not for this sort of thing. I basically let things sit and ferment in my head for a while, until the base of an idea bubbled to the surface. What about flowers? Not like, rich oil painted florals or photos thick with petals grabbed from stock image sources. What I thought of were the kind of flowers I saw on decorative items in houses growing up. Simple petals done with simpler strokes, they were often more the idea of a specific flower than an accurate one.

Called “tole painting” in my grandma’s time and “one-stroke” by the time I was seeing shows about it on PBS, it’s a kind of decorative painting that has graced the sides of many a useless item in a house aspiring to country kitsch. Like many things, its value and history is diluted with a popularity and overproduction that caused it to be labelled “tacky.” But the same strokes were used to decorate enamelled boxes in the Victorian era as the ones on empty milk can catch-alls in the 90s. And today, the same strokes are used to amazing effect on nail art.

Besides, they were something I knew I could do and my strange little personal library had resources.

Pamphlet book titled "Decorative Painting: Tole and Dutch and Plain Jean, A Sampler"

YouTube does too (I particularly like this channel) and I spent some time reading and watching, practising the pleasantly simple movements. And, because I am always one to plunge into a new technique with little forethought, I pulled out paper and started painting the cover with literally no plan.
It absolutely should not have worked out as well as it did. I should have thought about the proportions of the cover, how I wanted to work text into it, where the dang arbour on fire was going to go. But I didn’t. I just painted.

Snapshot of yellow marigolds and various leaves painted on black paper.
The first layer of flowers


Mind you, I’ve been painting in one form or another for most of my life and spent a good chunk of high school apprenticed to a mural painter, so it’s not like I was going in completely blind. I was just relying on twenty years of practise to create good instinct. Which I guess is, in itself, good instinct.

The final painting was basically what I’d seen in my head and I cannot explain to you how rare that is, even when you’re doing something you have done for years and years. There’s always some variable that comes up and alters what you were picturing, giving you a perfectly good end result but never exactly the thing you pictured.

Yellow and orange marigolds, daisies and assorted leaves painted on black paper.


After I scanned the painting and laid it into the cover template, I was almost angry with how well it turned out (the folks at my Patreon have got a peek), but I feel like how nicely it came together was an absolute gift. Plus, I got to try a painting technique I’ve wanted to try for years, so that was a nice bonus.

The post Designing The Cover for The Audacity Gambit: Painting appeared first on B.Zedan.

10 Apr 14:57

Dear Internet Denizen,You may be interested in purchasing some...


I feel like I know some people this would be great for

Dear Internet Denizen,

You may be interested in purchasing some algorithmically-glitched apparel courtesy of the Glitch Logos bot. We have several fine designs available. They may cause people to remark, “That design is distressing to me.”

The Management

10 Apr 01:28

Your linguist name is your name but in IPA.

Your linguist name is your name but in IPA.

08 Apr 15:38

liskantope:While cycling today I had the most random thought: that it would be cool if a larger...


sounds like something Netflix could/would pick up...


While cycling today I had the most random thought: that it would be cool if a larger fraction of the populace were as interested in linguistics as I am, because then we could have TV documentaries like “Top 10 Most Extreme Phonologies” (which would have to include Hawaiian, Ubykh, and of course Pirahã).

“The Grice Is Right: Come on down and figure out which Gricean Maxims are relevant!”

“Girls: An extensive docu-drama of young women’s linguistic innovation from around the world”

“The X-bar Files” 

01 Apr 05:11

Emoji can be used like punctuation and T-Rex of Dinosaur Comics...

Emoji can be used like punctuation and T-Rex of Dinosaur Comics is ON IT. (Just wait till he finds out about about the upcoming dinosaur emoji.)

26 Mar 00:10

Watercolor Quilting Workshop

Last weekend I took part in a fun workshop at Handcraft Studio School in El Cerrito.  Watercolor quilting.  Yes, watercolor quilting.  It was so much fun!  We learned how to use special fabric dye to create an abstract watercolor painting on 10" squares of fabric.  Then we made a quilt sandwich and learned how to free-motion quilt using the painting as inspiration.  Some people did abstract quilting and some people made recognizable images, but they were all wonderful.  

