From the world pool: November 15, 2014


Get Cracking, by B Fister (via @satifice): “Don’t bother me! If I don’t polish the shiny faster than others I’ll be outshone and I can’t let that happen. —This seems entirely connected to the ways technology – that magical time-saving, tree-saving, empowering thing – has turned into a vast shopping and advertising desire-machine that has ballooned the amount of shiny surfaces we have to polish, the amount of stuff we create, the increasing demand to attract attention to our stuff so that it can be consumed. And it takes the joy out of everything.”


Africa, Uncolonized: a Detailed Look at an Alternate Continent. Fascinating for anyone interested in maps and what they show.

Archiving for Activists: a list of resources on how to archive and preserve collections of papers, ephemera and collectibles. (via @satifice)

Stanford researcher explores the truths behind myths of ancient Amazons 

Just for fun

Best sentence of the week, from Why I Didn’t See the David (and other methodologies of heartbreak: “You can try to pretend you don’t want something, but you can’t actually stop wanting it without spraining an obscure internal ligament.”

Just cool

The earliest known Arabic short stories in the world have just been translated into English for the first time.

TOMORROW’S THOUGHTS TODAY is a London-based think tank exploring the consequences of fantastic, speculative and imaginary urbanisms. Borrowing from the techniques of fiction, film and futures we deploy design speculations as an imaginative tools to help us explore the implications and consequences of emerging trends, technologies and ecological conditions. We travel far and wide, collecting weak signals and unearthing trends to be exaggerated into possible futures. We imagine alternative worlds as a means to understand our own world in new ways. TTT is developing the ‘think tank’ as a legitimate model for an architectural practice, a practice not built on buildings as endpoints but on speculations and research as products in themselves. This site is organized as an open sketchbook of our current themes and design projects an ever-expanding repository of our collective research.”

The Unknown Fields Division is a nomadic design studio that ventures out on annual expeditions to the ends of the earth exploring unreal and forgotten landscapes, alien terrains and obsolete ecologies. Join the Division as each year we navigate a different global cross section and map the complex and contradictory realities of the present as a site of strange and extraordinary futures.”

Whoa. Aerial Burton 3D display projects images into mid-air.

Just beautiful. Astronaut – A journey to space (via @dynamicsymmetry)

From the world pool: November 8, 2014

Socio-political links

The forks model of disability (builds on the spoons model)

Energy Executive Blasts Kinder Morgan Review As “Fraudulent,” Quits

Worse than the storm”: Inside a secret Red Cross disaster

Secret recording of corporate lobbyist is a dirty-tricks playbook

Unconscious Bias @ Work Google seminar (via Brianna Wu @Spacekatgal)

And speaking of bias: Harvard students attempt to take 1964 Louisiana Literacy test, fail

Where the middle class is going: To those that have shall be given.  “…labour markets are hollowing out, polarising into high- and low-skill occupations, with very little employment in the middle. … The typical worker has fallen behind even more than a straightforward look at the respective shares of labour and capital suggests. … Technology has created a growing reservoir of less-skilled labour while simultaneously expanding the range of tasks that can be automated. Most workers are therefore being forced into competition both against each other and against machines. No wonder their share of the economic pie has got smaller, in developing economies as well as in the rich world.”

Blaming the victim bingo card (via @eilatan)

After recent discussions on women and catcalling (note trigger warnings for these):

The science fiction and fantasy community, which I lurk around the edges of online, is currently dealing with revelations concerning the identity of a generally respected writer who has turned out to also be a appallingly destructive internet troll. There are many online discussions of this, I’m just going to link to this report—a little digging will find the rest if you are interested: A Report on Damage Done by One Individual Under Several Names. Trigger warnings also apply here.

Design links

More from the unconscious bias category: Shooting range posters depict the innocent targets of gun violence. As Paola Antonelli @curiousoctopus pointed out: “Great, but all white?”


