one hundred things tagged “favorite things”

On What to Live For

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy - ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness–that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what–at last–I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

The Prologue to Bertrand Russell’s Autobiography

“I have to do this.”

I made a bet at work that involved me eating my Crocs (if I lost, of course), prompting my co-worker to send me this story about Eric Taylor, a “former Magic: The Gathering player and highly regarded Magic columnist, especially during the earlier days of the game” (MTG Wiki), who made a similarly hasty bet and honored its terms:

He went so far as to guarantee Kai couldn’t emerge victorious again, promising to eat his hat should he be proven wrong.

[…] By now a sizeable crowd had gathered to watch the spectacle. EDT began by biting into the rim, but couldn’t tear the material with his teeth. In a quick burst of speed, he reached into his bag, and pulled out a full bottle of Heinz Ketchup and a pair of scissors. Deftly slicing a swatch of material from the top of the hat, he masticated on the felt but found the taste to be offensive.

“This is terrible!”, he exclaimed, unleashing a destructive stream of ketchup all over the table and his headwear. He resumed devouring his hat, making chewing faces akin to Popeye the Sailor eating rotten spinach.

[…] Around the third mouthful, EDT began to wish he had a nacho hat. “This is terrible”, he screamed, banging his jaw against the table to force the hat down. This attracted the attention of Rob Dougherty, from the Boston. “You’re crazy!”, he admonished in the typical Your Move Games tone. Eric just shook his head, gritted his teeth, and said, “I have to do this.

Ben Bleiweiss, ERIC TAYLOR EATS HIS HAT! (emphasis mine)

THIS is America

Lord of our lives and sovereign of our beloved nation, we deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.

These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue. We have been warned that eternal vigilance continues to be freedom’s price.

Lord, you have helped us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects your image.

You have strengthened our resolve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies domestic as well as foreign.

Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world. Thank you for what you have blessed our lawmakers to accomplish in spite of threats to liberty.

Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God bless America. We pray in your sovereign name, amen.

Dr. Barry Black, Chaplain of the Senate, CBS News (emphases mine)

And please get off this gentleman’s lawn and out of his city.

Ghost Structures

This is such a wonderful idea. Stand opposite the glass and you’d know what Kruševac Fortress in Serbia looked like in its heyday:

Franklin Court in Pennsylvania is another example of how one could illustrate architectural history.

Franklin Court was the site of the handsome brick home of Benjamin Franklin, who lived here while serving in the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention. Franklin died here in 1790; the house was torn down 22 years later. Today the site contains a steel “ghost structure” outlining the spot where Franklin’s house stood and features the Benjamin Franklin Museum […]

National Park Service

The Most Perfectly Timed Shot in the History of Television

Fat claim, but I cannot imagine anything more badass than this.

Here’s the full video. The presenter’s James Burke. From the YouTube comments:

I remember seeing an interview with him and the person asking him the question asked him “How was that shot perfectly timed?” He said “I just saw the count down clock and we waited until minus 10 seconds to start recording”.

And there was an assistant doing the count down with his fingers that Burke could se [sic] so Burke could time it perfectly.

On America Right Now

I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time – when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness…

The dumbing down of American is most evident in the slow decay of substantive content in the enormously influential media, the 30 second sound bites (now down to 10 seconds or less), lowest common denominator programming, credulous presentations on pseudoscience and superstition, but especially a kind of celebration of ignorance.


One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

Bas Uterwijk’s ‘Post Photography’

Bas Uterwijk’s AI portraits1 look just like photo shots, but are largely generated by an algorithm. He uploads drawings and paintings, often images of people who lived before the invention of photography. With the help of a neural network he creates realistic interpretations that appear as if they were made in a photographic process.

Each work is a quest for the visual character of the person portrayed. By combining art-historical and archaeological elements, Uterwijk achieves a layered and fascinating result.

Website (Google translation of Dutch text)

First came by this remarkable generation of the DOOM guy’s face:

And here are Alexander, Caesar, Zuck, and Jesus.

