Game: Spot the flaky smiles

November 8, 2010

Here’s another fun 4-minute game: watch videos of people smiling, then decide if each smile was real or fake.
I got 18/20 right. The two people that fooled me both kind of look alike, I think. #3 and 4 in the photo above are the two dudes I will never trust.

HEY STAMP SO GOOD TO SEE YOU they might yell, but I’ll just glare at them out of the edge of my eyes, muttering YAH RIGHT.

Go here to play.
And thanks to Nadine for Facebooking this!


A question about learning.

March 22, 2010

When you were a kid, what was that thing that took you extra-long to learn? For me, it was telling time. For some of my friends, it was reading. I am very curious to know about that thing. Why didn’t you understand it? What was it that you were doing wrong? What was the one simple “key” that an adult could have given you to unlock the mystery?

Until I was 10, I had no idea how a watch represented time. I saw numbers and understood that they referred to the time of day. I did not understand why there were two different hands pointing to those numbers. If someone had said to me, “The little hand points at the hour number. The long hand is not pointing at any numbers- it’s marking off fractions!”, then I would have understood. Although I was also confused about the fact that there were so many ways to say the time (15 minutes = quarter past, etc). I guess I needed to start with 60=hour, 30=half, 15=quarter… I don’t remember anyone ever explaining that to me. I do remember sitting there in a fog and staring at the two hands and mentally adding together or multiplying the numbers each hand pointed to, trying in vain to get numbers as big as 15, 30, 45. So confusing. I was always a pretty good student, but while my peers learned to tell time in first grade, I was clueless until about fifth grade. I like to think this is the reason I’m usually late.

A friend who’s been diagnosed as dyslexic told me that she learned to read by memorizing the overall shapes of words. So to her, the word yellow was coded basically by its silhouette, as “dangly-normal-tall-tall-normal”. She didn’t really look at the individual letters, but rather at their relative heights. Obviously this is not helpful when you’re later presented with Yellow or YELLOW. She memorized the overall shape-variations of a zillion words instead of learning to look at words as being made of individual letters, inefficient system that leaves you lost when you encounter a new word, which will of course snowball into anxiety for a child who’s learning to read so much slower than her peers.

Another friend said she thought that the important parts of letters were the negative space inside of them, not the line itself. So to her, a capital B was two stacked semi-circles, not a straight line and two curved lines. When she wrote, she would carefully draw the negative space instead of the line, which means her printing didn’t translate naturally into handwriting. This also made word recognition tough for her when she encountered new fonts and handwriting.

I think these little learning quirks are really interesting. I bet they’d be worthwhile considerations for teachers, too- I always think it’s important to learn not only that I’m doing something wrong, but why it made sense to think that wrong thing, and how the wrong-yet-intuitive answer relates to the real answer. Do you remember the things you took forever to understand? What was the key that led to your AHA! moment?


Animal Minds – RadioLab Podcast

February 19, 2010

Check out the first 15 minutes of this RadioLab podcast on Animal Minds– great story about a trapped whale. And then make sure to listen to the last segment, a 7-min story about National Geographic photographer Paul Nicklen and the leopard seal you see below- it’s just fantastic. Skip to 52:00 to hear it.
Thanks to Kelly for the tip.

I love that last pic with the penguin foot so much. Click to see it bigger. So awesome.

After listening to the seal story, here’s a little more context, with a video showing some more photos. Listen to the podcast first, though, as the narrative is way better there.


Demetri Martin

September 22, 2008

This dude is good.

6 minutes, pretty safe for work.

His 6-part Edinburgh Festival show is good, too. Some cussin’.


Creative people – great article

September 18, 2008

Found a great, lengthy & detailed article detailing some personality traits common to creative people. Excerpts below (the article is well-organized, which is hard to tell from the few snippets I’ve included here).

Perhaps the most difficult thing for creative individuals to bear is the sense of loss and emptiness they experience when, for some reason, they cannot work. This is especially painful when a person feels his or her creativity drying out. Yet when a person is working in the area of his of her expertise, worries and cares fall away, replaced by a sense of bliss.

Artist Eva Zeizel: “This idea to create something is not my aim. To be different is a negative motive, and no creative thought or created thing grows out of a negative impulse. A negative impulse is always frustrating. And to be different means ‘not like this’ and ‘not like that.’ And the ‘not like’–that’s why postmodernism, with the prefix of ‘post,’ couldn’t work. No negative impulse can work, can produce any happy creation. Only a positive one.”

Creative people, to an extent, escape rigid gender role stereotyping. When tests of masculinity/femininity are given to young people, over and over one finds that creative and talented girls are more dominant and tough than other girls, and creative boys are more sensitive and less aggressive than their male peers. […] Psychological androgyny refers to a person’s ability to be at the same time aggressive and nurturant, sensitive and rigid, dominant and submissive, regardless of gender. A psychologically androgynous person in effect doubles his or her repertoire of responses. Creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too.

People who bring about an acceptable novelty in a domain seem able to use well two opposite ways of thinking: the convergent and the divergent. Convergent thinking is measured by IQ tests, and it involves solving well-defined, rational problems that have one correct answer. Divergent thinking leads to no agreed-upon solution. It involves fluency, or the ability to generate a great quantity of ideas; flexibility, or the ability to switch from one perspective to another; and originality in picking unusual associations of ideas. … Divergent thinking is not much use without the ability to tell a good idea from a bad one, and this selectivity involves convergent thinking.

It’s a lot to absorb, well-written, and worth digging deep into. Here’s the full article; here’s the source.


Can you guess the 100 most common words in the English language?

August 8, 2008

Fun quiz: guess as many of the most common 100 English words as you can, in 5 minutes. The form auto-completes, which gives you a few freebies. I got 49. Not that impressive; still, betcha can’t beat me. Such is my confidence as a native speaker of the English. You can shake my confidence here.
Via Kottke.


Um, so how does the dominant social paradigm affect your choice of grout?

July 22, 2008

Great article about the pitfalls of elite education, written by a dude who graduated from Yale and found himself unable to make smalltalk with a plumber:

The first disadvantage of an elite education… is that it makes you incapable of talking to people who aren’t like you. Elite schools pride themselves on their diversity, but that diversity is almost entirely a matter of ethnicity and race. With respect to class, these schools are largely homogeneous… the heartwarming spectacle of the children of white businesspeople and professionals studying and playing alongside the children of black, Asian, and Latino businesspeople and professionals. At the same time, because these schools tend to cultivate liberal attitudes, they leave their students in the paradoxical position of wanting to advocate on behalf of the working class while being unable to hold a simple conversation with anyone in it.

Via Kottke.


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