Shared posts

29 Jun 19:13

Issue 24: Triple Helix

by Christopher Wright

Story: Christopher Wright
Cover: Pascalle Lepas
Logo: Garth Graham

29 Jun 05:34

Australia Sweats Nervously

US Homophobes: I'm moving to Canada!
Canada: We have gay marriage.
US Homophobes: Oh... well then England...
England: We have it too.
Mexico: And us.
Lebanon: Us too.
Netherlands: Had it for ages.
New Zealand: Gay marriage all the time everyday.
US Homophobes: Is there any country we can go to where gay people can't marry?
Australia: *Sweats nervously*
29 Jun 10:15

My Roisin Dubh is my one and only true love….(via Thin...


Like it says.

My Roisin Dubh is my one and only true love….

(via Thin Lizzy - Roisin Dubh (Black Rose) A Rock Legend - YouTube)

29 Jun 05:01


by Ian

Goddamn business lizards.


15 Jun 05:01


by Ian


26 Jun 03:29

Should Google Go Nuclear? Clean, cheap, nuclear power (no, really)


Bussard died fairly soon after this was made, and I don't know if anyone ponied up the comparatively pitiful amount of money he talks about needing.

In a world where Instagram is said to be worth an absurd 35 billion dollars, why the shit aren't we spending a few billion on projects like his?

Google Tech Talks November 9, 2006 ABSTRACT This is not your father's fusion reactor! Forget everything you know about conventional thinking on nuclear fusio...
26 Jun 01:12

Adam Savage


RE: The Internet Hates Women

From the Blog

Moth Wins Peabody

“Storytelling, likely the oldest art, is revered and reinvigorated by this hour for everyday raconteurs,” write the Peabody judges regarding The Moth Radio HourRead more »

Storyteller Profile:

Adam Savage is one of the hosts of the hit television show Mythbusters. He’s been making his own toys since he was allowed to hold scissors, and he’s an artist whose sculptures have been showcased around the country.

Find on: Facebook Twitter

Photo by Noriko Shiota Slusser

A father of twin teenage boys finds the internet a scary place for impressionable minds.

23 Jun 22:34

Not Breaking the Rules Is Unconscionable: Where Punctum is Headed, Why It's Hard, and How Everyone Can Help


A longish read on Open Access in the Humanities, and the future of one such press.


[first, read Jeffrey on Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman]

... because humanities scholarship is so tied to writing and publishing, opening up new possibilities for writing and publishing may, in fact, open up new possibilities within the institution itself. To change attitudes toward academic style means changing practices in the training of graduate students, ... changing the practices of conferences and publishers, changing the practices of hiring and tenure committees. It means experimenting. Every writer and thinker knows this, because to write and to think is to experiment — to try stuff out and risk failure. It's terrifying because in a very real sense this is about people's livelihoods. But given the state of higher education in the U.S., at least, there's little reason not to experiment, because it's only a minority of people who are making any sort of livelihood from this work, or who even have any hope of making a livelihood from it. American academia is a perfect embodiment of capitalism in the way that it wastes human beings: their knowledge, their potential, their good will.  ... The rules are against us. Learning them is important, because we need to know the landscape, the architecture, the logic. But the rules do not like us, they do not want us, they do not have any use for us. Not breaking them is unconscionable. 

A grasshopper walks into a bar, and the bartender says, "Hey, we have a drink named after you." And the grasshopper says, "You have a drink named Steve?"

First, try to figure out what the grasshopper joke has to do with any of this (it might become more clear by the end).

Over the past year (or so), and as related elsewhere (HERE and HERE), I have experienced no little amount of anxiety (and also occasional depression) over whether or not an open-access press (in this case, punctum books), which gives everything away for free (and which is located in the U.S. where, unlike most of Europe, there are no government-funded research councils that actually underwrite OA publishing), and which is also dedicated to fostering radically experimental modes of "academic" writing, can actually survive, and the answer is: without some combination of institutional, foundational, private, and also general public (id est, READER) support ... probably NOT. In addition, I have been working myself beyond a certain physical and emotional breaking point -- albeit, I'm really kind of okay with this, as long as it doesn't last forever (in that sense, I think of punctum as a sort of start-up venture, and I have given myself roughly 3 years, until August 2016, to work these inhuman hours, with the hope that eventually I won't have to). And finally, I am going (or have gone) completely broke. And I'm not the only one. Dan Rudmann, for example, who founded and manages punctum records and Studium, has also been working inhuman hours -- 8:00am to midnight most days -- has also drained all of his personal coffers, and teeters on a very precarious economic precipice.

In the way of SOME relief, I am thus THRILLED to announce that both David Hadbawnik (PhD, University at Buffalo, SUNY and soon to be en route to the American University of Kuwait, where he has been hired as an Asst. Professor) and Chris Piuma (PhD candidate, University of Toronto) are joining punctum as Associate Directors, in order to help me manage the editorial and production workflow, as well as help me focus more attention on matters I have been neglecting due to how much time I simply spend reviewing manuscripts, editing and designing books, and managing correspondence, such as: marketing (social media outreach but also getting books reviewed in as many outlets as possible), developing relationships with distributors and bookstores and institutional libraries, managing metadata, increasing the diversity of our delivery platforms, experimenting with different ways of designing enriched reading environments, and also just generally helping me to strategize where punctum goes from here (wherever "here" happens to be). (We also have a new Co-Director waiting in the wings, more about which in a few months.) And as silly as this might sound, I am so happy that David and Chris, like myself, are both medievalists (who also, like me, have backgrounds as well in creative writing), because I really believe that there is something about the orientation (and training) of postmedieval premodernists (who also happen to be creative artists) that makes us especially suited to chart nighttime raids into the past to poach cool stuff that can be re-purposed, in strategic fashion, for creative (and importantly dis/orienting) interventions into various present moments, and also because, at any moment when anyone is declaring the "crisis" of anything, the premodernists have a very useful LONG historical perspective.

In addition, Alli Crandell (a brilliant and creative graphic and web designer -- see HERE), who has previously donated her skills to help punctum design special web-based environments for punctum titles that are not just analogues of print editions (see HERE and HERE), has graciously agreed to help punctum do several things this summer, including: a) a complete overhaul of our website to make it more easily/logically navigable; b) the creation of a subscription service, or services (that would allow us to offer punctum's entire library through unique interfaces that would be adaptable across all sorts of devices); and c) the launch of what I am calling (for lack of a better term at present) a GRADUATED OA model (the idea for which is partly influenced by projects such as Knowledge Unlatched), in which the downloadable PDFs of titles would carry a very small and reasonable fee for a *temporary* period -- say, something like 6 months -- after which they would be fully "unlocked"; these titles would still carry a Creative Commons license that would allow them to be shared at no cost, regardless, with no restrictions, and the bottom line is that, little by little, and with everyone's help, the open archive of punctum titles would continue to grow in leaps and bounds. The primary idea here is that OA publishing won't work without at least some reader support, and simply asking people to consider making a donation (in any amount of their choosing) every time they download a book is simply not netting us anything that would allow us to even pay one person to do ANYthing (and THANK YOU to everyone who has made donations, nevertheless, and please don't stop). OA publishing will not survive, especially in the American context, without government, institutional, and foundational subsidies, and if we in the humanities want to avoid the author-pay system that appears to be endemic now throughout Europe (and has already arrived in the US by way of, for one prominent example, University of California Press -- more on which, see below), and I believe we should want to avoid this, as I see it as a potential impediment to ACCESS to publication for many authors and projects, then as readers, I think we have to be willing to lend some small support (the Open Library of Humanities in the UK, for which I serve on the Editorial Committee, is one shining example of a different, collective funding model). We should be willing to pay reasonable prices for things we really want and need (whether that is a book, a journal issue, a music CD, a TV series, a software app, and so on), unless you want to live in a world where companies like Google and Apple and Amazon own all of the content and all of the tools and toys and don't ultimately care how any of this relates to democracy and a thriving cultural commons, and who will quickly dump any platforms for making content available if it doesn't suit their ever-evolving-at-hyper-speeds business plans.

It is important to point out here that David, Chris and Alli are DONATING their time, albeit with the hope that their labors will help free me up to spend more time drumming up financial and infrastructural support that would eventually lead to the 4 of us (and hopefully more!) actually running punctum books full-time with the sort of compensation that could sustain us and our collective ventures, and in this sense, we all work on borrowed time. The future, as always, is uncertain, while at the same time I see real opportunities for creating something radically different within the Open Access movement (and the Digital Humanities more largely) with punctum books, especially within the American context  -- although, to be certain, we are an international publisher with authors spread out around the globe, and we have very serious interests in multilingual and translation projects (as evidenced HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE, and with more to come). It's just that, unlike in Europe and in other countries, there are no explicit funding mandates, either at state or national levels, for the cultivation of OA academic publishing. Currently, many university publishers and DH Centers are looking to foundations like Mellon for help with developing the initial infrastructure for projects such as Manifold Scholarship, a joint project between University of Minnesota Press and CUNY Graduate Center's Digital Scholarship Lab, and Luminos + Collabra, University of California Press's new OA Monographs and Mega-Journal platforms. In the case of the latter, it is hoped that long-term sustainability will be achieved through a combination of authors+universities, libraries, and the publisher itself sharing the cost of producing the titles up front, and/or through Article Processing Charges. But the troubling question still obtains, especially in the American context where state legislatures are slashing budgets for higher education and university managerial technocrats are increasingly uninterested in helping to sponsor experimental, speculative, and "useless" (non-applications based) scholarship. If there is, for example, currently no money to be had for say, creating more tenure lines or reducing class sizes or supporting faculty development (such as through travel grants, reductions in teaching loads, and the like) or making tuition affordable for all or adequately compensating graduate student assistants, and the like, then where is the money coming from to sustain these new publishing initiatives into the long term? The answer is: from nowhere ... at least, not right now. Bon Jovi's "Living On a Prayer" comes to mind.

