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March 18, 2019

kottke.org

Cutting Commentary on News Media’s Complicity in Spreading Hateful Views

Kate McCartney and Kate McLennan, a pair of comedians whose hilarious cooking show I’ve previously featured, are back with Get Krack!n, a series that parodies a typical TV morning show. In this clip, they debut a new segment that perfectly skewers how TV media provides a platform for radical kooks to promote hateful agendas for the mutual benefit of both kook & show. (Note: this clip contains swearing and simulated religious bigotry & misogyny.)

Kheck out our brand new seggment! #getkrackin @Mrdavidquirk @chookfish @gw_deb @ABCTV pic.twitter.com/fTvrmK7tc6

— Get Krack!n (@getkrackinshow) March 7, 2019

They’re not necessarily views that we endorse or share personally, Kate McCartney, but they’re definitely opinions that we are 100% complicit in broadcasting, and that in time we will go to hell for.

This is an Australian show, but a similar panel and topic could easily have appeared on any number of Fox News programs.

Tags: journalism   Kate McCartney   Kate McLennan   TV   video

by Jason Kottke at March 18, 2019 09:55 PM

Monica Lewinsky on Public Shaming

This week, Last Week Tonight covered the topic of public shaming and the episode included an interview by host John Oliver of Monica Lewinsky, who shared her experience of going through perhaps the most intense and enduring instance of public shaming ever.

The whole video is worth watching, but if you want to skip to the Lewinsky interview, it starts around the 15:00 mark. Lewinsky doesn’t do a lot of interviews, and it’s interesting that Oliver has built enough trust to get one, especially as the host of a comedy show.

Tags: interviews   John Oliver   Monica Lewinsky   video

by Jason Kottke at March 18, 2019 08:35 PM

Where Did Consciousness Come From?

Religion and philosophy have their own answers as to where our consciousness comes from, but in this video, Kurzgesagt explores how scientists believe consciousness first evolved, from organisms moving more quickly when consuming food to animals being able to animals who can remember where they hid food to reading the minds of competitors and allies.

The main source for the video is Rupert Glasgow’s Minimal Selfhood and the Origins of Consciousness (available as a free download). The complete list of their sources is here.

Tags: Kurzgesagt   Rupert Glasgow   video

by Jason Kottke at March 18, 2019 06:24 PM

The Fertility Doctor’s Secret

For The Atlantic, Sarah Zhang tells the story of dozens of people who found out through DNA testing that a fertility doctor named Donald Cline had used his own sperm in artificial insemination procedures on their mothers. The piece begins with the story of a woman whose parents had been treated by Cline more than 30 years ago.

It was only when she got home and replaced her phone that she saw the barrage of messages from even more half siblings. They had found her on Facebook, she realized, after searching for the username linked to her Ancestry.com account. Her husband had given her a DNA test for Christmas because she was interested in genealogy. Her heritage turned out to be exactly what she had thought — Scottish, with English, Irish, and Scandinavian mixed in — and she never bothered to click on the link that would show whether anyone on the site shared her DNA.

Apparently she did have relatives on Ancestry.com — and not just distant cousins. The people now sending her messages said they were Cline’s secret biological children. They said their parents had also been treated by Cline. They said that decades ago, without ever telling his patients, Cline had used his own sperm to impregnate women who came to him for artificial insemination.

According to her DNA, Woock, too, was one of his children.

In the time since Woock’s half siblings got in touch with her, they have broken the news dozens more times. The children Cline fathered with his patients now number at least 48, confirmed by DNA tests from 23andMe or Ancestry.com. (Several have a twin or other siblings who likely share the same biological father but haven’t been tested.) They keep in touch through a Facebook group. New siblings pop up in waves, timed perversely after holidays like Christmas or Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, when DNA tests are given as well-intentioned gifts.

One of Cline’s patients said recently: “I feel like I was raped 15 times.”

Tags: crime   DNA   Donald Cline   genetics   Sarah Zhang

by Jason Kottke at March 18, 2019 04:20 PM

Everything Is Just a Happening

This guided meditation by Alan Watts really helped me this morning. (There’s a version without music as well.)

From The Practice of Meditation:

Simply sit down, close your eyes, and listen to all sounds that may be going on — without trying to name or identify them. Listen as you would listen to music. If you find that verbal thinking will not drop away, don’t attempt to stop it by force of will-power. Just keep your tongue relaxed, floating easily in the lower jaw, and listen to your thoughts as if they were birds chattering outside — mere noise in the skull — and they will eventually subside of themselves, as a turbulent and muddy pool will become calm and clear if left alone.

Also, become aware of breathing and allow your lungs to work in whatever rhythm seems congenial to them. And for a while just sit listening and feeling breath. But, if possible, don’t call it that. Simply experience the non-verbal happening. You may object that this is not “spiritual” meditation but mere attention to the “physical” world, but it should be understood that the spiritual and the physical are only ideas, philosophical conceptions, and that the reality of which you are now aware is not an idea. Furthermore, there is no “you” aware of it. That was also just an idea. Can you hear yourself listening?

And then begin to let your breath “fall” out, slowly and easily. Don’t force or strain your lungs, but let the breath come out in the same way that you let yourself slump into a comfortable bed. Simply let it go, go, and go. As soon as there is the least strain, just let it come back in as a reflex; don’t pull it in. Forget the clock. Forget to count. Just keep it up for so long as you feel the luxury of it.

(via open culture)

Tags: Alan Watts   Buddhism   video

by Jason Kottke at March 18, 2019 03:05 PM

zen habits

The Underestimated Importance of Encouragement in Habit Change

By Leo Babauta

When we’re trying to change a habit — whether its exercise or meditation or writing or quitting smoking — there are two key factors whose power most people don’t understand.

The two factors are encouragement and discouragement.

Let me walk you through an example. Michael wants to change his diet, and so he creates a healthy meal plan for himself and commits to sticking to that plan for a month.

Here’s are some typical key points within that month of habit change:

  1. He starts the first day, and has a healthy breakfast as planned. He feels encouraged by this good start!
  2. He has a healthy lunch too, and feels encouraged. But then eats a couple donuts that were in the office, and feels really discouraged. This might cause him to eat a burger with fries in the evening, which will get him further discouraged.
  3. He asks some family and friends to keep him accountable in a private Facebook group, and they agree. He feels encouraged! He starts again.
  4. When he eats a healthy breakfast, not only does he feel encouraged, he gets even more encouragement when he gets to post his success to his Facebook group. From this point on, every time he posts his successes, he feels encouraged, and it helps him to keep going.
  5. The weekend comes, and he goes to a couple parties and does not stick to the meal plan. He feels discouraged. He stops posting for a few days on the Facebook group because he feels bad.
  6. Not posting to the group makes him feel even worse. He is discouraged. He keeps eating bad, and gets more discouraged with every meal.

As you can see, the factors of encouragement and discouragement are the two key elements of the journey above. The more encouragement he gets, the better he’s likely to do. The more he feels discouraged, the less likely he’ll be to stick to things.

Luckily for us, we can do things that increase encouragement and decrease discouragement!

Ways to Increase Encouragement and Drop Discouragement

It’s not important to get this all perfect. We can all tolerate a bit of discouragement, and overcome struggle. But the more we can move in the right direction of getting more encouragement, the better our chances of success.

So let’s look at some great ways to increase encouragement:

  1. Get support from others (including joining my Sea Change Program) for your change — report to them regularly, ask them to encourage you.
  2. When things go astray, talk to yourself with encouragement. “You can do this! Get back on track, take the smallest step.” And so on. It’s a key skill.
  3. Put up motivational quotes, inspiration, success stories.
  4. Chart your progress. Show how far you’ve come.
  5. Reward yourself (don’t use food if you’re trying to change your diet, don’t use buying things if you’re getting out of debt).
  6. Mindfully enjoy the actual habit (like finding mindful gratitude as you exercise).
  7. Do the habit with others (go for a walk with other people).
  8. Give yourself stickers.

As you can see, these can be small encouragements. But they make a huge difference.

Some ways to decrease discouragements:

  1. When you mess up or go off your plan … note when you’re feeling discouraged. Reframe this moment as less of a “failure” and more of an opportunity to practice two key habit skills: encouraging yourself and starting again. If you work on these two skills, you’ll get really good at changing habits.
  2. When you miss reporting to people, note your discouragement. Reach out to one person and ask for support and encouragement. Tell them you’re embarrassed you haven’t been reporting, and commit to doing one small step.
  3. When you’re overwhelmed and feeling discouraged, focus on the smallest next step.
  4. When you have a habit streak going (which is encouraging when it is happening), but then the streak breaks (it goes from 47 days in a row to 0!) … notice the discouragement. Instead, think of the cumulative days you’ve been doing the habit, instead of the streak. Notice how much progress you’ve made.
  5. When you feel like you’ve let yourself and others down, practice self-compassion. This is a truly great habit skill to practice.

There are other good ways to decrease discouragement, but the main method is to notice when you’re discouraged, and find ways to encourage yourself, to reframe it as an opportunity, to practice self-compassion, to ask for support, to pick one small step and start again.

by zenhabits at March 18, 2019 01:00 PM

March 15, 2019

kottke.org

The Problem of Writing and Money

Fragonard,_The_Reader - Cut.png

Now this is a lede:

When I first read Virginia Woolf’s dictum that “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” I was homeless.

It follows through on that first punch:

I know half a dozen published authors who’ve had to rely on food stamps. The seedy poverty of the author has been a cliche for centuries. We find the figure of the poor writer already in the medieval era, in the form of poet-clerics called “goliards,” who begged and sang ribald songs in taverns as they wandered from monastery to monastery. Hundreds of years later, in the Beat Generation, the type survived with no essential change. Now a new generation of writers are confronting ever lower and less reliable payment for articles, stingier advances for books, fewer jobs, and smaller royalty checks. A host of new threats to writers’ livelihoods, from internet piracy to the slow-motion collapse of the academic job market, means ever fewer writers are making a middle-class wage.

So, full-disclosure time! I have been on food stamps, as recently as a couple of years ago. I am currently on Medicaid, and thank god for that, because the open market for health care is terrible, and Medicaid is great. (Freelancers, stop paying COBRA or Obamacare and get yourself on Medicaid if you can.)

I have been a professional writer for almost ten years and have only been employed at a full-time job with benefits for (counts fingers) let’s say three of them. The rest of the time, I’ve been on the 1099 economy, piecing together pieces of living from freelance gigs. I have been homeless, and I have lived with family who’ve been much more stable than I have been. My health has never been good, which has made it difficult for me to maintain full-time work when I’ve had it. I have been behind on my child support, but am currently (thank God) current.

I would not say I am devoted to writing, with my poverty a consequence of that devotion. This entire time, I have simply not known what else to do. I have been writing for my life.

There are a lot of us. We don’t always show it.

Most writers I know who’ve been really poor practice similar forms of self-censorship. Sometimes the reasons are obvious even to someone who’s never had money problems. One writer I know went through a patch where he had to report to a subway cleaning crew to keep getting his welfare checks. He talked about this openly to friends, but went through extreme contortions to hide it from a publisher who was considering hiring him. When I was first profiled for a women’s magazine, I had their photographer come to my apartment, only to have her look around and instantly suggest we go out to a park. After that, I had photographers meet me at a richer person’s apartment to save everyone time and embarrassment.

But often the decisions are less clear-cut. Social media, for instance, can be the ideal forum for openly discussing social class—but it’s also notoriously a place where going too far can damage your career. Most of us filter what we say. This affects how we talk about being broke. A post about student debt is safe, but one about living in your car risks losing face and professional standing. It can even come across as a passive-aggressive jab at more affluent people. One writer friend of mine commented: “On Twitter, we make jokes about being poor. We don’t talk about the fucking dread eating through us because we’ll never be stable. We don’t talk about what it means, that we’re on Twitter because we can’t afford therapy or social lives.”

I don’t know what to do about any of this. I can’t promise that I’ll be more forthcoming about this on Twitter, or here on Kottke.org, or anywhere else I write. I do know that my life is changing again, thanks in part to The Amazon Chronicles, and other opportunities coming into my life. I hope it continues to change. I hope it changes for all of us.

I can only testify, right here and now, that poverty and authorship coincide, including authorship that comes with a kind of modest fame. I can testify that there is nothing romantic about it, only the very real life of compromises that Sandra Newman documents so well in this essay. I can testify that talking about and not talking about it can both eat away at you. There is no cure; only doing better and doing worse, only new wounds and a moderate form of relief.