What if Age is Nothing but a Mind-Set? (via

It’s time to make daylight savings time year round. (via @dynamicsymmetry) I agree! I can get up in the dark, but I hate running out of light in late afternoon.

Just for fun

Note the “puppy love” letter.

Halloween follow-up: one of the things that happens every Halloween is that some really inappropriate costumes turn up, whether home-made or as consumer products. One of this year’s entries generated this response: Women with actual PhDs review ‘sexy PhD costume’ on Amazon. (Amazon reviews truly are a source of some wonderful satire.)

OMG teh cuteness hurtz

Just cool

It’s back. Which is a good thing, since I never got round to watching it the first time.

From the world pool: November 1, 2014

Lots to read this week. I was digging back through my email inbox—I email myself as a reminder when I’m surfing on the iPad, because that’s not where I write blog posts—and found a few old links, so some of these go back a ways. But there are new ones too, of course.


Natalie Luhrs at Radish Reviews has posted her weekly collection of links under the headline “On Anger and Community.” It looks at the intersections between passivity and rage, silence and speaking out, the justifications for each, and how they relate to activism and community building. The content is thoughtful and challenging and relates to things that have been happening for a while as well as some that are new this week. You should read the post and all the links.

#Gamergate continues, with Newsweek sending a shot across the bows of the assertion that it’s all about ethics in journalism. (There’s lots of other stuff on this in the news this week, including Anita Sarkeesian’s appearance on the Colbert Report, you’ll find them easily if you dig.)

K. Tempest Bradford: Calling Out, Collecting Receipts, And The Line Between Creepy and Conscientious. Keeping records so that information can be used to protect people or keeping them in order to attack people: “Figuring out where to draw the line between creepy and conscientious is not easy.”

Sara Wanenchak: The Poorer Silence Now. “For the first time I can remember, I’ve had to consider what I say and how I say it, not out of fear of being disliked or rejected but out of fear for my safety and the safety of my family. And the decision I’ve come to is to be silent.”

Schroedinger’s Rapist: or A Guy’s Guide To Approaching Strange Women Without Being Maced

The Laborers Who Keep Dick Pics and Beheadings Out of Your Facebook Feed. What you don’t see—and others have to. “’I don’t know if I can forget it,’ she says. ‘I watched that a long time ago, but it’s like I just watched it yesterday.’”

Daniel Dennett: How to compose a successful critical commentary (i.e. how to criticize with kindness).

Let’s talk about category structure and oppression!  “We tend to have this idea that categories, like ‘bird’ or ‘food’ (or like ‘human’ or ‘white’, which is what this is all really about) are like solid boxes. Entities are either in them or out of them, with a clear and unchanging boundary, and everything inside is an unsorted & equal jumble, and everything outside ditto. This notion gets strongly underscored by our cultures, so it can be hard to … er… unpack. But the fact is, cognitive categories aren’t actually like boxes. They have internal structure, and fuzzy boundaries (which people can draw in different places, and move depending on context), and these things matter hugely in how we think about and deal with oppression.”

Local activism

A busy week online: two new sites arguing against a bridge to Gabriola.

In the news

I have rarely seen such a moving editorial cartoon.


Jealousy in Dogs

If the Media Calls: A Guide for Crime Victims & Survivors

We borrowed a shelter dog to go hiking. You can—and totally should—too. I wonder if there are programs like this in Canada? I know there are dogwalking volunteers in some places, but this seems a bit different.


Law Lets I.R.S. Seize Accounts on Suspicion, No Crime Required. My partner keeps telling me there’s good reason to be afraid of the IRS if you live in the US.


The Traffic Signal Knows You’re There: there is more behind those lights than you think.

Living Breakwaters: “The Living Breakwaters project combines coastal resiliency infrastructure with habitat enhancement techniques and community engagement, deploying a layered strategy that links in-water protective forms to on-shore interventions.”

Box “explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping onto moving surfaces.”

Ira Glass: The Gap (via Brain Pickings)

The Drinkable Book – from Water is Life

You would think this would be an obvious design solution.