I chose to stick to a single color in a couple shades, since I'm not too great at color mixing on the fly.  It was perfect, though, because it allowed me to really focus on the patterns that emerged from the paint and find interesting ways to emphasize certain shapes and lines.  The quilting on the back is just as interesting as the quilting on the front (maybe even more so since my paintings aren't that interesting).

Ashley, the instructor, is a professional quilter who teaches classes on Creativebug that are great for learning to make quilts.  In the workshop, she gave some tips on how to free-motion quilt without having to buy all the fancy tools, and recommended a few tools that she wouldn't want to do without.  She said the watercolor quilting class will appear on Creativebug sometime this year, so that is definitely something to be excited about!  I'll need some reminders for sure.
22 Mar 03:51

Dragon hound

by opusanglicanum

Just a small creature this week. I’m not sure he’d be much use at hunting dragons, he looks to me more like a spaniel who thinks he’s fierce.

I made two changes from the original ms, the first being the colour. I moved away from the original blue because he’s trotting along underneath a big blue horse, and that would have been too much blue. The second was that on the principle of blank space is a very bad thing in medieval art, I put a flower on the end of his tail. Although I’m not so sure it’s a flower, it could be a decorative version of those spiky clubs some dinosaurs had on the end of their tails?

Don’t ask me the name of the dinosaur though, it could have been Gilbert for all I know…

14 Mar 14:39

"On Cloud 9" - New Design Take One



So, here it is.  Version one of a new pattern I'm designing.  Despite all its imperfections and mistakes, I'm happy with the way it turned out.  The design uses a few very basic block designs, including "lazy angle," half square triangle, and whatever that clipped corner square is called.  My intention was to create a cloud hovering over a gradient sky, and I included both solids and prints to create dimension and interest.  Since this was mostly a learning/practice project to perfect the design, I'll mostly talk about its flaws (though you're free to admire its glowing qualities as well).

First off, the gradient went too light at the bottom left corner, making the cloud too difficult to see.  The easy fix, of course, is to start darker.  The next glaring mistake was in my initial mental calculation for how to cut and assemble the clipped-corner-square blocks.  After talking it over with my math teacher husband, I made a line graph that quickly and easily solved my problem, so version two will have perfectly matched seams.  Lastly, I ran out of one of the fabrics I had selected, which threw off my gradient in the top left corner and required a bit of muddling to get right again.  Next time, buy more fabric!

One thing I'm completely happy with is the quilting design.  The simple wavy lines, overlapping in random spots, adds some movement, like wind, so I can almost imagine the cloud can move across the fabric background.  I also love, love, love the bright yellow fabric print I chose for the binding.  It pops so nicely with the blue and aqua shades and adds a feeling of sunshine coming through the clouds.  

I think my next version will be a larger, maybe lap-size, quilt with a repeating cloud motif or just larger-scale single cloud.  Either way, it's a design I love that I will pursue as soon as I wrap up a few more projects in the coming weeks.  Meanwhile, I think this mini will become a thank-you gift for a woman who was, in a way, an integral part in the creation of this piece.  I hope she likes it as much as I do!
08 Mar 04:32

Let’s stop demonizing “filler words”

Let’s stop demonizing “filler words”:

Another article unnecessarily criticizing filler words, this time in the New York Times; another blog post debunking it, this time by Jena Barchas-Lichtenstein. Excerpt of the blog post:  

Among the many types of discourse markers are a subset sometimes known as verbalized pauses. People who are not linguists also call them “filler words” and “verbal crutches,” but those terms are misleading.

Why don’t we just get rid of them, the NYT article asks. After all, “verbal fillers that can make you sound, you know, nervous or not so smart.”


These kinds of pauses do give us time to think of what we’ll say next — but that’s not all they do. Compare the examples below with and without the discourse markers.