More of his work on Instagram.

  1. Looks like he uses ArtBreeder with StyleGAN2. ↩︎


Corpsing is British theatrical slang for unintentionally laughing during a non-humorous performance or when a role in a humorous performance is intended to be played “straight”. In North American TV and film, this is considered a variation of breaking character or simply “breaking”.


Here’s some further examination by Ricky Gervais and crew. Features Sir Ian McKellen and Daniel Radcliffe.

Supply-Side Jesus

Saith The Lord to Socialist Democrats:

ha, nice try. healthcare is about consumer choice. get a job and enroll in a market-based plan.

no peter i won’t help you that will only create dependency pick yourself up by your own sandal straps it’s called personal responsibility.

i would love to give you this, really i would but the richest israelites actually need this more so they can stimulate economic growth!

sorry, feeding you would be a waste of resources. i’m just not seeing results.


Schrodinger’s Douchebag

Every Trump supporter you know:

One who makes douchebag statements, particularly sexist, racist or otherwise bigoted ones, then decides whether they were “just joking” or dead serious based on whether other people in the group approve or not.

Urban Dictionary

They’re always “just joking.” About pandemic response, about requesting foreign interference in their country’s elections, injecting disinfectants to treat disease, asking for more police brutality, mocking the disabled, treason, dangling pardons like a mob boss, asking foreign governments to investigate political opponents, calling onself “The Chosen One”, calling a former president the founder of a terrorist organization, or condoning violence against journalists. Just look at your face, bro 😆

And then there’s Schrodinger’s Asshole:

A person who decides whether or not they’re full of shit by the reactions of those around them.

Via Mark.

“Where are the Turks?”

Bilal Göregen (YouTube, Instagram) is the Turkish street musician in my favorite video of 2020.

He sounds like a very positive, gracious, and sweet human being on this KnowYourMeme interview1 which features this delightful nugget (emphasis mine):

Q: How has the response been from your previous fans and followers that were around before the meme? Also, have you received any interesting or wholesome messages from fans since your meme went viral that you can share with us?

A: When I read the comments section after my video went viral, I see that my Turkish followers still do not understand the meme, and they ask questions like, “Is the channel stolen? Why are there so many foreigners here? Where are the Turks?

Assorted Bilal things: Here’s a ten-hour version of his viral hit. And here’s him making a lot of Indian people very happy. And lest I forget, this is the original Finnish folk song he’s covering:

  1. Which TIL has an editorials section… ↩︎

Sleeping Octopus

You could almost just narrate the body changes and narrate the dream. So here she’s asleep. She sees a crab and her color starts to change a little bit then she turns all dark. Octopuses will do that when they leave the bottom. This is a camouflage like she’s just subdued a crab and now she’s going to sit there and eat it and she doesn’t want anyone to notice her. It’s a very unusual behavior to see the color come and go on her mantle like that. I mean, just to be able to see all the different color patterns just flashing one after another… you don’t usually see that when an animal’s sleeping which really is fascinating.

But yeah if she’s dreaming that’s the dream.

David Scheel

Fred Rogers and his Children

Mentioned this to NB. Saving here for later.

On this event:

Yes, at seventy years old and 143 pounds, Mister Rogers still fights, and indeed, early this year, when television handed him its highest honor, he responded by telling television—gently, of course—to just shut up for once, and television listened. He had already won his third Daytime Emmy, and now he went onstage to accept Emmy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and there, in front of all the soap-opera stars and talk-show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, “All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are….Ten seconds of silence.” And then he lifted his wrist, and looked at the audience, and looked at his watch, and said softly, “I’ll watch the time,” and there was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn’t kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked…and so they did. One second, two seconds, three seconds…and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier, and Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said[^another], “May God be with you” to all his vanquished children.

– Tom Junod, “Can You Say… Hero?12

I often wonder what people like him would think of our times.