I disagree with Newman on one point. I think there is no real market for stories about poverty, first-person or otherwise. Not really. Maybe in fiction, maybe as a one-off. But one cannot be a writer about poverty in the same way that one can become a writer about technology; and in most cases, being a writer about technology is extremely difficult when one is poor. (You can track my poverty level through my writing subjects: when I’ve done better, I write about gadgets and the business of technology. When I’ve done worse, I write about memoir or pop culture: music, movies, television, comics, the internet. Things accessible from my memory or on my computer for free or cheap.)

People may want to read about what it’s like to be poor, but they don’t want to pay for it. Paying for things is a rich person’s privilege, and people pay for access to material wealth and things that get them closer to it. And in the free economy, people like the lingua franca of pop culture. Simple stories about heroes and villains, that when you scratch them open, tell them bigger stories about themselves and the worlds they live in.

That’s not to say that people can’t be brought to hear a different kind of story, but they do have to be brought there. How to bring them there? That’s what we’re all trying to figure out.

Tags: poverty   writing

by Tim Carmody at March 15, 2019 07:30 PM

A Fan-Made Trailer for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, 2019 Edition

This trailer made by cinematographer and director Morgan Cooper imagines a contemporary reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air that’s a little darker and grittier than the original. I dunno about you, but that’s one of the best fan-made trailers I’ve ever seen. I say give Cooper the show and let him run with it.

Tags: Morgan Cooper   The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air   trailers   TV   video

by Jason Kottke at March 15, 2019 05:25 PM

Tetanus Has Nothing To Do With Rust

Tetanus, popularly called “lockjaw,” is a serious illness, fatal in 10 percent of cases in North America and a larger percentage elsewhere. But despite the popular perception of its association with cutting oneself on a rusty nail, the disease has nothing to do with iron oxide, or rust:

Rather, tetanus is a product of the bacteria Clostridium tetani, which is in dirt, dust, and feces—in other words, everywhere. It can enter your body through puncture wounds, yes, but also through superficial cuts, bug bites, surgical procedures, and any other rupture to your skin. It can come from stepping on a rusty nail, or tending the soil in your garden. That’s why it’s so essential to track your booster shots: You need one every decade, not just when you rip your palm open on a rusty chain link fence. Waiting for a classic tetanus injury won’t work when anything could, in theory, be a tetanus injury.

If the bacteria enter your body and you aren’t up-to-date on your vaccinations, the tiny invaders begin to multiply rapidly. This incubation period, which lasts between three and 21 days, according to the CDC, is symptom free. But as the bacteria begin to die inside you, they form a neurotoxin that attacks the nervous system. Specifically, it inhibits the chemical GABA, which regulates muscle contractions. The result is a body-wide state of tension, from lockjaw in your face to uncontrollable arching spasms in your back to permanently-curled toes.

Luckily, here as elsewhere, tetanus vaccines (a series of three shots and a booster every ten years) work. Get those shots up to date and mind those cuts, no matter where they came from.

Tags: science   tetanus   vaccines

by Tim Carmody at March 15, 2019 04:20 PM

What Counts As Evidence in Mathematics?

Einstein-Blackboard-01.jpg

The ultimate form of argument, and for some, the most absolute form of truth, is mathematical proof. But short of a conclusive proof of a theorem, mathematicians also consider evidence that might 1) disprove a thesis or 2) suggest its possible truth or even avenues for proving that it’s true. But in a not-quite-empirical field, what the heck counts as evidence?

The twin primes conjecture is one example where evidence, as much as proof, guides our mathematical thinking. Twin primes are pairs of prime numbers that differ by 2 — for example, 3 and 5, 11 and 13, and 101 and 103 are all twin prime pairs. The twin primes conjecture hypothesizes that there is no largest pair of twin primes, that the pairs keep appearing as we make our way toward infinity on the number line.

The twin primes conjecture is not the Twin Primes Theorem, because, despite being one of the most famous problems in number theory, no one has been able to prove it. Yet almost everyone believes it is true, because there is lots of evidence that supports it.

For example, as we search for large primes, we continue to find extremely large twin prime pairs. The largest currently known pair of twin primes have nearly 400,000 digits each. And results similar to the twin primes conjecture have been proved. In 2013, Yitang Zhang shocked the mathematical world by proving that there are infinitely many prime number pairs that differ by 70 million or less. Thanks to a subsequent public “Polymath” project, we now know that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that differ by no more than 246. We still haven’t proved that there are infinitely many pairs of primes that differ by 2 — the twin primes conjecture — but 2 is a lot closer to 246 than it is to infinity.

This starts to get really complicated once you leave the relatively straightforward arithmetical world of prime numbers behind, with its clearly empirical pairs and approximating conjectures, and start working with computer models that generate arbitrarily large numbers of mathematical statements, all of which can be counted as evidence.

Patrick Hanner, the author of this article, gives what seems like a simple example: are all lines parallel or intersecting? Then he shows how the models one can use to answer this question vary wildly based on their initial assumptions, in this case, whether one is considering lines in a single geometric plane or lines in an n-dimensional geometric space. As always in mathematics, it comes back to one’s initial set of assumptions; you can “prove” (i.e., provide large quantities of evidence for) a statement with one set of rules, but that set of rules is not the universe.

Tags: argument   computing   evidence   mathematics   proof   science

by Tim Carmody at March 15, 2019 04:00 PM

Penelope Trunk Careers

Here’s the high-priced advice college applicants buy that doesn’t trigger the FBI

Porcelain Pencils by Katharine Morling

The FBI just announced a sting operation that caught 50 rich and famous parents paying millions of dollars to bribe and cheat to get their under-qualified kids into top colleges (and, mysteriously, some not-top colleges). Last year a magnet school in Louisiana, which had been celebrated for getting poor minority students into top schools year after year admitted to lying and cheating to get the kids in.

I’ve been convinced that the college system is broken for a while, so I spent a good part of last year interviewing high-priced college consultants (many who are former staff on admissions committees to top-flight schools).  My goal was to figure out what sort of advice these consultants give parents. I didn’t receive any illegal advice, but I was shocked by how many corners you can cut without breaking any rules.

Here are some tips I learned:

Move to Wyoming. Colleges work hard to get students from each state.  And standards are lower for states with sparse populations. Brown University has an 8% acceptance rate but a 30% acceptance rate from Montana. And colleges are shying away from racial diversity and focusing on diversity of backgrounds. So if you can’t move to Wyoming or Montana, at least go somewhere rural.

Hide your ethnicity. If your name is Jose Gonzales, let the admission committee assume you’re one of the rare qualified hispanic males applying to their school. If you are Asian but your name doesn’t reveal it, consider that Asians need to score much higher than white kids to get into top schools before checking any extra boxes. (If you think this sounds extreme, my family changed their last name in the 1930s to get past Jewish quotas at Harvard. This trick has been working for as long as discrimination has been working.)

Play beach volleyballThere are hundreds of schools with varsity beach volleyball teams including Stanford, Berkeley and UCLA. Give it a try. Seriously. There are no national high school rankings, few club teams, and you don’t even have to be tall. Most cities with sand have free beach volleyball in the evenings. Even in the North. Play enough to know the basics. Then contact recruiters who have no idea how to find sand players. This is not cheating. It’s playing by the rules.

Play violin. So many kids play string instruments that colleges don’t think of it as a hook anymore unless you have some remarkable achievement as a string player. Luckily you can enter this international competition, and for just $600 everyone’s a winner and then everyone gets to perform at the winner’s recital at Carnegie Hall.

Study literature. Colleges need to make sure they have students for their tenured teachers in humanities. It’s a serious problem because so many kids are choosing STEM majors instead. So tell the college you’re planning to study literature. Write your essay about Proust. And then there’s no rule that says you can’t change majors after you start college.

Start a company. So many kids start companies that now admissions officers expect you to report how much your company earned. This is not difficult, even for non-millionaires. Learn to post earnings the same way startup founders post earning: high growth no profits. You’ll be like a pro –– on the cusp of VC funding.

Hire a scientist. The wait list for high schoolers to do volunteer work in a lab or hospital environment is more than two years in in some cities. But you can hire a professor at a major university to do a science experiment with your kid and then write a recommendation to colleges. No waiting!

Homeschool. Stanford accepted 5% of applicants but 27% of homeschoolers. This disparity is because homeschooling gives kids more time to cater to the arcane admission system that colleges set up. Most of what colleges want to see on an application doesn’t happen in school, so why bother being there?

Put a science lab in your bedroom. Wait. No. Don’t. Because the Siemens Science Competition (formerly Westinghouse, then Intel) was shut down because all the kids who were winning had access to their parents’ labs at major universities. Siemens said they thought there were more effective ways for them to promote learning. And then Siemens started giving scholarships to disadvantaged kids.

Yes, we are all outraged about the lengths people will go to get their kids into colleges they don’t deserve to attend. But the truth is that parents are scared. They’re scared that they are not doing enough to help their kid become a successful adult. This is why we want to know what other parents are doing. We want to know what our options are.

If we weren’t so stressed about how to raise our kids we wouldn’t be so outraged that other people are cheating.

And actually, the workplace is just like college admissions. You learn the rules and use them to your advantage. So teach your kids when they’re young that the higher the stakes the game is, the more arcane the rules are. And the more arcane the rules, the more likely it is that you can find a backdoor route to the top.

But pretending the system is a meritocracy encourages more discrimination –– so says economist Robert Frank. And belief that one has succeeded inside a meritocracy leads to more self-congratulatory, selfish behavior. Frank says people who accept that all of life is about skill and luck are much more likely to be thankful and therefore more generous.

Bottom line: Gaming the system is a great idea, but you can’t game the system if you don’t have good grades. Hard work counts too. So raise a kid who has gratitude. Because when it comes to being a happy person, having gratitude is much more important than having a fancy diploma.

by Penelope Trunk at March 15, 2019 01:03 AM

March 14, 2019

kottke.org

This Photo of Farmers Contains No Farmers

This is a photo taken in Germany in 1914 by August Sander:

August Sander Young Farmers

It’s called Young Farmers and it depicts three young men on their way to a dance in rural Germany. But as John Green explains in this video, there is so much more going on with this photo.

From The Tate, which has a print of Young Farmers in its collection:

The Marxist art critic John Berger famously analysed the photograph in his influential essay ‘The Suit and the Photograph’ (1980) writing: ‘The date is 1914. The three young men belong, at the very most, to the second generation who ever wore such suits in the European countryside. Twenty or 30 years earlier, such clothes did not exist at a price which peasants could afford.’ (Berger 1980, p.30.) Berger suggests that these mass market suits, emulating the higher quality attire of the bourgeois urban class, draws attention to, rather than disguises, their ‘social caste’, and not in a particularly flattering sense. In his essay, Berger considers that the three young men are of a social group not beyond the reach of aspirational advertising campaigns and travelling salesmen, and in a state of awkward transition, succumbing to a new ‘cultural hegemony’. The posturing of these three rural ‘lads’, perhaps on their way to a dance, confounds and subverts expectations of the peasant ‘type’, especially in that they smoke cigarettes. Peasants were traditionally depicted smoking a pipe handcrafted from wood, and which like the wooden canes that appear frequently in Sander’s volume of photographs devoted to peasants and farmers, including this one, connoted an organic connection to the native soil as well as a certain time-honoured wisdom. By contrast, the mass-manufactured cigarette was often seen at the time as an urban symbol of social dissolution.

However, Green also cautions that there’s only so much you can infer about people from a photograph (given, for example, that the three men weren’t actually farmers).

This video is from a new-to-me channel called The Art Assignment, which is about art and art history. Subscribed!

Tags: art   August Sander   John Green   photography   video

by Jason Kottke at March 14, 2019 08:14 PM

Quid Pro Quo: The Three-Act Structure of a Thrilling Scene from The Silence of the Lambs

Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs is one of the finest psychological thrillers ever made. In the episode of the always-illuminating Lessons from the Screenplay, the team analyzes a scene from the film with Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling that demonstrates how effective scenes follow the same three act structure as entire movies/books/stories do.

The Lessons team also did a podcast episode about the differences between the screenplay for the film and the book that inspired it.

Tags: Anthony Hopkins   film school   Jodie Foster   Jonathan Demme   Lessons from the Screenplay   movies   The Silence of the Lambs   video

by Jason Kottke at March 14, 2019 06:06 PM

Creatures of Habit

Ron and Diana Watson have been eating dinner at the same restaurant in Wichita 6 nights a week for 15 years. It’s their only meal of the day and they skip the bread because Ron was gaining too much weight from the complimentary dinner rolls.

The ritual is all part of the order Ron Watson likes in his life. A Vietnam veteran, he dines only in restaurants that offer military discounts, and Texas Roadhouse gives vets 10 percent off. He still has some PTSD, he said, and he feels comfortable at table 412, which is a booth at the bar that gives him a good view of the door and everyone coming and going.