With regard to the larger Open Access movement in general, we are thus at a strange, and possibly troubling moment, and the reasons why were starkly (and serendipitously) brought home to me just this past week when, as luck would have it, the Radical Open Access conference at the University of Coventry (for which I was a featured speaker) preceded by just a few days the annual meeting of the American Association of University Publishers, the proceedings of which I followed assiduously on Twitter (for the first time in my life, as a ghost-spectator to a conference I could not attend, I really *for realz* realized the immense value of those who tweet conference sessions -- the information can only ever be partial, and is sometimes "askew," but it is enough to get a good sense of some of the viewpoints being put forth, and you can also engage with those who are there to ask clarifying questions). There are SO many things I want to say about the ways in which these two events could not have been more radically different from each other (and I don't have room here to go through everything, but ...), especially in the ways in which everyone at RadicalOA was wringing their hands over the neoliberalization of OA publishing, such as by commercial publishers, and especially within the European context where multiple millions of dollars are flowing straight from national research coffers into commercial publishers' bank accounts, with little in the way of what might be called a radicalization and democratization of editorial/curatorial practices (see, especially, Martin Eve on this state of affairs HERE, HERE, and HERE), whereas in Denver, a lot of the sessions at the AAUP conference addressed questions like: when and how and under what circumstances do you both initiate and also kill a book series? what is successful product development? should publishers target libraries or scholars and "end users"? how can acquisitions editors and marketing directors work better together on the "front end"? how can we make backlist titles more widely accessible globally and enhance their "long tails" with minimal investment and positive returns? And so on and so forth. In the meantime (or before this "meantime"), the organizers of the RadicalOA conference (Janneke Adema and Gary Hall, both involved with Open Humanities Press, among other OA ventures) were concerned to "brush" the contemporary scene of OA publishing "against the grain" --
Open access is currently being positioned and promoted by policy makers, funders and commercial publishers alike primarily as a means of serving the knowledge economy and helping to stimulate market competition. This version has become so dominant that even those on the left of the political spectrum who are critical of open access are presenting it in much the same terms: as merely assisting with the ongoing process of privatising knowledge, research and the university. Rather than ‘working with the grain’ of neoliberalism’s co-option of open access, the Radical Open Access conference will reclaim it by asking: what is the potential for supporting and taking further some of the different, more intellectually and politically exciting, ways of understanding open access that are currently available internationally? A particular emphasis will be placed on those that have emerged in recent years, in the arts, humanities and social sciences especially. Radical Open Access will thus provide the impetus for bringing together many of those currently involved in experimenting with ‘alternative’ forms of open access: both to discuss the long, multifaceted critical tradition of open access, its history and genealogies; and to examine a broad range of radical open access models. As part of its refusal to concede open access, the conference will endeavour to strengthen alliances between the open access movement and other struggles concerned with the right to access, copy, distribute, sell and (re)use artistic, literary, cultural and academic research works and other materials (FLOSS, p2p, internet piracy etc.); and to stimulate the creation of a network of publishers, theorists, scholars, librarians, technology specialists, activists and others, from different fields and backgrounds, both inside and outside of the university. In particular, the conference will explore a vision of open access that is characterised by a spirit of on-going creative experimentation, and a willingness to subject some of our most established scholarly communication and publishing practices, together with the institutions that sustain them (the library, publishing house etc.), to rigorous critique.
On the panel that I was involved with, "Radical Open Access in Practice," there was a lot of emphasis on publishing as a practice of care (of persons, of ideas, of relations), on the technological fragilities of the OA enterprise and the Digital Humanities more largely and the ways in which we need to guard against technological determinism + overly simplistic "catching up" narratives tied to the privatization of everything, on the precarious labor practices involved with OA publishing and how to be more mindful of and strategic about that, on how we need to resist "prestige" ranking systems, on cultivating writing as risk/adventure, on promoting invention/intervention over "innovation" (a term toxified through its use within capitalist ventures), on how to resist the neoliberal uptake of OA by commercial presses while also collectively strategizing how to survive that state of affairs, and somewhat interestingly, everyone seemed invested in preserving the print book while also exploring new platforms for digitized interactive-networked forms of scholarship and publication (which, for me anyway, is a valuable stand against the hyper-aggressive planned obsolescence of everything that seems endemic within neoliberal capital). Whereas at the session at the AAUP conference dedicated to "the practical implications and challenges" of the OA monograph, the collective conclusion seemed to be something along the lines of the monograph perhaps not surviving because: a) it will be impossible to get institutions (universities) to subsidize them and it will never pay for itself, and/or b) it will ultimately no longer be required for tenure and promotion and is thus a soon-to-be "outmoded"/ungainly genre, and/or c) shorter-form scholarship will replace it because "the way we read now" is changing, and/or d) dynamic (interactive, hyper-networked), born-digital scholarship will simply supplant it as the "one thing" everyone will be doing in the future.

And here we come to the crux of the matter, and to something that troubles me about the AAUP conference overall: its emphasis on profits and monetization (not the only subjects, of course, but they predominated a lot of panels). And here I must say that, of course, university publishers have done amazing things to advance scholarship in our fields and they are staffed by very well-meaning and super-smart people with real investments in cultivating, curating, and pushing the boundaries of knowledge production (to whit, historically, the Meridian: Crossing Aesthetics series at Stanford UP, the Theory out of Bounds series at Univ. of Minnesota Press, Series Q at Duke UP, Prickly Paradigm at Univ. of Chicago Press, and so on), and they have absolutely every right to worry about profitability/sustainability and to talk about and collectively strategize the long-term sustainability of their enterprises, and they have a lot to worry about (as I do) that would necessitate such strategizing. Nevertheless, I personally want to see university presses (which are typically designated as non-profts, I believe, with some institutional subsidization) spending more time distinguishing themselves from commercial academic presses, especially vis-a-vis the question of sustaining, not profits, but the most radically open public commons possible, and to do so in tandem with collectively insisting (through a variety of activist and interventionist measures) that state legislatures and public universities INCREASE their support for underwriting the work of university publishers, who should be spending less time on monetizing everything and more time on sponsoring and caring for radically creative forms of academic writing. This isn't easy, of course. This is the hard part. What might be called "centralized" funding for OA publishing is an absolute necessity, and yet, such does not exist within the American context.

Obviously, those of us within OA publishing should do everything in our power to be savvy about the ways in which we might generate income to help keep our (non-profit) ventures afloat, but that should not be the primary factor driving most of our editorial conversations because as anyone with half a (financially-savvy) brain might understand, that sort of emphasis will ultimately harm (or at least deform) the larger, valuable objective of a democratically rowdy and open commons "without condition." Here's why: if your primary concern is making money to stay afloat, then you adopt the tools of the strategic winnower (you keep what supposedly works in the model of increasing profits, and you eliminate, or stop at the front gate, whatever is not increasing, or might not increase, your profits), and there is not much time you can spend concentrating on developing talent and even more important, taking risks. To be fair, many university presses may not have a choice if they find themselves in a position where the subsidized support rug has been pulled out from under their operations, and much of the conversations at the AAUP conference were likely influenced by that already palpable state of affairs. The other problem is, in the rush to chase money in the face of less and less institutional support (especially in the context of seeking funding from private foundations such as Mellon or government agencies such as NEH), a sort of bandwagon strategy emerges where certain key concepts dominate both the "asks" and the "gets" (such as: born-digital, big data/metadata, dynamic/networked, multimodal, megajournal, iterative/interactive, gray literature/short-form scholarship, encoding/mapping, and so on). There is a lot of pressure as well, when seeking money from foundations and agencies, to serve up the "next big thing" that will somehow provide all of the solutions to whatever problems currently inhere within the contemporary landscape of academic publishing and to declare, "X (often defined as one particular platform, no matter how networked/multi-modal) is THE future."

There is no, and never can be, just one future. Of necessity, certain futures will materialize and others will only emerge partially and still others will be suppressed, outright killed, etc. Our job in the present is to keep all options in play and to maximize what is possible over what is determined in advance (usually by the powerful) to (supposedly) not be possible. This is an ethical, as well as a political, project, and it is not one that could ever be made to be "profitable," although it could be sustainable if enough persons -- in the administrative towers of academe, in the state legislatures, in the gilt halls of the (hopefully socially-minded) privileged, and also in the streets -- banded together to make it a reality. This brings me to the core mission of punctum books, and why I also think what we are doing is truly different from any existing university press and even from most independent presses (although we have our allies, such as Open Humanities Press and, among others): we are an Open Access press, not because we make our titles broadly available to the public (to READERS) without exorbitant fees and high paywalls (although we do do that, and it matters, especially in the context of public universities where research should never be shuttered from the public), but because we are dedicated to opening up access to publication for AUTHORS who otherwise might not find a publisher, either because their work does not fit within a readily recognizable current disciplinary paradigm or because they want to experiment with the forms and styles of academic writing or because their work engages in disciplinary mashups that make marketing their work overly difficult and so on. It's a question of personal freedom and how the publisher (however defined: university-based, independent, etc.) is an agent of both sustenance and change. It's about supporting the WEIRDOs and recognizing that the university, and especially the humanities, should be the haven par excellence for the weirdos and for the weird -- for you, for me, and for grasshoppers named Steve, which is where the ethics of "care of the self" enter in, because I believe that publication is both a practice of care and curation as well as of "seeding" new publics (in Michael Warner's words, this is public-ation as "the poeisis of scene-making"), around which persons, who otherwise might become marginalized, suppressed, lost, etc. can "groupify" (in important counter-cultural modes) with others who share certain predilections, values, orientations, affinities, etc. (see my further thoughts on that HERE). And you can't subject all of your editorial decisions to the marketing team on the "front" OR the "back" end. But you can't NOT worry about how any of this might, or might not, be sustainable, either. You still have to worry and care about, and also agitate for, the money. It really is, in the end, about the money and whether or not, in the United States, state legislatures and public (and also private) universities will decide that the OPEN and unrestricted dissemination of scholarship should be a chief public concern worthy of being underwritten in some manner.