  1. This is the article the movie is based on. ↩︎

  2. Cached. “Yes, at seventy years old and 143 pounds, Mister Rogers still fights, and indeed, early this year, when television handed him its highest honor, he responded by telling television—gently, of course—to just shut up for once, and television listened.” ↩︎

Rashomon (1950) · IMDb · A+

Saw this after about 18 years. Some assorted notes: Thought I heard Boléro. Every frame is a fucking painting. Just so wonderful: sunshine through the leaves and at the interrogation, characters walking into and out of the audience, the gate’s history and state of decay, and of course Tajomaru’s sword when he’s under the tree 🤣 No idea what his constant fly-swatting signified. Faces sometimes resembled those in Ukiyo-e paintings (like this one). Save for the hapless priest, every character is demon and human. Storytelling: tension between whether it is to be regarded a fable or a real account. ‘The lies we tell ourselves don’t matter as long as they’re in the service of mending and preserving our humanity.’ Professor David Thorburn breaks down the movie.

“The Fountain” by Darren Aronofsky and Kent Williams

I love the movie and was surprised to find out that there was a graphic novel that preceded it. A work of original and breathtaking beauty like the movie and its soundtrack. Kent Williams’ style and vision took a bit to get used to. Wonderful stuff.

Aronofsky notes in the book that the movie almost didn’t happen due to budgetary concerns, and that he reworked it to make it a “lean, mean indie film.” I wonder if that explains the beautiful macrophotography they used for SFX.

Here it is on ThriftBooks.

On Good Commit Messages

On the developer side, what I hope people are doing is trying to make, not just good code, but these days we’ve been very good about having explanations for the code. So commit messages to me are almost as important as the code change itself. Sometimes the code change is so obvious that no message is really required, but that is very very rare. And so one of the things I hope developers are thinking about, the people who are actually writing code, is not just the code itself, but explaining why the code does something, and why some change was needed. Because that then in turn helps the managerial side of the equation, where if you can explain your code to me, I will trust the code.

A lot of open source in general is about communication. And part of it is the commit messages, part of it is just the email going back and forth. Communicating what you’re trying to do or communicating why something doesn’t work for you is really important.

– Linus Torvalds, in conversation with Dirk Hohndel (emphasis mine)

This is pretty much what mine look like. For my personal stuff, I get so lazy, I use a list of developer excuses to generate a commit log that looks like this 🤦‍♀️

I hereby swear to read this document and make writing good commit messages a habit ✋🚀

Always be leveraging

On tech culture’s obsession with quantifying and optimizing every single moment of one’s existence1:

I hate this framing. It is pressuring, dehumanizing as it contextualizes human endeavor in transactional terms, usually in a market.

I know this goes against the ethos of high-tech, but humans don’t have an imperative to be as productive as possible. They don’t have to make the most use of their time. They don’t have to get as efficient as they could. These are metrics that work fine for our machines, our code. But humans are not machines. Sure, we shepherd the machines, and sure sometimes we are in rivalrous dynamics that increasing efficiency has a payoff, but it is never the goal in itself.

The real “currency” we have, if we are using the term in the sense of denoting essentialness, is our humanness, our mortality, our psyches, our connection with other people and seemingly mundane but meaningful parts of our lives. I mean, look how many of us started baking their breads and enjoying it. It is not a wise use of the “currency of time”, but it is part of life very well spent, as our internal reward mechanisms have been telling us.

@acituan on HackerNews, commenting on this article

  1. With corroboration via sophomoric interpretations of stoicism and objectivism, all aimed at summoning this latent, dispassionate übermensch whose sole purpose is to “leverage” and deliver value. ↩︎

The Song of Seikilos

This is the "the oldest surviving complete musical composition, including musical notation, from anywhere in the world" and dates from “either from the 1st or the 2nd century AD.” It was found engraved on a tombstone and was “dedicated by Seikilos to Euterpe, who was possibly his wife.” (Wikipedia)

While you live, shine
have no grief at all
life exists only for a short while
and Time demands his due

😭 💗

There Will Be Blood (2007) · IMDb · A+

Finally saw this with PLG. Daniel Day-Lewis’ best performance IMO. Astounding, really.

