From the World Pool: February 5, 2016

The “just for fun” edition.

For various reasons I haven’t been making “from the world pool” posts, but this week I decided to try to get back into it. And I decided to make it all things that cheered me up, because we all need cheering up sometimes.


Japan Keeps This Train Station Running for Just One Regular Passenger. (Obligatory snark: nice to see some governments take transportation seriously.)


Book design: Gibbon’s Decline and Fall.


Rare Cold Weather Phenomenon Displays Mesmerizing Light Pillars in the Sky. This is something I’ve never heard of, and boy is it cool.

If you ever wondered what happened to the dinosaurs, look no further than baby blue herons.

A wolf named Romeo.

1.5 billion pixel of the Andromeda Galaxy: this is… amazing. Zoom in.

I am in love with Jacanas.  I mean, LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THE FEET.

Swimming with elephants and sharks: the photography of Ali Bin Thalith.

And they say animals have no sense of humour.


Choir! Choir! Choir! A tribute to David Bowie: singing Space Oddity at the AGO.

I wish I was a lot younger, so I could do this. I might not choose to do it, but I would love to be ABLE to.

Beatbox Siri.

If you like science fiction… Starships! —a fanvid tribute to sf tv and movies. (Bonus points for dancing.)  (R for language, if you’re concerned about it.)



libretto and records for Jesus Christ Superstar

On Friday I read an article about a 1970 musical I’d completely forgotten about: Jesus Christ Superstar, by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. Easter Sunday evening seemed like a good time to rent the movie and watch it, so I did.

I loved JCSS. I own the original cast album from the musical: see above for evidence. I played it over and over, so I was very familiar with the music, and I did see the movie once, when it first came out in 1973. But that was a long time ago, and I’d forgotten a lot. What did I forget?

  • How much I liked the music. I still do, apparently. I was going to watch it over two nights, but once I got started I couldn’t stop watching.
  • HIPPIES. The entire cast dresses like hippies, apart from the villains who have obviously homemade villainous costumes. I had certainly forgotten that the Roman centurion uniform involved purple, almost mauve, tank tops. But the movie is framed as a performance by a travelling theatre group, so it makes sense. Sort of.(Also, I realized partway through that part of the reason I’d forgotten about the hippies was simply because this was what everyone looked like when I saw the movie, more or less. I was never a hippie, being a few years too young and far too timid, but there was a fair amount of spillover into the early 70s. By which I am dating myself. Sigh.)
  • Anachronisms. Tanks chasing Judas through the desert.
  • How subversive it was. In many ways the movie is completely over the top, but there was also a lot of stuff in there to upset people (and it did). This is NOT a canon retelling of the gospels. Sometimes the subversion was right in the maintext, sometimes in subtleties like the machine guns for sale in the market in the temple (if a machine gun in ancient Israel can be considered subtle).
  • Diversity. This was a cast of all colours, unusual then, and, unfortunately, now.
  • That sexy guys were lean, if not actually skinny or scrawny, in those days. Not a chiselled pec to be seen, and nary a sixpack. Fashions in what’s attractive certainly do change. (The women, of course, often wore scanty outfits. Some things never change.)
  • And related to thatthe actors were not perfect. I mean, really not perfect. They mostly looked like regular people; some were a bit prettier than others. But (this is what originally caught my attention) they did not have perfect teeth. They did not have perfect anything; they had not been remade.

I wish that was still true of actors. I prefer the natural look to shiny.

It’s a fun movie. Go watch it.

UPDATE: if you do watch, beware the earworms. Argh.

Reading with Bird

book propped on cat's belly

We like to read. (That won’t be a surprise if you look at the background.)

cat looking annoyed

Our cats like attention. (That won’t be a surprise if you know cats.)


Bird, in particular, prefers that you PAY ATTENTION to HIM. And lets you know it.


One way or another.

I must say that there is an amazing synchronicity at play here, considering what I was reading. From page 225:

Narknon put a paw on Harry’s chest and began licking her face; a hunting-cat’s tongue is much harsher than a housecat’s.

