Linkdump for June 25th through July 16th

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between June 25th and July 16th.

Sometime between June 25th and July 16th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

Linkdump for March 31st through April 2nd

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between March 31st and April 2nd.

Sometime between March 31st and April 2nd, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • Rosie’s Phenomenal Precision Insult Machine!: Don't reach for those old, tired gendered, ableist, or otherwise lazy and harmful insults. Trust the machine to help you find the perfect, targeted insult for your specific needs! (Does not contain gendered- genital-based insults, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, dis-ableism, body-shaming, slut-shaming. May contain peanuts.)
  • Joss Whedon’s obsession is not feminism: The problem is that at some point in his career, Joss became so intent on the masochistic fantasy of being hated by strong women for being a nerd that he spent a decade writing stories about violating those women to ensure they would hate him.
  • Of dwarves and gender: So one day a dwarf is talking to a human and finally realizes that when humans say woman, they generally mean “person who is theoretically capable of childbirth” because for whatever reason, humans assign social expectations based genital differences.
  • On Wm. Golding’s Lord of the Flies: Basically all the good Golding scholars agree that Lord of the Flies is intended as a condemnation specifically of western positivism and superiority, not a condemnation of human nature.  Golding believed that good societies were possible, but that he was not living in one.
  • What’s Wrong With Using The Word “Gypsy?”: TL;DR: It's racist. Here is a list of myths and realities about the Romani/Roma people.

Linkdump for March 30th from 13:25 to 16:32

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between 13:25 and 16:32 on March 30th.

Sometime between 13:25 and 16:32 on March 30th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • The Male Power Fantasy (and why Mad Max and Captain Kirk don’t fit): This relates to a theory I have, which is that the archetypal Western Male Hero is James Bond, to the degree that people (Mainly straight white men) start to see every Western Male Hero as James Bond. Which is to say an aggressively masculine, quip-spitting, hyper violent womanizer. The ultimate Male Power Fantasy. A new supermodel love interest (or two) every film, a gun in his hand, and no consequences for his actions.
  • So many biological genders: If anyone tells you that there are 2-3 sexes in the world I want you to just go ahead and slap them.
  • Fight Club and toxic masculinity (with a side of Mad Max: Fury Road): Hold up – you mean there are people who watch Fight Club and don’t realise that Tyler Durden is meant to be full of shit?
  • Geisha FAQ: Please do not spread misconceptions about these hard-working women artists. They deserve respect and have persevered for centuries with women at the forefront of these professions.
  • Earth is dangerous: I really want a science fiction story where aliens come to invade earth and effortlessly wipe out humanity, only to be fought off by the wildlife.
  • Of privilege and nostalgia: The reality is, there was never a time when everyone could just enjoy things. To be able to say you had that time is to admit the privilege you had at not having to think about problematic behavior because it didn’t negatively affect your life.
  • To everyone else in the galaxy, all humans are basically Doc Brown.: Random Headcanon: That Federation vessels in Star Trek seem to experience bizarre malfunctions with such overwhelming frequency isn’t just an artefact of the television serial format. Rather, it’s because the Federation as a culture are a bunch of deranged hyper-neophiles, tooling around in ships packed full of beyond-cutting-edge tech they don’t really understand.
  • Snarky but amusing and thorough Romeo and Juliet analysis: SUMMARY: Romeo and Juliet is a stunningly rich play that is mostly about how feuds fuck people over badly and how if you have to wait until YOUR KIDS OFF THEMSELVES to figure that out you deserve to lose your children. Romeo and Juliet are victims of the feud and its mindless death-lust, not perpetrators of death on others. They’re not supposed to be figures of ridicule OR representatives of True Love: they’re supposed to make the audience go “oh BABIES, no, you’re going to end so badly” and then be sad when they do.
  • The singular “they”: Next time someone complains about singular “they” I’ll point them to this 17th century rant against singular “you”.

Linkdump for March 30th from 11:01 to 11:37

An automatically generated list of links that caught my eye between 11:01 and 11:37 on March 30th.