The couple also are regular enough customers that they know how to make the most of their money at Texas Roadhouse. Every Sunday through Wednesday, they arrive between 3 and 3:15 p.m. to take advantage of the restaurant’s early bird special, which is available from 3 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and offers a full meal for $9.49.

I’m fascinated by people for whom routine is so important. I definitely have those tendencies; I watch favorite shows and movies repeatedly, wear pretty much the same outfit daily, return to familiar vacation destinations, and order the same dishes at the same restaurants again and again. So much of what I do for kottke.org focuses on finding the new — ideas, people, art, discoveries, culture — that it’s comforting to have parts of my life that aren’t relentlessly novel. But I also make ample time for new experiences that bring happiness & fulfillment into my life…and the rest I put on cruise control. (via tmn)

Tags: food   video

by Jason Kottke at March 14, 2019 03:47 PM

Pi, the Infinite Doorway to Calculus

Happy Pi Day! In celebration of this gloriously nerdy event, mathematician Steven Strogatz wrote about how pi was humanity’s first glimpse of the power of calculus and an early effort to come to grips with the idea of infinity.

As a ratio, pi has been around since Babylonian times, but it was the Greek geometer Archimedes, some 2,300 years ago, who first showed how to rigorously estimate the value of pi. Among mathematicians of his time, the concept of infinity was taboo; Aristotle had tried to banish it for being too paradoxical and logically treacherous. In Archimedes’s hands, however, infinity became a mathematical workhorse.

He used it to discover the area of a circle, the volume of a sphere and many other properties of curved shapes that had stumped the finest mathematicians before him. In each case, he approximated a curved shape by using a large number of tiny straight lines or flat polygons. The resulting approximations were gemlike, faceted objects that yielded fantastic insights into the original shapes, especially when he imagined using infinitely many, infinitesimally small facets in the process.

Here’s a video that runs through Archimedes’ method for calculating pi:

Strogatz’s piece is an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Infinite Powers: How Calculus Reveals the Secrets of the Universe.

Tags: mathematics   pi   Steven Strogatz   video

by Jason Kottke at March 14, 2019 01:33 PM

March 13, 2019

kottke.org

The Most Influential Academic Books in the Last 20 Years

The Chronicle of Higher Education has assembled The New Canon, a list of the most influential books written by academics in the past 20 years or so. The books were chosen by a panel that included sociologist Eric Klinenberg, classics professor Johanna Hanink, and professor of business Sheena Iyengar.

Their picks included Steven Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined:

It was a best seller, discussed and praised and criticized by both scholars and public intellectuals. Better Angels defends, at great length, a controversial claim, which is that violence is declining, both in the short run and the long run — and so, in a very important way, the world is getting better. Pinker is far from the first to make this argument, but he presents the most persuasive case. Better Angels also explores, at equally great length, psychological and social theories for why this is so, and illustrates that an evolutionary-psychology approach to the mind can give us considerable insight into how societies change over time.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander:

Michelle Alexander, a legal scholar, activist, and now a columnist for The New York Times, argues that the “war on drugs,” beginning with the Nixon administration and flourishing under Reagan, Bush, and Clinton, shifted antipoverty resources into an infinite war on crime that disproportionately targets black communities and robs the majority of black men in urban areas of their full citizenship. Fusing legal studies and history, Alexander demonstrates how America’s prison-industrial complex is the latest chapter in the nation’s tragic racial history. Her thesis not only touched scholars but also transformed the public’s understanding of structural racism in the American justice system.

Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality by Elizabeth Armstrong & Laura Hamilton is a timely choice given the unfolding college admissions investigation by the FBI:

The book is an ethnographic account of the lives of first-year women college students living on a “party floor” at a selective public university they call Midwest U. Varied in their social-class backgrounds, the students have profoundly different pathways through college. Poor and working-class young women face formidable obstacles to completing their degrees, while the children of upper middle class professionals pursue meaningful majors and vocations. At the same time, the daughters of the wealthiest, socialite families join sororities, and party their way through easy majors, graduation, and, beyond that, socially connected jobs.

If this were a book about no more than individual-level educational inequalities, the story might end there. But this is not that book. Instead, the authors use a cultural and organizational lens to show how the university itself is complicit in shaping students’ academic pursuits, social lives, and job opportunities in socially patterned ways.

Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community:

Americans participate less in group activities that entail coordination and cooperation toward a common purpose. Instead they engage more in activities that take place less regularly, in smaller groups or in isolation. They are less likely to play sports on teams, more likely to watch sports or to exercise at home. The book identifies trends that scholars and journalists continue to analyze and dissect 18 years later, culminating in the recent avalanche of books and essays describing how handheld devices now contribute to the breakdown of community.

Bowling Alone inspired my pal Scott Heiferman to start Meetup.

Tags: best of   books   lists

by Jason Kottke at March 13, 2019 10:34 PM

Bauhaus-Style Logos of Famous Brands

Bauhaus Logo

Bauhaus Logo

Bauhaus Logo

To commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus design movement, 99designs challenged their community of designers to reimagine the logos of famous brands in a Bauhaus style. (via moss & fog)

Tags: design   logos   remix

by Jason Kottke at March 13, 2019 06:37 PM

A Last Lesson: Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s Return Home To Vietnam

Thich Nhat Hanh became a Buddhist monk in Vietnam in 1942 and became known over the next few decades as a teacher and peace activist during the Vietnam War, at one point urging Martin Luther King Jr. to publicly denounce the war. For his activism, Nhat Hanh was denied entry back into Vietnam for nearly 40 years.

Thich Nhat Hanh Mlk

Now 92 years old, world-renowned as a spiritual leader, and ailing from the aftermath of a stroke he suffered in 2014, Nhat Hanh has returned to his original temple in Vietnam to live out his final days.

The monk’s return to Vietnam to end his life can thus be seen as a message to his disciples. “Thay’s intention is to teach [the idea of] roots and for his students to learn they have roots in Vietnam,” says Thich Chan Phap An, the head of Nhat Hanh’s European Institute of Applied Buddhism. “Spiritually, it’s a very important decision.”

Vox’s Eliza Barclay interviewed Phap Dung, one of Nhat Hanh’s senior disciples, and asked him what his teacher might be trying to say by returning to Vietnam.

He’s definitely coming back to his roots.

He has come back to the place where he grew up as a monk. The message is to remember we don’t come from nowhere. We have roots. We have ancestors. We are part of a lineage or stream.

It’s a beautiful message, to see ourselves as a stream, as a lineage, and it is the deepest teaching in Buddhism: non-self. We are empty of a separate self, and yet at the same time, we are full of our ancestors.

He has emphasized this Vietnamese tradition of ancestral worship as a practice in our community. Worship here means to remember. For him to return to Vietnam is to point out that we are a stream that runs way back to the time of the Buddha in India, beyond even Vietnam and China.

Tags: Buddhism   death   Eliza Barclay   religion   Thich Nhat Hanh   Vietnam

by Jason Kottke at March 13, 2019 04:29 PM

Hiking Interactions

Comedian Miel Bredouw packed every single type of interaction you’re ever going to have with another human being on a hiking trail into a video less than 40 seconds long. As a semi-frequent Vermont hiker (including this recent winter hike), I can vouch for every single one of these. They’re all here: the friendly dog greeting, the sing-song “hello”, the running “excuse me”, and the classic “hey how ya doin?” My go-to is usually the panting “hey”.

Tags: hiking   Miel Bredouw   sports   video

by Jason Kottke at March 13, 2019 02:18 PM

March 12, 2019

zen habits

How to Do Your Scariest Tasks of the Day, with Joy

By Leo Babauta

In my Fearless Training Program, one of our members talked about how she gets a lot done during the day, but inevitably puts off her two scariest tasks, and doesn’t get them done.

Does that sound familiar to you? Putting off the hardest tasks of the day is a common affliction for most of us.

That wouldn’t necessarily be the worst thing, except that this often means the most important work doesn’t get done. The most meaningful work, our passion project or dream, keeps getting pushed back to another day.

Our days are too precious for this. We treat them like an unlimited resource, but how many do we have left? None of us know. But we do know that it’s a limited number, and they are incredibly valuable.

So how do we change this habit? We stop running from the fear and start moving towards it. We let it become our training ground.

Let’s look at how to train.

Creating a Sacred Training Container

It’s important not to take this lightly. We have age-old habits of putting off our scary, hard tasks, and just saying, “I’m going to change” is not enough.

We have to take this seriously. The way to do that is to create a container for our training. Think of it like a boxing ring where you train, or a yoga mat, or a meditation hall. It has boundaries that make it special, and that keep you in the training area.

Think of this as a sacred space. It’s sacred because you have elevated it above all the other ordinary things you have to do for the day. In this special space, you are going to go towards your fear, and allow your habitual patterns to shift.

Here’s how you might create that container:

  1. Have a time of day when you train. Just as if you were going to go to a dojo to train — set a time. Will it be first thing in the morning, or right after lunch? Block it off on your calendar, set an alarm, and tell others that this is your training space.
  2. Have a place set aside for this training. If it’s computer-based work (like writing or doing your finances), move to a different space to work on your laptop — like at a coffee shop or a different room in your house than you use to do your usual daily activities. You should move into this space each day and feel that this is your training space.
  3. Create a starting ritual, where you set your intention for the training session. As you start, instead of just rushing to get the task done, pause. Take a moment to be intentional about how you enter this space and start training. Think of it as a sacred space. Set an intention for how you’ll practice during this training session — will you show up fully, and work with devotion?
  4. Let there be only one thing you can do during this session. While you’re in this training container, this sacred space … let yourself do nothing but the task you’ve chosen to do. For me right now, that’s writing this article. I don’t allow myself to switch to other tasks, to check my phone, to clean my house, to do anything but this single task. Let this be your most important rule. This sacred space is for nothing but training in uncertainty, pushing into fear, opening up in the middle of chaos with joy.
  5. Pour yourself into it, with devotion. Now do the task you’ve been putting off, pouring your entire being into it. Do it not only for yourself, but for the love of those you serve. For example, I’m doing this out of love for all of you, my readers. You might do it for your team members, your customers, your family. What would it be like to do this fully, with complete devotion? Do we ever pour ourselves into tasks like this?
  6. Close out with a bow of gratitude. Set a timer for this session (it only has to be for 10 minutes, even 5 if that’s too much), and when it goes off, allow yourself to close out the practice. Don’t just rush into the next task in your day. Close it out as if this were the end of a special meditation, an important martial arts training session. Bow to the practice, and to yourself, out of gratitude. Make this feel special. Actually, we can bring this specialness to every activity.

That’s the training container. Can you feel how this would elevate your training, to create a container like this?

How to Train, with Joy

Training in doing the things that scare you doesn’t have to be torture. In fact, it can be joyous.

To start with, what’s the scariest thing on your todo list? Pick that for your training session today, and create the container as we talked about above.

Then try these ideas to bring joy to the training:

  1. Play some music. As you start, feel free to play some music. Brew some nice tea. Light candles if you like. Do what it takes to make this a pleasant experience. Music can even make the training fun.
  2. Drop into your body. The training becomes a meditation if you drop your attention into your body, noticing the uncertainty you’re feeling, the physical sensation of it. Where is it located in your body? What does the sensation feel like? This is the training, to be present with the fear, the anxiety, the resistance, instead of running from it.
  3. Stay with the sensation, with curiosity. Bring a sense of curiosity to the sensation, exploring it like it’s the first time you’ve ever had this experience. What is it like, right now? Can you stay with it for longer? Can you find gratitude for it? Can you be open, relaxed, even joyous with it?
  4. Dance with the chaos. Feeling this uncertainty, you can begin to dance. Literally, you can dance — let your body move to the music as you do the work. But also figuratively — you are playing with this uncertainty, dancing with the chaos, having fun with whatever you normally run from. Let it be a game, let it be joyful, let it be an adventure.

Keep doing the task that you find scary, that you would normally put off, but do it with this sense of mindfulness, of dancing, of curiosity and gratitude and relaxation and joy.

by zenhabits at March 12, 2019 11:27 PM

kottke.org

Float

Float is a feature-length documentary film directed by Phil Kibbe about “the ultra-competitive sport of elite, stunningly-designed indoor model airplanes”. The main action of the film takes place at the F1D World Championships in Romania, where competitors from all over the world build delicately beautiful rubber-band-powered airplanes and compete to keep them afloat the longest.

