169 Articles


12 years Ago

Teaching Kids to Write

Published by marco on

826 Valencia is “dedicated to supporting students ages 6–18 with their writing skills, and to helping teachers get their students excited about the literary arts.” They’re in San Francisco and take advantage of the strange work hours and free time of the average freelance writer to provide afternoon tutoring to students who need more one-on-one time. The “store” that they run doesn’t look like a tutoring center; instead, it’s a pirate supply store. There are similar venues in Brooklyn... [More]

Going to America

Published by marco on

The years since 9–11 have seen U.S. border policy become increasingly hostile, with an entire new department of the U.S. government having been conjured out of thin air, complete with its own $50 billion budget. Various measures and overtly hostile attitudes as well as an egregiously cavalier attitude toward civil rights—for American and non-American alike—have prevented many people from even venturing into the veritable no-man’s land that is the modern American international airport.
... [More]

I’m a Postman, Not an Athlete!

Published by marco on

The article, Union claims Royal Mail postmen are being told to walk faster, clears up the confusion surrounding the claim that the Royal Mail in England will be “requiring delivery staff to walk at four miles an hour”. It’s amusing that the claim is taken at all seriously. People are notoriously bad at judging numbers. They hear the claim and think nothing of it, thinking that the number—which a “new software system, Pegasus” calculated is anything but a complete fairy tale. It may also show that... [More]

Definition: To Beg the Question

Published by marco on

The phrase “to beg the question” has become much more popular outside of philosophical circles. In almost all cases, it is being used incorrectly. When you hear someone say the phrase, then follow it with a question, they are doing it wrong. Consider the following cartoon about Obama’s involvement in the Blagojevich scandal:

 Stuart Carlson − Obama, Republicans and Blagojevich

In this case, the reporter actually means, “which raises the question”. It is common practice for people to dress up their language to make what they’re saying sound more... [More]

Heath Ledger’s Joker

Published by marco on

Much has been said of Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in The Dark Knight. Many have drawn parallels between elements in the movie and the recent history of the United States, from the attacks of 9–11 to the ensuing war on terror and its effects, both foreign and domestic. The Joker is chosen as the terrorist and the only way to stop him is to be just as lawless, to forsake all that you are defending—if only for just a little while, until order is restored—before everything you hold... [More]

Chains and Acres

Published by marco on

You learn something every day. After years of wondering how the acre came about as a measurement of area, here comes the Chain (length) (Wikipedia) to explain everything. An acre is apparently not just an inscrutably long and decimal-place–laden number of square yards. It is, in fact, exactly 10 square chains. A chain is one tenth of a furlong and equal to 66 feet. That makes more sense than 4840 square yards or a box 208.71 feet on a side.

In addition to the chain, there’s also the rood, which is a... [More]

June in Switzerland

Published by marco on

 Weather Forecast for 14th–18th of June

[1] Yeah, I know you can see some of my web page behind the picture, but it’s not exactly a security breach for people to find out that I’m reading about “Kucinich’s articles of impeachment”.

Hitchens Delivers Scathing Opprobrium

Published by marco on

The article Just one question (The Guardian) features a whole bunch of British people I’ve never heard of, half of them asking pithy questions, allowing the other half to offer equally pithy—and often, far lengthier—answers. “Julia Neuberger, rabbi and Lib Dem peer”, appearing about ¾ of the way down the list, though it a good idea to ask Christopher Hitchens an insipid question that he’d been asked dozens of times before. Whatever you may think of Hitchens either personally or professionally, this is the... [More]

Things You Didn’t Know About Elevators

Published by marco on

Up and Then Down by Nick Paumgarten (New Yorker) is a well-written look into the world of elevators and the companies that create them. It mixes research with the story of a man who was trapped in an elevator for 41 hours. Some interesting tidbits from the article:

  • The last time an elevator plummeted down a shaft was in 1945 in the US. It was called “the Empire State Building incident of 1945, in which a B-25 bomber pilot made a wrong turn in the fog and crashed into the seventy-ninth floor, snapping the hoist and safety... [More]”

Stock Exchange Hand Signals

Published by marco on

Op-Chart: Making Money Hand Over Fist (New York Times) is another in a long line of really slick, interactive, infographic presentations. Because of the extreme noise on the trading floor, traders use hand signals to indicate buy/sell interest, prices, amounts and status information.

“An oil trader demonstrates the hand signals used on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange. Text and graphics by Ben Schott, a contributing columnist.”

 Sample of Trading Floor Hand Signals

Required Reading (for Americans, at least)

Published by marco on

Though the article, What Every American Should Know About the Middle East (Daniel Miessler), has already done a decent job of summarizing Arabs, Islam and the Middle East[1], there’s still probably too much text[2], so here’s a summary of the summary[3].

  1. Arabs are an ethnic group.[4]
  2. Iraqis are mostly Arab.
  3. Iranians are mostly Persian (another ethnic group).
  4. Afghans are Pashtun, Hazira, Uzbek or Tajik (also ethnic groups).[5]
  5. Afghani is the unit of currency in Afghanistan.
  6. They speak Arabic[6] in Iraq.
  7. They speak Farsi[7] in Iran.[8]... [More]

Learning about America in the 21st Century

Published by marco on

Learning by example in Bush’s America leads to the list in Everything I Know I Learned Since Jan. 20, 2001 by Neal Starkman (Common Dreams). Some examples are cited below.

