- Compound pejoratives on Reddit – from buttface to wankpuffin
- A thorough analysis of the distribution of derogatory terms used on Reddit. Fascinating and hilarious.
- My Out-of-Body Experience - Nautilus
- Reflections on the author's experience in a sensory deprivation tank.
- prompt.press - AI generated artwork inspired by current events
- The author mentioned that these are heavily curated, but nonetheless they are extremely compelling.
- Grumpy Gamer - Return to Monkey Island Trailer
- Serendeputy: Newsfeed Engine for the open web
- I've been thinking about a product like this for a very long time, so it must be a good idea. Depends heavily on who you follow though, so I would probably end up creating a separate account.
- She Spent a Decade Writing Fake Russian History. Wikipedia Just Noticed.
The elevator in our office building has a small LCD panel that shows information like the current floor, but when the total weight of passengers crosses a certain threshold it also adds a short note: “Sorry the elevator is crowded”.
It struck me – of all possible features for an elevator display, how did they decide that they needed this one? It has no impact on the elevator’s function of moving people vertically. And a crowded elevator is not the elevator’s fault (although this is most likely just an example of Japan’s self-deprecating approach to hospitality). So why was this message deemed necessary?
The answer, of course, is that when designing an elevator your customer is not the people riding the elevator. It’s the people buying the elevator, such as the owners of an office building. When they compare your elevator to competitors, “Ours will make your building more pleasant to visit” must be a key selling point.
This was a little reminder for me that it’s crucial to identify your true customer because it will have an enormous effect on your product’s direction.
I tend to procrastinate if I let myself, so I’ve tried my share of techniques to keep it in check. At some point, I read that a fear of failure can cause procrastination, and this really resonated with me. Realizing this has helped me understand where my urge to put things off is coming from.
If I have a large task in front of me, my mind rushes through everything that needs to be done and affirms how difficult it will be. I imagine (mostly subconsciously) all the ways that my output will be less than ideal, and that is what keeps me from taking action.
So as a quick mental technique, I recognize that this fear of failure is acting as a roadblock and tell myself that I’ll just bang out a first effort that will definitely be of poor quality. I know it will be bad, and that will be OK. Polishing that will be a task left for future me.
In reality, it won’t be perfect, but neither will it be terrible. Polishing it into something that I can be proud of will not be as hard as it seems now, especially once I have a first draft to work with.
I’ve had an idea for a fun art project in my head for many years now, and I don’t see myself going through with it any time soon, so I’ll compromise by just writing about it.
The idea is to photograph people (with permission) who are wearing headphones in the city. Their photo will be shown along with the song they happened to be listening to. It would be interesting to see if a viewer would see any correlation between a person’s visual appearance and their taste in music. The prompt “What song was playing right now” is much more interesting than “What is your favorite music,” and some people might think that I caught them at just the wrong time, making things more fun for me.
Since the subjects will generally be preoccupied, I imagine I’d design a small pamphlet that quickly describes the project and hand that out to people who don’t look too busy.
Maybe one day.
For a long time, I’ve avoided collecting too much stuff. I buy Kindle versions of books whenever possible, but there is a small shelf for the few books I have carried around with me over the years. My son, who is not quite two years old, will sometimes rummage through my books and leave them in a heap once he realizes there are no pictures, but it made me remember what my own father’s bookshelf was like for me.
I’m pretty sure I found Calvin and Hobbes on his bookshelf, and I ended up reading it countless times as I grew up. I found The Hobbit, which led to The Lord of the Rings, and then whatever other high fantasy I could get my hands on. I found The Royal Road to Card Magic, and my interest in card magic ended up being a pretty big part of my life after that. I didn’t read Gödel, Escher, Bach, but I recognized it from that bookshelf when I was introduced to it many years later.
A bookshelf creates serendipity. I encountered those books early, before anybody would have thought, “Ah, I know just the book that would interest this young man.” And discovering something of my dad’s and taking it for myself was much more exciting than being told, “Hey come look at this thing I liked when I was your age.”
So, since I’m the father now, I went and bought a big bookshelf for myself. I want to go through my parents’ storage to reclaim my favorite books, and I’ll slowly fill out my own bookshelf with books I think are worth keeping around – just in reach for my kids to discover on their own.
Modern chess is the culmination of centuries of experience, as well as an evolutionary sequence of rule adjustments from its inception in the 6th century to the modern rules we know today. While classical chess still captivates the minds of millions of players worldwide, the game is anything but static. Many variants have been proposed and played over the years by enthusiasts and theorists. They continue the evolutionary cycle by altering the board, piece placement, or the rules—offering players “something subtle, sparkling, or amusing which cannot be done in ordinary chess.”
Using AlphaZero to evaluate modified rules, to see which would be the most productive is a really interesting application of the AI. You can evaluate beforehand whether a certain rule change would make the game less or more balanced.
The Nintendo Switch is designed to be portable, so it doesn’t have a disc drive. Instead, its games come on cartridges, just like games for Nintendo’s handheld platforms stretching back to the original Game Boy. But there’s something different about Switch cartridges: They taste awful.
Update (March 2): In a statement emailed to Polygon, a Nintendo representative confirmed the theory that Switch cartridges are coated in a material that’s meant to dissuade people from putting the units in their mouths.
So Nintendo actually takes special steps to make their cartridges taste terrible, to keep people from swallowing them. That’s an attention to detail that I hadn’t even considered before.
A long time ago, I fancied myself a writer and strove to write beautiful prose. I read a lot and borrowed from styles that I admired, but oftentimes my sentences ran on, and I relied on my thesaurus too heavily. But I enjoyed the process of writing and reached a familiarity with words that allowed me to simply let my thoughts flow through my fingers onto the page.
At university, I discovered The Elements of Style and quickly became an advocate instead of lean, effective prose. I strove to convey my thoughts using fewer words. Composition took more effort as I scrutinized each phrase. I was happy with the results, and I felt a deliberate craftsmanship that seemed more pronounced than before.
Then, I moved to Asia and began communicating primarily with people for whom English wasn’t their first language. I started using short, simple sentences that got straight to the point. If the purpose of writing is communication, then all that’s really important is to tell the other person what they need to know, right? Saying things in a fancy way will only complicate things.
It was around this time that I first saw the Simple English Wikipedia, and my first thought was, “Now this is the pinnacle of knowledge transfer. This is how you provide the most information to the most number of people as efficiently as possible.”
“But,” nagged a deep and quiet part of my mind, “that can’t be the full story. Poetry and literature, sure, it’s easy to set those aside and say maybe that it’s an art form, it’s writing for the sake of writing, and that’s why the pursuit of beauty can occur. Normal, day-to-day writing is not the same.
“What about, say, Journalism? That’s writing to share information, but when you recall the most esteemed journalists they aren’t the ones who write like a press release. They are those who have perfected their craft, who can shape their words into a compelling picture to evoke emotional reactions in the reader. Isn’t that what you should strive for?”
Yes, of course. Beautiful or effective? You want a lot of both. And unless you’re writing an instruction manual, sometimes prose needs to be beautiful to be effective. I haven’t taken writing seriously in a very long time, so unfortunately my writing now is not much of either, but I suppose now is a fine time to start looking for my best voice again.
I’ll always have a soft spot for Star Wars things, but these paintings by Naci Caba are wonderful. The colors add a great bit of flavor especially to scenes in space that would otherwise be predominantly black and grey.