So this all brings me, finally, to what punctum books is currently doing to (hopefully) ensure some sort of sustainable future, and how YOU can also help. To be frank, I have spent a good portion of the past two years striving mightily to convince certain universities, and also funding agencies, to provide partial support and/or infrastructure for punctum's operations, and all to no good outcomes (so far), but I just (perversely) see that as yet another opportunity to continue refining the pitch, and as I've explained above, the situation (and conversations) in both Europe and the US round OA publishing convince me that we're on to something unique that is not (and *will* not be) served by current reigning paradigms. So this is what we're going to do next (again, with your help) --
  • first, we will be redoubling our efforts to convince at least one (if not more) universities to consider engaging in OA publishing "incubator" experiments, along the lines engaged in by Daniel O'Donnell and his colleagues at the University of Lethbridge (see HERE for a recent article about their experiment and the proposals they have about how this can be duplicated elsewhere). The primary reason for this: keep the money (however much or little there is) for publishing and scholarly communication within the departments, units, schools, etc. where it can have the greatest benefit; STOP the outflow of money to commercial, and even university presses, where it is going to fund often bloated overhead and infrastructure, and where, for better or worse, editorial decisions are being made with too many "business"/marketing/"prestige" considerations and not enough emphasis is being placed on maximizing what it is possible to SAY, and in what modes/genres/styles, within the humanities.
  • second, with the generous, pro bono assistance of Sally Livingston (who I am now outing here as one of punctum's angels), we will be developing a task force this summer to go after private philanthropic money, because punctum's mission is just weird and non-dominant-keywordy enough that seeking money from established foundations and funding agencies (such as Mellon, Ford, NEH, etc.) might be a dead end. To that end, I am also happy to announce here that Pioneer Works, a center for art + innovation based in Red Hook, Brooklyn helmed by the mad artist-genius Dustin Yellin, has awarded punctum an institutional residency for Spring 2016, during which time we will be running our primary editorial operations out of Red Hook while also developing an internship program with universities in the NYC area.
  • third, as the Ford Foundation recently announced that they have completely revamped their mission to focus exclusively in their giving on INEQUALITY (see the recent story HERE),  including unequal *access* to information/knowledge, with one of the 6 key funding areas being "Creativity and Free Expression" (and within that, "Advancing Media Rights and Access"), we will be working on seeking a Ford Foundation grant.
  • fourth, when we release our Graduated OA platform this coming Fall/Winter (see par. 3 above), please be an enthusiastic booster. Purchase our PDF e-books (which, I promise you, will carry very affordable price-tags, and only for a brief, temporary period), distribute them freely to friends and colleagues, and thus help to "unlock" these titles for the greater, common good while also contaminating the system with the punctum virus. Purchase our titles in print whenever you can, and also assign them to classes. DONATE as often as you can, and go HERE to do that (right NOW, even!). Or go here --
And the reason WHY you should want to help us with this is because we (meaning me PLUS SO many persons, many of whom inhabit very precarious positions both within and outside of the University, who have given selflessly of their time to help edit and design the books) have been working so hard to secure the SPACE that is so necessary for others to do exactly the sort of work they want to do (as opposed to doing the work they are often subtly, and not so subtly, coerced into doing), and at a time when more traditional university and commercial academic presses are simply not wired to help provide for such space that hasn't already been deemed in advance to be "profitable," "marketable," "trending," etc. Because the future of academic publishing cannot be just ONE thing, or one wagon, that we all have to get on (or risk being left behind), and it won't be secured by funneling all of the money into corporate entities that have no real concern for the public commons other than the profits to be gained thereby, and because we don't want our work to be shaped by forces that have no regard for the the singular desires that lead us to our work in the first place, and because we desperately need a publisher that puts a premium on EXPERIMENTation, as summed up beautifully in the epigraph to this post and worth repeating here:

... given the state of higher education in the U.S., ... there's little reason not to experiment, because it's only a minority of people who are making any sort of livelihood from this work, or who even have any hope of making a livelihood from it. American academia is a perfect embodiment of capitalism in the way that it wastes human beings: their knowledge, their potential, their good will.  ... The rules are against us. Learning them is important, because we need to know the landscape, the architecture, the logic. But the rules do not like us, they do not want us, they do not have any use for us. Not breaking them is unconscionable. 

20 Jun 02:38


All of us start someplace. 

For me, that was in the desert, in the wreck of civilizations far older than the Collapse. I don’t know how or why Arc found me there. I don’t know how or when I got there, or who I was in whatever time it was that I died there. If that person could even be said to be me. 

It’s a thing Guardians don’t like to talk about much, that missing time before your Ghost calls you up from some long-ago place and fills you up with Light, wipes away much of what was to replace it with… well, no one knows with what, really. Some other purpose in service of the Traveller. You’re left with the essentials: you can walk and talk (probably a language you never even learned) and take care of yourself, have a sense of right and wrong. And yet there’s no experience behind it that you can remember. Not even the Exos can, with their perfect electronic brains. It’s just gone. Maybe it’s part of a bargain. We get to live and live and live and be full of otherworldly power, but we have to be someone new. I don’t know. 

Regardless, Archimedes brought me into the world again in the dusty, sandy outskirts of an ancient ruined city of cut stone and mudbrick half-buried in sand. Settlements in that part of the world were sparse then, they’re probably even sparser now. It was a few days of walking before we came across the signs of any people. The tracks of Nomadic herders, drifting North. Maybe responding to the pull I could feel in myself, towards something. Arc (he didn’t have that name yet, and I just called him “ghost” which seemed to suit him just fine, though he insisted on calling me Cassandra) said it was the call of the Traveller, gathering the people together to rebuild the world and fend off the Darkness. 

It took two days of non-stop walking to catch up with them. The people had animals–sheep and goats and dogs–and they used a baffling mix of tools. Ancient and simple ones like the sling and staff, and carefully preserved relics of the Golden Age that could translate the speech of strangers, or instantly heal minor wounds. They carried everything they needed with them, their tents and rugs and food and children. I found I liked this idea, even though I had almost nothing myself, only the simple (if exceptionally tough) sand-colored armor/clothing that Arc had somehow made from the matter around me when he filled me full of Light. 

I walked with them for several weeks, watching over them as if by instinct, like one of their dogs watching over the sheep. I don’t know what I thought to protect them from, only that I felt compelled to do so. 

And just as the sheep surely knew that the dogs were not truly a member of the flock, they could tell I was not like them, though I shared their dark skin and features. I did not tire, hardly needed to sleep, could subsist on the tiniest bits of food and mouthfuls of water. The sun did not phase me, nor the cold of night. I could read every piece of text they possessed, no matter the language, and repeat it back effortlessly. 

Arc did not like to speak around them, or make himself visible, preferring to disappear into whatever nook of my being it is that he vanishes into when not acting independently. Perhaps he didn’t want to further set me apart. Or had been alone for so long that he didn’t know what to do around them. Or perhaps ghosts just aren’t very interested in anyone that hasn’t been touched by the Traveller or has no interest in it. They didn’t seem too surprised by Arc when they caught glimpses of him floating around in his odd fashion. They’d met people like me before, I think. 

Eventually they turned West with their flock, away from the pull I felt, and from where my ghost told me I needed to go. I didn’t try to convince them to follow me. How could I? I didn’t really know where I was going, what that place might hold for them, or even why I was going there myself. And I believe they had made this decision more than once. Their part of the Earth is rarely visited by outsiders or dark creatures that stain other places. The Fallen pass through from time to time, but there is little left there to interest them in longer term occupation, and the dry wilderness of the herding people interests them not at all. 

When we parted ways my friends told me that a great ruined city was a weeks journey to the North, and that they thought I would find many things there that I might need. Like the Fallen, they sometimes sent parties there to search for useful relics and simple things like metal and glass for the tools they made themselves. It seemed to be the general direction I was impelled to go, and Arc liked the idea of scrounging up some materials and tools to speed up the journey. I parted ways from my new friends, taking from them only a hooded cloak they had made for me, and set out to find the remains of the dead city. 

16 Jun 23:36

Berdthday boy


This video features birbs.

Yea so I'm in college now, I'll still be able to make videos but maybe at a slower rate. Probably the same. Song
17 Jun 19:44

No, There is Not a New 'Crime Wave' Overtaking U.S. Cities


I have heard some of this sort of thing from conservative cop apologists.

On May 29, Heather Mac Donald, the author of Are Cops Racist? wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed titled “The New Nationwide Crime Wave,” announcing that “The nation’s two-decades-long crime decline may be over.” She blamed protests against police violence in Ferguson and Baltimore for crime rises in those and other cities in recent months. A bunch of crime reporters and criminologists balked at her argument, as detailed thoroughly by That led to Mac Donald penning a follow-up WSJ op-ed on Sunday stating that those people just don’t get it because, Hello, crime is waving.   

“The past nine months have seen unprecedented antipolice agitation dedicated to the proposition that bias infects policing in predominantly black communities,” wrote Mac Donald.   

Anyone aware of the 2009 murder of Oscar Grant by Oakland transit police (made into the 2013 film Fruitvale Station) or April Martin’s 2014 documentary Cincinnati Goddamn (about the 2001 riots after two African Americans were killed by city police) knows that agitation in black communities has been simmering for way longer than nine months.  

Mac Donald has been trying to make the term “The Ferguson effect” happen, arguing that an “incessant drumbeat against the police” has increased crime.

Still, Mac Donald has been trying to make the term “The Ferguson effect” happen, by arguing, as she did in May, that an “incessant drumbeat against the police” has resulted in increased crime throughout St. Louis county.

A new report from The Sentencing Project points to major problems with Mac Donald’s analysis, chief among them that no “new crime wave” exists—or that, at least, it’s too early to tell. Crime has risen in recent months, but there’s inadequate evidence that this is related to the recent rallies and riots in Ferguson.

The below charts from the report show that homicides and violent crime had already been on the uptick before unarmed teen Michael Brown was killed by Ferguson police in August 2014:

                                                                                             (The Sentencing Project)
                                                                                            (The Sentencing Project)

These charts show the ratio of monthly crime rates in 2014, the year of the Ferguson protests, with monthly crime rates from the year prior. The Sentencing Project shows that homicide rates began climbing in June, while those for violent crimes began escalating in May. The fact that murders began soaring before Brown’s death was mentioned by University of Missouri-St. Louis criminologist Rick Rosenfeld in a St. Louis Post-Dispatch article last November. In that article, Rosenfeld attributed rising crime to “an unrelated explosion in drug markets,” not the Ferguson protests.

No matter the cause, researchers at The Sentencing Project say that a few months of elevated crime activity is simply not enough to declare a “crime wave”; if anything, it’s just a crime ripple. “In the absence of credible and comprehensive evidence sounding alarm bells over a ‘Ferguson effect’ or any other putative cause will not help,” the authors conclude in the report.

Mac Donald may also have lifted the term “Ferguson effect” out of its original context. When using it in her op-ed, she was quoting Sam Dotson, Chief of Police of the Metropolitan Police Department, City of St. Louis. She wrote that Dotson attributed the effect to anti-police fervor among black communities.

But in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article where Dotson first used the term, he was referring to police officers getting “pulled away for specialized instruction” in protest-crowd control—some 5,000 hours of training for the force, said Dotson. Rosenfeld said in that article that arrests had declined, but that it wasn’t ”necessarily that individual officers are giving up, it’s because normal officers are being taken off their normal beat activities for training and protest events, so arrests go down.”

St. Louis County Police Association’s president Gabe Crocker said in the article that police officers were “tired, worn-out, and stressed,” but that he didn’t feel that public safety was in grave danger because of it. This is a significant difference from saying that police are dropping their guards as a retort to black community agitation, as Mac Donald put it.

Mac Donald claims that communities want more aggressive policing; actually, they want better relationships with police.