Sometime between , I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

In Regards to Our Company’s New Phone Plan

‘Now, some of you are complaining that you don’t feel safe working with a phone that could randomly explode on any given day.’

Brilliant piece from McSweeny’s: Now is not the time to criticize the Galaxy Note 7.

We all have a lot of work to do if we want to get this company to be the best in the world, and I believe that if we work together, we can accomplish just that. However, I do have a message for those of you who have been complaining about our new company phone plan the past few days: Now is not the time to criticize the Galaxy Note 7.

Now, I’m not going to stand here and pretend like this phone doesn’t have problems. After all, the proof that it gets overheated and explodes for practically no reason at all has been evident for months, but now, we need to focus on its positive aspects and wipe the slate clean. It is our company phone now, and there’s no use complaining about it anymore.

Thank you, Wen Powers, for finding a way to actually make me laugh about this mess.

Word of the Day: Kakistocracy

Kakistocracy: Government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.

Kakistocracy n. (kak·is·toc·ra·cy / kækɪsˈtɑkɹəsi)\
Government by the worst persons; a form of government in which the worst persons are in power.

More background, from Jury:

The origins of kakistocracy are actually pretty neat. The term was first used around 1829 and was coined as an opposite to “aristocracy”. It comes from the Greek “kakistos” or “worst”, which is the superlative form of “kakos” or “bad”. Switch the “k” to a “c” and you have the root of modern words like “cacophony”.

But here’s where it gets even more fun. “Kakos” is closely related to “Caco” or “defecate”. As we saw above, it’s essentially the same phonetic sounds and has similar modern words derived from it.

Today, you’ll find this in the Greek “Kakke” “human excrement”, Latin “cacare“, Irish “caccaim“, Serbo-Croatian “kakati“, Armenian “k’akor“, Old English “cac-hus” or “latrine”, Dutch “kak“, German “Kacke“, and the school-yard favorite “caca“.

So in this trying time, remember the word “kakistocracy”.

Quite literally, government by the shittiest.

My 2015 Resolutions

640×1136, 2,048×1,536, and 5120×2880. Yes, I make this joke somewhat annually. But…it amuses me, so I’ll probably continue to do so.

  • 640×1136 (iPhone 5s)
  • 2,048×1,536 (iPad Air 2)
  • 5120×2880 (iMac with Retina Display)

Yes, I make this joke somewhat annually. But…it amuses me, so I’ll probably continue to do so. One of these days I should dig back through prior years to figure out where I’ve posted this (blog, Facebook, Twitter) and see how my resolutions have changed over time.

Death of a Furby

I’ve always felt a weird sort of guilty glee at my role in the (temporary) psychological torture and murder of a poor, innocent Furby.

When I was growing up, our family had a few pets over the years. A bird when I was young (named Vogel, which is German for “bird”, in a rare moment of literalness in my family), then a cat, Filia (my mom’s), then another cat, George (my brother’s). Eventually, though, George left to live out the rest of his days in Fairbanks with my brother, and Filia died.

When Filia died, my mom decided that she didn’t want another flesh-and-blood pet, but still wanted something — so, mom and dad got a Furby. I’ve never been too sure just why or how this ended up being the choice, but so it was, and so they did. I’m sure I didn’t tease them at all about this. Not at all.

One summer, my parents took a trip down to Florida to visit my mom’s parents. Since their “pet” was more easily transported than earlier pets were, they decided to bring the Furby with them to show it to my grandparents. Unfortunately, in the midst of packing, the Furby was forgotten, and was left sitting on the dining room table. Once they got to Florida, unpacked, and realized their mistake, mom gave me a call to ask if I could send the Furby down to them.

“Really? You want me to mail the Furby?”

Yup. She did.

Being a dutiful and obedient son (as always, as I’m sure they’ll be happy to verify), I drove across town to their house, and found the Furby sitting patiently on the table.

