December 28th, 2013
Run is a little beauty of a story.
It's just a vignette, but that's all it needs to be: there's absolutely no need for it to be expanded into a full length feature. What counts is the economy with which the story unfolds, and the creepiness of the idea.
Watch out for the name of run's writer/editor/director Mat Johns in years to come. With a bit of luck and a decent budget to work with, he might well be bringing us something well worth watching.
[Via The Dissolve]
December 28th, 2013
Lol My Thesis wraps up years of study as succinctly (and flippantly) as possibly:
Really, really thin semiconductors look different and act differently than really thin semiconductors because quantum mechanics. Also, 10 nanometers sounds really big now.
Materials Science and Engineering, Northwestern University
You can't understand what hillly cities look like in two dimensions.
Architecture, Universidad Católica de Chile.
Vortex currents off a wing have weird effects on other wings AKA apparently helicopters shouldn't work.
Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State
I wonder if the Daily Mail will bother to mention how few of the entries come from UK institutions of higher learning when they pick out some choice extracts in order to demonstrate the absurdity of spending hard-working taxpayers' money on such unproductive postgraduate research, before demanding that Michael Gove go further in order to root out the Marxists who have been running our universities for the last four decades? Because obviously all that money should have been devoted to finding a cure for cancer.
To be fair, there's the odd thesis on the list that even the Mail might just approve of:
Why Is The Security Council Dysfunctional? Because the Russians Are Devious Liars
Political Science, University of Pennsylvania
December 28th, 2013
Speaking as someone who adores the 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof but knows not a thing about the source material beyond the fact that the story had been a successful stage play before being filmed, I found William Deresiewicz's introduction to Tevye's creator Sholem Aleichem fascinating:
Dracula, Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe: it takes a special kind of greatness for a literary character to achieve autonomy from his creator. Like those "folk songs" that are actually the products of a single pen ("This Land Is Your Land," say), such figures come to seem as if they'd sprung directly from the popular imagination, effacing their originators altogether. Everyone has heard of Frankenstein; not many know who Mary Shelley is.
Such is the case with Tevye, the jocular giant of Yiddish literature. With his trio of marriageable daughters and his eternal little town of Anatevka, his largeness and simplicity, he seems to come to us directly from the pages of a folktale. You'd almost have to be a Yiddishist to recognize the name of his creator, Sholem Aleichem. Yet once he was a giant, too: the voice of Eastern European Jewry by universal acclamation; the creator, Jeremy Dauber tells us in his new biography, of modern Jewish literature as well as modern Jewish humor; the man to whom the author of Huckleberry Finn replied, upon being introduced to "the Jewish Mark Twain," "please tell him that I am the American Sholem Aleichem." His death in 1916 was the occasion of the largest public funeral New York had ever witnessed. [...]
Damn. More reading to catch up on.
December 26th, 2013
I'm always interested to read about the reasoning behind the decisions software developers make:
It took more than a year and three distinct attempts to get Google Docs in Basecamp … and still, the damn thing almost didn't get built. Why was it so hard?
We knew we needed it. Integration with Google Docs was a super-popular feature request, and usage in general is on the rise. Since Basecamp is a repository for everything project-related, it made sense to show the same love to Google Docs we show to any other type of file you can store in a Basecamp project.
Problem was, we don't really use Google Docs ourselves. [...]
December 26th, 2013
I can well believe that this story from the letters page of the London Review of Books is variant #35 of one of the standard jokes told wherever two or three translators get together, but I still reckon it's worth telling:
Like Chris Sansom's story about translators, mine too is possibly apocryphal (Letters, 19 December 2013). A friend of a friend was the personal staff officer (PSO) to an air marshal. The great man was told, at short notice, to address a Nato meeting. He said he'd use the speech he'd delivered recently at the RAF Staff College. The PSO pointed out that it contained a joke about cricket which only the Brits would understand. He was assured that all would be well. When he got to Brussels, the PSO took a copy of the speech to the instantaneous translators. They agreed that the joke was impossible, but said they knew how to cope. When the air marshal approached the difficult section, the delegates heard in their headphones: 'The air marshal is about to tell a joke. It is about cricket. It cannot be translated. In the interests of Nato solidarity, please laugh when we say – "Laugh."' On the way back to London, the air marshal said: 'Didn't the joke go well. I told you it would.'
