A story from the line at McDonald’s

February 28th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Me: okay so my sexuality’s a complicated deal so let’s just call me queer as hell
Friend: nono I wanna know can’t you explain it
Me: well ok mainly I am asexual which means I don’t want to do the do nor do I long for it, so it has nothing to do with lack of confidence or anything like that, I simply don’t find anyone sexually attractive
Friend: right right
Me: but I’m also bi romantic. The sexual and romantic attraction are different, and I still fall in love and want to have physical contact with my partner, I just don’t need the hanky panky
Friend: right cause you have a girlfriend that’s pansexual right
Me: exactly and as long as we’re both happy with not doing the rumba naked, that’s a valid relationship
Friend: I get it, I get it… I didn’t know the entire sexual and romantic orientations were different
Me: yeah I know it was an eyeopener for me when I found ou-
Lady behind us in line: excuse me so sorry but I couldn’t help but overhear but I didn’t know half of what you just said and I was just wondering what that thing your girlfriend was is, pansexual?
Me: *awkward glance at friend* oh uh I’m not an expert or anything and uh ok so basically it’s similar to being bisexual, but there’s less value in what gender the one you’re attracted to is, at least as I understood it. So a bisexual would be attracted to a person despite their gender, a pansexual wouldn’t really care at all in a way uh I’m sorry I’m bad at explaining
Lady behind us in line: that’s alright I can look it up myself later you gave me a general idea! So where did you find out these things, you’re pretty young?
Me: well, Internet. Once you’re a bit confused about what you might be you usually go looking for explanations…
Lady behind us in line: so uh in theory… It’s fine if you don’t know, I just want to check with you… Is there a thing called aROMANTIC? like you’re asexual, is there a equivalent to the romantic orientation you mentioned?
Me: oh yeah, absolutely! You can be both asexual and aromantic, or aromantic and heterosexual, literally all combinations are possible!
Lady behind us in line: *smiles LIKE REALLY GODDAMNED GENUINELY* thank you so much, I did not know that. *fishes up phone from pocket* now if you excuse me, I’m going to call my mother and tell her I’m not crazy for never having been married or stayed with one guy for long despite being 50+ but still has three children! *steps out of line and walks off while dialing*
Friend: wow that was… Amazing
Me: see how happy she got? That’s the power of right information.
And that’s why I’ve been smiling since this happened.

February 28th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

You wonder why the children of America are so obsessed with death? You wonder why rock groups that look like corpses and zombie comic-book heroes are so goddamn popular here? It’s just the same way your Victorians loved their tombs and seances and murders. The American Empire is dead and does not know it.

Grant Morrison – (Comic: The Invisibles)

Demographic Intuition

February 27th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Most of us have pretty bad intuition about the relative populations of the countries of the world. I certainly do, despite my many attempts to improve.

Paul has found this map, which scales the world according to population:

My own approach has been lots of time staring at Wikipedia’s various listings of countries by population.

That’s a start, but it still leaves out the dimension of time. Why…

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Links without context

February 26th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Mississippi schools aren’t allowed to teach how to use a condom. One has resorted to an inspired workaround using socks.

Booking fees for A-list music acts. Supposedly you can get Coolio for <$30,000.

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Work on supertramp

February 25th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Can you keep a few dozen brilliant-but-disorganized geeks pointed in the right direction and collaborating productively? Supertramp is a very loose network of geeks and activists, linking up people who are working on mapping out political and economic power, and we’re looking for a cat herder to keep us in line.

The basic idea is this. My work on the Investigative Dashboardmirrors what Miguel Paz…

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Save the world: stop writing C

February 25th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Save the world: stop writing C

Francis wants to stop building insecure software. As a start, he is pledging not to use C/C++ for new projects. Choosing a different language for your work may not inevitably lead to safe code, but at least it’ll reduce the number of gratuitous buffer overflows we are geneating everywhere. And, well, you have to start somewhere.

[I’ve not signed, because I can imagine a few circumstances where I…

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Inequality: blame assortative mating and O-Ring production

February 24th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Inequality: blame assortative mating and O-Ring production

Tyler Cowen blames inequality on the tendency of the smart and rich to hang around with one another:

a common set of factors is driving inequality: equality of opportunity,  assortative mating, O-ring production, increases in the demand for talent driven by the leveraging of talent through technology. The forces are similar and so are the results, the money elite, the monetary elite, the power…

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Total closing tax haven subsidiaries

February 23rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Total closing tax haven subsidiaries

Total, the French oil major, is closing its subsidiaries in tax havens. At least, that’s how the PR runs. So far there is nothing official on the website, and their statement to Le Monde is anything other than definitive. ‘Tax haven’ can mean anything you want it to, as can closing a ‘certain numnber’ of subsidiaries.

Still, it’s a step in the right direction, and PR moves can inadvertantly lead…

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February 23rd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

There is nothing actually legitimate about Fox News (or MSNBC for that matter) and young people know this. They don’t trust news organizations because news organizations have given them no reason to be trusting. These channels exist not to inform but to uphold the biases and values of particular ideologies. Ideologies and values, by the way, that very few young people embody. Even when they try to strike a balance, they do it by pitting different perspectives against each other in staged arguments. But neither perspective looks familiar to most people under the age of 40, so they just tune out.

This complete lack of objectivity and representation in cable news has degraded the legitimacy of news media as a whole. Young people have absolutely no faith in people sitting at desks on television anymore. It’s gotten so bad that the most trusted news show among people under 40 is on Comedy Central. The Daily Show, it should be noted, spends as much time mocking the news media as it does talking about the news, further decreasing young people’s trust of the news. The news is losing an entire generation.

Hank Green. Holy Shit, I Interviewed the President.