After devoting years of time into construction and practice for no material reward, glory becomes their primary incentive. Like any competition, cheating and controversy are an integral part of the sport. FLOAT follows the tumultuous journey of Brett Sanborn and Yuan Kang Lee, two American competitors as they prepare for and compete at the World Championships.

“Designing, building, and flying the planes is truly an experience that requires patience and zen-like focus,” says Ben Saks, producer and subject in the film.

Float began as a Kickstarter project back in 2012…congrats to the team for their patience in getting it finished.

Tags: Float   flying   movies   Phil Kibbe   trailers   video

by Jason Kottke at March 12, 2019 09:13 PM

Archaeologists Discover Mayan Chamber Untouched for 1000 Years

While exploring the ground underneath the ancient Mayan city of Chichén Itzá in Mexico, archaeologists found a ritual chamber stuffed with artifacts untouched for more than 1000 years.

Maya Untouched Cave

De Anda recalls pulling himself on his stomach through the tight tunnels of Balamku for hours before his headlamp illuminated something entirely unexpected: A cascade of offerings left by the ancient residents of Chichén Itzá, so perfectly preserved and untouched that stalagmites had formed around the incense burners, vases, decorated plates, and other objects in the cavern.

“I couldn’t speak, I started to cry. I’ve analyzed human remains in [Chichén Itzá’s] Sacred Cenote, but nothing compares to the sensation I had entering, alone, for the first time in that cave,” says de Anda, who is an investigator with INAH and director of the Great Maya Aquifer Project, which seeks to explore, understand, and protect the aquifer of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.

“You almost feel the presence of the Maya who deposited these things in there,” he adds.

Oddly, the cave was explored by an archaeologist back in 1966, but he ordered the entrance sealed up and the chamber and the objects contained within were forgotten until now.

Tags: archaeology   Maya civilization   Mexico

by Jason Kottke at March 12, 2019 06:08 PM

Spacing Toronto: understanding the urban landscape

LORINC: How to reframe Toronto’s 2020 budget debate

I imagine Mayor John Tory, like all good conservatives of his generation and breeding, worshipped at the alter of Michael Wilson, the storied Bay Street investment banker who served as Brian Mulroney’s finance minister during the 1980s and who passed away last month.

Wilson may have been best known, in recent years, for his advocacy of mental health issues, a place he came to following the suicide of his son. But he was also the author of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which the federal Tories introduced, to a tidal wave of kvetching, in 1990; the 7% tax came into effect on January 1991.

Unless I missed something, the sky did not subsequently fall.

Wilson’s move, motivated by a desire to replace the broken and productivity-destroying manufacturing sales tax, was a rarity: Conservatives, even moderates, don’t like to tax. Stephen Harper’s Conservatives spent their years in power ripping holes in the federal treasury, offering up bespoke tax breaks to politically desirable voter blocks and corporations, and then hacking two points off the HST.

Indeed, if one looks at the past generation or so, the number of times Canadian governments have sought to stabilize or diversify their revenues – decisions that private businesses make all time — can be counted on two hands: the Paul Martin government’s stealthy hike to CPP premiums to prevent the gutting of Canada’s public pension system; occasional moves by various governments to index tax brackets to inflation; the federal Liberals’ 2007 gas tax; the anti-speculation taxes imposed in Ontario and British Columbia; and David Miller’s land transfer tax.

It’s a short list. We’re better at starving governments than providing them with the resources they require to deliver the services Canadians demand. We’re also adept at failing to connect the dots when the public sector begins to buckle.

Which brings me back to our mayor’s stubborn and infuriating unwillingness heed countless warnings and make unpopular fiscal decisions which are not only demonstrably necessary (e.g., Exhibit 358, the city’s inability to clear snow and ice this winter), but will also be praised by future municipal leaders and Torontonians who benefit by them. I know Tory remembers Wilson and his achievements. I don’t know why he won’t learn from them.

Poor judgment is always an explanation. I suppose Tory may be biding his time until the city’s not in the throes of a difficult negotiation with a hostile provincial regime (which is to say, never). Or maybe he just can’t grasp the principle that stewardship is integral to good governance – that you hand the thing off to the next group in at least the same shape as you found it.

I have two suggestions for turning this page, though both will require Tory to get out of his complacent comfort zone and actually show leadership.

The first has to do with framing. There was much talk this budget season about using inflation as a guideline for increasing property taxes. With the exception of the early years of Mel Lastman’s first term and a couple of years of Rob Ford’s administration, post-amalgamation Toronto council has limited property tax increases to the rate of inflation, give or take a few basis points. If more revenue is required, the city hikes its many fees and levies, or lobbies for cash transfers from the other orders. Miller alone pushed through two new tax levies, only one of which survived the meat grinder. It has kept the city in the black for much of the past decade, although, as Gil Meslin brilliantly demonstrated in this tweet storm, the LTT has left the city vulnerable to cyclical downturns in the real estate market.

The economic assumption underlying the rate-of-inflation increase is that the city’s property tax dollar shouldn’t shrink. But the very premise is incorrect in a city that adds 30,000 to 50,000 people per year. If Toronto’s population grows by more than a percentage point annually, the actual amount required to ensure that the city’s revenues remain merely stable is rate-of-inflation plus rate of growth. After all, those new Torontonians use the roads, go the library, sometimes need emergency assistance, and so on; it makes no sense that the accepted baseline doesn’t acknowledge this demographic fact of life.

So recommendation one is that the city – residents, businesses, civil society groups, political leaders, etc. — need to permanently reframe the evidentiary baseline for revenue increases. Rate of inflation means going backwards. That’s become achingly clear.

Proposal two has to do with the importance of creating political space within which a timorous regime can consider a course correction. The most outspoken and high profile advocate for new revenue tools in recent years was former city manager Peter Wallace, who fought the good fight and then decamped for more clear-headed pastures.

But most politicians know that bureaucrats, even those willing to speak truth to power, do not make a constituency. They may provide trenchant and compelling analysis and evidence, but they can’t deliver much in the way of political cover.

As I watched this year’s budget follies, I was struck by all the voices I didn’t hear. Indeed, I think it’s fair to say that most of the Toronto-focused civil society groups that offer up various views on municipal government were completely MIA, even though many of those advocates privately agree that the city is in the grips of a self-inflicted and steadily accelerating revenue crisis.

Let’s name names. The Toronto Region Board of Trade? Silence. Civic Action? Same. Likewise the United Way of Greater Toronto, BILD GTA, the Ontario Home Builders Association, the city’s powerful residents’ association networks (e.g., FONTRA), the hotel and restaurant lobby, arts and cultural umbrella organizations, the universities, etc., etc. Check out the list of people or groups who submitted letters or made presentations to the budget committee. Civil society was a no-show. Really, the only significant counter-narrative came from a research group at Ryerson that produced a timely report showing how the City of Toronto’s tax rates lagged those of most 905 municipalities.

I’m not so stupid as to think that all these organizations agree on the policy fixes. But absent an effort at finding and then promoting some kind of consensus — as happened a generation ago when the United Way, under Anne Golden’s leadership, pushed the city to adopt the poverty-by-postal code approach to understanding the geography of poverty – nothing will change.

It’s dead easy for Tory to ignore the progressive voices advocating for new revenue tools and fiscal stability. My hypothesis, however, is that he’d be more challenged to sideline groups elsewhere on the political spectrum. Indeed, they’re the ones that could deliver enough political cover for him to advance the sort of changes required to put the City of Toronto on a more sustainable financial footing.

In my view, the Toronto 2020 budget season should and indeed must begin now, and in particular among the city’s non-government organizations. They all know precisely what the problem is, and the gravity of the threat that it poses.

You know who you are. Start talking.

photo by Martyn (cc)

The post LORINC: How to reframe Toronto’s 2020 budget debate appeared first on Spacing Toronto.

by John Lorinc at March 12, 2019 05:00 PM

Book Review – Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places

Author:  Jeff Speck (Island Press, 2018)

When I reviewed Walkable City, the precursor to this book by Jeff Speck in 2013, I was in a much different place in my life. Living at the edge of transit, I was able to walk anywhere I needed, took the Skytrain daily to work or other appointments. I was an avid walker, and would do everything I could to walk wherever I needed, whenever possible. Fast forward six years (which in it of itself is a head spinning realization) and I now live on the vast outreaches of suburbia, where only those with a car survive. The commute time via transit from my home is a whopping two hours and thirty-seven minutes one way, and I now have a three year old, with another on the way. I can’t lose five hours of my day with them and my wife; it just isn’t feasible. I was lucky enough that I was able to purchase an electric car, to assuage some of my guilt, but I even felt it in my health and my weight as the step count started dwindling.

Luckily, at around exactly this moment, I was presented with the opportunity to review Speck’s newest book, Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places, and it fits as a perfect successor to what was one of my all-time favorite books on urbanism. In Walkable City Rules, Speck has broken the book out into an admittedly arbitrary 101 steps spread across nineteen chapters. Each chapter selects a different urban planning issue and, within each issue, Speck highlights five more detailed aspects to focus on.

The book reads like a manual, and in fact, one of the constant comments Speck received after Walkable City was released, was that it would be easier for individuals and planners to have a source guide they could use to accompany them into committee meetings to prove their points. In Walkable City, the information was in anecdotal form, which was why it was easy to digest. What Speck has done with Rules is added that next step, where the layout and subject depth allow for real change to take place. He lays the roadmap and provides the tools for intrepid individuals to seek out their local planners and try to make an impact in their community.

There are sections such as Sell Walkability, Get The Parking Right, Let Transit Work, Make Sidewalks Right, and Start with Safety to name but a select few, and each one is no more than two pages of content. This allows the reader to get to the heart of the matter. Further to that, each item is numbered.  For instance, in the section Make Sidewalks Right, item 78 is Put Street Trees Almost Everywhere. This then leads to a two page spread on the value of protecting sidewalks with trees and the efficacy of doing so…..or not doing so as in the case on Orlando’s Colonial Drive where he states “compared [to] a segment of roadway with street trees and other vertical objects along it…the segment with no trees experienced 45% more injurious crashes and many more fatal crashes: six vs. zero”. He not only speaks to safety, but also to ecological and financial reasons for each rule, and it is this breadth of topic that allows almost anyone to use items no matter the pushback or argument.

There were certain sections of the book that even I took issue with. At times, Speck was able to sway me and others he wasn’t; the point being that he doesn’t need to convince everyone on everything. At the end of the day, there is more than enough ammunition for the engaged individual to make a case for almost any urban planning change one would like to see.

One often hears that starting a family changes one’s perspectives. This held true for my wife and I. We chose the location we did for the schools, both of which are walking distance for our children (elementary and high school). There are ample studies (including in this very book) about how walking to school positively affects a child’s health and mental wellbeing. However, as mentioned earlier, not all is positive. My wife and I have already planned a trip to council to discuss a number of challenging issues also referred to by Speck. For example, the street design promotes speeding despite the limits posted, there are no crosswalks in the immediate area (pedestrian controlled or otherwise), and there are no sidewalks on our side of the road. All of these items combined add up to a terrifying vision of our kids crossing the streets to get to school daily without any of these basic features.

But with Speck’s book in hand, we’ll sit down at our council meeting, we’ll meet with the planners and discuss what needs to happen. This is how change works, after all…..and this is what Speck is driving at. Walkable City Rules is meant to be solid guidebook for those interested in increasing the safety and ecological working of our streets, the financial bottom line of our cities budgets, and the health of its citizens. Speck has done all the above and more, and we are lucky to have him as our urban champion.

***

For more information on Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places visit the Island Press website

**

Jeremy Senko is happily lost in the world of theoretical architecture and design. He is forever a student at heart, consistently reading, experiencing and learning about the world he inhabits. More specifically, he recently completed his Bachelor of Interior Design at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, where he pushed the limits (and the patience) of his professors.

The post Book Review – Walkable City Rules: 101 Steps to Making Better Places appeared first on Spacing National.

by Jeremy Senko at March 12, 2019 05:00 PM

kottke.org

Pegasus by Jean-Michel Basquiat, “the Most Beautiful Drawing Ever”

Pegasus Basquiat

The drawing above is Pegasus by Jean-Michel Basquiat. His first art dealer, Annina Nosei, once called it “the most beautiful drawing ever”. I am not going to disagree with her. I’ve only seen Basquiat’s work sporadically, mostly single paintings included in larger exhibitions with Warhols and Harings, but when I saw Pegasus in this short video about the artist’s life & work, it grabbed me, an instant favorite.

The drawing is held in a private collection, but I hope I get to see it in person someday. For more on Basquiat, check out the 2009 documentary Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child.