Now, I’d never had a Furby. I knew a little bit about them, mostly through cultural osmosis, but this was my first time actually encountering one of these mysterious mogwai-like contraptions. I did know that they were motion-, sound-, and light-activated, though, so I tried to take precautions as I prepared the Furby for its journey.

I gently picked it up, and, moving as cautiously as possible, examined it to see if I could find an “off” switch. I assume that it must have had one somewhere, but if it did, I couldn’t find it. So I carefully wrapped a couple sheets of bubble wrap around the Furby, picked it up, slid it into a padded shipping envelope, sealed it up, and put it back down on the table.

And a high, muffled voice came from the envelope: “No light!”

Oh, dear. It’s awake.

“No light! Furby scared!”

You’ve got to be kidding me.

As I drove to the post office, the package on the seat next to me would chatter for a bit, fall silent, then wake up again as I hit a bump in the road or as the package slid slightly across the seat as I went around a turn.

Standing in line at the post office, I cradled the package gently in my arms. The Furby had been quiet for a while, and I was determined not to disturb its slumber. I reached the desk, gently put the envelope on the counter, and slid it across to the post office worker. “This needs to go to Florida.”

“No problem,” the attendent said, as she picked up the package and dropped it onto the scale.

“Furby scared! No light!” And the package wiggled a little bit as the Furby (assumedly) opened its eyes and frantically looked around its prison, wiggling its ears in panic.

The attendent raised her eyebrows and looked at me. “Um…it’s a Furby. It’s kind of my mom’s pet, and she wants to show it to her parents….” I trailed off, feeling foolish, as the muffled nonsense language of the Furby continued to come from the package.

I don’t remember anymore if she rolled her eyes or smirked — or both — but she did carefully attach a “FRAGILE” sticker to the outside of the envelope, along with however many stamps it took to ship a pound-and-a-half bundle of babbling furry automaton from Alaska to Florida. “Thanks,” I said, as she gently tossed the envelope into the outgoing bin, to the accompaniment of muffled “Wheeeeeee!” from the Furby. “No problem,” she said. “NEXT!”

As I left the post office and drove home, I couldn’t help but giggle to myself, over and over, as I pictured the poor, traumatized, blind Furby traveling across the country. Falling asleep in bins at one or another stop on the way, only to wake up as soon as it moved, crying out for light, for company, for comfort. At the poor post office workers and delivery people picking up an apparently innocent package, only to suddenly have it wiggle in their hands as a small voice cried out at them — “No light! Furby scared!”

The Furby did make it to Florida — however, mom confirmed that by the time it got there, its batteries were well and truly dead. Which, horrible as it seems, couldn’t help but launch me into another fit of guilty hilarity at the thought of the poor confused Furby, cocooned in bubble wrap, slowly expiring, expending its last, desperate reserves of energy on ever-quieter pleas for light and comfort.

I’m sure a new set of batteries worked their magic and revived the Furby to its usual happy chatterbox state. But I’ve always felt a weird sort of guilty glee at my role in the (temporary) psychological torture and murder of a poor, innocent Furby.

You’ve Got A Dirty Speech Synthesizer

An amusing little anecdote about Watson, the IBM supercomputer that was featured on Jeopardy, that might seem a little familiar to those of my friends who are parents.

An amusing little anecdote about Watson, the IBM supercomputer that was featured on Jeopardy, that might seem a little familiar to those of my friends who are parents:

Two years ago, Brown attempted to teach Watson the Urban Dictionary. The popular website contains definitions for terms ranging from Internet abbreviations like OMG, short for “Oh, my God,” to slang such as “hot mess.”

But Watson couldn’t distinguish between polite language and profanity — which the Urban Dictionary is full of. Watson picked up some bad habits from reading Wikipedia as well. In tests it even used the word “bullshit” in an answer to a researcher’s query.

Ultimately, Brown’s 35-person team developed a filter to keep Watson from swearing and scraped the Urban Dictionary from its memory.

Gee, seems like parenting would be a little easier (if less embarrassing–and, of course, amusing) if the solution was that easy for people!

(via Techdirt)