Background: Green is one of the three YouTubers that Google and the White House arranged to interview President Obama for the State of the Union address. Over on Medium he writes about the blowback he and his cohorts received from legacy media, and explores how traditional news organizations have lost the trust of younger news consumers.

For example:

Legacy media isn’t mocking us because we aren’t a legitimate source of information; they’re mocking us because they’re terrified. Their legitimacy came from the fact that they have access to distribution channels and that they get to be in the White House press pool because of some long-ago established procedures that assumed they would use that power in the public interest. In reality, those things are becoming less and less important and less and less true. Distribution is free to anyone with a cell phone and the legitimacy of cable news sounds to me like an oxymoron. The median-aged CNN viewer is 60. For Fox, it’s 68.

The Fox/MSNBC machine is degrading a generation’s opinion of all news media. Young people watch Jon Stewart make fun of Fox News and they think “That’s what ‘news’ is” so they disengage. This isn’t just bad for journalism, it’s bad for America. I might venture to say that it’s terrible and dangerous and frightening for America. How does a democracy function with no credible system for informing its citizens?

Check it. It’s well worth the read.

(via futurejournalismproject)

The Tyranny of Structurelessness

February 22nd, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

[cross-posted from Edgeryders]

This classic essay has come up in a few conversations I’ve been having recently. It was written in 1970 in the context of feminist organizations, but it’s still a painfully accurate description of what can go wrong when groups try to abolish formal structures.

I’m going to paste some of the key passages below. But I strongly recommend reading the whole thing. As…

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February 21st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink


A metal conlang, with features like:

  • bløød, dëvil, and saẗan as copula forms
  • <öyster> is “blue”
  • n-diaresis, occurring only on <spin̈al> “to tap”
  • verbs are marked for how heretically you are performing the action, with the unmarked form beign “extremely heretically” – with this a hereticity hierarchy, where maximally heretical constituents can’t be passivized or relativized
  • the language cannot be spoken, only screamed hoarsely
  • a base-666 number system of course.

Forensic Architecture

February 21st, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Forensic Architecture is an excellent-sounding research group at Goldsmiths in London. They are trying to turn spatial data to political and legal ends:

When violence takes places within the city, architectural analysis is increasingly called upon as evidence in tribunals, international courts, and different political contexts.

Incredibly for an art-academic group, they are working with a level…

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February 20th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

What started with dozens of re-purposed boy scouts grew to hundreds, but there it hit a ceiling. When that happened, Putin’s team approached Russian advertisers. According to my sources, there are currently 10 different advertising agencies working for the Kremlin. These contracts are secret, and the firms are careful to maintain other, non-political clients.

The agencies compete fiercely with one another for contract extensions and bigger deals, making Russia’s online propaganda industry quite lucrative and surprisingly effective. It’s like Adam Smith’s “invisible hand,” except the opposite.

Combined, these efforts field a troll army of thousands. In some areas, like on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, the enterprise is so big that there are whole office buildings for these people.

It seems like a joke, but thousands of hired bloggers “go to work” every day, writing online about Vladimir Putin’s greatness and the decay of the West. They’re on Facebook, Twitter, news sites, and anywhere else the Kremlin feels threatened and outnumbered. Fresh instructions arrive every day in emails, specifying what to say and where to post it, all with the aim of bolstering Putin’s presidency amidst war and economic crisis.

…and not to yield: Ulysses of the bond markets

February 19th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

…and not to yield: Ulysses of the bond markets

Dsquared posts on Crooked Timber, asks only Greeks to comment. Comments thread predictably explodes into erudite snark, notably Joshua W. Burton’s take on Tennyson’s Ulysses:

. . . Come, my friends, ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer deal. Push off, and sitting well in order smite The hounding Euros; for my purpose holds To sail beyond the market, and the wrath Of all the western banks, until I…

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“Why I Am Not a Maker”

February 19th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

“Why I Am Not a Maker”

An absolutely on-point critique of the ideology of making things:

The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home.

Making is not a rebel…

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Kickstarting more episodes of the podcast Aaron Swartz helped start

February 18th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink



Ben Winkler and Aaron Swartz created “The Good Fight,” a podcast about
David and Goliath stories; now Winkler is raising money to keep the
series going.

Read the rest…

getting hooked on mrjob

February 17th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

A lot of my ‘programming’ time is actually spent sniffing around various libraries and open-source projects, trying to figure out which will be helpful and which will leave me cursing the mistake of building anything on top of them. ‘Soft’ areas like documentation and community management tend to matter almost as much as the quality of the code itself.

So well done mrjobfor not just having decent…

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Real estate and shell companies in the New York Times

February 16th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

Real estate and shell companies

The New York Times has just turned out a long, worthy article on New York real estate owned through shell companies:

On the 74th floor of the Time Warner Center, Condominium 74B was purchased in 2010 for $15.65 million by a secretive entity called 25CC ST74B L.L.C. It traces to the family of Vitaly Malkin, a former Russian senator and banker who was barred from entering Canada because of…

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Psychological pricing beyond $9.99

February 16th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

The psychology of pricing goes way further than just setting prices a few cents below a whole number.

Products that are recreational or luxurious benefit from rounded prices: Consumers were more inclined to buy a bottle of champagne when it was priced at $40.00 rather than at $39.72 or $40.28. However, for purchases that are utilitarian—a calculator, in this experiment—participants were more…

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Petitions that made me laugh

February 15th, 2019 § 0 comments § permalink

A couple of petitions that are simultaneously hilarious and serious. First, to make tampons VAT-free by classifying them as essential items:

The Government taxes sanitary products but not crocodile steaks. If you value the functioning of those who menstruate at least as much as you enjoy your crocodile Friday then sign our petition and join our campaign

Then, there are a various petitions…

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