They allow us to soften disagreement or criticism by making it somewhat more polite.

  • The thing is, she worked really hard.
  • Um, it’s my not my favorite.

They emphasize whatever it is we’re going to say next.

  • My teacher is, like, a total nutjob.

They allow us to introduce delicate topics.

  • Sooooo, um, how are things at home?
  • Have you, ah, thought any more about counseling?

They communicate subtle nuances of emotional stance.

  • I’m feeling, you know, not too bad about that exam.

They allow us to indicate our degree of certainty.

  • I must have had, like, seven hundred pages of reading to do.
  • She was, I think, pretty pissed off.

As you can see, these discourse markers do an immense amount of important social and emotional work for us. They add nuance and richness to our speech. In fact, we can’t be socially appropriate human beings without them. Even if we got rid of particular markers — if we stopped saying um and so and like — we’d just end up using new ones in their place. […]

Mele writes: “Speakers who are well known in their professions but overuse verbal pauses are still perceived as credible because they have built a reputation. Audience members will chalk up those habits to just the way they talk, Ms. Marshall said. … But newcomers who use as many interjections as seasoned professionals will be seen as less credible because they do not have the years of experience.”

Yet he stops short of the obvious conclusion: there’s nothing wrong with using these words. The only people who are critiqued for using them are already low-status, and this critique helps maintain the low status of certain people and groups.

Read the whole post.

Previously: Alexandra D’Arcy on 800 years of “like”, teen girls as language distruptors, xkcd on quotative like and why linguists are hardcore.

06 Mar 16:20

malformalady: Given the chance, butterflies will eat blood....


Given the chance, butterflies will eat blood. Blood contains all manner of minerals and nutrients that are beneficial for most living organisms. It also contains a significant amount of sodium and glucose, two essential dietary blocks for most butterflies. Both of these are also found in fruit. It also contains a significant amount of sodium and glucose, two essential dietary blocks for most butterflies. Both of these are also found in fruit.

01 Mar 06:28

blue-mug:In my linguistics class we were talking about “insertion” which is basically when you say a...


In my linguistics class we were talking about “insertion” which is basically when you say a word and pronounce an extra letter or sound even though it’s not written in the word itself, to which my professor used the example of “hamster” because when you say it you pronounce a “p” even though it’s not written and this group of guys were going through an existential crisis because they couldn’t believe they said hamster with a “p” and one kid began to question everything in his life and it was beautiful

My favourite example along these lines is the hidden nasal sounds in English that you don’t even realize you’re producing. Everyone knows about /m/ and /n/ because they have distinct letters, but there’s also a sound that’s often written “ng” and yet not actually pronounced as n+g. For example, “ng” in “finger” is pronounced like “n+g” but “ng” in “singer” is a totally distinct sound (known as “engma” and written /ŋ/ in the IPA). 

Even more obscurely, /m/ is normally produced with a closure of the two lips, but when it’s found before /f/ or /v/, it gets pronounced with the teeth on the lips instead, just like /f/ and /v/ are, as in “comfort” or “symphony”. The IPA symbol for this is /ɱ/, and I don’t think it technically has a fun name, but I call it “emfma” by analogy with “engma” and every linguist I’ve said it to has understood me.

25 Feb 05:20

what people think linguistics is: i can speak 14 languages fluently

what people think linguistics is: i can speak 14 languages fluently
what linguistics actually is: god i love the consonant-vowel structure in polynesian languages
25 Feb 05:18

pochowek: beaky-peartree: remember when lol meant “laughing out loud” instead of “this is to...



remember when lol meant “laughing out loud” instead of “this is to indicate that this brief text isn’t hostile”

remember when lol meant “this brief text isn’t hostile” instead of “this brief text is in fact horrendously hostile and very passive aggressive”

There’s a linguistics paper about lol that explains both of these meanings!

14 Feb 16:07

The orgin and constraints of “shitgibbon” compounds


this analysis is very interesting

Today in hard-hitting linguistics research, the linguist blogosphere has been investigating shitgibbon and related words. 