Mr. Day-Lewis’s outsize performance, with its footnote references to Huston and strange, contorted Kabuki-like grimaces, occasionally breaks the skin of the film’s surface like a dangerous undertow. The actor seems to have invaded Plainview’s every atom, filling an otherwise empty vessel with so much rage and purpose you wait for him to blow. It’s a thrilling performance, among the greatest I’ve seen, purposefully alienating and brilliantly located at the juncture between cinematic realism and theatrical spectacle.

– Manohla Dargis “An American Primitive, Forged in a Crucible of Blood and Oil

Paul Dano is great as an ageless vampire-pastor 😑 The excellent soundtrack was written by Jonny Greenwood (!) and features works by Arvo Pärt and Brahms.

State, Coupling, Complexity, & Code

Dependencies (coupling) is an important concern to address, but it’s only 1 of 4 criteria that I consider and it’s not the most important one. I try to optimize my code around reducing state, coupling, complexity and code, in that order.

I’m willing to add increased coupling if it makes my code more stateless.

I’m willing to make it more complex if it reduces coupling.

And I’m willing to duplicate code if it makes the code less complex.

Only if it doesn’t increase state, coupling or complexity do I dedup code.

The reason I put stateless code as the highest priority is it’s the easiest to reason about. Stateless logic functions the same whether run normally, in parallel or distributed. It’s the easiest to test, since it requires very little setup code. And it’s the easiest to scale up, since you just run another copy of it. Once you introduce state, your life gets significantly harder.

I think the reason that novice programmers optimize around code reduction is that it’s the easiest of the 4 to spot. The other 3 are much more subtle and subjective and so will require greater experience to spot. But learning those priorities, in that order, has made me a significantly better developer.

crun1r on HackerNews (emphases and formatting mine.)

Nine Pints of The Law

by Lawson Wood (more work here.)

I first saw this when I was about 10 and tried my first jigsaw puzzle with my little sister. We were quite mesmerized by the painting. We found the puzzle too difficult and lost the pieces. 26 years later, I found a complete puzzle on eBay and can’t wait to put it together with her 😃

Googling revealed that a certain David Lewis recreated the painting with real officers of the Royston Police Station in Hertfordshire in 1990.

Image via Herts Past Policing

Process and Tooling

I thought using loops was cheating, so I programmed my own using samples. I then thought using samples was cheating, so I recorded real drums. I then thought that programming it was cheating, so I learned to play drums for real. I then thought using bought drums was cheating, so I learned to make my own. I then thought using premade skins was cheating, so I killed a goat and skinned it. I then thought that that was cheating too, so I grew my own goat from a baby goat. I also think that is cheating, but I’m not sure where to go from here. I haven’t made any music lately, what with the goat farming and all.

I’ve made this mistake all too often, especially when trying to learn something new.

Things that quote kinda reminds me of:

Hubble Ultra-Deep Field

One of my favorite things in the world.

Located southwest of Orion in the southern-hemisphere constellation Fornax, the rectangular image is 2.4 arcminutes to an edge, or 3.4 arcminutes diagonally. This is approximately one tenth of the angular diameter of a full moon viewed from Earth (which is less than 34 arcminutes), smaller than 1 sq. mm piece of paper held at 1 meter away, and equal to roughly one twenty-six-millionth of the total area of the sky. The image is oriented so that the upper left corner points toward north (−46.4°) on the celestial sphere.

Wikipedia (emphasis mine)

Here’s all that in video form

The best screensaver in the world using red-shift data

And a very high-resolution image (> 60MB). Wallpapers are available.

Our shit is so, so, so tiny.

There are over 100 billion galaxies in the universe. Simply saying that number doesn’t really mean much to us because it doesn’t provide any context. Our brains have no way to accurately put that in any meaningful perspective. When we look at this image, however, and think about the context of how it was made and really understand what it means, we instantly gain the perspective and cannot help, but be forever changed by it.