It’s The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley. Actually, I was re-reading it—as I have done every year or two since I bought it in the mid 80s. It’s a go-to happy place book for me. And yes, despite my last post, I freely admit it—it is a hero quest.

Sometimes my dreams are really annoying.

Since I couldn’t find the real thing, I looked round till I found a photo of “Gals Night Out” on Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Infrogmation. It’s pretty cool too.

Last night I did some epic dreaming. Apart from the complicated storyline that went on and on, a kind of sidebar was that someone I met in my dream told me about a marvellous music video they’d seen. In my dream I googled it and found it, and it really was wonderful: a fancy nightclub full of women dressed in 40s style, all singing, lovely harmonies, charming tune, dramatic and evocative lighting, the sound was great and audio shifted as the camera did, excellent production values….

Damn. Now I want to REALLY find it.

From the world pool: January 9, 2014

All righty… for this week, lots of links and a fair bit of opinion. I’m turning into a mouthy old bat.

Socio-political commentary

Charlie Hebdo

This is awful and it’s still unfolding and the news is full of it. A few thoughts:

The killings are despicable. This is clearly an act designed to intimidate people and oppose free speech, and people must stand together against this kind of terrorism.

Yet at the same time I can’t say “Je suis Charlie,” because I don’t want to be. I’ve looked through their cartoons, and some of them are vilely racist. Those cartoons go far beyond satire—the racism obliterates any strained satirical point—and I don’t want to be in any way associated with them. To clarify, this does NOT mean that I do not support free speech and the right of CH to publish—it means that I do not support the content of some of what they publish.

Katherine Cross puts this position across very well in Je ne suis Charlie: On the Charlie Hebdo massacre and duelling extremisms. “I support the sentiment, the empathy, the compassion that the slogan represents at its best (even if many are using it as a cover to spread Islamophobia as a misguided form of protest against Islamic extremism). But the simple fact is, I am not Charlie. I couldn’t be. Rather, I’m the sort of person who’d only ever get to be an ugly, rude caricature in their pages — a trans woman, a Latina, Puerto Rican but in the same community of Latinos scapegoated for various and sundry evils in the US, much as Muslims are in France. I’d never be the one wielding the pen, merely the lewd, pornographic subject and nothing more. I’d be fit for only the consumption of a privileged community, their joke, an unwilling jester. No, je ne suis pas Charlie.

As a counterpoint, “I am not Charlie, I am Ahmed the dead cop. Charlie ridiculed my faith and culture and I died defending his right to do so. #JesuisAhmed” (not sure of original source, retweeted by @sarahkendzior)

I also read a BBC op-ed article that said, “Unlike Charlie Hebdo, I had not set out to give offence. I am no satirist, and I do not usually enjoy hurting people’s feelings. Nevertheless, I too feel that some rights are worthy of being defended – and among them is the freedom of historians to question the origin myths of religions. That was why, when I heard the news from Paris yesterday, I chose to do something I would never otherwise have done, and tweet a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Muhammad. …While under normal circumstances I am perfectly happy not to mock beliefs that other people hold dear, these are far from normal circumstances. As I tweeted yesterday, the right to draw Muhammad without being shot is quite as precious to many of us in the West as Islam presumably is to the Charlie Hebdo killers.”

Something about this bothered me, and it took me a little while to work out what it was. Here’s the thing: many individuals have republished CH cartoons from exactly these motivations of standing up for free speech. Organizations that normally would never dream of publishing the kind of racist content that CH produced, and would in fact critique it, are now republishing it. The point is to show that we won’t be silenced, and that’s important. But… the side effect of doing it in this way means offending many people who are not terrorists. Republishing the cartoons directly attacks not just the terrorists but all the multitudes of Muslims and minorities who are horrified by the attacks and condemn them without reservations*. How is that somehow now okay when it wasn’t before? It is possible to stand up for free speech and against terrorism without inflicting collateral damage—they are not mutually exclusive positions—but it doesn’t look like many are bothering to do so.

*Which of course raises the question: why are Muslims as a whole being asked to apologize for the actions of extremists?