There have also been fewer arrests because police have been abandoning tactics like “stop-and-frisk,” which in past few years have netted volumes of arrests—mainly of people of color—but to little real effect. Mac Donald laments this, writing in her June 14 WSJ op-ed that police are “refraining from precisely the kind of policing that many in the media, along with legions of activists, have denounced over the past year: pedestrian stops and enforcement of low-level, quality-of-life laws.”

Given that police have reversed course on “stop-and-frisk” tactics, “It is no surprise that shootings are up in the city,” wrote Mac Donald on May 29.

New York City Police Chief Bill Bratton himself dismissed this idea during a recent press conference, saying unequivocally: "[Stop-and-frisk] is not a significant factor in the crime rate in the city.”

Bratton pointed to 2011 figures to back this up, noting that while a record-high 685,000 stop-and-frisks were made, the number of rapes, robberies, assaults, and burglaries had also gone up that year. Compare that with last year, when only 48,000 stops were made and numbers for all of these crimes had dropped.

“Last year, when we had the lowest number of stop-question-and-frisks, we had much less crime,” said Bratton. Pointing out that the vast majority of crime is committed in specific locations, by very small populations, Bratton said his new police strategy this summer was to have cops monitor those specific hot spots and focus on higher-level crime perpetrators. The chief of the Metropolitan Police in Washington, D.C., recently announced that her force would be doing the same.

“It is certainly appropriate for the police to focus their attention on these people and places, and they do,” wrote Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies in a post Monday on the legal analysis website Justia, “but it is irresponsible lunacy to suggest, as MacDonald does, a ‘crime wave’ based on this highly concentrated violence.”

Mac Donald claims in her op-eds that communities actually want more aggressive policing. When the Police Executive Research Forum surveyed communities around St. Louis County last year, they found that:

Even though residents consistently say they want their police departments to engage in more community-oriented policing, this approach is de-emphasized or non-existent in many jurisdictions, especially in communities with high levels of crime and deep distrust between residents and police.

Communities desiring better relationships with police is not the same as asking for more stop-and-frisk. Still, not to be undone, Mac Donald has even attempted invoking the old tired and misunderstood “black-on-black crime” canard. Wrote Mac Donald:

If these decriminalization and deincarceration policies backfire, the people most harmed will be their supposed beneficiaries: blacks, since they are disproportionately victimized by crime. The black death-by-homicide rate is six times higher than that of whites and Hispanics combined. The killers of those black homicide victims are overwhelmingly other black civilians, not the police.

Not one black person from these communities is quoted or cited in Mac Donald’s columns—though she does claim that a nameless “elderly woman” “exclaimed” that the police are her friends at a June 4 South Bronx police community meeting. More frequently, Mac Donald quotes a bunch of police union representatives, again, some unnamed. And therein lies a major problem with her analysis, writes Margulies:

This is precisely how criminal justice policy took shape over the past five decades. Those least affected by crime, who were most apt to experience it only remotely and symbolically, imposed rules that governed the lives of those affected most directly and who experienced it as part of their daily lives. This colonial approach to criminal justice is exactly what reformers are trying to fix.

A community must be allowed to think and speak for itself, and if you deprive it of that opportunity, the skill will either never take hold or will wither from disuse.

17 Jun 13:36

Lesser-Known Connoisseurs

by Juan


Hello. How are you? These days, I’ve been drawing the first pages of a project that has lived in my notebook for a while now. I want to produce a book with a cohesive structure and premise, even if it’s divided in smaller stories, which seems to be the case of that story. Meanwhile I’ll try to keep updating occasionally with the usual weird stuff like this one comic here, I hope it amuses you.

Check my guest comic on Surviving the World, it includes half written sentences too, due to different reasons though.

16 Jun 23:36

[SFM] Duck.exe has stopped working


This video also features birb.

I was gonna do a christmas special but I accidentally made this video. = 6d696e692073636176656e6765722068756e74
11 Jun 00:12

Death - ...For The Whole World To See (Full Album)


Probably most of you have heard this, but if not, well, now you can. Also, the documentary about them, "A Band Called Death" is tremendous.

2009 (recorded 1974) | Drag City Proto-punk Keep On Knocking: 00:00 Rock-N-Roll Victim: 02:50 Let The World Turn: 05:31 You're A...
08 Jun 23:53

What Happened in McKinney


My buddy Dan wrote this.

There’s an undeniable history in this country of police treating black people, especially young black people, like they must be controlled. As a result, many black people, especially young black people, feel that when the police show up, they’re in danger. The police are there to protect and serve somebody, but there’s no reason for a black teenager in a planned suburban enclave like McKinney’s Craig Ranch to believe that that somebody is him.

This video shot in McKinney over the weekend went internationallyviral. You’re forgiven if you find it too brutal to sit through.

The facts are still difficult to pin down, but before the video began, police were called to the pool party. Witnesses say that some white adults at the pool had made racist comments—telling the black teens to “get used to the bars” outside of the pool, or to “go back to their Section 8 housing.” (The average home price in Craig Ranch is $450,000.)

Those comments apparently led to a confrontation. Tatyana Rhodes, a 19-year-old girl who was one of the hosts of the party, says that she was struck by an older white woman after she confronted her about racial slurs. (A witness interviewed by the Huffington Post corroborates Rhodes’ account.) There’s a video of Rhodes and the other woman grappling. As a security guard approaches, the other woman walks away from the scene. 

When @Keef_Cakez beat that ass

— Miles(K-Bandz) (@k1dmars) June 6, 2015

Shortly after the fight, police arrived. There’s no video of their arrival, but from where the video does start, it’s easy to infer that some of the teenagers started to run away. The video opens with an officer tumbling into a barrel roll, like he’s in an action movie, before beginning the process of grabbing teens, throwing them to the ground, putting knees to their bwagoacks, handcuffing them, and—finally—pulling his gun.

The teenagers, who are mostly dressed in bathing suits, are all unarmed. The officer swears at the black kids in the video. The boy holding the camera, who is white, moves around freely. At one point, a black teenage boy who is being ordered to stay on the ground asks if he can retrieve his bag, and the officer says that he cannot. The boy with the camera volunteers to get it for him. Meanwhile, a black girl who tells the officer that she needs to find her glasses gets grabbed by the officer. Moments later, he throws her to the ground, and grabs her by the hair. When two boys approach the scene, he pulls out his gun. When the girl screams about his gun, he grabs her by the back of the head, shouts, “On your face,” and slams her, face-first, into the grass. He places his knee on her back, and when the boy with the camera says, “You pulled your gun on her,” the officer insists, “No, I didn’t.” The girl he’s pinning down cries, “I’m not fighting you.” 

It’s unclear exactly what happened at the pool and why the police got involved. And while, yes, some of the black kids at the scene may have scattered when they saw the police, at least one officer behaved in a way that justifies such a reaction, pulling a gun on unarmed teens. When a black teenager in America in 2015 sees a police officer pull a gun, he or she should understand the stakes. The names Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Tanisha Anderson, Eric Garner, and Rekia Boyd are constant reminders. Escaping the officer in the video seems like essential self-preservation. 

The officer has been identified by media as Corporal Eric CaseboltAccording to Gawker, someone who appears to be Casebolt had a YouTube playlist on his public profile called “Police Training,”  that features videos of police officers using violent force against the citizens they’re tasked with protecting and serving. On Saturday, that same YouTube user added the video of Casebolt at the pool party to the list. 

(Rod Aydelotte/Waco Tribune-Herald via AP)

Let’s take a moment now to contrast the scene in McKinney with the scene, three weeks earlier, in Waco. At the time of the shooting at the Waco Twin Peaks restaurant between several gangs of mostly-white bikers—which left nine dead and another dozen in the hospital—I wrote that “the mere fact that a massive shoot-out in a strip mall could end with police and bikers on peaceful terms does look like special treatment.” 

The bikers in Waco had a gunfight in broad daylight that killed nine people. The kids in McKinney were allegedly swimming in a pool that they may not all have had permission to be in. One of those encounters involved bikers sitting around in the parking lot on their cell phones. The other involved a girl thrown around, slammed face-first into the ground, held with a knee at her back for saying that she couldn’t leave until she found her glasses. And, of course, the ones who were at the scene of a lethal gunfight were white, and the ones who were beaten by a police officer who seemingly considers videos of police officers kicking suspects in the face to be “police training” were black. 

In these situations, it’s always easy to talk about bad eggs. Casebolt has been placed on leave pending an investigation, after all, which suggests this might just be a situation in which one bad apple overreacted.

But let’s talk about the rest of the eggs. In the video, you can see two other officers. One of them is polite to the (white) kid with the camera, when he attempts to return a flashlight that Casebolt dropped during his tumble-and-roll maneuver. And when Casebolt pulls his gun, the two officers approach Casebolt momentarily, before following his order to chase the boys Casebolt pulled his gun on. There may be bad cops and good cops, but they all serve alongside one another, and when one of the bad ones slams a teenage girl in a bathing suit face-first into the ground repeatedly and draws his gun on a bunch of unarmed kids in a rage, the potentially good cops don’t appear to intervene.

It’s also been shown, repeatedly, that the police force often supports its bad eggs. In January, a Victoria police officer was fired after video showed him beating and tasing an elderly man who committed the non-offense of driving a car with dealer plates without an inspection sticker (cars with dealer plates aren’t required to have them). In April, that officer—Nathanial Robinson—was hired by the nearby Beeville Police Department, where he is once more armed with a gun and the authority to use force on people he suspects of wrongdoing. Ryan Cunningham, who was fired from his job with the Jasper Police Department after being captured on video assaulting a pregnant woman in custody, was hired by the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office shortly thereafter. Whatever the end result of the investigation into Casebolt, it seems likely that if he wants to continue adding clips to his “police training” highlight reel, he’ll have the opportunity. 

It would be easy to place all of the blame here at bad-egg Casebolt’s feet. It’d also be easy to say that this is just another example of the eternal culture-war dispute over the role of police and race. Someone will find a Facebook post from one of the kids in the video in which he talks about smoking weed, or we’ll learn that the young woman in the fight with the white woman had a disciplinary record at school, or some other post-facto obfuscation will arise to shift the narrative for those who want it shifted. There’s a counter-narrative that exists that says that a DJ was holding an illegal party at the pool and advertised it with a $15-a-head cover charge on Twitter. (No such tweets exist, though Tatyana Rhodes—who is a resident of the community—did share an invite to a free pool party at the location via social media. It garnered three “likes.”) 

No matter how the narrative shifts, pulling a gun on unarmed teens is inexcusable. And doing so over the question of who is allowed in a pool is even more troublesome.

According to the girl who hosted the party and her mother (both of whom were residents), most of the kids were from Craig Ranch. Others who didn’t live in the area were reportedly using guest passes; others, it has been said, were jumping the fence to get in.