We pointed the most powerful telescope ever built by human beings at absolutely nothing for no other reason than because we were curious, and discovered that we occupy a very tiny place in the heavens.

Deep Astronomy

Not so sure about “instantly” gaining perspective but the rest about wonder and curiosity and our insignificant place the heavens still stand.

Data, Data, Data

Linus Torvalds on git

I’d also like to point out that unlike every single horror I’ve ever witnessed when looking closer at SCM products, git actually has a simple design, with stable and reasonably well-documented data structures. In fact, I’m a huge proponent of designing your code around the data, rather than the other way around, and I think it’s one of the reasons git has been fairly successful

[. . .]

I will, in fact, claim that the difference between a bad programmer and a good one is whether he considers his code or his data structures more important. Bad programmers worry about the code. Good programmers worry about data structures and their relationships.

Because God Can See

When I was little — and by the way, I was little once — my father told me a story about an 18th century watchmaker. And what this guy had done: he used to produce these fabulously beautiful watches.

And one day, one of his customers came into his workshop and asked him to clean the watch that he’d bought. And the guy took it apart, and one of the things he pulled out was one of the balance wheels. And as he did so, his customer noticed that on the back side of the balance wheel was an engraving, were words.

And he said to the guy, “Why have you put stuff on the back that no one will ever see?” And the watchmaker turned around and said, “God can see it.”

Now I’m not in the least bit religious, neither was my father, but at that point, I noticed something happening here. I felt something in this plexus of blood vessels and nerves, and there must be some muscles in there as well somewhere, I guess. But I felt something. And it was a physiological response. And from that point on, from my age at the time, I began to think of things in a different way. And as I took on my career as a designer, I began to ask myself the simple question: Do we actually think beauty, or do we feel it?

Richard Seymour, How Beauty Feels

I want it to be as beautiful as possible, even if it’s inside the box. A great carpenter isn’t going to use lousy wood for the back of a cabinet, even though nobody’s going to see it. When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.

Steve Jobs

Do quite a bit more, good and invisible things, than required for the MVP for the bloody “sprint”. You will then smile a lot and sleep quite well indeed. Excellence is a habit.

Saved here via Stephanie Harcrow’s post.

Love, Knowledge, and Compassion

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. These passions, like great winds, have blown me hither and thither, in a wayward course, over a great ocean of anguish, reaching to the very verge of despair.

I have sought love, first, because it brings ecstasy – ecstasy so great that I would often have sacrificed all the rest of life for a few hours of this joy. I have sought it, next, because it relieves loneliness – that terrible loneliness in which one shivering consciousness looks over the rim of the world into the cold unfathomable lifeless abyss. I have sought it finally, because in the union of love I have seen, in a mystic miniature, the prefiguring vision of the heaven that saints and poets have imagined. This is what I sought, and though it might seem too good for human life, this is what – at last – I have found.

With equal passion I have sought knowledge. I have wished to understand the hearts of men. I have wished to know why the stars shine. And I have tried to apprehend the Pythagorean power by which number holds sway above the flux. A little of this, but not much, I have achieved.

Love and knowledge, so far as they were possible, led upward toward the heavens. But always pity brought me back to earth. Echoes of cries of pain reverberate in my heart. Children in famine, victims tortured by oppressors, helpless old people a hated burden to their sons, and the whole world of loneliness, poverty, and pain make a mockery of what human life should be. I long to alleviate this evil, but I cannot, and I too suffer.

This has been my life. I have found it worth living, and would gladly live it again if the chance were offered me.

– Bertrand Russell, What I Have Lived For

Simpler Gmail

Michael Leggett, lead designer of Gmail from 2008-2012

“It’s like Lucky Charms got spewed all over the screen,” he says to me, as he scrolls through his inbox. It’s true. Folders, contacts, Google apps like Docs and Drive–and at least half a dozen notifications–all clutter Gmail at any given moment. And of course, there’s that massive Gmail logo that sits in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. Just in case you forgot that you just typed “” into your browser bar three seconds ago. “Go look at any desktop app and tell me how many have a huge fucking logo in the top left,” rants Leggett. “C’mon. It’s pure ego, pure bullshit. Drop the logo. Give me a break.”