December 25th, 2013
Courtesy of Jo Walton, Joyful and Triumphant (St Zenobius and the Aliens):
It's a bit of a cliche, but the first thing I thought when I came to Heaven was that I didn't expect aliens. It's a cliche because it's the first thing we all think — aliens are a surprise. And what a delightful surprise! Welcome, everyone, whatever your planet of origin. Joy to you! Heaven welcomes you. My name is Zenobius, and I am from Earth. Earth is a perfectly ordinary planet. We had a perfectly standard Incarnation. If we're known for anything it's our rather splendid Renaissance, which I'm proud to say has been artistically quite influential, but although that happened in my own city of Florence I can't take any credit for it because it happened centuries after my death and I didn't really participate. [...]
[Via Making Light / Particles]
December 24th, 2013
(Part of me can't stop thinking "But you could fit so many more books on there if you'd just straighten those shelves up a bit!" Which isn't the point, I know, but I can't help myself.)
December 21st, 2013
I'm a girl! No, no! I'm not a girl. I'm still not ginger. There's something else, there's something important. I'm, I'm, I'm…
December 20th, 2013
December 17th, 2013
Buzzfeed's predictions of How The Media Will Report The Apocalypse is gets so much right:
Their version of the Daily Mail's response to the bad news is also pretty much spot on, but it's way too long to fit here. Go and see.
[Via More Words, Deeper Hole]
December 17th, 2013
EmmyC's webcomic Scarf is gorgeous. The first half dozen or so pages don't look like anything special, but once her main character looks out of the window to see why it's so light in the middle of the night the story gets going properly and she gets to show off her lovely way with snow and ice and a strikingly red scarf.
December 15th, 2013
Reading Issue 1 of Itty Bitty Orphan Black's Marvel Babies-style prequel to Orphan Black, I'm torn between thinking how nicely the cartoonist has captured Lil' Cosima, Sarah, Helena and Alison and remembering that according to season 1 of the show they didn't know one another existed when they met as adults so how the hell could they all have gone to school together! I'm trying hard to let the former reaction win out.
If you missed Orphan Black then it's well worth catching up on, not just for Tatiana Maslany's amazing performances as about half of the main cast, but also for the way they kept on piling up the complications across the entire first season and teased so many potentially fun plots for season 2.1 Please let the writers not screw it up in season 2 by losing control of their plot.
[Via The A.V. Club]
- Me, I want to know more about what Mrs S was involved in back in the day: I'm damn sure there's more to it than Felix and Sarah know. ↩
December 14th, 2013
"Masturbation for 30 years" and "Suppressed masturbation"? The ideal was to find a happy medium, presumably. Also, to try not to succumb to "Excitement as officer."1
- Whatever that was… ↩
December 12th, 2013
December 11th, 2013
December 9th, 2013
I could have sworn that today's date wasn't April 1st, but Nicholas Carr seems determined to prove me wrong:
If there's one product category ripe for disruptive innovation, it's lingerie. So it comes as no real surprise that Microsoft researchers have developed a smart bra. The self-quantifying garment is designed, write the researchers, to "perform emotion detection in a mobile, wearable system" as a means of triggering "just-in-time interventions to support behavior modification for emotional eating." [...]
- Potentially NSFW. ↩
December 7th, 2013
Dinosaurs! WTF? | A blog covering the conservative dinosaur readiness movement might just be the greatest blog of 2013.
Take, for example, this post on the Top 5 Most Awful Tyrannosaurs:
Nanotyrannus was only about a third of the size of the biggest tyrannosaurs, which you might think would preclude it from this list. The problem with that line of thinking is that a third of huge is still pretty freaking big. Think of it in terms of sliders. It doesn't matter whether you eat one 12oz burger or three 4oz burgers, you're still over eating. It works the same way with pack hunting tyrannosaurs. Dividing a tyrannosaur into three smaller tyrannosaurs doesn't mean you're going to be alright, it just means that the tyrannosaurs will be able to cover all of your exits.
Hell, a seventeen foot long Nanotyrannus could probably hide in your garage. Are you going to go to your garage, be ambushed by a Nanotyrannus, and be like, "Oh, this is fine. This tyrannosaur is only seventeen feet long."
No. You'll be like, "I am dead now because it turns out that the size of a tyrannosaur is not necessarily a major factor in my ability to survive it eating my head, beyond a certain critical size which is likely somewhere in the twelve to fourteen foot-" DEAD
Also, because that same post ended like this:
The only reason T. Rex didn't evolve wings is because the sky doesn't bleed. Tyrannosaurs Rex only had two fingers on each hand because scissors always wins if you stab hard enough. The biggest Tyrannosaurus Rex ever found was named Sue because you could fit both Johnnie Cochran and Mike Geragos in her gaping jaws. T. Rex didn't go extinct, murder got tired.