Some great things to read

March 4, 2011

I read some very good stuff on the interweb this week. You might enjoy:

Paul Graham’s
Taste for Makers.
Excellent thoughts on making things that are simple and good, which can easily apply to design, writing, art, mathematics, acting, everything, really:

Good design is timeless. In math, every proof is timeless unless it contains a mistake. So what does Hardy mean when he says there is no permanent place for ugly mathematics? He means…. if something is ugly, it can’t be the best solution. There must be a better one, and eventually someone will discover it. Aiming at timelessness is a way to make yourself find the best answer: if you can imagine someone surpassing you, you should do it yourself.

The Hairpin’s thoughtful, insightful
Ask an Abortion Provider.

I speak of my abortion as a positive experience, not to secure the “most awesome abortion” prize (hello judges…?) but to save a seat for the possibility that this doesn’t have to be the worst thing that ever happened to you in your whole life…. If it makes you uncomfortable to think about abortion as something that could possibly be positive for a person, think of why you’re a person who doesn’t want someone to do the best that they can under the circumstances they’re in.

The Awl co-founder Chiore Sicha’s touching and funny elegy to his cat,
The Last Photograph of Cat.

Cat believed that everything was a prison… Because of his view that there was always something better beyond what boundaries so arbitrarily constrained him, Cat spent most of his life trying to climb over, through and under any possible obstacle.

The Wikipedia article on
Emotional Labour.

… a form of emotional regulation wherein workers are expected to display certain emotions as part of their job, and to promote organizational goals. The intended effects of these emotional displays are on other, targeted people, who can be clients, customers, subordinates or co-workers.

Every in-person job I’ve had in the past decade has involved a very heavy component of emotional labour, since basically I am hired to get people to open up with me (like when I interview or teach them), or to help them feel emotions that I generate (ie, as an actor) or to regulate their emotional journey (ie, banishing awkwardness and creating flow and comfort when hosting).

I was instinctively very aware of this concept, so it was fun to learn that it had a name and other people have written about it. One thing stood out to me: basically, the more superficial the emotional labour, the worse the worker feels about themselves. You have to genuinely believe in what you’re doing if you want to be OK with doing it. I’ve really noticed this.

Writer Mike Sager has a section on his personal website called Tips.
It includes some real gems:

- 53 ways to improve your reporting
(Sit in the back, in a place that commands the entire field.)

- 51 ways to improve your writing
(Dare to be bad. Then go back and edit.)

- 25 ways to improve editorial relationships
(Try to avoid drinking at lunch.)

OKCupid: Best questions to ask on a first date

February 8, 2011

Q: Do my date and I have long-term potential?
A: According to OKC, couples with long-term potential are most likely to give matching answers to the following questions:
1. Do you like horror movies?
2. Have you ever travelled around another country alone?
3. Wouldn’t it be fun to chuck it all and live on a sailboat?

According to OKC’s data set, matching answers on these questions were even more predictive of a successful match than questions about sex, god and smoking.

It’s a fun read: here.

Infinite Camel

December 8, 2010

Thanks to Peneycad for the tip.

Ten years in two minutes

December 3, 2010

Neato. Via Kottke.

Sun melts rock, OH MAH GAWD

November 25, 2010

So this is a big mirrored parabola thingie that collects 3 square metres of sunshine and focusses it to a pinpoint. Which is hot enough to burn literally anything on earth.
My brain seriously exploded and is now dripping down my neck. It’s pretty hot but this is hotter:

Thanks to Jessie for this mind-melting clip.

What’s it like to be blind?

November 10, 2010

UPDATE: The link to the webforum was broken; I fixed it. Here.

Here is a very long, very in-depth web forum, where tons of users ask honest questions of a 26 year old man who’s been blind from birth.

He answers all sorts of stuff, ranging from how much he cares about women’s looks to whether he pees sitting or standing, to info about his computer (he doesn’t use a monitor!) to what his computer screen-reader sounds like. Turns out he can listen to his computer-voice at an absolutely dizzying speed (here’s an mp3).

The thread is 15+ pages long and takes forever to go through, but it’s super-interesting, and worth at least a skim. Read it here.