Tags: Annina Nosei   art   Jean-Michel Basquiat   video

by Jason Kottke at March 12, 2019 04:03 PM

Photos of the Women Clearing One of the Largest Minefields in the World

Sri Lanka Deminers

Sri Lanka Deminers

Photographer Allison Joyce has been in Sri Lanka photographing the women clearing one of the biggest minefields in the world. The mines were left over from the Sri Lankan civil war and the women are employed by NGO HALO Trust.

Landmines were used in vast quantities by both sides at different stages of the fighting in the north. From 2010 to 2012, HALO deminers removed over 30,000 mines a year. By 2014 the total had fallen to 16,000 annually, but those remaining threaten the most economically vulnerable people in the country. Mines present an obstacle to the safe return of internally displaced people (IDPs) and prevent access to paddy fields, fishing jetties and grazing land affecting the lives and livelihoods of thousands of people.

HALO remains the largest international mine action operator in the country. Our 830 staff, including a large proportion of former IDPs, work in the Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu districts. Fifty percent of our deminers are women, many of them war widows with children to support.

In Focus and The Guardian have photo essays about the women and their work.

Tags: Allison Joyce   photography   Sri Lanka   war

by Jason Kottke at March 12, 2019 02:01 PM

March 11, 2019

kottke.org

How to Play Pac-Man

The highest score a player can get in Pac-Man is 3,333,360. In a fascinating recent article on the game, Cat DeSpira doesn’t tell us how to play the digital game on the screen but instead shows how people interact with the physical artifact of the cabinet while playing Pac-Man. Specifically, she notes that the particular pattern of wear on the sides of Pac-Man machines arises from the nature of the game.

Pac-Man wear pattern

Pac-Man is more of a driving game than a maze game. As you’re playing, you’re jamming that joystick left and right, up and down, movements that shifts your right shoulder forward and back, rocking your body side to side. When the going gets tough, and the ghosts start closing in, all of this rocking motion compels you to lean into the game and, whether you realize you’re doing it or not, you’re going to grab onto the game. You actually need to get a grip…on something. You’re either going to lean hard against your left palm as it rests on the control panel which isn’t comfortable for very long or, like most people, you’re going to grab the side of the game and hold on tight. You have to or you’ll lose your balance. You can’t take the sharp corners smoothly and quickly without doing this, ether. You need the extra stabilization to move Pac-Man around the corners accurately.

Many owners have “restored” the worn sides of their games so they look like new, but DeSpira argues that covers up a vital aspect of gaming history:

Pac-Man’s worn left-side is part of the game’s provenance. It’s unique only to Pac-Man games, including Ms. Pac-Man. It’s evidence left by “Pac-Mania” and also evidence of how the game was really played. It’s a time signature left by a generation of the first gamers. It’s history that should be preserved intact. It tells a story that we’ll never see written again.

Why anyone would want to destroy something that reflects a cultural phenomenon in gaming boggles my mind. It’s confusing even more to me that people can’t see it, can’t see the worn side of the game and know exactly what put it there and find it beautiful — hands. Thousands of human hands. Millions, even. Hands of many colors, many sizes; white collar hands, blue collar hands, no-collar hands. Hands that put a quarter in a machine that was attacked by the press as being “addicting” and “unhealthy”. Ordinances were passed that helped kill the video craze off early because of Pac-man, because a generation of newly risen gamers couldn’t keep their hands off it and, in a free country, shouldn’t have been expected to anyway. That scar was put there by an act of defiance.

(thx, s. ben)

Tags: Cat DeSpira   Pac-Man   video games

by Jason Kottke at March 11, 2019 08:03 PM

The Robots Are Coming for Our Jobs (Thank God)

At SXSW, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was asked by an audience member about the economic challenge of a significant percentage of our labor force being replaced by automation. She responded, in part, by suggesting we decouple the idea of employment with being able to remain alive:

We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work. We should not feel nervous about the toll booth collector not having to collect tolls anymore. We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where if you don’t have a job, you are left to die. And that is, at its core, our problem.

Then she went on to say:

We should be excited about automation, because what it could potentially mean is more time educating ourselves, more time creating art, more time investing in and investigating the sciences, more time focused on invention, more time going to space, more time enjoying the world that we live in. Because not all creativity needs to be bonded by wage.

Her full answer, including a bit about “automated inequality”, is worth worth watching in full, starting at ~55:15:

In a 1970 article in New York magazine, the architect and futurist Buckminster Fuller wrote about the collision of technology and “this nonsense of earning a living”:

We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.

(thx to @claytoncubitt for the AOC-Fuller connection)

Tags: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez   Buckminster Fuller   video   working

by Jason Kottke at March 11, 2019 05:47 PM

A Day in the Life at a Bell Labs Datacenter in the Late 60s

Larry Luckham was a manager at a Bell Labs data center in Oakland in the late 60s and early 70s. One day, he captured daily life at the company with his camera.

Bell Labs, 69-70

Bell Labs, 69-70

Bell Labs, 69-70

Note how many of his coworkers were women, including women of color. From The Secret History of Women in Coding:

A good programmer was concise and elegant and never wasted a word. They were poets of bits. “It was like working logic puzzles — big, complicated logic puzzles,” Wilkes says. “I still have a very picky, precise mind, to a fault. I notice pictures that are crooked on the wall.”

What sort of person possesses that kind of mentality? Back then, it was assumed to be women. They had already played a foundational role in the prehistory of computing: During World War II, women operated some of the first computational machines used for code-breaking at Bletchley Park in Britain. In the United States, by 1960, according to government statistics, more than one in four programmers were women. At M.I.T.’s Lincoln Labs in the 1960s, where Wilkes worked, she recalls that most of those the government categorized as “career programmers” were female. It wasn’t high-status work — yet.

Tags: Larry Luckham   photography

by Jason Kottke at March 11, 2019 04:01 PM

Rands In Repose

The One About Process

In this episode, we talk about process being documented culture. How do we keep all the plates spinning? Who are good plate spinners? Why are there plates in the first place? This and more is answered in this episode of The Important Thing.

Enjoy it now or download for later. Here’s a handy feed or subscribe via Overcast or iTunes.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/rands/theimportantthing0008.mp3

by rands at March 11, 2019 03:12 PM

kottke.org

Tiny Private Mind-Motions

Prompted by a line from a poem by Tracy K. Smith, Sam Anderson writes about the thoughts that come unbidden to our minds during the course of our day.

Every morning, when I screw the lid onto my steaming thermos of coffee, I think to myself, automatically, the phrase “heat capture.” I have no idea why. I’ve never used that phrase in any other context in my life. And yet I couldn’t stop it if I tried. After years of this, I finally mentioned it to my wife, who revealed a similar habit: Every night, when she shuts the bedroom blinds, she thinks to herself the ridiculous words, “Sleep Chamber: Complete.” She said she kind of hates it because it makes her feel as if she’s living in an episode of “Star Trek,” but she has no choice.

Anderson calls these involuntary thoughts “tiny, private mind-motions”. I have a bunch of these — saying “hey” to the tiny pareidolia faces hidden in my bathroom’s wood paneling, recasting the word “debris” as “derbis” — but the one I’ve been noticing the most lately is nearly every time I run across a two-syllable word or phrase, my brain responds with the Batman jingle.

Na na na na na na na na na na na na snack bags!
Na na na na na na na na na na na na passport!
Na na na na na na na na na na na na Meek Mill!
Na na na na na na na na na na na na sport mode!
Na na na na na na na na na na na na Kottke!

(via na na na na na na na na na na na na craig mod)

Tags: language   Sam Anderson

by Jason Kottke at March 11, 2019 01:57 PM

March 10, 2019

Penelope Trunk Careers

Are you hoping that I’m over the Farmer and you don’t have to read about him anymore?

I check the farmer’s blog obsessively for any updates, which takes a lot of energy partially because he never writes on it but mostly because I have to work really hard at all the mental gymnastics I use to justify to myself what I’m even doing on there in the first place.

But now I know. I was looking for evidence that he thinks about me as much as I think about him. I wonder all the time – does he miss me when he’s sorting pigs for market? I did that with him. And I miss doing that with him.

Maybe that’s asking for too much, because I was always letting a slightly-too-small pig get through the gate. But what about living inside the blue and red and yellow walls? The colors I picked to paint inside the house are so cozy. Do they make him think of me?

The answer is no. Because he got married in December. I’ve watched the video 50 times. His family is so, so happy in the video. They were never that happy around me.

The farmer is happy, too. Happier in the video than I’ve ever seen him. Maybe it’s that he’s getting to be the center of attention – he loves that.

Maybe you’re thinking that he could never be the center of attention with me around. But, actually, being the center of attention is hard for me. Which is why I hid at my first wedding and then there were only five people at my second wedding. I’m generally happy to go along with whatever someone else wants. That’s why dating him was so easy.

But once we were together it became clear that my kids are the center of my attention. His family is like most farm families – all the attention goes to the land. I don’t think he could have ever imagined how much time, energy, and resources I’d give to my kids.

The farmer was honest from the start that he loved the land more than he loved me. People told me that’s how farmers are and I loved him, so I thought it was OK.

Until I saw this video, I didn’t realize that maybe he was excited to be with me because he had never been loved more than the land. But I loved my kids more than I loved him. So he was still second.

The woman he married seems nice – I think I can tell that from the video. So I am not surprised that he’s so happy. I am surprised that he crawled under her dress and pulled her garter down with his teeth.

To say I would never do that is the only way I can think to talk about it. Because the only thing that matters is that he loved doing it. He did a victory dance afterwards, garter in mouth, fists pumping in the air. And she is laughing with joy.

I don’t think I will be reading the farmer’s blog anymore. I think I was reading it to try to understand who I am now and how I got here. Because there is no way to get where I want to be if I can’t tell the story about where I’ve been.

People tell me I don’t charge enough to rewrite resumes. I used to worry those people were right, but now I don’t.

I charge less than most people to rewrite a resume because it’s a privilege to help someone find the story of where they’ve been. The story you tell about your past determines where you can  go in the future. If you never get a story that feels right to you, you get stuck there – this is just as true in your professional life as it is in your personal life. Stories are what we use to make sense of our world. And every time I help someone rewrite theirs I’m practicing for the next time I’ll need to rewrite my own.

by Penelope Trunk at March 10, 2019 04:21 AM

March 08, 2019

kottke.org

My Favorite Secret Social Network

peach emoji.png

If, for some reason, you join Peach, and you find my handle there, and you add me as a friend — maybe we’re IRL friends, or friends from other social network, or we used to work together, or you know me from here or someplace else — don’t be surprised if I don’t reciprocate your friendship right away.

Being Peach friends is a very special thing, and it doesn’t map neatly onto other kinds of friendship, digital or otherwise. The only way to know if someone is a good Peach friend is if they’ve been a good friend on Peach, which above all means one is supportive, discreet, and chill. The only other way to know if someone is a good Peach friend is if they’re not one of the people you go to Peach to talk about with your discreet, supportive, supremely chill Peach friends.

Confused? Yeah, it’s confusing to me too. The best effort at sorting it out in public so far is by Navneet Alang, who in “Notes on Peach” writes about why a small handful of us love this buggy, unreliable, deeply unpopular social network so much:

Most of all, there is no central feed. Instead, you have to click on each friend’s individual profile, which, first, limits the number of people you want to have on it, and second, makes things weirdly intimate, confessional, like you’re really writing to yourself and other people just happen to read. Of the odd mix that makes up my friend list of about fifteen—a couple of IRL friends, a few pals from Twitter, and a few complete strangers in another country—most use it as a sort of ongoing diary for the things you can’t say elsewhere, a release valve from the glare of Twitter. It is the sort of app where you talk about having a headache, the fact that you’re horny, a memory you have of your father that still fucks you up, and of course, pictures of your dog, mostly to a cobbled-together group of people you’ve never even met who, for some unknown reason, have all agreed not to judge.

I am the sort of person who has posted the following tweets in public, under my government name:

Writing is like sex because there are so many different ways to do it for the wrong reasons and with the wrong people

— Tim Carmody (@tcarmody) August 26, 2017

Writing is like sex in that people say I'm really good at it, but eventually they all decide I'm not worth the trouble

— Tim Carmody (@tcarmody) August 26, 2017

I’m posting them here again because frankly, I don’t think they got enough attention the first time. That’s who I am and what I’m about.

I blush to think at my Peach posts ever being made public. Or even private in a different context.

That’s what Peach is for. It is a place to be real with people who’ve chosen to be real with you. It’s friendly, it’s therapeutic, it’s cathartic. It’s necessary. When it’s not around, those of us who use it go a little bit mad.