I want to see this film. Sign Painters trailer

And I wish I could have seen this in performance: The Paper Architect (despite the—sigh—stereotypical naked woman bathing)

If it means playing with this kind of stuff, I want to be a kid again.

Just cool /just for fun

A 13-year-old eagle huntress in Mongolia  via @ChrisBoese

Impromptu Interactive Fiction, Twitter-style. This may not be as funny to you if you haven’t played this kind of game, but I think you’ll get the idea.

Every Week, 2 Anonymous Students Sneak Into A Classroom And Proceed To Blow Everyone’s Mind via @ChrisBoese

littleBits Space Kit, with lessons from NASA

How to make an itty-bitty radio telescope.

T-shirt for introverts

From the world pool: October 25th, 2014

Lots of stuff this week.

Socio-political analysis

An interesting Mother Jones article: “Big Sugar’s Sweet Little Lies: how the sugar industry kept scientists from asking: Does sugar kill?

Chris Kluwe: “Why #gamergaters piss me the f*** off.” Full of creative invective such as “slackjawed pickletit,” this is the most artistic rant I’ve read in years. But imagine what would happen if a woman wrote it.

More than my pain.” Game designer Mattie Bryce on the interactions between online hate campaigns and the responses to them as reality TV: an insightful analysis.

But what about the men? On masculinity and mass shootings.” An analysis by Meghan Murphy of “toxic masculinity” and the public invisibility of gendered violence.

Food for thought

The Revelations of Marilynne Robinson. (via @ChrisBoese)

“I hate to say it, but I think a default posture of human beings is fear.” …Fear has, in this moment, a respectability I’ve never seen in my life.” The article is mostly about the author and her work, but those statements really struck me.

Pair this with Ursula K. Le Guin on Private Anger.


The Evolution Door (via @ChrisBoese)

Quill – Books before print. “If you love old books, you’ve come to the right place.”

The first female typographer.  

How Did the Meadow Vole Cross the Road?  Design thinking leads to animal shelving: adding catwalks for small animals within culverts.

Just for fun

Beast: restaurant review. “If Beast were a chap, he would be a part-time rugby player smelling of Ralgex who’s trying to tell you he’s deep and thoughtful, even though he’ll later be implicated in an incident involving a traffic cone and a pint glass of his own urine.” If restaurant reviews are often this snarky and funny I’ll have to read them more often. (Via Twitter)   

Typewriter-parts cat, and the artist Jeremy Mayer’s website.

Now here’s something cool that I have included a whole clutch of links for. Do you recall the Sultan’s Elephant, a big dramatic multi-day giant puppet performance in London by a French puppeteering company? This is similar, but also by a French company: La Machine. (What is it about the French and wonderful giant puppets?) This performance is in Beijing and involves a spider and a dragon-horse.

From the world pool: October 18, 2014

From the world pool this week, it’s all in the socio-political category:

Anita Sarkeesian hit the news again, this time because she cancelled a speaking gig at Utah State University. Did she cancel because someone threatened a “Montreal-style massacre” of her and people who attended? Nope. She cancelled because the University police refused to do a screening check for weapons; apparently (1) doing so is prohibited by Utah’s concealed carry laws and (2) they considered it unnecessary, given how often she receives death threats. (!!!) And as we all know, there’s no reason to think that someone who threatens people online or through email is likely to carry the threat out, is there?

Related: Brianna Wu is mad as hell. “They threatened the wrong woman this time. I am the Godzilla of bitches. I have a backbone of pure adamantium, and I’m sick of seeing them abuse my friends.”

And speaking of online harassment… Twitter can fix its harassment problem, but why mess with success?

The Weaponization of Emotion: Sara Wanenchak. A couple of months old now, but a good analysis.

I love this Zadie Smith quote. It explains so much.

No just-for-fun cuteness or coolness this week, I’m afraid. But I did find this inspiring:

Trans model Geena Rocero is gender proud. (Watch the TED talk video.)