Katherine Cross’s thoughts on “being polite” in discourse make a LOT of sense to me. (The first tweet is linked here; I don’t think anyone has storified them but this should help you find the original tweets if you want to.)

“See that’s exactly the problem with your column. You think being polite and respectful is the most important part of discourse” ~ a critic.

This is why I’m not a fan of the way the notion of the “tone argument” is structured, because it’s easily abused in precisely that way.

i.e. privileging caustic and aggressive speech as somehow more pure than reasoned discourse, which is as much of a fallacy as the reverse.

No, I don’t think politeness is the most important part of discourse; respect is far more important but still doesn’t come out on top.

No, if we must resort to ranking these things, I’d put “judgement” in the top slot. The ability to judge & discern different kinds of speech

Not all speech is equally valid or empirically accurate or just; learning to tell the differences is a vital skill.

If your response to that sort of thing is to throw your hands up and say “who gets to decide?” then I’d suggest you’re not into free speech.

Civic discourse is not just about the spewing of empty words (contrary to many a stereotype). It’s about resolutions and decisionmaking.

Speech has an outcome, an effect on the world. You don’t speak purely for its own sake, but for the sake of *doing something*.

So much free speech absolutism fetishises speech in the abstract, as if we say things simply for the hell of it.

That means avoiding absolute rules. Not all rude speech is awful and not all polite speech is virtuous. You must judge case by case.

So opposing racist caricatures, for instance, is not really about crudity per se, and disrespect only minimally. It’s about impact.

Other forms of rude, crude speech do *not* have the same deleterious impact (see: most Monty Python sketches).

Some forms of polite speech can be *deeply* harmful, e.g. Sarah Ditum’s call to suppress Leelah Alcorn’s suicide note.

The key to finding our way through this moral maze of speech is to learn how to judge, and judge fairly.

file under: appalling

Russia says drivers must not have ‘sex disorders’: “Russia has listed transsexual and transgender people among those who will no longer qualify for driving licences. Fetishism, exhibitionism and voyeurism are also included as “mental disorders” now barring people from driving.”

Anti-terror plan to spy on toddlers ‘is heavy-handed.’ “Nursery staff and childminders are given ‘duty’ to report toddlers they suspect of being at risk of becoming terrorists under new Home Office measures.”


Not a surprise. Men (on the Internet) don’t believe sexism is a problem in science, even when they see evidence.

Katherine Cross: “We will force gaming to be free.” On gamergate & the licence to inflict suffering.  “A careful examination of GamerGate reveals an anarchic social movement that is now fully given over to paranoid purge logic, purist orthodoxy, deep suspicion of outsiders and institutions, and, above all, a willingness to believe that the ends will justify the means. This conviction all but ensures that the movement will continually violate its own stated principles in order to achieve them, layering terrible irony atop terrible irony.

A Man in Black: How imageboard culture shaped Gamergate. “That tell-tale wedding of relentless hostility and ethical affectation is a peculiar youth subculture spilling out into the open web. Get ready for more of it.

Thoughts on shy nerd guy pain:

  • Compassion, Men and Me. “But do you want me to sympathize with you, or do you want me to drop what I was carrying to hold your feelings instead? That I will not do.” (via Chris Bourg @mchris4duke)

In the news

This makes me really angry. I live in a place that has a lot of trails used by hikers, mountain bikers, and horse riders…. And I’ve heard stories of mountain bike trail sabotage locally. The irony is that many of the trails that I use as a hiker were actually created by mountain bikers. Yes, there are issues with aggressive or discourteous behaviour by ALL trail using groups. Yes, there are battles between user groups. There are real issues with some kinds of trail use damaging trails; bikes and horses can do serious damage to them, but then, so can overuse by hikers, which is the group I’m primarily part of.

But the there are also solutions to these problems; you educate people as to how to share trails courteously, and you work on physical solutions that provide access while protecting the environment. You do NOT set traps that can hurt or kill someone.

Art + Design

Kickstarter and similar online crowd-sourcing venues now provide ways for people to fund projects that would otherwise be impossible to do. But evidently if you “do it wrong” there will be blowback. MCA Hogarth talks about how the reaction to the specifics of a request for funding relate to perceptions of risk-taking; Natalie Luhrs talks about the problems with too narrowly defining what is acceptable when asking for money.