In other words, some white adults likely saw a group of black children in their neighborhood pool, determined that they didn’t belong, and decided to call the police. The teens may have been loud—teenagers often are—and they may have made some of the people who saw them uncomfortable. But they were kids at a swimming pool, and the day ended for many of them in handcuffs, reportedly after weathering racial slurs from grown-ups.

As the Atlantic also noted, the setting of this disturbing incident—a community pool—recalls the long history of blacks not being allowed in public swimming pools. In the sixties, white people were known to pour acid into the water to get them out. They defended their actions, arguing that the black people in those pools were being unruly, too. When the police would be called, they would cuff, swear at, and threaten the black swimmers. Details are still emerging, but what happened in McKinney still serves as a reminder for many Texans, and the rest of America, that the past isn’t dead. As Faulker said, it’s not even past.

06 Jun 13:33

The Mary Sue Interview: Kate Beaton On Step Aside, Pops, Her Fantastically Feminist Follow-Up To Hark! A Vagrant

05 Jun 19:00

Every so often I make a batch of tiny watercolor paintings -...

Every so often I make a batch of tiny watercolor paintings - just 2.5″x3.5″ - to take to a convention. In honor of being a guest at this year’s Special Edition: NYC, I painted up a bunch of my favorite female characters from comics, animation, and film!

L to R, top to bottom:

Imperator Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road), Garnet (Steven Universe), Frohawk take on Storm (X-Men);

Catwoman (DCU), Kate Bishop (Hawkeye), Jubilee (X-Men);

Agent Peggy Carter (MCU), Ms. Marvel, Captain Marvel!

I will have all these tiny but fierce ladies with me at my table H-04 in Artist Alley. I’ll also be on panels as well, including CREATING COMICS: THE REAL STORIES with badasses like Annie Wu, Kate Leth, and Becky Cloonan at 2:30 on Saturday. See ya there!

08 Jun 05:01

Tactical Advantage

by Ian

Tactical Advantage

08 Jun 13:31

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Know Your Linguistic Philosophies


As in many things, here I am a pragmatist.

Hovertext: Language is a social construct that you REALLY suck at.

New comic!
Today's News:

BAHFest Submissions are still open! 

06 Jun 10:27


My name is Sand. Technically my ghost says my name is Cassandra. But only he calls me that. I call myself Sand, and so that is my name. 

I call my ghost Archimedes, after an ancient human we read about in a rotting old book we found not long after he found me. Some warlock told me that Archimedes was the first human to use Light as a weapon. The book didn’t say anything about that. It mostly talked about him inventing simple machines and once running through the street naked. So I have my doubts. Either way, I reckon it’s a pretty good name. 

I asked Arc (he says if my name is Sand, his name is Arc) how he knew my name is Cassandra. He says it just is, and he just knows it, same as how he just knew where to find me, and that he could bring me back. Typical ghost stuff, and not very satisfying, even for a hunter. Of course, I’m a hunter that doesn’t know what she’s hunting. So I probably shouldn’t complain. The warlock I know best–an Awoken named Desdemona–says that ghosts are partly just channels or conduits. That the Traveller can just drop things into Arc’s glowing little brain. And mine too, maybe. It can be hard to tell where one of us ends and the other begins. So sometimes they just know things, because the Traveller knows them. And no one can even guess at what the Traveller might know. Or what it’s forgotten. 

I’m having Arc store these notes in the archive, as a kind of record. Not everything in it will be worth much. Maybe none of it will be. But it feels important to do, regardless. We’ve lost so much knowledge that we took for granted, and you can never tell when some seemingly useless thing discovered by someone like me turns out to be important. Or so I tell myself. 

Technically, I live in the Tower, like most Guardians. And I love the City, our Last City, with the luminous Traveller hanging overhead. But I live in the Tower in the same way that my name is Cassandra. 

My real home is out here, on the edges of the Light, with wild things of this world and others. I live out in the wilds because exploring is what I was made for, so far as I can tell. The City is beautiful, and full of life, and most of my fellow humans. But I’m not really one of them anymore. I’m something else, something called up from beyond death by a power that none us really understand. The people in the City, I think they’re more than a little bit afraid of us, the way we channel the power of the Light in marvelous and terrible ways. How we can brush off death. 

I can’t say that I blame them. 

02 Jun 22:19

I'm a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing


Solid piece.

On any given day, in any police department in the nation, 15 percent of officers will do the right thing no matter what is happening. Fifteen percent of officers will abuse their authority at every opportunity. The remaining 70 percent could go either way depending on whom they are working with.

That's a theory from my friend K.L. Williams, who has trained thousands of officers around the country in use of force. Based on what I experienced as a black man serving in the St. Louis Police Department for five years, I agree with him. I worked with men and women who became cops for all the right reasons — they really wanted to help make their communities better. And I worked with people like the president of my police academy class, who sent out an email after President Obama won the 2008 election that included the statement, "I can't believe I live in a country full of ni**er lovers!!!!!!!!" He patrolled the streets in St. Louis in a number of black communities with the authority to act under the color of law.

That remaining 70 percent of officers are highly susceptible to the culture in a given department. In the absence of any real effort to challenge department cultures, they become part of the problem. If their command ranks are racist or allow institutional racism to persist, or if a number of officers in their department are racist, they may end up doing terrible things.

It is not only white officers who abuse their authority. The effect of institutional racism is such that no matter what color the officer abusing the citizen is, in the vast majority of those cases of abuse that citizen will be black or brown. That is what is allowed.

And no matter what an officer has done to a black person, that officer can always cover himself in the running narrative of heroism, risk, and sacrifice that is available to a uniformed police officer by virtue of simply reporting for duty. Cleveland police officer Michael Brelo was recently acquitted of all charges against him in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams, both black and unarmed. Thirteen Cleveland police officers fired 137 shots at them. Brelo, having reloaded at some point during the shooting, fired 49 of the 137 shots. He took his final 15 shots at them after all the other officers stopped firing (122 shots at that point) and, "fearing for his life," he jumped onto the hood of the car and shot 15 times through the windshield.

About that 15 percent of officers who regularly abuse their power: they exert an outsize influence

Not only was this excessive, it was tactically asinine if Brelo believed they were armed and firing. But they weren't armed, and they weren't firing. Judge John O'Donnell acquitted Brelo under the rationale that because he couldn't determine which shots actually killed Russell and Williams, no one is guilty. Let's be clear: this is part of what the Department of Justice means when it describes a "pattern of unconstitutional policing and excessive force."

Nevertheless, many Americans believe that police officers are generally good, noble heroes. A Gallup poll from last year asked Americans to rate the honesty and ethical standards of people in various fields: police officers ranked in the top five, just above members of the clergy. The profession — the endeavor — is noble. But this myth about the general goodness of cops obscures the truth of what needs to be done to fix the system. It makes it look like all we need to do is hire good people, rather than fix the entire system. Institutional racism runs throughout our criminal justice system. Its presence in police culture, though often flatly denied by the many police apologists that appear in the media now, has been central to the breakdown in police-community relationships for decades in spite of good people doing police work.

Here's what I wish Americans understood about the men and women who serve in their police departments — and what needs to be done to make the system better for everyone.

1) There are officers who willfully violate the human rights of the people in the communities they serve

As a new officer with the St. Louis in the mid-1990s, I responded to a call for an "officer in need of aid." I was partnered that day with a white female officer. When we got to the scene, it turned out that the officer was fine, and the aid call was canceled. He'd been in a foot pursuit chasing a suspect in an armed robbery and lost him.

The officer I was with asked him if he'd seen where the suspect went. The officer picked a house on the block we were on, and we went to it and knocked on the door. A young man about 18 years old answered the door, partially opening it and peering out at my partner and me. He was standing on crutches. My partner accused him of harboring a suspect. He denied it. He said that this was his family's home and he was home alone.

My partner then forced the door the rest of the way open, grabbed him by his throat, and snatched him out of the house onto the front porch. She took him to the ledge of the porch and, still holding him by the throat, punched him hard in the face and then in the groin. My partner that day snatched an 18-year-old kid off crutches and assaulted him, simply for stating the fact that he was home alone.

I got the officer off of him. But because an aid call had gone out, several other officers had arrived on the scene. One of those officers, who was black, ascended the stairs and asked what was going on. My partner pointed to the young man, still lying on the porch, and said, "That son of a bitch just assaulted me." The black officer then went up to the young man and told him to "get the fuck up, I'm taking you in for assaulting an officer." The young man looked up at the officer and said, "Man ... you see I can't go." His crutches lay not far from him.

The officer picked him up, cuffed him, and slammed him into the house, where he was able to prop himself up by leaning against it. The officer then told him again to get moving to the police car on the street because he was under arrest. The young man told him one last time, in a pleading tone that was somehow angry at the same time, "You see I can't go!" The officer reached down and grabbed both the young man's ankles and yanked up. This caused the young man to strike his head on the porch. The officer then dragged him to the police car. We then searched the house. No one was in it.

These kinds of scenes play themselves out everyday all over our country in black and brown communities. Beyond the many unarmed blacks killed by police, including recently Freddie Gray in Baltimore, other police abuses that don't result in death foment resentment, distrust, and malice toward police in black and brown communities all over the country. Long before Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed Michael Brown last August, there was a poisonous relationship between the Ferguson, Missouri, department and the community it claimed to serve. For example, in 2009 Henry Davis was stopped unlawfully in Ferguson, taken to the police station, and brutally beaten while in handcuffs. He was then charged for bleeding on the officers' uniforms after they beat him.

2) The bad officers corrupt the departments they work for

About that 15 percent of officers who regularly abuse their power: a major problem is they exert an outsize influence on department culture and find support for their actions from ranking officers and police unions. Chicago is a prime example of this: the city has created a reparations fund for the hundreds of victims who were tortured by former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge and officers under his command from the 1970s to the early ‘90s.

The victims were electrically shocked, suffocated, and beaten into false confessions that resulted in many of them being convicted and serving time for crimes they didn't commit.  One man, Darrell Cannon, spent 24 years in prison for a crime he confessed to but didn't commit. He confessed when officers repeatedly appeared to load a shotgun and after doing so each time put it in his mouth and pulled the trigger. Other men received electric shocks until they confessed.

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The torture was systematic, and the culture that allowed for it is systemic. I call your attention to the words "and officers under his command." Police departments are generally a functioning closed community where people know who is doing what. How many officers  "under the command" of Commander Burge do you think didn't know what was being done to these men? How many do you think were uncomfortable with the knowledge? Ultimately, though, they were okay with it. And Burge got four years in prison, and now receives his full taxpayer-funded pension.