Fast Company, “The former lead designer of Gmail just fixed Gmail on his own”

So he made this plugin for Chrome and Firefox that cuts out all the terrible visual noise of Gmail. I’m never uninstalling this one.

And while I’m on the subject, who signed off on this disaster?

Because we all know that the only way to attact attention to a UI element is to adorn it with a big blue goddamn fucking tumor.

Chernobyl (2019) · IMDb · A+

On Post-Truth

What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all. What can we do then? What else is left but to abandon even the hope of truth and content ourselves instead with stories? In these stories, it doesn’t matter who the heroes are.

But it is still there. Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid. That is how an RBMK reactor core explodes. Lies.

To be a scientist is to be naive. We are so focused on our search for truth, we fail to consider how few actually want us to find it. But it is always there, whether we see it or not, whether we choose to or not. The truth doesn’t care about our needs or wants. It doesn’t care about our governments, our ideologies, our religions. It will lie in wait for all time. And this, at last, is the gift of Chernobyl.

Where I once would fear the cost of truth, now I only ask: What is the cost of lies?

And: What would happen were you to ingest a grain-sized piece of the Reactor No. 4’s core today:

If you ate this fuel chip, not much of it would likely dissolve in your gut; the matrix is UO2, and U(IV) Oxide is poorly soluble even in the acid environment of the gut. But let’s say it did dissolve completely and got metabolized. You’d be committing yourself to about 20 mSv (2 rem) from Cs-137, and probably a similar dose from Sr-90. Basically, if you were a radiation worker in the USA, your annual dose limit of 5 rem would be met. In many countries and facilities, you would exceed annual allowances.

Penny Flip Tip

Whenever you’re called on to make up your mind,

   and you’re hampered by not having any,

the best way to solve the dilemma, you’ll find,

   is simply by spinning a penny.

No—not so that chance shall decide the affair

   while you’re passively standing there moping;

but the moment the penny is up in the air,

   you suddenly know what you’re hoping.

Persi Diaconis, The Problem of Thinking Too


For My Mother by May Sarton

Once more
I summon you
Out of the past
With poignant love,
You who nourished the poet
And the lover.
I see your gray eyes
Looking out to sea
In those Rockport summers,
Keeping a distance
Within the closeness
Which was never intrusive
Opening out
Into the world.
And what I remember
Is how we laughed
Till we cried
Swept into merriment
Especially when times were hard.
And what I remember
Is how you never stopped creating
And how people sent me
Dresses you had designed
With rich embroidery
In brilliant colors
Because they could not bear
To give them away
Or cast them aside.
I summon you now
Not to think of
The ceaseless battle
With pain and ill health,
The frailty and the anguish.
No, today I remember
The creator,
The lion-hearted.


via Catherine

Timelapse of the Future

Best thing I’ve seen this year. About as spiritual as it gets.

After an unimaginable length of time, even the black holes will have evaporated and the universe will be nothing but a sea of photons, gradually tending towards the same temperature, as the expansion of the universe cools them towards absolute zero. Once the very last remnants of the very last stars are finally decayed away to nothing and everything reaches the same temperature, the story of the universe finally comes to an end. For the first time in its life, the Universe will be permanent and unchanging. Entropy finally stops increasing because the cosmos cannot get any more disordered.

Nothing happens. And it keeps not happening forever.

😢 how beautiful is that? And black holes take a long, long time to evaporate

A black hole with the mass of the sun will last a wizened 1067 years. Considering that the current age of our universe is a paltry 13.8 times 109 years, that’s a good amount of time. But if you happened to turn the Eiffel Tower into a black hole, it would evaporate in only about a day.