From the world pool: October 12, 2014

Lots of stuff this week.


Why sexual assault survivors stay quiet: a short cartoon summary by Jim Hines.

Trouble at the Koolaid Point, by Kathy Sierra: a chilling summary of one woman’s experience of online harassment and how the harasser ended up being the person who got far too much public support.

And… the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing convention happened this weekend. Someone thought it was a good idea to run a “male allies” panel, with top level execs from Google, Facebook, Intuit and GoDaddy (!!!) to talk about what women should do to make tech more welcoming to them. There is a pretty typical response from an attendee here and a summary of what happened afterwards here.

But here’s the best part. The whole thing provided a great demo of how backchannel chat (on Twitter under the hashtag #ghcmanwatch, storified here) can provide more pithy (and more snarky, and more amusing) content than a panel itself. A lot can go on under the “official” radar: activists handed out a satirical bingo card to attendees on their way in to the event, and the attendees carefully checked things off on it until someone did actually yell “Bingo!” in the middle of the panel.


The typography of speed (if you can’t make a good font you can’t design cars, and other unexpected lessons from BMW)


The Hidden Costs of E-books at University Libraries (via nina de jesus)  


Photos of a beloved bull terrier. MY pets aren’t this amiable about posing.

For some reason the term “Social Justice Warrior,” applied to anyone who promotes equality of opportunity for all people, has become a pejorative in certain parts of the internet, especially the part inhabited by traditional macho gamers. It has kind of backfired, as people who support equality are generally proud to claim the title. Hence these SJW buttons—well, actually they’re for a whole range of RPG character classes…  Personally, I want to be a Social Justice Rogue.

A Polyphonic overtone singing demonstration  (via TiroTypeworks)

And some commercials:

For a cell phone.

For Caterpillar.

For, um, Carrot.



From the world pool: October 4, 2014

So, carrying on with the interesting links thing….


Good design facilitates good function, whether it’s effective communication or a product that serves the needs of consumers. All too often only lip service is done to researching the wants and needs of an audience, or the research and results are too limited and reflect the reality of designers, not users. Apple’s new Health app seems to be an example of limited thinking: here are two critiques.

Social/political commentary:

This is why poor people’s decisions make perfect sense.” This is an old article from 2011 that I lost track of, but rediscovered this week. It addresses the criticisms of people suffering from poverty by pointing out the reality of the choices they must make and the reasons why what seems like a “bad” choice might actually be the most rational choice in context. An enlightening read.

Understanding Prejudice. An excellent resource, includes exercises for testing your own attitudes.

Racism 101: Are you a Racist? Basic principles of how racism works.

I Felt Like a Criminal: The Pressure to Become a Helicopter Parent. Looks at the incredible pressure on parents (and particularly mothers) to be constantly watching to prevent their kids from encountering any threat of danger. When I was a kid I explored the world around me and did all kinds of things that were not under a parent’s supervision—so did my friends and all the other kids. It was wonderful. It is no longer be acceptable for parents to allow their kids that level of freedom, and they are demonized if they do. I would hate to be a kid now.

What If Famous Paintings Were Photoshopped to Look Like Fashion Models? 

The Tyranny of Structurelessness. This is a very old essay from the 1970s by Jo Freeman that analyzes how the use of leaderless, structureless organizational systems, which are usually promoted as more democratic, actually create informal power structures with no accountability.

Odds and ends:

Science Has Great News for People Who Read Actual Books. Looks at the differences between reading online and reading hardcopy books.

Just cool:

Article about Meredith Woolnough’s embroidery.

Just mind-boggling

What It’s Like to Fly the $23,000 Singapore Airlines Suites Class. Well, that’s one experience I’ll never have.

From the world pool: September 26, 2014

cloud reflections in water

A few years ago I joined Twitter—and never used it. I had some built-in resistance because (a) I couldn’t see a point in reading 140-character tweets and (b) I figured it would be a major time suck at a time when I had absolutely no time to spare. It was only in the last few months that I finally decided that I should see what was actually happening in the twitterverse.