Chaos at the Museum. “Beauty and craftsmanship are the standards by which their collections are traditionally built, but a number of design museums and galleries are widening their scope to include the ugly, dangerous and throwaway.” (via Paola Antonelli @curiousoctopus)

Intelligent design: The Empowerment Plan. “We are a humanitarian organization based in the city of Detroit. The plan centers around construction of a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag at night, and a bag when not in use. The coat is made by our team of mostly homeless single parents who have been paid to learn and to produce the coats for those living on the streets.”  (via Paola Antonelli @curiousoctopus)

Fascinating. A Practical Introduction to Muqarnas (via Tiro Typeworks @TiroTypeworks)


7 cultural concepts we don’t have in the U.S. I’m in favour of Friluftsliv, myself.  (via @ChrisBoese)

What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades. “New evidence suggests that the links between handwriting and broader educational development run deep.” (via @MaryRobinette)

What we’re giving up on in 2015 “Giving up is easier, but it’s not just the lazy way out. It’s only when you throw out your ideal vision that you start living functionally with yourself the way you are.” (via Tressie McMillan Cottom @tressiemcphd) One item on the list that resonates with me: “… I have paid $2-$20 each for a plethora of online solutions to help manage my to do list and “life hack” my ADHD away: Evernote. Do It Tomorrow. Remember The Milk. The to-do list function in Google Calendar. HabitRPG. Those are just the ones I started and then immediately abandoned in 2014. With each abandonment or failure, I would beat myself up for two months about how terrible and lazy and disorganized I am before shelling out for the next thing that would fix my life. …This year? Fuck it. Fuck it so hard. I have one system that mostly works and that thing is physically writing down lists on paper.”

Just for fun

File under: Clueless.

Local politician Kirby Delauter threatened a journalist with a lawsuit for reporting his name in a newspaper. This immediately and predictably and hilariously resulted in the Streisand effect. In particular, the offending newspaper’s response was a masterpiece (note the initial letter of each paragraph). He has since publically apologized, so I guess his attorney clued him in.  (originally via @ChrisBoese before it all exploded)

William Geraldi wrote a supremely self-satisfied article on his experience of paternity leave, called “This Brat’s For You.” The gist: his wife did all the work, and he drank a lot. Mallory Ortberg riffed on it brilliantly: I’d Love To Help My Wife Do The Dishes, But I’m Trapped Under Something Heavy.

Taking damage

screeenshot from Dragon Age: Inquisition
This is me.* Grrr.**

I’ve been suffering from some tendon/ligament problems in a shoulder for the past few weeks. I’ve gone through a frozen shoulder in the past, so it’s very clear to me that I do NOT want to go there again. I’m proactively getting physio and doing exercises.

The physiotherapist told me not to do any more computer work than I absolutely have to. As I’ve recently gotten a big illustration contract with tight deadlines that involves a lot of very controlled mousework, well, that’s not possible, but one does one’s best.

Alas, I also received a copy of Dragon Age: Inquisition as a present. (For those who don’t know, this is the third instalment of a single-player fantasy rpg video game, and won Best Game of the Year for 2014; I’ve been playing and replaying Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II for some years. In addition to whacking monsters, it’s very much based around narratives and character interplay, which is what makes it so attractive to me.)

I’ll just play a little to test it, I thought. Since I’ve finally got it.


I am now desperately making lists of shoulder-use friendly activities with which I can occupy my time instead of playing politics and killing demons and sealing rifts.

This is torture. I am going to go for a walk or clean house or vacuum the dog or something. Must. Not. Play. Game.

Pray for me.

* With my grrl Cassandra, who is scary tough and carries a big sword. Aren’t I pretty—I mean, very butch and scary—in my sparkly armor?