We’ve come to lean on confessing out loud. And there are no priests left who can be trusted any more. The only thing we can trust is benign neglect.

Is that the next phase of the web? The web that hardly works, where no one’s paying attention because no one really cares? (Except your friends, including strangers, who somehow care so much?)1

As Bill Callahan wrote, “Everyone’s got their own thing that they yell into a well.”

Tags: social media

by Tim Carmody at March 08, 2019 08:15 PM

Remaking the Servant Economy

Artus_Wolffort_-_The_Scullery_Maid.jpg

Alexis Madrigal looks at the vast body of “Uber-for-X” sharing economy companies and sees something that’s historically new, but very familiar:

The haves and the have-nots might be given new names: the demanding and the on-demand. These apps concretize the wild differences that the global economy currently assigns to the value of different kinds of labor. Some people’s time and effort are worth hundreds of times less than other people’s. The widening gap between the new American aristocracy and everyone else is what drives both the supply and demand of Uber-for-X companies.

The inequalities of capitalist economies are not exactly news. As my colleague Esther Bloom pointed out, “For centuries, a woman’s social status was clear-cut: either she had a maid or she was one.” Domestic servants—to walk the dog, do the laundry, clean the house, get groceries—were a fixture of life in America well into the 20th century. In the short-lived narrowing of economic fortunes wrapped around the Second World War that created what Americans think of as “the middle class,” servants became far less common, even as dual-income families became more the norm and the hours Americans worked lengthened.

What the combined efforts of the Uber-for-X companies created is a new form of servant, one distributed through complex markets to thousands of different people. It was Uber, after all, that launched with the idea of becoming “everyone’s private driver,” a chauffeur for all.

An unkind summary, then, of the past half decade of the consumer internet: Venture capitalists have subsidized the creation of platforms for low-paying work that deliver on-demand servant services to rich people, while subjecting all parties to increased surveillance.

What else is there to say?

by Tim Carmody at March 08, 2019 07:30 PM

Stacey Abrams, Star Trek Superfan

Data-Stratagema.jpg

Georgia politician, almost-Governor, and Democratic superstar Stacey Abrams has a secret to her success: she loves Star Trek. In particular, she loves my favorite Trek series, Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In explaining her approach to politics as a black Democratic woman in a state controlled by white Republican men, she devotes several pages to a pivotal scene from “Peak Performance,” an episode from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

In the episode, Data, the preternaturally pale android with a greenish cast to his skin, is playing Strategema, a game that appears to be some incredibly complicated form of 3-D holographic chess, against a humanoid grandmaster named Kolrami. Data cannot defeat Kolrami, he discovers, but he can outlast him, drive him into a rage and force him to quit the game, which is itself a kind of victory.

Ms. Abrams writes that this has helped her focus her own thinking. “Data reframed his objective — not to win outright but to stay alive, passing up opportunities for immediate victory in favor of a strategy of survival,” she says in the book. “My lesson is simpler: change the rules of engagement.”

Stacey Abrams

This sparked some predictably joyous reactions among Star Trek fans:

Stacey Abrams is a STAR TREK FAN?! Please insert that viral "Unfollow me now, this is the only thing I'm going to talk about all day" gif…

(And she loves Queen Nichelle? And this article came out just in time for #TrekThursday, with more DSC tonight?)

@EbWatchesTrek

— Ebony Elizabeth (@Ebonyteach) March 7, 2019

And the following thoughtful thread from Manu Saadia (@trekonomics) on the history of progressive politics, as modeled in the Star Trek universe:

First off, that piece by historian @robgreeneII should convince @staceyabrams to take a second L ok at Deep Space 9.https://t.co/nlcpDm0svC

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

Next, that long and detailed piece of Trek fandom. A special piece for me, as we had drinks with @mollitudo at the Convention in Vegas while she was reporting it. The Utopia is the fandom. https://t.co/FodCf34kXU

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

A look at 10 episodes:https://t.co/bmmWGzdbs2

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

I am always embarrassed to mention myself, especially in such great company, but here we are. https://t.co/g1gbNqr1Yi

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

Politics is also about gender roles.https://t.co/HxEs3AoZjS

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

And guess what, MLK was a fan - and convinced Nichelle Nichols to stay on that silly space show after the first season.https://t.co/hhPFJEBWUr

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

The sexual politics of Trek became more and intriguing as the show matured. Jadzia Dax, DS9's science officer and "old man" (eh!), was particularly adventurous - (and deftly incarnated by) @4TerryFarrell https://t.co/ZwQrHnL3r3

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

Star Trek is a powerful source for political imagination. It is the Utopia of our times.

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

Star Trek is a thought experiment on how humans would behave under terminally improved conditions. This is why it matters. There's very little sci-fi that takes on that big question.

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

Live long and prosper! And no, it doesn't mean "make money!" pic.twitter.com/U4NTO1vd4z

— manu saadia (@trekonomics) March 8, 2019

It actually is possible to overthink this. All of this about politics and the imagination and utopian possibilities is true. But at the same time, ultimately, it’s just a really cool show. It’s one we grew up with. And as politicians get younger, it’s one we’ve always had with us, framing our background on entertainment, war, morality, politics, economics — everything.

The world the original Star Trek entered was one where space was only beginning to open, as a direct consequence of the nuclear and geopolitical crisis than enveloping the planet. Now, we have all new geopolitical crises to deal with. Star Trek offers a surprisingly resilient fictional framework for understanding most if not all of them. That’s a powerful tool. It’s foolish to pass it up.

Oh, and Ms. Abrams — keep bustin’ ‘em up.

Tags: movies   politics   space   Stacey Abrams   Star Trek   TV

by Tim Carmody at March 08, 2019 04:00 PM

100-Year-Old Holocaust Survivor Helen Fagin on How Books Save Lives

Starting when she was 21, Helen Fagin was imprisoned by the Nazis in the Radomsko and Warsaw ghettos in Poland. Her parents were sent to Treblinka and murdered there, but Fagin and her sister eventually managed to escape and, after a long journey around Europe, made it to the United States. Fagin has offered lengthy testimony about her experience of the Holocaust (for the USC Shoah Foundation and US Holocaust Memorial Museum), but in this short video, she reads a letter she wrote about how reading and stories gave a spark of hope to those under the Nazi boot in Warsaw.

Could you imagine a world without access to reading, to learning, to books?

At twenty-one, I was forced into Poland’s WWII ghetto, where being caught reading anything forbidden by the Nazis meant, at best, hard labor; at worst, death.

There, I conducted a clandestine school offering Jewish children a chance at the essential education denied them by their captors. But I soon came to feel that teaching these sensitive young souls Latin and mathematics was cheating them of something far more essential — what they needed wasn’t dry information but hope, the kind that comes from being transported into a dream-world of possibility.

One day, as if guessing my thoughts, one girl beseeched me: “Could you please tell us a book, please?”

I had spent the previous night reading Gone with the Wind — one of a few smuggled books circulated among trustworthy people via an underground channel, on their word of honor to read only at night, in secret. No one was allowed to keep a book longer than one night — that way, if reported, the book would have already changed hands by the time the searchers came.

The full text of the letter is here and is also collected in the book The Velocity of Being. (via open culture)

Tags: books   Helen Fagin   Holocaust   The Velocity of Being   video   war   World War II

by Jason Kottke at March 08, 2019 02:30 PM

The Partisan States of America

The Atlantic recently teamed up with polling and analytics company PredictWise to build a county-by-county map of political open-mindedness in America.

US Map of Political Prejudice

In general, the most politically intolerant Americans, according to the analysis, tend to be whiter, more highly educated, older, more urban, and more partisan themselves. This finding aligns in some ways with previous research by the University of Pennsylvania professor Diana Mutz, who has found that white, highly educated people are relatively isolated from political diversity. They don’t routinely talk with people who disagree with them; this isolation makes it easier for them to caricature their ideological opponents. (In fact, people who went to graduate school have the least amount of political disagreement in their lives, as Mutz describes in her book Hearing the Other Side.) By contrast, many nonwhite Americans routinely encounter political disagreement. They have more diverse social networks, politically speaking, and therefore tend to have more complicated views of the other side, whatever side that may be.

We see this dynamic in the heat map. In some parts of the country, including swaths of North Carolina and upstate New York, people still seem to give their fellow Americans the benefit of the doubt, even when they disagree. In other places, including much of Massachusetts and Florida, people appear to have far less tolerance for political difference. They may be quicker to assume the worst about their political counterparts, on average.

If you click through to the article, the interactive map will let you see how prejudiced your county is. There are also maps for Republican on Democratic prejudice and Democratic on Republican prejudice.

This map is a little bit bonkers…I can’t wrap my head around some of the results. Why are Florida and South Carolina so polarized while the states surrounding them are not? And look at New York…aside from NYC, there’s relatively little polarization right up against a very polarized New England and Pennsylvania. Utah sticks out among western states but you can probably chalk that up to Mormonism. Is this a methodology problem or is it due to something fundamentally different about the states and/or their governments?

Tags: maps   politics   USA

by Jason Kottke at March 08, 2019 12:29 AM

March 07, 2019

kottke.org

Fred Rogers Was Attracted to Both Men and Women

Like many people my age, Mister Rogers had a large influence on me in terms of how to act as a man. As Maxwell King wrote in The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers, he was not perceived at the time to be traditionally masculine:

Rogers himself was often labeled “a sissy,” or gay, in a derogatory sense. But as his longtime associate Eliot Daley put it: “Fred is one of the strongest people I have ever met in my life. So if they are saying he’s gay because… that’s a surrogate for saying he’s weak, that’s not right, because he’s incredibly strong.” He adds: “He wasn’t a very masculine person, he wasn’t a very feminine person; he was androgynous.”

In a 1975 interview for the New York Times, Rogers noted drolly: “I’m not John Wayne, so consequently, for some people I’m not the model for the man in the house.”

When I was little, Mister Rogers was the man of the house. My dad worked a lot and I sometimes only saw him for a few hours on weekends. Instead, my male role models were Captain Kangaroo, the men of Sesame Street (Mr. Hooper, Bob, Gordon, and Luis), and, most of all, Fred Rogers.

Now, some in the LGBTQ+ community are finding Fred Rogers to be a posthumous bisexual role model. Directly after the passage above, King continues:

In conversation with one of his friends, the openly gay Dr. William Hirsch, Fred Rogers himself concluded that if sexuality was measured on a scale of one to ten: “Well, you know, I must be right smack in the middle. Because I have found women attractive, and I have found men attractive.”

As Out’s Mikelle Street notes, it’s tough to tell what Rogers meant by that in terms of his sexuality. We do know he was married to his wife Joanne for more than 50 years until his death in 2003. Rogers also advised François Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons and came out as gay during his time on the program (though not on air), to not go to gay bars while working on the show and encouraged him to marry a woman.

Clemmons did but then divorced his wife to live as an openly gay man, piercing his ear as a sign of his sexuality. He was not allowed to wear earrings while filming though — for years Clemmons masked his own sexuality, under the advice of Rogers, in an effort to be successful.

Could it be that the actor was less forthcoming about his sexuality because he understood what Hollywood then required for success?

If Street is right, perhaps Rogers didn’t come out publicly about his sexuality for the same reason he advised Clemmons to mask being gay and the same reason millions of other people didn’t in the 70s and 80s: fear of social stigma. As King repeatedly writes in the book, Rogers always put the needs of the small children who watched his program above all other concerns. Perhaps he felt that a potential scandal about his sexuality, even a small one, was not worth jeopardizing his relationship with his television neighbors.

For Clemmons though, there was little doubt that Rogers accepted him for who he was:

He says he’ll never forget the day Rogers wrapped up the program, as he always did, by hanging up his sweater and saying, “You make every day a special day just by being you, and I like you just the way you are.” This time in particular, Rogers had been looking right at Clemmons, and after they wrapped, he walked over.

Clemmons asked him, “Fred, were you talking to me?”

“Yes, I have been talking to you for years,” Rogers said, as Clemmons recalls. “But you heard me today.”

“It was like telling me I’m OK as a human being,” Clemmons says. “That was one of the most meaningful experiences I’d ever had.”

Update: Clemmons spoke at length in this Vanity Fair interview about his relationship with Rogers, his sexuality, and appearing on the show. One excerpt:

And [during the show], I could not handle people having an open discussion about the fact that François Clemmons is living with his lover. I did feel like I was risking [something], because people knew who I was. I had a full conversation with Fred about what it could possibly do to the program and to my role on the program, and I didn’t feel I wanted to risk it. You know, the articles that have talked about me, I don’t think they’ve taken into full account that societal norms were vastly different than what they are right now.