And that’s after this happens

It will take hundreds of trillions of years for the first stellar remnant to cool completely, fading from a white dwarf through red, infrared and all the way down to a true black dwarf. By that point, the Universe will hardly be forming any new stars at all, and space will be mostly black.

BLN and I spoke about how we simply have no good strategy to attempt a comprehension of “hundreds of trillions” of years.

Rōshi Shopsin

A few favorites from a selection of Kenny Shopsin’s infinite wisdom. He ran this diner (which doesn’t really sound like one…)

On ambition

It’s just an initiation into the idea until the abilities to appreciate life forthe moments in a row starts to make you a deeper and more fulfilled person, and the energy you put towards pursuing the goals … it starts out obsessive.

The point of goals

My stupid goal: I’ve risen above that and I don’t need a goal, I’m just stupid. I just float free, knowing that after you’ve pursued a stupid goal for a long time, even if you understand it’s not important, you understand it’s a device to help you overcome the absurdity of life.

Social Media (article lists this as “on getting involved”)

[One] modern phenomenon is that people have begun to savor their spectatorship rather than being involved. They don’t want to be a part of it, or if they do, they don’t know how. They construct an artificial wall between reality and themselves — and they don’t cross it.

And on life

The only way to not be crushed by the stupidity of life is to pursue something energetically and gain as much satisfaction as you can before it gets stupid — and just ignore the fact that it’s stupid. The whole thing is shitty. You’re gonna fucking die.


All Yesterdays is an exploration of things we know we will never know about “dinosaurs and prehistoric animals” . Jonathan Wojcik at has an excellent review of the book. Of particular interest: We know little-to-nothing about the creatures’ anatomies and morphologies because of missing soft tissue data. Here are paleoartists’ recreations of a cow and a swan:

Looked up a sperm whale’s skeleton and can’t imagine how lacking a recreation would be:


This article discusses the history and current state of paleoart. And this post is the ultimate TL;DR on the subject

As C.M. Kosemen explains throughout All Yesterdays, we really can’t ever know how much fat and other soft tissues contributed to the overall shape of dinosaurs since that’s the first thing to rot and shrivel tight against their bones and like even a sperm whale has a little skinny skeleton.

so like

how would we know?

Letters to a Computer

The Des Moines Register on how to send them email in (I’m guessing) the late 80s/early 90s.

lt="DSM Register on how to send mail to a computer)

An article on how Baud Rate isn’t the same as Bit Rate

Baud rate refers to the number of signal or symbol changes that occur per second. A symbol is one of several voltage, frequency, or phase changes. NRZ binary has two symbols, one for each bit 0 or 1, that represent voltage levels. In this case, the baud or symbol rate is the same as the bit rate.

– Lou Frenzel, Electronic Design, “What’s The Difference Between Bit Rate And Baud Rate?

Via /r/bitcoin

Unposted FTW

'Posting’ in the pen world refers to what you do with your pen cap while you write [. . .] when you put the cap on the back of the pen while you write, regardless of whether it pushes on or screws on with threads.


[. . .] what do you do with the cap? Do you put it on the desk? Hold it in your hand? Both of these would be ‘non-posting’ or ‘unposted’ writing methods.

The Goulet Pen Co.

I write unposted, have done so my whole life, and think that people who post are weird, pitiable, and simply wrong.


Three years late but what an absolutely beautiful game!

“One of my main goals when designing ‘Prune’ was to respect the player’s intelligence and to respect their time, whether that player is 4 or 74,” McDonald said. “So much of the mobile game market just does not do this incredibly simple thing of respecting their players as actual human beings whose time is precious.”

– Business Week, “How a half-fallen tree inspired the hottest iPhone game right now

Racism and Astrology

Via co-worker DH. Dara Ó Briain on how Racism is better than Astrology:

Racism is one of the worst social evils they can imagine. “How dare you do that?” they say. "How dare you ascribe to me personality traits? You don’t even know me, but you tell me that you know me, and you know these things about me, and you say I share these personality traits with this huge group of people, and I don’t know them, you don’t know them, and you say not only do we have the same character traits, but we have some sort of common history and some common destiny, and you make all of these horrible presumptions on the back of what? On the back of a fluke of birth. How dare you do that?