** Yes, this is a crappy screenshot. It’s crappy because it is actually a photo of part of my screen that was taken with my iPad. I took the photo with my iPad because Windows does not SAVE screenshots when you take them; you have to paste them into an image application. But I do not HAVE any Windows applications, and probably never will.***

*** Yes, it’s true. I actually set up Bootcamp and then installed Windows on my Mac. Just so I can play this game.****

**** And it’s TOTALLY worth it.

From the world pool: December 20, 2014


It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything this deliberately vile. Takes “despicable” to a whole new level.

Interesting comparative analysis of truth in reporting.  “…a Public Mind survey out of Fairleigh Dickinson University found that “people who said they consumed no news” fared better on a current events questionnaire than people who had been using Fox News to find out what was going on in the world. Let that sink in for a moment. People who categorically don’t watch the news know more than people who watch a network whose primary function is ostensibly to relay the news.” (via Chris Boese @ChrisBoese)

In the spirit of the season: The Doubleclicks: Sexist Bullshit (Christmas song)

Sigh. Feminism, According to Stock Photography.(via Chris Boese @ChrisBoese)

E-Book Legal Restrictions Are Screwing Over Blind People  “My class has just been assigned a project for which we must use information in the class’s textbook. Every student has a Kindle, which has the textbook loaded on to it. All of the sighted students can easily read the material and complete the assignment independently… I, on the other hand, cannot read the book without the assistance of a sighted reader.”

Comment sections are poison: handle with care or remove them. “Comments are often regarded as a right but they can do more harm than good. In the absence of strict moderation, we’d be much better off without them.”  I so very much agree with this. Unmoderated comments quickly devolve into vileness. On the other hand, I regularly read well moderated comments on sites where enthusiastic discussion happens, with people disagreeing about things, and learn a lot.

Local activism

Expert Engineers Deem Trans Mountain Too Dangerous


In recent years there’s been a lot of talk about how economic changes are resulting in the “middle” classes disappearing, leaving only the privileged and the disadvantaged. This is an interesting article on how that’s happening to creativity as well. How the Death of Mid-Budget Cinema Left a Generation of Iconic Filmmakers MIA (via Chris Boese @ChrisBoese)

This looks interesting. MIT: From the Archive Friday: “Each Friday, we select an article from the depths of our online archive and make it freely available for one week.” (I think this one came via Chris Bourg @mchris4duke)

Studying society via social media is not so simple.

Just for fun

Hyphen Hate? When Amazon went to war against punctuation.

Stupid gravity. (Don’t know if this video is “real” or not but it’s fun either way.)

Science Explains Why Golden Retrievers Are Awesome  (They are!)

Just cool

Donald Stookey: the joy of glass (obituary)

Bet you don’t know what this is.

small bit of light on paper

See that little crescent that’s lighter than the rest? That’s  a solar eclipse, that is. I used a pinhole in one piece of paper to focus light on a second sheet; it effectively creates a pinhole camera that projects the somewhat fuzzy shape of the occluded sun, inverted.

It’s a quick and dirty handheld solution which I used because I suddenly remembered  that the eclipse was happening, checked online to find out when, and discovered that maximum occlusion was supposed to be 2:58 pm. It was then 3:04, so I needed to move fast. But hey, it worked!

As for the light, well, it was a bit more subdued and golden than is usual at that time of day, but to be honest, if I hadn’t known there was an eclipse happening I probably wouldn’t have noticed anything.

A lovely golden evening... or afternoon eclipse
A lovely golden evening… or afternoon eclipse

Not a MINIATURE railway

screenshot from YouTube video

I’ll bet you thought miniature railways, at best, were just kinda cool things built in some guy’s attic. Wrong. All I can say about this one in Germany is… wow. Go look at the video about it here.

Patty-cake supreme

And while I’m at it, here’s another fun thing. I could never be this coordinated. These guys are talented; check out their info on the YouTube link.

Leave me alone.

The Leave Me Alone Box, otherwise known as the most useless machine ever. It only does one thing: when you flick a switch to turn it on, it reaches out an arm and turns itself off.

This PERFECTLY describes how I feel some days.

There are lots of variants of this online, and instructions on how to make them, if you google “leave me alone box” or “leave me alone machine” or “useless machine.”

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