Ben Zimmer starts off on Strong Language with an investigation into the origin and history of shitgibbon

Leach’s “fascist, loofa-faced, shit-gibbon” was clearly inspired by MetalOllie’s “Cheeto-faced, ferret wearing shitgibbon” (which proved so popular you can even buy it on a mug). Shitgibbon has a lot going for it, with the same punchy meter as other Trumpian epithets popularized last summer like cockwomble, fucknugget, and jizztrumpet. (Metrically speaking, these words are compounds consisting of one element with a single stressed syllable and a second disyllabic element with a trochaic pattern, i.e., stressed-unstressed. As a metrical foot in poetry, the whole stressed-stressed-unstressed pattern is known as antibacchius.)

But shitgibbon didn’t originate with MetalOllie. Its early history has been traced by Hugo van Kemenade, a resourceful word researcher whose biggest claim to fame is finding the earliest known use of the word selfie in a 2002 Australian forum post. (He goes by @hugovk on Twitter and just “Hugo” elsewhere.) As Hugo shared on English Language & Usage Stack Exchange and Wiktionary, shitgibbon can be found all the way back in 2000 on music-related Usenet newsgroups.

EvilJam32, 21 Mar 2000,
Good luck and goodbye to the most sick-making, hypocritical bunch of shitgibbons i’ve yet encountered on the Web!

Later, Ben confirms the origin of shitgibbon

Breaking news! I’ve confirmed that the originator of “shitgibbon” is none other than David Quantick, writing for @NME in the late ‘80s.

Taylor Jones then takes us into what kinds of words can be variants of “shitgibbon”:

So, it’s not the fact of being a gibbon per se. Various other monkeys would work: vervet, mandrill, etc. However, crucially, baboons, macaques, black howlers, and pygmy marmosets are out.

Moreover, it’s not completely unlimited. Some words fit but don’t make much sense as an insult: cock bookshelf, fart saucepan (which I quite like, actually), dick pension, belch welder.

Others sound like the kind of thing a child would say: fart person! poop human! turd foreman!

Yet others are too Shakespearean: fart monger! piss weasel!

Clearly some words (waffle, weasel, gibbon, pimple, bucket) are better than others (bookshelf, doctor, ninja, icebox), and some just depend on delivery (e.g., ironic twat hero, turd ruler, spunk monarch, dick duchess).

For a while, I’ve been discussing vowels in insults with fellow linguist Lauren Spradlin. Note that when we talk about vowels, we mean sounds, not letters. Don’t worry about the spelling, try saying the below aloud. Spradlin has brought my attention to the importance of repeating vowels increasing the viability of a new insult of this form: crap rabbit, jizz biscuit, shit piston, spunk puffin, cock waffle, etc.

I would argue that having the right vowels actually gives you some leeway, so you can get away with following the first word with — gasp! —- a non-trochee! Be it an iamb (remember iambic pentameter?) as in douche-canoe, spluge caboose, or the delightfully British bunglecunt (h/t Jeff Lidz), or even more syllables: Kobey Schwayder’s charming mofo-bonobo.

Contrary to what Taylor has, I think “douchebaboon” would actually work just fine, for the same vowel-matching reason that “douchecanoe” works. (But “shitbaboon” and “shitcanoe” are both pretty bad, I agree.)

But unless the second word has a matching vowel (in which case all bets are off), I think we can systematically predict which trochees are going to be okay. Let’s group them and have a look. 

The good ones include: waffle, weasel, gibbon, pimple, bucket, biscuit, rabbit, piston, puffin, basket, whistle, helmet, blanket, mandrill, gopher, weevil, nugget, trumpet. 

And the not-so-great ones include: bookshelf, saucepan, doctor, ninja, icebox. 

Phonological constraints: trochee, CVCVC (+further optional consonants)

The good ones all seem to begin and end with a consonant (unlike ninja – and I’d argue that kitty, pizza, zombie, banjo, ascot, ankle, emu, inkhorn, office are equally bad). Extra consonants are okay in any position (lobster, blanket, vortex), but you need at least one in each. The only counter-example I’ve found here is “monkey”.