3) The mainstream media helps sustain the narrative of heroism that even corrupt officers take refuge in

This is critical to understanding why police-community relations in black and brown communities across the country are as bad as they are. In this interview with Fox News, former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir never acknowledges the lived experience of thousands and thousands of blacks in New York, Baltimore, Ferguson, or anywhere in the country. In fact, he seems to be completely unaware of it. This allows him to leave viewers with the impression that the recent protests against police brutality are baseless, and that allegations of racism are "totally wrong — just not true." The reality of police abuse is not limited to a number of "very small incidents" that have impacted black people nationwide, but generations of experienced and witnessed abuse.

The media is complicit in this myth-making: notice that the interviewer does not challenge Safir. She doesn't point out, for example, the over $1 billion in settlements the NYPD has paid out over the last decade and a half for the misconduct of its officers. She doesn't reference the numerous accounts of actual black or Hispanic NYPD officers who have been profiled and even assaulted without cause when they were out of uniform by white NYPD officers.

No matter what an officer has done to a black person, that officer can always cover himself in the running narrative of heroism

Instead she leads him with her questions to reference the heroism, selflessness, risk, and sacrifice that are a part of the endeavor that is law enforcement, but very clearly not always characteristic of police work in black and brown communities. The staging for this interview — US flag waving, somber-faced officers — is wash, rinse, and repeat with our national media.

When you take a job as a police officer, you do so voluntarily. You understand the risks associated with the work. But because you signed on to do a dangerous job does not mean you are then allowed to violate the human rights, civil rights, and civil liberties of the people you serve. It's the opposite. You should protect those rights, and when you don't you should be held accountable. That simple statement will be received by police apologists as "anti-cop."  It is not.

4) Cameras provide the most objective record of police-citizen encounters available

When Walter Scott was killed by officer Michael Slager in South Carolina earlier this year, the initial police report put Scott in the wrong. It stated that Scott had gone for Slager's Taser, and Slager was in fear for his life. If not for the video recording that later surfaced, the report would have likely been taken by many at face value. Instead we see that Slager shot Scott repeatedly and planted the Taser next to his body after the fact.

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Every officer in the country should be wearing a body camera that remains activated throughout any interaction they have with the public while on duty. There is no reasonable expectation of privacy for officers when they are on duty and in service to the public. Citizens must also have the right to record police officers as they carry out their public service, provided that they are at a safe distance, based on the circumstances, and not interfering. Witnessing an interaction does not by itself constitute interference.

5) There are officers around the country who want to address institutional racism

The National Coalition of Law Enforcement Officers for Justice, Reform and Accountability is a new coalition of current and former law enforcement officers from around the nation. Its mission is to fight institutional racism in our criminal justice system and police culture, and to push for accountability for police officers that abuse their power.

Many of its members are already well-established advocates for criminal justice reform in their communities. It's people like former Sergeant De Lacy Davis of New Jersey, who has worked to change police culture for years. It's people like former LAPD Captain John Mutz, who is white, and who is committed to working to build a system where everyone is equally valued. His colleagues from the LAPD —former Sergeant Cheryl Dorsey, now a frequent CNN contributor (providing some much-needed perspective), and former officer Alex Salazar, who worked LAPD's Rampart unit — are a part of this effort. Several  NYPD  officers, many of whom are founding members of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, the gold standard for black municipal police organizations, are a part of this group. Vernon Wells, Noel Leader, Julian Harper, and Cliff Hollingsworth, to name a few, are serious men with a serious record of standing up for their communities against police abuse. There's also Rochelle Bilal, a former sergeant out of Philadelphia, Sam Costales out of New Mexico, former Federal Marshal Matthew Fogg, and many others.

These men and women are ready to reach out to the thousands of officers around the country who have been looking for a national law enforcement organization that works to remake police culture. The first priority is accountability — punishment — for officers who willfully abuse the rights and bodies of those they are sworn to serve. Training means absolutely nothing if officers don't adhere to it and are not held accountable when they don't. It is key to any meaningful reform.

Police abuse in black and brown communities is generations old. It is nothing new.

Racism is woven into the fabric of our nation.  At no time in our history has there been a national consensus that everyone should be equally valued in all areas of life. We are rooted in racism in spite of the better efforts of Americans of all races to change that.

Because of this legacy of racism, police abuse in black and brown communities is generations old. It is nothing new. It has become more visible to mainstream America largely because of the proliferation of personal recording devices, cellphone cameras, video recorders — they're everywhere. We need police officers.  We also need them to be held accountable to the communities they serve.

02 Jun 07:01


by Matthew Nolan

NSFW, obvs, but features vagina-themed pokemon jokes.

Comic Edited 6/13/15: The Erika-Peeing-On-The-Toilet now clarifies that regularly stopping your pee mid-stream can lead to UTIs, so don’t make it a habit. Apologies for our error!

Oh my gooooosh, I am completely in love with this doo-daddy. Matt doesn’t get it, though. Before I even tried it and then afterwards when I was raving about it, he kept pooh-poohing it because he just. didn’t. understand. why it was necessary. But I think that’s because he can see his penis and its responsiveness so he doesn’t appreciate what it’s like to have no idea if your genitals are doing what you’re trying to make them do. (Also he thinks $150 is way too much money for what it does. Which, yeah, that’s pretty steep. Can’t argue with that.)

And it turns out I have a super strong vagina! I had no idea! I consistently get a 10 out of 10 on the strength test :D :D :D Laaaaaaaaaaaaaadies? I know it’s probably bad form to brag about it, BUT OH MY GOSH my self-confidence honestly had a hilariously large boost upon learning this! Grrrr, yeah! I’m packin’ a Cuntnan the Vagarian here! (Matt didn’t understand this joke. It’s a not very good play on the name Conan the Barbarian. Except now it’s about my mighty vagina.)

On another vagina-related note, you all remember my friend Tracy Puhl from my review of the Moon Cup, right? That’s right, she’s the owner of GladRags, my favorite reusable menstrual product company! So she totes knows a thing or two about the vagaroo.

kGoals from our Friends (With Benefits)

Stockroom ALSO has a 15% discount for you, just add ‘OHJOY’ at checkout!AND Early To Bed has a 10% discount too! Just add ‘OHJOY’ at checkout!

Hey hey and today is the final day to pre-order Oh Joy Sex Toy, Volume TWO!
29 May 16:21

Elitism Stickers!




Happy sexy stickers day. I just invented that holiday when I listed these lovely music elitism stickers.

01 Jun 08:10

Morphine - The Night (Full Album)


Hearing Mark Sandman always makes me want to play the bass.

00:00 1) The Night 04:48 2) So Many Ways 08:50 3) Souvenir 13:30 4) Top Floor, Bottom Buzzer 19:14 5) Like A Mirror 24:40 6) Good Woman Is Hard To Find 28:54...
30 Apr 03:22

If I had one hundred dollars to spend on whiskey….

by Jason Pyle

Decent, if rather conservative, suggestions.

A few weeks ago I was asked a question by a twitter follower (@GQuiz) and Sour Mash Manifesto visitor. He wanted to know “if I had $100 to spend, what whiskey(s) would I buy?” Bill over at Modern Thirst thought it would be a good idea to pose the same question to a number of other whiskey enthusiasts, bloggers, and writers in order to get their take as well. The responses are on his website, but below you can find mine.

Over the years I’ve been asked a thousand times to provide a “best” list of whiskey. I’d love to, but that’s just hard. If a whiskey lover can tell you exactly what her favorite whiskey is then I’d say she hasn’t sipped enough whiskey. I sure as hell couldn’t give you a top 10 or 20, much less a top 5. Every whiskey has a personality to fit a certain mood. It’s not much different than having a diverse mix of friends – you enjoy spending time with all of them for different reasons. Even a seemingly innocent question such as the one above becomes very hard when you consider all of the options.

First let me provide some context. There were few rules applied to this question – it could be approached from any possible angle (and I did!). The first constraint I placed on my response was to make certain I only considered American Whiskey. If you’ve visited this website enough I’m sure you know that Made in the U.S.A products are my area of focus. After that, anything goes!

I’ve attacked this question in too may ways. For example, right now I’m sipping a delicious barrel strength Booker’s Bourbon. It’s a delicious whiskey – never fails! If I allow recency bias to go crazy this Booker’s ($55) and Elijah Craig Single Barrel ($35) (for good measure) would wrap this thing up quick (I just cheated but you might want to write those down). Find me on a Tuesday with a hankering for a fabulous American Craft Single Malt, and the St. George Spirits Single Malt 14th release ($80 and a truly incredible pour) along with a handle of Evan Williams Black Label might get the nod (cheated again, but check these out). Get the point? This is a complex scenario. I needed order. I needed a compass to guide me.

The classics are classics for a reason. Can you find better? Perhaps, but you’ll be splitting hairs. The versatility that the classics bring to the table are simply too good to ignore. So, with that, the way I answered this question is I marched into my dining room, which holds hundreds and hundreds of bottles of whiskey, and I looked for the ones I purchased most. What do I buy? Regardless of what I think on a random day, I buy certain whiskeys consistently. And that I suppose is the best endorsement I can give.

If I had $100.00 to spend on whiskey, this is what I’d purchase?

Four Roses Single BarrelFour Roses Single Barrel ($35): If you love whiskey, please do yourself a favor and type “Jim Rutledge” in the search box on the top right of this website. Feel free to read the background on Four Roses and watch the videos I did with Jim, the Master Distiller, a number of years ago. Four Roses is easily a top 3 distillery in the U.S, maybe the best, but that’s subjective. The way the distillery works with recipes, yeast strains, and aging philosophy is completely different from everyone else. The distillery’s single barrel is the flagship of the lineup – fruity, well structured, bold and vibrant, but extremely well balanced. I have a bottle or two of the Single Barrel on hand at all times. It’s a requirement. Typically I’ll drink it neat or with a cube of ice, but don’t hesitate to make a bourbon-forward cocktail. It’s not against the law with such a good whiskey, and rest assured it will certainly stand up and be accounted for.

Rittenhouse Rye Bottled In BondRittenhouse Rye Whiskey ($25): Personally, no home bar is complete without a quality bottle of rye whiskey. Rittenhouse happens to be a bit more versatile than most others. It’s not quite as green and herbal as other popular rye whiskeys, and the value proposition is on point. If you are new to rye whiskey – start here. If you are well acquainted with rye whiskey – stay here. Rittenhouse Rye always delivers.