Tags: books   Francois Clemmons   Fred Rogers   LGBT   Maxwell King   Mikelle Street   The Good Neighbor   TV

by Jason Kottke at March 07, 2019 09:25 PM

Van Gogh’s The Night Café Was Among His “Ugliest Pictures”

In a letter to his brother Theo, Vincent van Gogh called his 1888 oil painting The Night Café “one of the ugliest pictures I have done”.

Van Gogh Night Cafe

In this video, Evan Puschak looks at what van Gogh meant by that and how he used discordant colors together to suggest a mood.

van Gogh wrote of his intentions for the painting to his brother:

I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green. The room is blood red and dark yellow with a green billiard table in the middle; there are four lemon-yellow lamps with a glow of orange and green. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most alien reds and greens, in the figures of little sleeping hooligans, in the empty dreary room, in violet and blue. The blood-red and the yellow-green of the billiard table, for instance, contrast with the soft tender Louis XV green of the counter, on which there is a rose nosegay. The white clothes of the landlord, watchful in a corner of that furnace, turn lemon-yellow, or pale luminous green.

Tags: art   color   Evan Puschak   video   Vincent van Gogh

by Jason Kottke at March 07, 2019 03:29 PM

Let’s Talk About Hagfish and Their Wondrously Soft Slime

Hagfish are an eel-like sea creatures with the ability to excrete a teaspoon of slime that almost instantly expands to 10,000 times the volume. The slime, a combination of mucous and protein threads, is magical, too! Surprise, it’s not sticky, and it’s actually incredibly soft. Think about the softest thing you can think of. WRONG, this is softer. Hagfish slime is so soft, scientists had to create new ways to measure it when traditional instruments couldn’t hack it.

The proteins threads that give the slime cohesion are incredible in their own right. Each is one-100th the width of a human hair, but can stretch for four to six inches. And within the slime glands, each thread is coiled like a ball of yarn within its own tiny cell — a feat akin to stuffing a kilometer of Christmas lights into a shoebox without a single knot or tangle. No one knows how the hagfish achieves this miracle of packaging, but Fudge just got a grant to test one idea. He thinks that the thread cells use their nuclei — the DNA-containing structures at their core — like a spindle, turning them to wind the growing protein threads into a single continuous loop.

But that’s not all! Hagfish don’t have a jawbone, they’ve got kind of a sandpaper on their face, which is not the scientific way to describe it at all. They eat by burrowing into carcasses and rub their face around to get their fill. The skin of a hagfish is more efficient at processing nutrients than their intestines, so needless to say the burrowing really works for them. While hagfish use their slime to defend against attacks — the excreted slime clogs the gills of attackers — they also use their ridiculously squishy bodies as a defense. If a shark bites them, the important bits squish out of the way like one of those water wiggly toys. (Do you know how hard it is is to google the name of a toy you’ve played with your entire life without ever having known the name of? “Squishy squiggly water snake” is what worked for me.) Lastly, hagfish tie themselves in knots to rid themselves of slime AND to help them eat when they’re inside the dead bodies of recently passed sea friends. Now you know.

As a hagfish cleanser, sea otters hold hands while they’re sleeping so they don’t drift apart.

(Allow me an aside. The last time I wrote about the wacky world of sea creatures on Kottke.org, it was a post about the first known case of the sperm of cooked squid implanting in someone’s mouth. (At the time, of course, everyone knew the sperm of raw squid could implant, but this first case of cooked squid doing the same was big news).)

Tags: video

by Aaron Cohen at March 07, 2019 12:33 AM

March 06, 2019

kottke.org

Clouds in Unexpected Places

Cloud Sculpture

Cloud Sculpture

Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde creates ephemeral water vapor sculptures (you know, clouds!) in places you normally wouldn’t find them, like inside churches & museums. He shared some of his process with National Geographic:

The ingredients for Smilde’s clouds: just smoke and water vapor. He requires a cold and damp space with no air circulation, lest the clouds never form or fall straight to the ground. He mists an area with a spray bottle to put water vapor into the air. Then he turns on fog machines that spout tiny particles, and the vapor condenses around them.

Smilde runs around the forming cloud, coaxing it into a shape about 10 feet across and six feet tall. Then he steps back long enough for a photographer to snap several images. Once the air clears, he’ll start over, repeating the process dozens of times until he’s happy with the results. Later, he’ll retouch the photos to remove his tools.

(via moss & fog)

Tags: art   Berndnaut Smilde   clouds

by Jason Kottke at March 06, 2019 09:20 PM

Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World

As a hardcore generalist, David Epstein’s forthcoming book is intriguing to me: Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World.

David Epstein, author of the New York Times bestseller The Sports Gene, studied the world’s most successful athletes, artists, musicians, inventors, forecasters and scientists. He discovered that in most fields — especially those that are complex and unpredictable — generalists, not specialists, are primed to excel. Generalists often find their path late, and they juggle many interests rather than focusing on one. They’re also more creative, more agile, and able to make connections their more specialized peers can’t spy from deep in their hyperfocused trenches. As experts silo themselves further while computers master more of the skills once reserved for highly focused humans, people who think broadly and embrace diverse experiences and perspectives will increasingly thrive.

They will also somehow not be that much better at trivia and will be unable to talk authoritatively about a single topic with a genuine enthusiast or expert for more than 2-3 minutes before starting in on the “I don’t knows”. Wait, just me?

Tags: books   David Epstein   Range

by Jason Kottke at March 06, 2019 07:07 PM

A Light Installation in a Scottish Coastal Town Vividly Shows Future Sea Level Rise

Lines Sea Level

Lines Sea Level

Lines (57° 59´N, 7° 16´W) is a light installation in Lochmaddy, Scotland that visualizes how much the sea level will rise if our climate keeps changing at its current pace. Co-collaborators Timo Aho and Pekka Niittyvirta installed sensors to detect high tide, which then illuminates lights showing what the high tide will look like in the future.

The installation explores the catastrophic impact of our relationship with nature and its long-term effects. The work provokes a dialogue on how the rising sea levels will affect coastal areas, its inhabitants and land usage in the future.

This is specifically relevant in the low lying island archipelago of Uist in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland, and in particular to Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum & Arts Centre in Lochmaddy where the installation is situated. The Centre cannot develop on its existing site due to predicted storm surge sea levels.

(via colossal)

Tags: art   global warming   Pekka Niittyvirta   Timo Aho

by Jason Kottke at March 06, 2019 05:02 PM

Regarding the Thoughtful Cultivation of the Archived Internet

Kurzgesagt is one of my favorite YouTube channels. Their videos are entertaining & thoroughly researched, and the subject matter is right in the kottke.org wheelhouse. (This one on the physical limitations of humanity when it comes to space exploration is a particular recent favorite.)

So I appreciated their latest video called Can You Trust Kurzgesagt Videos?

In it, they detail the process of making their videos, which has gotten more extensive as the channel matures. The second half is about a pair of videos that didn’t meet their current standard: one about addiction (which I posted about here) and another about the European migrant crisis of 2015. The addiction video represented only one side of a controversial issue within the scientific community while the migrant video was hastily produced and poorly researched. As a result, they deleted both videos, even though they were among the channel’s most popular and plan to publish a future video about addiction that will look more broadly at its causes.

With 20+ years of kottke.org archives, I’ve been thinking about this issue as well. There are many posts in the archive that I am not proud of. I’ve changed my mind in some cases and no longer hold the views attributed to me in my own words. I was too frequently a young and impatient asshole, full of himself and knowing it all. I was unaware of my privilege and too frequently assumed things of other people and groups that were incorrect and insensitive. I’ve amplified people and ideas in the past that I wouldn’t today.

My process today is more rigorous (but not as rigorous as Kurzgesagt b/c we have different aims) and I’ve gained some wisdom (I hope!) about when vigor or sensitivity are called for. I still place a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the reader — you are a smart bunch and I expect you to read and view everything here with a critical eye — but I am also more aware of my (small but not insignificant) responsibility as an informational gatekeeper.

But so anyway, I don’t know what to do about those old problematic posts. Tim Berners-Lee’s idea that cool URIs don’t change is almost part of my DNA at this point, so deleting them seems wrong. Approximately no one ever reads any post on this site that’s more than a few years old, but is that an argument for or against deleting them? (If a tree falls in the woods, etc…) Should I delete but leave a note they were deleted? Should I leave the original posts but append updates citing my current displeasure? Or like Mister Rogers used to do, should I rewrite the posts to bring them more into line with my current thinking? Is the kottke.org archive trapped in amber, a record of what I’ve written when I wrote it, or is it a living, breathing thing that thrives on activity? Is it more like a book or a performance? In my mind it’s both, which is why the site is compelling (IMO) but also makes this issue so thorny for me. The web is weird that way…but how do I embrace the weirdness re: this issue?

Tags: kottke.org   Kurzgesagt   weblogs

by Jason Kottke at March 06, 2019 03:04 PM

March 05, 2019

kottke.org

The Case of the 500-Mile Email

I’ve shared this here before, but one of my favorite Old Weird Internet stories is Trey HarrisThe case of the 500-mile email. If you’ve ever worked in tech support or system administration (or have been on the receiving end of stories by people doing that work), a common trope features someone (usually a boss of some sort) thinking they’ve stumbled across a bug when in fact it’s user error. That’s not where this story goes…

I was working in a job running the campus email system some years ago when I got a call from the chairman of the statistics department.

“We’re having a problem sending email out of the department.”

“What’s the problem?” I asked.

“We can’t send mail more than 500 miles,” the chairman explained.

I choked on my latte. “Come again?”

“We can’t send mail farther than 500 miles from here,” he repeated. “A little bit more, actually. Call it 520 miles. But no farther.”

“Um… Email really doesn’t work that way, generally,” I said, trying to keep panic out of my voice. One doesn’t display panic when speaking to a department chairman, even of a relatively impoverished department like statistics. “What makes you think you can’t send mail more than 500 miles?”

“It’s not what I *think*,” the chairman replied testily. “You see, when we first noticed this happening, a few days ago—”

“You waited a few DAYS?” I interrupted, a tremor tinging my voice. “And you couldn’t send email this whole time?”

“We could send email. Just not more than—”

“—500 miles, yes,” I finished for him, “I got that. But why didn’t you call earlier?”

Read the whole thing if you’ve never had the pleasure.

Tags: email   Trey Harris

by Jason Kottke at March 05, 2019 09:44 PM

Crack Pie, Girly Drinks, and Problematic Food Language

Soleil Ho is the new restaurant critic for the San Francisco Chronicle. In a recent article, Ho shared a thoughtful list of the words that she isn’t going to use in her restaurant reviews. One of the words is “crack”:

In addition to being overly dramatic, it seems really callous to write that a bowl of bean dip is “like crack.” No matter how delicious something might be, its effect on me is nothing close to what crack does to people and their families. It’s supposed to be funny and edgy to compare a gourmet cupcake to crack because of how far the chi-chi bakery I’m standing in is from the kind of community that has historically been devastated by the crack epidemic. The ignorance is the joke.

One interesting example of its persistence is in the way we talk about Momofuku Milk Bar’s “Crack Pie.” Writers have called its creator, chef Christina Tosi, a “crack dealer” and used the language of addiction to describe the dish. Honestly, the company should have done the right thing and changed it by now.

Language is power and words are meaningful beyond their simple or intended definitions. For any given problematic word, there are so many other words you can use.

See also New Language for Slavery and the Civil War.

Tags: food   language   Soleil Ho

by Jason Kottke at March 05, 2019 07:26 PM

Video of a Japanese Space Probe Touching Down on an Asteroid

In this video released by JAXA, the Japanese space agency, you can see an on-board view of the Hayabusa2 probe touching down on an asteroid called Ryugu.

The blast you see is the probe firing a bullet made of tantalum at the surface in order to collect a sample. Here’s a photo of the landing site. From Wikipedia:

When the sampler horn attached to Hayabusa2’s underside touched the surface, a projectile (5-gram tantalum bullet) was fired at 300 m/s into the surface. The resulting ejecta particles were collected by a catcher at the top of the horn, which the ejecta reaches under their own momentum under microgravity conditions.

This is the first of three samples that are scheduled to be collected by Hayabusa2. The third sampling will try to collect material located under the surface of the asteroid. To achieve this, a separate gun will detach from the probe and fire a copper bullet at the surface, blasting a hole in the surface and exposing “pristine material”. Meanwhile, the probe itself will deploy a separate camera to watch the bullet’s impact, scoot out of the way to avoid debris, and then come back in a couple of weeks to collect a sample from the resulting crater, which will then be returned to Earth along with the other two samples. Ingenious! I love it when a plan comes together!