As I’ve been constructing examples, I’ve also been noticing that while assonance makes the compound really good (see douchecanoe), consonance seems to make it worse: I avoided pisspirate, fartfreedom, shitscholar. But perhaps this is a matter of taste – I can imagine someone liking pisspuffin or wankweasel. 

Morphological constraint: monomorphemic

The good examples are also all monomorphemic, at least to current English speakers. For example, “gibbon” isn’t gibb+on, and even though -et might once have been added to helm-, blank-, buck-, this is no longer transparent to English speakers. On the other hand, many of the rejected words are transparently composed of parts: book-shelf, sauce-pan, ice-box. 

Indeed, I can’t seem to find any compound that really works (jetpack, doorway, keyboard), although there are are lot of compounds in English and I certainly haven’t tried all of them. I wonder if this is some constraint against creating a (one-time, nonliteral) compound out of a word that’s already compounded. English is happy to entertain stacked transparent compounds (bathroom towel rack screw holder) but might have a harder time if the whole is supposed to be opaque. Counterexamples welcome here. 

Semantic constraint: non-human

That leaves us with “doctor”. It’s dubiously morphologically transparent: English speakers probably recognize -or from words like “actor”, but “doct” isn’t an English word by itself. But I think that’s a red herring – I’d argue that the important part here is that doctor already refers to a human (or human-like) entity. There’s something similarly weird about shitdentist, shitdemon, turdscholar, fartbarber, shitpirate, douchelawyer, and so on. 

There are two possible reasons that I can see for this constraint. One is confusion – if you call someone a shitdentist, do you mean that they’re a shitty dentist or a generically bad human being? Whereas if you call someone a shitweasel, they’re clearly not actually a weasel, so you must just be insulting them. To this end, the generic titles (shitmaster, turd duchess) seem to work better than specific professions, because we already have a tradition of ironically calling people titles, while we don’t have a tradition of ironically calling people doctors, lawyers, or other professions. 

But secondly, having your second word be an animal or an inanimate object dehumanizes the target of your insult, which is more insulting – as Taylor notes, the swear+title forms are probably ironic. [Update: it’s not that you can’t say, for example, assmaster or cockdoctor. It’s just that in the right context, they’re practically compliments.]

Abstract and mass nouns are also pretty weird for the opposite reason, because they’re hard to associate with a human at all (shitweather, shitlanguage, turdmonday, shitfreedom).

At any rate, since this now seems to be an active area of linguistics research, I think we need a name for this construction. I’m going to propose “shitgibbon compounds”. 

09 Feb 05:23

Focus Knob

Maybe if I spin it back and forth really fast I can do some kind of pulse-width modulation.
06 Feb 22:07

Linguists in the #ActualLivingScientist hashtag on twitter.


I tried with Adam the "can you name a living scientist" question and he got hung up on naming a "famous" one. Removing that constraint we still only had a few to name...

28 Jan 17:20

Check out Utopia Jam

by lauramichet

I don’t know how many people habitually read my blog anymore who don’t also follow me on twitter, but if you’re not on social media– I’m running an jam in February, and you should participate!

The jam is called “Utopia Jam,” and it’s for games which take place in or help imagine better worlds. Check out the jam page for more information about the subject matter.

For inspiration, we’ve cited artistic subcultures, books, movies, and TV shows which take place in optimistic futures. Star Trek, the Culture series, Solarpunk art, and Ursula LeGuin’s blurry “Hainish Cycle” are all examples of optimistic futurism.

I’m running this jam with Cat Manning and we’re going to be making a game for it together. So far, over 50 people have expressed interest in participating through, so it seems like the right jam at the right time.