W.L. Weller 12 YearW.L. Weller 12 year ($30): Forget all of the “it’s the same stuff as Pappy” bull crap. That’s no reason to by it. Buy Weller 12 because it’s an excellent pour of whiskey on its own merit. It’s rich, sweet, but with a healthy oak backbone. Wheated bourbon north of the 10 year mark just becomes special, and Weller 12 exemplifies that. I drink it neat, in an old fashioned, a mint julep, and on ice in the heat of the summer – versatile and delicious. Availability is tighter than the others, but unlike a lot of the limited releases, Weller 12 shows up couple times a year. Talk to your local shop, request a bottle and let me know what you think. I typically by 3-4 bottles a year at my local retailer to make sure I have enough on hand.

Edited Note: While I’ve got a little money left over with the above list, I also took into account price variances depending on area. The above prices are an average for what I see, but Four Roses Single Barrel can push that $40 range at times, and Rittenhouse can move $2-3 north. So the above are ballparks.

There you have it. It may not be sexy, it may not be unique, but it’s what I buy. That is as good a recommendation as I can give. Share with us what you would buy if you had $100 to spend. Just as importantly – tell us why.

Cheers and drink your whiskey!


31 May 14:29



...i feel oddly certain this has happened.

28 May 18:53

I’m tired of hijab.

When I was 19, I stood on stage and talked about being propositioned by a university professor. I said he was a dirty old man and repeated some of the choice phrases women hear every day in the streets of Egypt.

When I left the theater later that evening, I overheard two men:

“Isn’t she ashamed of herself for saying such dirty words when she’s veiled?!”
Photo Credit: Egypt Today (This is me, fyi)

Fast forward five years. I sat on a panel next to the president of Catalonia, speaking to more than 800 people from over 40 countries. And yet later on that day a man raised his hand after my presentation and said:

“You know, we’re doing you a favor.
We’re helping you take that symbol of oppression off your head.”

I’m tired of being the token “omg-look-such-an-articulate-awesome-non-stereotypical hijabi!”
I’m tired of hijab taking up so much space in my life.
I’m tired of speaking about it.
I’m tired of explaining it.
I’m tired of defending it.
I’m tired of being treated differently.
I’m tired of having to prove I’m normal.
I’m tired of being thought stupid and backwards.
I’m tired of the judgments — from both sides.
I’m tired of the opportunities denied.
I’m tired of expectations.
I’m tired of hijab.

It’s been a long, hard slog. I’ve been veiled for 15 years. I spent years writing about it, justifying it, hating it, loving it, ignoring it, defending it.

I did theater. Spoken word. I represented. I wrote angry critiques of the representation of Muslim women in media. I didn’t let other people speak for this Muslim woman. I spoke for myself. I wrote award-winning editorials like this one. Whoot whoot.

(If you’re interested, the project I loved most is crowdfunding here.)

But then I was done.

I was over having to constantly justify my choices.
I was over preaching to the choir.
I was over having to prove something.

I realized being thought of as “amazing” was actually insulting.
Because the assumption was that being veiled meant I was stupid and very non-amazing.

Hijab is so personal.

And yet it’s so public.

I’ve been told I had to take it off if I wanted to anchor a show.
I’ve been told “I wish I could shoot you.”
I’ve been refused entry into several venues.
I’ve been called a “dirty Arab,” an “ignorant Muslim,” a “stupid whore.”
I’ve been asked to sit at the back of a lecture hall.
I was just spat at in Paris last month.

You get the picture.

Being a hijabi is tough. It really is. There are days I wish for nothing more than to take it off. Days when I just want to be like everyone else. I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t want to be different.

It’s just covered hair to you. That is all. No more, no less.

The fascination with it is crazy.
Behind the veil.
Beneath the veil.
Unveiling the Muslim woman.

*ooooooooh insert Aladdin music here.*

Let it be. You don’t have to understand why I wear it.

There’s so much more to write.

But I’m already over this post.

27 May 00:00

Keyboard Mash


This is the best XKCD in kind of a long time, I think.

20 May 16:35

Database interfaces


R nerdery follows.

There are many different databases. The most familiar are row-column SQL databases like MySQL, SQLite, or PostgreSQL. Another type of database is the key-value store, which as a concept is very simple: you save a value specified by a key, and you can retrieve a value by its key. One more type is the document database, which instead of storing rows and columns, stores blobs of text or even binary files. The key-value and document types fall under the NoSQL umbrella. As there are mature R clients for many SQL databases, and dplyr is a great generic interface to SQL backends (see dplyr vignettes for an intro), we won't delve into SQL clients here.

What is the difference between SQL and NoSQL (key-value, document)? A diagram may be helpful:


NoSQL is often interpreted as Not only SQL - meaning a database that is called a NoSQL database may contain some notion of row-column storage, but other details diverge from traditional SQL databases. See Wikipedia for more information.

If you aren't already using databases, why care about databases? We'll answer this through a number of use cases:

  • Use case 1: Let's say you are producing a lot of data in your lab - millions of rows of data. Storing all this data in .xls or .csv files would definitely get cumbersome. If the data is traditional row-column spreadsheet data, a SQL database is perfect, perhaps PostgreSQL. Putting your data in a database allows the data to scale up easily while maintaining speedy data access, many tables can be linked together if needed, and more. Of course if your data will always fit in memory of the machine you're working on, a database may be too much complexity.
  • Use case 2: You already have data in a database, whether SQL or NoSQL. Of course it makes sense to interface with the database from R instead of e.g., exporting files from the database, then into R.
  • Use case 3: A data provider gives dumps of data that you need for your research/work problem. You download the data and it's hundreds of .csv files. It sure would be nice to be able to efficiently search this data. Simple searches like return all records with variable X < 10 are ideal for a SQL database. If instead the files are blobs of XML, JSON, or something else non-tabular, a document database is ideal.
  • Use case 4: You need to perform more complicated searches than SQL can support. Some NoSQL databases have very powerful search engines, e.g., Elasticsearch.
  • Use case 5: Sometimes you just need to cache stuff. Caching is a good use case for key-value stores. Let's say you are requesting data from a database online, and you want to make a derivative data thing from the original data, but you don't want to lose the original data. Simply storing the original data on disk in files is easy and does the job. Sometimes though, you may need something more structured. Redis and etcd are two key-value stores we make clients for and can make caching easy. Another use for caching is to avoid repeating time-consuming queries or queries that may cost money.
  • Use case 6: Indexable serialization. Related to the previous discussion of caching, this is caching, but better. That is, instead of dumping an R object to a cache, then retrieving the entire object later, NoSQL DB's make it easy to serialize an R object, and retrieve only what you need. See Rich FitzJohn's storr for an example of this.

rOpenSci has an increasing suite of database tools:

  • elastic (document database) (on CRAN)
  • sofa (document database)
  • solr (document database) (on CRAN)
  • etseed (key-value store)
  • rrlite (key-value store)
  • rerddap (SQL database as a service, open source) (on CRAN)
  • ckanr (SQL database as a service, open source)
  • nodbi (DBI, but for NoSQL DB's)

Some of these packages (e.g., rrlite, nodbi) can be thought of as infrastructure, just like clients for PostgreSQL or SQLite, for which other R packages can be created - or that can be used to interface with a database. Other packages (e.g., ckanr) are more likely to be useful to end users for retrieving data for a project.

If you're wondering what database to use:

  • You may want a SQL database if: you have tabular data, and the schema is not going to change
  • You may want a NoSQL key-value database if: you want to shove objects into something, and then retrieve later by a key
  • You may want a NoSQL document database if:
    • you need to store unstructured blobs, even including binary attachments
    • you need a richer query interface than a SQL database can provide

SQL databases have many advantages - one important advantage is that SQL syntax is widely used, and there are probably clients in every concievable language for interacting with SQL databases. However, NoSQL can be a better fit in many cases, overriding this SQL syntax familiarity.

There is another type of NoSQL database, the graph database, including Neo4j and Titan. We didn't talk much about them here, but they can be useful when you have naturally graph like data. A science project using a graph database is Open Tree of Life. There is an R client for Neo4J: RNeo4j.

Let us know if you have any feedback on these packages, and/or if you think there's anything else we should be thinking about making in this space. Now on to some examples of rOpenSci packages.

Get devtools

We'll need devtools to install some of these packages, as not all are on CRAN. If you are on Windows, see these notes.



elastic - Interact with Elasticsearch.


elastic is a powerful document database with a built in query engine. It speaks JSON, has a nice HTTP API, which we use to communicate with elastic from R. What's great about elastic over e.g., Solr is that you don't have to worry about specifying a schema for your data. You can simply put data in, and then query on that data. You can specify configuration settings.


In a quick example, here's going from a data.frame in R, putting data into elastic, then querying on that data.

res <- docs_bulk(diamonds, "diam")

About 54K records in Elasticsearch for the dataset.

#> [1] 53940

We don't have time to go through hardly any of the diverse and powerful Elasticsearch query interface, so as an example, let's plot the price of diamonds in $300 buckets using the Elasticsearch aggregations search API

aggs <- '{
    "aggs": {
        "pricebuckets" : {
           "histogram" : {
               "field" : "price",
               "interval" : 300
res <- Search("diam", body = aggs, size = 0)
df <-"", res$aggregations$pricebuckets$buckets)
ggplot(df, aes(key, doc_count)) + 
  geom_bar(stat = "identity") + 
  theme_grey(base_size = 20) + 
  labs(x = "Price", y = "Count")

plot of chunk unnamed-chunk-7

We have a package in developmented called elasticdsl that follows the lead of the Python client elasticsearch-dsl-py to allow native R based ways to specify queries. The package focuses on querying for data, whereas other operations will remain in the lower level elastic client.


sofa - Interact with CouchDB.



Connect to your running CouchDB instance:


Create a database

db_create(dbname = 'sofadb')

Create a document in that database

doc_create('{"name":"sofa","beer":"IPA"}', dbname = "sofadb", docid = "a_beer")

Get the document

doc_get(dbname = "sofadb", docid = "a_beer")

There's a similar interface to inserting data within R directly into CouchDB, just as with Elasticsearch above. There's lots more to do in sofa, including adding ability to do map-reduce.


solr - A client for interacting with Solr.

solr focuses on reading data from Solr engines. We are working on adding functionality for working with more Solr features, including writing documents. Adding support for writing to solr is a bit trickier than reading data, since writing data requires specifying a schema.