It turns out I was right about the second point; it can take up a lot of time, even when you are careful.

But boy howdy, I was wrong about the first point. No depth in 140 characters? One of the things I now love about Twitter is that many people use it to point to in-depth information. This can be real-time info on news events as they happen, but also lengthy, thoughtful analysis from a variety of perspectives.

And as a result of that pointing I discovered that bloggers often do weekly roundups of links specifically relating to their interests, whether those are purely for self-entertainment or issue analysis or damn well anything you can blog about. So, inspired, I thought I would resurrect the “From the World Pool” aspect of this blog. Instead of walling it off on a page I keep forgetting to update, I’m going to try to regularly post lists of links. My interests are eclectic, so expect the links to be wide ranging. I don’t promise to post a list every week, but will try to do it fairly often. And here’s the first list.

  • Radish reviews: Natalie Luhrs writes “about books and culture with a focus on science fiction, fantasy, and romance.” Apart from her regular posts, her Friday links lists include a lot of interesting stuff, including considerable content related to her socio-political and feminist interests. Over the past few months she’s followed major issues around misogyny and harassment in the sf/f, comics and gaming communities.
  • In a somewhat related area, I’ve recently started following librarian nina de jesus on Twitter. She and Lisa Rabey are being sued for defamation and are currently fundraising at the Team Harpy website because they named a specific individual as responsible for harassment at library conventions. ”We…believe that women calling out harmful the behaviour of men is an act of free speech and of resistance to a culture that regularly reduces our bodies to sexual objects existing only to serve men. We have decided to fight this lawsuit, at great financial and emotional cost to ourselves, because we believe that all victims of sexual harassment should be supported and believed. We believe that by speaking up and speaking out we are contributing to a change in culture whereby victims and survivors no longer have to be silent about our experiences. A culture where we can speak out and not be punished more severely than the men who engage in harassing behaviour.” You can find nina at on the web and as @satifice on Twitter. Don’t expect her to match the cliché of the dull, conservative librarian. Sometimes her tweets are outside my comfort zone: good! She makes me think.
  • Continuing on issues relating to women and media, here’s an article on the assumptions made about what women find attractive in male and female characters: “Once again, what women want is ignored (or, more accurately, invisibilized— in that men deny or are oblivious to its existence) in favor of the ideological construct of “what women want,” which is determined and enforced by men. Men genuinely believe that they know what women want, and are earnest in their attempts to explain “what women want” to women. They are deeply confused, because of course they know what women want! Right? They are unable to see that they are selling a version of “what women want” is essentially “what it would be attractive to men for women to want.”
  • And here is a sign of a totally fucked up world.

Jeez. Getting away from the political stuff:

  • Or am I? This is about a clothing line for people with Down syndrome. When I thought about it, this made perfect sense. Which obviously brings up the point, why didn’t I—or anyone else, apparently—think about it before?

Okay, and REALLY just for fun:

  • Foldscope is an origami-based print-and-fold optical microscope that can be assembled from a flat sheet of paper. Although it costs less than a dollar in parts, it can provide over 2,000X magnification with sub-micron resolution (800nm), weighs less than two nickels (8.8 g), is small enough to fit in a pocket (70 × 20 × 2 mm3), requires no external power, and can survive being dropped from a 3-story building or stepped on by a person. Its minimalistic, scalable design is inherently application-specific instead of general-purpose gearing towards applications in global health, field based citizen science and K12-science education.” (I want one, don’t you?)
  • “This audio illusion is worth your time because it demonstrates your brain’s uncanny ability to use new information to help process something that is otherwise incomprehensible.”
  • And finally, if you are delicate about things that are gruesome, you may wish to avoid this video on the Clockwork Saw by medical historian Dr. Lindsay Fitzharris—but I fell over laughing.

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