Tags: astronomy   Hayabusa2   JAXA   science   space   video

by Jason Kottke at March 05, 2019 05:19 PM

March 04, 2019

Rands In Repose

The One About Lyle and Spider-Man

In this episode, we introduce you to my co-host Lyle – pre-eminent listener, longtime radio host, and fellow mountain resident. We also spend time talking logos and introversion… and then we finish with a strong Spider-Man chaser.

Enjoy it now or download for later. Here’s a handy feed or subscribe via Overcast or iTunes.

http://traffic.libsyn.com/rands/theimportantthing0007.mp3

by rands at March 04, 2019 04:44 PM

March 01, 2019

garfield minus garfield

G-G on Facebook - G-G on Twitter



G-G on Facebook - G-G on Twitter

March 01, 2019 08:45 PM

February 27, 2019

yatima

lucky just to keep afloat

I’ve had the Split Enz song “Six Months In A Leaky Boat” on constant replay this trip. I wasn’t at all surprised to find out Tim Finn wrote it after a nervous breakdown. I complained to Jeremy that everything I want to say about the legacy of settler colonialism and consequent mental illness, this song says in five minutes.

Aotearoa, rugged individual
Glisten like a pearl, at the bottom of the world
The tyranny of distance, didn’t stop the cavalier
So why should it stop me? I’ll conquer and stay free

Ah c’mon all you lads, let’s forget and forgive
There’s a world to explore, tales to tell back on shore
I just spent six months in a leaky boat
Six months in a leaky boat

An old friend tried to argue that Doctor Who isn’t a modern King Arthur myth because “no one cares that much about stories.” And yet it moves. In case you’re not convinced that this song is a miracle of subversive irony, I’ll just point out that Thatcher banned it during the Falklands War.

by rachel at February 27, 2019 07:28 AM

February 21, 2019

yatima

messing about in boats

We enjoyed the Rivercat so much that we’ve taken two more ferries, one around Scotland Island from Church Point and one to the Basin from Palm Beach. Pittwater smells of salt and diesel, the smell of my childhood. There are cormorants and kookaburras, gulls and jellies.

I read this remarkable essay about Australian childrens’ books as well as a thoughtful article about the high country brumbies that I can’t share because it’s paywalled to hell. Like the mustangs in California, Australia’s feral horses wreck delicate ecosystems. Scientists and the traditional owners of country want them gone. But local cattlemen lost grazing land to the Snowy hydro scheme and to the National Parks well within living memory. To them, the brumby cull is the last straw. In the paywalled article, National Party MP Peter Cochran whines: “You don’t have to be black to feel a connection to this land.”

I grew up on stories about brumbies, by Mary Elwyn Patchett and Elyne Mitchell. In them, the wild horse is as much a part of the bush as the possum and the kangaroo. It took me decades to recognize this as a way for white people to lay claim to what wasn’t theirs. When I revisited Patchett hoping to read her books to the kids, I was appalled by her racism. Mitchell’s father was Harry Chauvel of the charge on Beersheba. Both writers are immersed and complicit in the white supremacist, militarized, settler-colonialist narrative that Evelyn Araluen describes in her essay.

Even my beloved Swallows and Amazons, with its naval officer father and its mother who grew up sailing on Sydney Harbour, instructs children in exploration, mapping and conquest. Maybe Westerners can’t have innocent pleasures. There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth questioning as simply messing about in boats. Do you want empires? Because that’s how you get empires.

by rachel at February 21, 2019 10:41 AM

February 18, 2019

yatima

and a cormorant, not shown

I miss Port Jackson a lot; people who say that the Bay is like it don’t seem to know either of them very well.

Last year we went to Cockatoo Island. This year we decided to keep going, as far as we possibly could, all the way to Parramatta. It was very hot and we all got sunburned and this is the cover of our next album.

I expected something vaguely industrial from the Parramatta River. Instead I got mangroves and casuarinas, pelicans and ibis.

Sydney is so enormously full of surprises that I do not think I will ever come to the end of it.

by rachel at February 18, 2019 05:47 AM

February 17, 2019

yatima

halfway across the world

I wrapped up a mighty four weeks at work before skiving off on (previously-scheduled) hols. My signature achievement so far is having matched names to faces for my boss’s eighteen direct reports. If you think I’ll retain that mapping after a fortnight sitting on Sydney beaches eating mangos, I have several bridges you might like to purchase.

This was my first time flying with my brand new cyborg leg. Despite what my doctors told me, it does indeed set off the metal detectors. I was frisked around the scar tissue, which was very interesting. Otherwise our flights were uneventful. You walk out of the Sydney international terminal into a wall of southern hemisphere summer and if you are me, it brings tears to your eyes.

by rachel at February 17, 2019 04:29 AM

Coding Horror

The Cloud Is Just Someone Else's Computer

When we started Discourse in 2013, our server requirements were high:

I'm not talking about a cheapo shared cpanel server, either, I mean a dedicated virtual private server with those specifications.

We were OK with that, because we were building in Ruby for the next decade of the Internet. I predicted early on that the cost of renting a suitable VPS would drop to $5 per month, and courtesy of Digital Ocean that indeed happened in January 2018.

The cloud got cheaper, and faster. Not really a surprise, since the price of hardware trends to zero over time. But it's still the cloud, and that means it isn't exactly cheap. It is, after all, someone else's computer that you pay for the privilege of renting.

there-is-no-cloud

But wait … what if you could put your own computer "in the cloud"?

Wouldn't that be the best of both worlds? Reliable connectivity, plus a nice low monthly price for extremely fast hardware? If this sounds crazy, it shouldn't – Mac users have been doing this for years now.

mac-colocation-2019-1

I suppose it's understandable that Mac users would be on the cutting edge here since Apple barely makes server hardware, whereas the PC world has always been the literal de-facto standard for server hardware.

mac-stadium-colocation

Given the prevalence and maturity of cloud providers, it's even a little controversial these days to colocate actual servers. We've also experimented with colocating mini-pcs in various hosting roles. I'm still curious why there isn't more of a cottage industry for colocating mini PCs. Because … I think there should be.

I originally wrote about the scooter computers we added to our Discourse infrastructure in 2016, plus my own colocation experiment that ran concurrently. Over the last three years of both experiments, I've concluded that these little boxes are plenty reliable, with one role specific caveat that I'll explain in the comments. I remain an unabashed fan of mini-PC colocation. I like it so much I put together a new 2019 iteration:

2017 — $6702019 — $820
i7-7500u
2.7-3.5 Ghz, 2c / 4t
i7-8750h
2.2-4.1 Ghz, 6c / 12t
16GB DDR3 RAM32GB DDR4 RAM
500GB SATA SSD500GB NVMe SSD

This year's scooter computer offers 3× the cores, 2× the memory, and 3× faster drive. It is, as the kids say … an absolute unit. 😱

2019-scooter-computer-top-interior-1

2019-scooter-computer-bottom-interior

2019-scooter-computer-front-and-back

It also has a rather elegant dual-sided internal layout. There is a slot for an old-school 2.5" drive, plus built in wi-fi, but you won't see it in my pictures because I physically removed both.

I vetted each box via my recommended burn in and stability testing and they all passed with flying colors, though I did have to RMA one set of bodgy RAM sticks in the process. The benchmarks tell the story, as compared to the average Digital Ocean droplet:

Per-core performance
sysbench cpu --cpu-max-prime=20000 run

DO Droplet2,988
2017 Mini-PC4,800
2019 Mini-PC5,671

Multi-core performance
sysbench cpu --cpu-max-prime=40000 --num-threads=8 run

DO Droplet2,200
2017 Mini-PC5,588
2019 Mini-PC14,604

Disk performance
dd bs=1M count=512 if=/dev/zero of=test conv=fdatasync
hdparm -Tt /dev/sda

DO Droplet701 / 8818 / 471 MB/sec
2017 Mini-PC444 / 12564 / 505 MB/sec
2019 Mini-PC1200 / 17919 / 3115 MB/sec

Discourse rebuild
time ./launcher rebuild app

DO Droplet6:59
2017 Mini-PC3:41
2019 Mini-PC3:24

Power consumption could be a concern, as the 2017 version had a much lower 15 watt TDP, compared to the 45 watts of this version. That 3× increase in core count ain't free! So I tested that, too, with a combination of i7z, stress, and my handy dandy watt meter.

2019-mini-pc-i7z-testing

(idle login)800 Mhz10w
stress --cpu 14.1 GHz30w
stress --cpu 24.1 GHz42w
stress --cpu 34.0 GHz53w
stress --cpu 43.9 GHz65w
stress --cpu 53.7 GHz65w
stress --cpu 63.5 GHz65w
stress --cpu 123.3 Ghz65w

I'd expect around 10 - 20 watts doing typical low-load stuff that isn't super CPU intensive. Note that running current-ish versions of mprime jacks power consumption up to 75w 🔥 and the overall clock scales down to 3.1 Ghz … let me tell you, I've learned to be very, very afraid of AVX2 extensions.

(If you're worried about noise, don't be. This active cooling solution is clearly overkill for a 65w load, because it barely spun up at all even under full core load. It was extremely quiet.)

So we're happy that this machine is a slammin' deal for $820, it's super fast, and plenty reliable. But how about colocation costs? My colocation provider is EndOffice out of Boston, and they offer very competitive rates to colocate a Mini-PC: $29/month.

endoffice-mini-pc-colocation

I personally colocate three Mini-PCs for redundancy and just-in-case; there are discounts for colocating more than one. Here they are racked up and in action. Of course I labelled the front and rear before shipping because that's how I roll.

endoffice-colocated-2019-mini-pcs

Let's break this down and see what the actual costs of colocating a Mini-PC are versus the cloud. Given the plateauing of CPU speeds, I think five years of useful life for these boxes is realistic, but let's assume a conservative three year lifespan to be safe.

That's $2,044 for three years of hosting. How can we do on Digital Ocean? Per their current pricing page:

This isn't quite apples to apples, as we are getting an extra 140GB of disk and 2 bonus CPUs, but those CPUs are both slower and partially consumed by multi-tenancy compared to our brand new dedicated, isolated CPUs. (I was curious about this, so I just spun up a new $160/month DO instance for a quick test. The sysbench results are 4086 and 11760 respectively, considerably below the 2019 Mini-PC results, above.) As you can see, you pay almost three times as much for a cloud server. 🤑

I'm not saying this is for everyone. If you just need to spin up a quick server or two for testing and experimentation, there's absolutely no way you need to go to the trouble and up-front cost of building and then racking colocated mini-pcs. There's no denying that spinning servers up in the cloud offers unparalleled flexibility and redundancy. But if you do have need for dedicated computing resources over a period of years, then building your own small personal cloud, with machines you actually own, is not only one third the cost but also … kinda cool?

your-own-personal-cloud

If you'd also like to embark upon this project, you can get the same Partaker B18 box I did for $490 from Amazon, or $460 direct from China via AliExpress. Add memory and drive to taste, build it up, then check out endoffice.com who I can enthusiastically recommend for colocation, or the colocation provider of your choice.

Get something cool hosted out there; let's do our part to keep the internet fun and weird!

by Jeff Atwood at February 17, 2019 02:15 AM

WFMU's recent playlists from Gateway to Joy with Donna

WFMU Playlist: Gateway to Joy with Donna from Feb 16, 2019

Playlist from Gateway to Joy with Donna on WFMU, from Feb 16, 2019

February 17, 2019 02:00 AM

February 07, 2019

The IT Skeptic

Firing people is always a last resort.

Firing people should always be a last resort, not an instrument of culture change.

read more

by skeptic at February 07, 2019 09:24 PM

February 05, 2019

yatima

i’m afraid of men, by vivek shraya

I’m afraid of women who have internalized their experiences of misogyny so deeply that they make me their punching bag.

by rachel at February 05, 2019 02:59 AM

February 04, 2019

yatima

the incendiaries, by r.o. kwon

This has been the cardinal fiction of my life, its ruling principle: if I work hard enough, I’ll get what I want.

by rachel at February 04, 2019 02:57 AM

February 01, 2019

yatima

any old diamonds, by kj charles

He took a moment to work out the best possible phrasing, knowing it was futile because she’d find something to be insulted by…

by rachel at February 01, 2019 02:56 AM

January 27, 2019

The IT Skeptic

My changing mind

It's lucky for me that I don't get the kind of attention which would lead to people comparing my current posts to my old ones. There is nothing worse than having your own words quoted back to you a decade later. And this blog has been going 12 years, so my views have certainly changed over that time - not drifted slightly, but shifted majorly. Here are some examples:

read more

by skeptic at January 27, 2019 07:58 AM


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