A quick example using a remote Solr server the Public Library of Science search engine.

solr_search(q = '*:*', fl = c('id', 'journal', 'publication_date'), base = '', verbose = FALSE)
#>                                                     id  journal
#> 1                   10.1371/journal.pone.0123754/title PLOS ONE
#> 2                10.1371/journal.pone.0123754/abstract PLOS ONE
#> 3              10.1371/journal.pone.0123754/references PLOS ONE
#> 4                    10.1371/journal.pone.0123754/body PLOS ONE
#> 5            10.1371/journal.pone.0123754/introduction PLOS ONE
#> 6  10.1371/journal.pone.0123754/results_and_discussion PLOS ONE
#> 7   10.1371/journal.pone.0123754/materials_and_methods PLOS ONE
#> 8             10.1371/journal.pone.0123754/conclusions PLOS ONE
#> 9                         10.1371/journal.pone.0031384 PLoS ONE
#> 10                  10.1371/journal.pone.0031384/title PLoS ONE
#>        publication_date
#> 1  2015-05-04T00:00:00Z
#> 2  2015-05-04T00:00:00Z
#> 3  2015-05-04T00:00:00Z
#> 4  2015-05-04T00:00:00Z
#> 5  2015-05-04T00:00:00Z
#> 6  2015-05-04T00:00:00Z
#> 7  2015-05-04T00:00:00Z
#> 8  2015-05-04T00:00:00Z
#> 9  2012-02-14T00:00:00Z
#> 10 2012-02-14T00:00:00Z

solr is quite useful in R since it is a common search engine that is often exposed as is, so that you can pop this solr R client into your script or package and (hopefully) not have to worry about how to query the Solr service.


etseed is an R client for the etcd key-value store, developed by the folks at coreos, written in Go.

This package is still in early days, and isn't exactly the fastest option in the bunch here - but upcoming changes (including allowing bulk writing and retrieval) in etcd should help.


A note before we go through an example. etcd has a particular way of specifying keys, in that you have to prefix a key by a forward slash, like /foobar instead of foobar.


Save a value to a key

create(key = "/mykey", value = "this is awesome")
#> $action
#> [1] "set"
#> $node
#> $node$key
#> [1] "/mykey"
#> $node$value
#> [1] "this is awesome"
#> $node$modifiedIndex
#> [1] 1299
#> $node$createdIndex
#> [1] 1299
#> $prevNode
#> $prevNode$key
#> [1] "/mykey"
#> $prevNode$value
#> [1] "this is awesome"
#> $prevNode$modifiedIndex
#> [1] 1298
#> $prevNode$createdIndex
#> [1] 1298

Fetch the value given a key

key(key = "/mykey")
#> $action
#> [1] "get"
#> $node
#> $node$key
#> [1] "/mykey"
#> $node$value
#> [1] "this is awesome"
#> $node$modifiedIndex
#> [1] 1299
#> $node$createdIndex
#> [1] 1299


rrlite - An R client for the Redis C library rlite


This package may be more interesting than other R Redis clients because there is no need to start up a server since rlite is a serverless engine.


Here, we initialize, then put 20 values into rlite, assigned to the key foo, then retrieve the values by the same key.

r <- RedisAPI::rdb(rrlite::hirlite)
r$set("foo", runif(20))
#>  [1] 0.51670270 0.08039860 0.34762872 0.30276370 0.15985876 0.66062207
#>  [7] 0.26802708 0.97451274 0.94458185 0.04604044 0.93153133 0.91241321
#> [13] 0.64395377 0.12517230 0.31826622 0.34425757 0.79364064 0.91926051
#> [19] 0.47487029 0.11644076

This is a good candidate for using within other R packages for more sophisticated caching than simply writing to disk, and is especially easy since users aren't required to spin up a server as with normal Redis, or other DB's like CouchDB, MongoDB, etc.


rerddap - A general purpose R client for any ERDDAP server.

ERDDAP servers


ERDDAP is a server built on top of OPenDAP. NOAA serve many differen datasets through ERDDAP servers. Through ERDDAP, you can get gridded data (see griddap()), which lets you query from gridded datasets (see griddap()), or tablular datasets (see tabledap()). ERDDAP is open source, so anyone can use it to serve data.

rerddap by default grabs NetCDF files, a binary compressed file type that should be faster to download, and take up less disk space, than other formats (e.g., csv). However, this means that you need a client library for NetCDF files - but not to worry, we use ncdf by default (for which there are CRAN binaries for all platforms), but you can choose to use ncdf4 (binaries only for some platforms).


In this example, we search for gridded datasets

ed_search(query = 'size', which = "grid")
#> 6 results, showing first 20 
#>                                                                                                   title          dataset_id
#> 11                                                      NOAA Global Coral Bleaching Monitoring Products            NOAA_DHW
#> 13 USGS COAWST Forecast, US East Coast and Gulf of Mexico (Experimental) [time][s_rho][eta_rho][xi_rho] whoi_7dd7_db97_4bbe
#> 14  USGS COAWST Forecast, US East Coast and Gulf of Mexico (Experimental) [time][Nbed][eta_rho][xi_rho] whoi_a4fb_2c9c_16a7
#> 15        USGS COAWST Forecast, US East Coast and Gulf of Mexico (Experimental) [time][eta_rho][xi_rho] whoi_ed12_89ce_9592
#> 16            USGS COAWST Forecast, US East Coast and Gulf of Mexico (Experimental) [time][eta_u][xi_u] whoi_61c3_0b5d_cd61
#> 17            USGS COAWST Forecast, US East Coast and Gulf of Mexico (Experimental) [time][eta_v][xi_v] whoi_62d0_9d64_c8ff

Get more information on a single dataset of interest

#> <ERDDAP info> noaa_esrl_027d_0fb5_5d38 
#>  Dimensions (range):  
#>      time: (1850-01-01T00:00:00Z, 2014-05-01T00:00:00Z) 
#>      latitude: (87.5, -87.5) 
#>      longitude: (-177.5, 177.5) 
#>  Variables:  
#>      air: 
#>          Range: -20.9, 19.5 
#>          Units: degC

Then fetch the dataset

        time = c('2012-07-01', '2012-09-01'),
        latitude = c(21, 19),
        longitude = c(-80, -76)
#> <ERDDAP griddap> noaa_esrl_027d_0fb5_5d38
#>    Path: [~/.rerddap/]
#>    Last updated: [2015-05-14 11:02:25]
#>    File size:    [0 mb]
#>    Dimensions (dims/vars):   [3 X 1]
#>    Dim names: time, latitude, longitude
#>    Variable names: CRUTEM3: Surface Air Temperature Monthly Anomaly
#>    data.frame (rows/columns):   [6 X 4]
#>                   time latitude longitude       air
#> 1 2012-07-01T00:00:00Z     22.5     -77.5        NA
#> 2 2012-07-01T00:00:00Z     22.5     -77.5 0.2500000
#> 3 2012-08-01T00:00:00Z     22.5     -77.5        NA
#> 4 2012-08-01T00:00:00Z     17.5     -77.5 0.2666667
#> 5 2012-09-01T00:00:00Z     17.5     -77.5        NA
#> 6 2012-09-01T00:00:00Z     17.5     -77.5 0.1000000

There are many different ERDDAP servers, see the function servers() for help.

More information on ERDDAP:


ckanr - A general purpose R client for any CKAN server.

CKAN is similar to ERDDAP in being an open source system to store and provide data via web services (and web interface, but we don't need that here). CKAN bills itself as an open-source data portal platform.



Examples use the CKAN server at

Show changes in a CKAN server

changes(limit = 10, as = "table")[, 1:2]
#>                                 user_id                  timestamp
#> 1  27778230-2e90-4818-9f00-bbf778c8fa09 2015-03-30T15:06:55.500589
#> 2  27778230-2e90-4818-9f00-bbf778c8fa09 2015-01-09T23:33:14.303237
#> 3  27778230-2e90-4818-9f00-bbf778c8fa09 2015-01-09T23:31:49.537792
#> 4  b50449ea-1dcc-4d52-b620-fc95bf56034b 2014-11-06T18:58:08.001743
#> 5  b50449ea-1dcc-4d52-b620-fc95bf56034b 2014-11-06T18:55:55.059527
#> 6  27778230-2e90-4818-9f00-bbf778c8fa09 2014-11-05T23:17:46.422404
#> 7  27778230-2e90-4818-9f00-bbf778c8fa09 2014-11-05T23:17:05.134909
#> 8  27778230-2e90-4818-9f00-bbf778c8fa09 2014-11-05T23:12:44.074493
#> 9  27778230-2e90-4818-9f00-bbf778c8fa09 2014-11-05T23:11:41.536040
#> 10 27778230-2e90-4818-9f00-bbf778c8fa09 2014-11-05T21:54:39.496994

Search for data packages

package_search(q = '*:*', rows = 2, as = "table")$results[, 1:7]
#>                      license_title maintainer relationships_as_object private maintainer_email         revision_timestamp
#> 1 Open Government Licence - Canada                               NULL   FALSE                  2014-10-28T21:18:27.068320
#> 2 Open Government Licence - Canada                               NULL   FALSE                  2014-10-28T21:18:58.958555
#>                                     id
#> 1 f4406699-3e11-4856-be48-b55da98b3c14
#> 2 0a801729-aa94-4d76-a5e0-7b487303f4e5

More information on CKAN:


nodbi - Like the DBI package, but for document and key-value databases.

nodbi has five backends at the moment:

  • Redis
  • etcd
  • MongoDB
  • CouchDB
  • Elasticsearch

nodbi is in early development, so expect changes - but that also means it's a good time to give your input. What use cases you can think of for this package? What database do you think should be added as a backend?



We'll use MongoDB to store some data, then pull it back out. First, start up your mongo server, then intialize the connection

(src <- src_mongo())
#> MongoDB 3.0.2 (uptime: 230s)
#> URL: Scotts-MBP/test

Insert data

diamonds$cut <- as.character(diamonds$cut)
diamonds$color <- as.character(diamonds$color)
diamonds$clarity <- as.character(diamonds$clarity)
docdb_create(src, key = "diam", value = diamonds)

Pull data back out

res <- docdb_get(src, "diam")
#>   carat       cut color clarity depth table price    x    y    z
#> 1  0.23     Ideal     E     SI2  61.5    55   326 3.95 3.98 2.43
#> 2  0.21   Premium     E     SI1  59.8    61   326 3.89 3.84 2.31
#> 3  0.23      Good     E     VS1  56.9    65   327 4.05 4.07 2.31
#> 4  0.29   Premium     I     VS2  62.4    58   334 4.20 4.23 2.63
#> 5  0.31      Good     J     SI2  63.3    58   335 4.34 4.35 2.75
#> 6  0.24 Very Good     J    VVS2  62.8    57   336 3.94 3.96 2.48

Data is identical:

identical(diamonds, res)
#> [1] TRUE
19 May 14:00

SteamVR's "Lighthouse" for Virtual Reality and Beyond

by Joey Fameli

Being used by the Void?