Koki Tanaka – Everything is Everything

October 20, 2010

Hypothetically, if I said to you, “Hey, watch this six-minute video of random things done to random objects by unseen people”, then you probably think you’d be like WAT
But I am saying that, and I bet you’ll watch it and find it strangely enjoyable. People with children or babbies, make sure to show it to them, too- apparently it goes over extra-well with little kids.

Via MeFi.

What prison is really like

October 17, 2010

Here’s an excellent, really long post / Q&A on an online message board about what prison’s really like, written by a Michigan guy who did two years in prison for armed robbery. It’s sweary and parts are kind of graphic, in case you’re sensitive to that stuff. And it’s lengthy- expect to settle in for at least half an hour. Really interesting though; best of the web for sure.

One of the most surreal moments [in prison] was the Superbowl, all these convicts crowded around this caged screen watching a repeat of Blue’s Clues – muttering about how the Superbowl was really on. It was like even though they couldn’t watch it, they wanted to be a part of a national, communal activity. Two days later they replayed the Superbowl, with the ads and half time show taken out – no one watched it. How fucking weird is that?

Online here. Found via Kottke.


1. There are a couple of weird auto-replaces throughout the article: “girlfriend” -> sister and “-band” is changed too. An explanation is here.

2. Metafilter says it may be fake. Sure. It’s still a good read, so read it first with your BS goggles on, and then read the “fake!” thread after.

3D mega super HD IMAX explosion

September 12, 2010

Tonight I saw the Hubble 3D IMAX film (narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, thank you very much).  We arrived about 5 minutes late to the movie, and I was bummed about that, because my favourite thing about 3D movies is always putting on the glasses early and taking pictures of how freaking awesome we look. But despite this setback, the film was pretty great, I thought, if totally predictable. It’s space, it’s 3D IMAX, they’re going to try to blow your brain right open with 3D IMAX ULTRA SOUND SUPER HIGH DEF pictures of space, ya know? And, they do. Unfortunately, along the way, they create all these ridiculous false suspense moments: “From the beginning of the journey, the crew ran into some trouble with a stuck bolt. Will it come off, or will this jeopardize the entire mission?” SPOILER ALERT: it comes right off after a few tries. <insert collective sigh of relief here>.

I have a really hard time “getting” space, though. I mean, I’m not a total idiot, but I just can’t keep track of the billions of galaxies with billions of stars in each one. Also, some of the images were seriously mindblowing. Like: “you’re looking at a galaxy that is 10 billion light years away.” How can you start to contemplate that? All the vastness and infinite possibility and worlds out there stuff makes me feel insignificant. There’s all this stuff whirring above our heads 80 bagajillion light years away and I’m all worried about which shoes to wear with my dress (Answer: the ones I didn’t wear. Sorry about that, blistered feet).

But I should have saved my 3D glasses at the end and smuggled them out, instead of neatly stacking them into the tray, as I did.

And that sentence shall serve as a segue into my next hhhhhaaaamaaazink tidbit.

I should have saved those glasses because, get ready for this, CBC is airing a 3D TELEVISION SHOW entitled… please wait for it… Queen Elizabeth in 3D. I looked for a link to an official page, but a Google search that lasted my entire attention span of 15 seconds only pulled up page after page of people asking “wait, really?”

Apparently, Canadians can get their free amber-blue 3D glasses at Canada Post, snuggle up on the couch with some popcorn, and watch highlights of the Queen’s recent trip to Halifax. We were all kicking ourselves to have missed it the first time, that’s for sure.

According to the Gazette, Queen Elizabeth in 3-D airs Monday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. on CBC Television, and at 10 p.m. Sept. 20 and 25 on CBC News Network. I know I will be watching: are you kidding me? This is amazing. It’s a Television Event. And when life hands us Television Events, we accept the free 3D glasses and we put them on early, taking pictures of how freaking awesome we look.

For example, I give you Exhibit A.

Bubbles on the Beach

August 23, 2010

Not the pet chimp, not the trailer park boy. Something better.

Thanks to Peneycad for the tip.


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