26 Jan 07:05


With the right 90-degree rotation, any effect is a side effect.
18 Jan 16:15

Postage Increase on Monday

by Donovan Beeson

Postage currency
Ok, technically, it's on the 22nd which is Sunday. Any letters mailed on Monday the 23rd will need to have our old friend of 49 cents affixed. There is NO price change for postcards, international mail or for additional ounces for letters. Here's a handy chart:

  Now    On Monday
Letters (1 oz.)    47 cents  49 cents
Letters additional ounces      21 cents   21 cents
Letters to all international destinations   $1.15     $1.15
Postcards    34 cents 34 cents

It's not so bad! I just don't see why they had to jump down to 47 only to pop back up to 49. Yes, there are rules, but sometimes I think the government could really benefit from some common sense.



15 Jan 17:51

Natural language processing and fanfiction


So many interesting tidbits in this!

Natural language processing and fanfiction:

A post about doing natural language processing on fanfic, by Smitha Milli at the Organization for Transformative Works blog. Excerpt: 

The goal of this work was to share what fanfiction has to offer to the fields of natural language processing, computational social science, and digital humanities. Towards this end, we collected a large dataset of fanfiction from that consists of about 6 million stories written by around 1 million authors. To characterize the interaction between authors and readers, we analyzed the network structure of the community. We found that 52% of the authors in our dataset had reviewed another author’s story. Of these authors, each had reviewed on average 13 other stories. We did exploratory data analysis to investigate the content of these reviews. In particular, we ran a statistical model called “latent dirichlet allocation” to extract the different topics underlying the reviews. Probably unsurprising to most of you, most of the reviews consisted of positive author encouragement (“please update!!!”) or emotional reactions to the story (“aww cute”).

We also investigated differences between fanfiction and canon. Specifically, we compared ten canons present in the Gutenberg corpus to their fanfiction counterparts. (We used canons from Gutenberg, so that we would have access to the text of the original stories. The canons we looked at were Les Miserables, Sherlock Holmes, Pride and Prejudice, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Anne of Green Gables, Jane Eyre, Little Women, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and the Secret Garden).

In both fanfiction and canon we found that female characters were mentioned less frequently than male characters. However, we did find that fanfiction had a slight, but very statistically significant, increase in the frequency of female character mentions. In fanfiction 42.4% of character mentions were female, while in the canons 40.1% of character mentions were female. We also analyzed how the number of times specific characters were mentioned differs between canon and fanfiction. For example, in Pride and Prejudice fanfiction, Mr. Darcy receives a large increase in mentions, while nearly every other character drops in the amount that they’re mentioned.

Read the whole post or the full paper (pdf)

This is a more data-driven version of the previous discussion on the phrase “toeing out of his shoes” in fanfic and may also be relevant to the character-based fanfiction stats found @toastystats by @destinationtoast.

05 Jan 03:51



the world needs more heckling like this

I didn't even realize you could HAVE a data set made up entirely of outliers.
30 Dec 23:01

Alchemy of Paint 2/3

by Joumana

I love these sort of "source to end product" type journeys

Previous post: Stones. In this post: Plants.

Persian berries

Grinding this is going to be a little more difficult...
Adding lye to extract the color...

Time to strain the dye.

This is ready to dye cloth with. But to use it in paint we have to turn this into a solid...

Here comes the alum!

12 hours later... Time to strain again, but
this time we want to keep the solid.
So we proceed as if making labneh (srained yogurt).
Many more hours later, this is what it will look like.

Much grinding later, we finally have paint.

Madder root 
(the legendary red of carpets)

This looks even HARDER to grind!



Yes, we're going to make beetle juice!
A color to dye for (sorry for that).

This one will surprise you.
Purple now...
Now clearly violet...
Almost black tomorrow (left).


A whole other process, this is an ink and always in solution.
Testing with different proportions of gum arabic.
This ink is fun because it's nearly clear when brushed,
then darkens dramatically on the paper.
30 Dec 18:33

Alchemy of Paint 1/3

by Joumana
I have had the most transformative week, a true revelation, learning to make colors from raw materials and with nothing but natural substances under the guidance of David Cranswick. I don't think there's any going back to synthetic paint and products after this, at least not for my personal work. Without disclosing too much of what we were taught, here's a flying tour of the genesis of true artist pigments. As this is very image-heavy, I divided it into 3 posts. In this post: Stones.