What? Ooh, Capricorn.

Efficient Languages

Ross Pomeroy for RealClearScience, “What’s the Most Efficient Language?

[. . .] travel the world and record at least a dozen speakers of every language reading those passages aloud at their normal cadence. Count the overall number of syllables used for each passage and measure the time it took subjects to read their passage. Divide the syllable count by time to get the number of syllables spoken per second. Next, come up with some value for how much meaning is packed into each syllable, which will give you an average information density per syllable. Finally, use those values to derive an “information rate.”


English came out on top, but not by much. Most of languages grouped pretty closely together, however, Japanese lagged behind the rest. Interestingly, the languages that conveyed the least amount of information per syllable, like Spanish, Japanese, and French, tended to be spoken at a faster rate. This allowed these languages (apart from Japanese) to deliver a similar amount of information compared to more meaning-dense languages like Mandarin and English.

Jonathan McWhorter for The Atlantic, “The World’s Most Efficient Languages

When a language seems especially telegraphic, usually another factor has come into play: Enough adults learned it at a certain stage in its history that, given the difficulty of learning a new language after childhood, it became a kind of stripped-down “schoolroom” version of itself.

In contrast, one cannot help suspecting that not too many adults have been tackling the likes of sǝq’ayǝƛaaɣwǝaɣhaś. Kabardian has been left to its own devices, and my, has it hoarded a lot of them. This is, as languages go, normal, even if Kabardian is rather extreme. By contrast, only a few languages have been taken up as vehicles of empire and imposed on millions of unsuspecting and underqualified adults. Long-dominant Mandarin, then, is less “busy” than Cantonese and Taiwanese, which have been imposed on fewer people. English came out the way it did because Vikings, who in the first millennium forged something of an empire of their own in northern and western Europe, imposed themselves on the Old English of the people they invaded and, as it were, mowed it. German, meanwhile, stayed “normal.”

In Ithkuil, “Tram-mļöi hhâsmařpţuktôx” translates to “On the contrary, I think it may turn out that this rugged mountain range trails off at some point.” 😐

I think we all know John McWhorter is not to be relied upon when he ventures away from his bailiwick of creole languages, which he is frequently called on to do since he has become the go-to linguistics popularizer, but he does have a pleasant prose style and it’s always fun to argue about his overgeneralizations and sometimes wacky obiter dicta (like the one about the Awful Russian Language).

– Steve Dodson, Language Hat, Efficient Languages

Sans Bullshit Sans

Roel Nieskens “leveraged the synergy of ligatures” to create a free typeface called Sans Bullshit Sans.

It turns this

The value proposition of our agile mindset and scrum methodology is to enable the emergence of disruptive, convergent, crowdsourced platforms that allow our clients to lean in and engage in collective mindshare on established design patterns using the latest usercentric technologies empowered by the cloud.

into this

Here’s how he made it. Fucking brilliant. I saved a list of the terms and phrases that cause the ligatures. On a related note, I’d be bullshitting myself if maintain any hope of finishing this tiny book at some point.

Lutz Ebersdorf

As if I needed another reason to fall in love with Tilda Swinton

Swinton penned a phony IMDb biography to keep the secret, and wore fake genitalia, created by makeup artist Mark Coulier, while in character. (“She did have us make a penis and balls,” Coulier told the paper. “She had this nice, weighty set of genitalia so that she could feel it dangling between her legs, and she managed to get it out on set on a couple of occasions.”) Both she and Guadagnino were miffed when their secret got out. “Frankly, my long-held dream was that we would never have addressed this question at all,” Swinton told the Times. “My original idea was that Lutz would die during the edit, and his ‘In Memoriam’ be the final credit in the film.”


lt="Tilda Swinton)