The alchemist's lab...
(a few ambiance pics)

This cozy space was home for 5 full days to 1 teacher, 4 students, 1 gecko and a bunch of large snakes (I'm not kidding.)

The three copper stones we're starting with: malachite, chrysocolla
and azurite, alongside lapis lazuli (lower right).


Grinding the stone above to a powder.

Wash and repeat.

And repeat.
And repeat.

Much later, the dried powder is ground with a medium
to make watercolor, egg tempera or oil paint.


Same process!

Homemade malachite watercolor


The product of sulphur meeting mercury, exploding with such strength it generates these rocks. What's not to love?

30 Dec 18:32

Alchemy of Paint 3/3

by Joumana
Previous post: Plants. This post: Mediums!

Gum Arabic

The resin is ready, and so is... the sugar.
Add hot water to make the oldest binding agent in the world.


Ochre yellow, an earth color.

Add gum arabic...
... and start grinding.

Repeating with burnt sienna...

... and building up a collection.
Egg tempera

My brain needs to stop referring to this medium as "egg tempura".
Other than that, this could be the beginning of a beautiful love story.

Passing the yolk from hand to hand till it's ready.

The delicate part...

Testing with egg tempera.


Grinding yellow ochre again, this time with linseed oil, produces this beautiful consistency, like soft butter.
Now to tube it.

Oust air, roll, crimp...
Voilà! Keeps for years!

Lead white is quite a bit tougher to grind...
A superb color endangered by dumb "safety regulations."
This spectacular color, minium, is obtained by heating lead white. That's all. Just magical.

Final result of 5 days of intense work: This beautiful natural palette and soooo much inspiration.
27 Dec 16:43

Dandelion Wine

by Melissa Sue
Early this year, I started a large group of new monsters. 

This project changed all of my work for 2016.  In order to create the new creatures I wanted, I needed all new colors to work with.  

Each monster is unique.  There are twenty individual creatures, with a different pattern cut and stitched all by hand.  

Fun with new techniques - like these wired leaves.  They take ~forever~ to create, but I love the effect so much.  These dandelion leaves became a big part of the collection.

For the last few months I've been sharing the process and progress with my Patreon supporters.  There was a lot of organization and planning, and some changes to the list of which beasts were included and which were cut.  This purple fellow was cut, but he'll be back later.  

Even towards the end of the year, with the deadline for the show looming, each creature was slowly and painstakingly put together.
Each creature is a different piece in a short story about the magic of Midwest Summer.  The colors and environments were all chosen to illustrate a particular time in the season.  

After months of tiny stitches - there was one magic moment on a wintry December Tuesday when all the monsters were suddenly completed, arranged, and on display.  

And then, an even more magical evening when the show opened.  So many people braved the weather to come hang out and celebrate!
In the main gallery space Lana and Andrew's show, "Night Fall", was also opening - so it was a total party night!  Their show is dark and beautiful and you should definitely check it out.


I'll share out some more photos soon - but in the meantime you can see the whole show over at:

There's still some beasts available, so if you're doing some last-minute shopping head over!
The show is up through the 31st, but they'll give you a nifty Certificate that you can wrap up for gifting on the Holiday.  

19 Dec 15:28


The many colors and flavors of #BakeAmericaGreatAgain. We raised over $3000 for ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and SPLC. Thank you to everyone who made it a success! @rswang @vineetgopal92 @vivster7 @mkolysh @trishala___ @cloy354 @hey.sallybakes @saifelse @rannazhou
17 Dec 16:44

Winter Sweater Envelope

by Donovan Beeson

Sweater tutorial envelope
A lovely tutorial on the Paper and Ink Arts blog by Jillian Kaye on how to make your envelope look like a holiday sweater. It's great how such simple marks can combine to make an intricate design. How's your holiday mail art going? Share some links with us if you've got pictures! Donovan