“Rich people hire everyone else to work for them, making our economy robust.

“Scientists’ opinions are neither better nor worse than anyone else’s.

“The fall of communism is the best evidence that providing everyone in this country with free health care is doomed.”

13 years Ago

Don’t Be That Guy

Published by marco on

A year ago, it was silly to be concerned about the elections in 2008. With the primaries finally underway and the election actually within three seasons’ reach, it’s time to get engaged again. That means shaking off the cobwebs instilled by the ubiquitous brainwashing of the mainstream media (the cloaca of ideas) and actually figuring out what you need to know for the elections, which include:

  • Figuring out what your problems are
  • Figuring out where your interests lie
  • Thinking long term, even... [More]

Kristol-Clear Typo

Published by marco on

In Braking Kristol: ‘NYT’ Public Editor Hits Hiring of Columnist (Editor & Publisher) has a typo; they wrote that:

“Clark Hoyt, has called the controversial hiring of William Kristol as an op-ed columnist a “mistake.” … He also wrote, in his column today, that of nearly 700 messages he has received about the selection, only one praised the pick (empasis added)”

It’s a sad day when even Editor and Publisher can’t proofread well enough to detect that they mis-spelled “prick”.

Rapturous Truth

Published by marco on

Werner Herzog has made many films and not one of them was boring, either to watch or to film (he famously “haul[ed] a boat up a mountainside in [his film] Fitzcarraldo … in the middle of the Amazonian rain forest, [because] audience will know if the shots are real”. His latest is Little Dieter Needs to Fly—a documentary about the only successful escape from a POW camp in Vietnam—with the unparalleled Christian Bale in the lead role. Roger Ebert wrote him a magnificent letter (linked below)... [More]

Improving the Pocket Calendar

Published by marco on

This guy kicked off a [a] better design to fit a year calendar comfortably within a business card. (ELZR) There are a lot of, shall we say, unique, entries. Many of them are interesting only in that they actually work, not that they would be more useful than the standard pocket calendar, which uses text too small to read. The winning entry is the Thumb Calendar by Adam Sporka, which is clean and clear:

Here’s how it works:

First half of the year is on one side of the card, the rest of the year is on the other.... [More]

How Low Can You Go?

Published by marco on

The International Photography Contest (National Geographic) selected the following picture as the winner in the Animals category of their annual competition. This is wrong on so many levels, not least of which is that a lot of people (yours truly included) tend to have much stronger reactions to the suffering of animals that fellow human beings. Why is that? Is it their helplessness? Their relative innocence? Are people not accorded a similar guilelessness, by default? Or do we just assume that they, while not... [More]

Exhaustive Fast Food Nutrition Information

Published by marco on

Fast Food Restaurants & Nutrition Facts Compared (A Calorie Counter) took the time to painstakingly combine the published nutrition (if you can call it that) information for the largest fast food chains in America.

A few tidbits:

  • In the french fries department, Dairy Queen at 1530mg delivers almost five times the sodium of McDonald’s fries and 730 kCal for their large size.
  • Carl’s Jr weighs in with a regular hamburger that has 470 kCal and 1060mg of sodium.
  • The unlimited weight class for sandwiches/burgers has... [More]

Writer’s Strike

Published by marco on

The Writer’s Guild started their strike this week, bringing all new television production out of Hollywood to a screeching halt. For those who haven’t followed it too closely, the Guild have put together a video covering the main points.

Why We Fight (YouTube)

Another member of the guild involved in the negotiation wrote Why We Want Our Words’ Worth by Michael Winship (Common Dreams), which noted that much of what is breathlessly reported by the media is vastly distorted or flat-out incorrect—pretty much par for the course for the new channels,... [More]

The Joys of Commuting

Published by marco on

As cities in America grow bigger and bigger, with suburbs being surrounded by exurbs and people travelling around, through and between city centers regularly, the question of public transportation arises. It’s only really in the States that large cities look at public transportation as a question rather than as a right. It’s only in the States that trains, subways, light rail and metro commuter lines are discussed in terms of profitability instead of usefulness, environmental friendliness and... [More]

US Air Traffic

Published by marco on

The following 3-minute video shows US traffic patterns as they ebb and flow throughout the day. The data is from March of this year and is real, spiking from a low of about 4000 flights to over 16,000 flights in the air at peak travel periods. There are so many that the flight paths actually acurately delineate the shape of the continental United States.

Found on US Air Traffic by Brad DeLong (Grasping Reality with Both Hands).

Exoneration Compensation

Published by marco on

 The article, What Do States Owe The Exonerated? (Plastic), poses an interesting question. Almost everyone will have a knee-jerk reaction to it—evincing either a gut feeling that an exonerated prisoner is an innocent man and therefore has been treated unfairly by society or a kneejerk reaction that anyone who the courts saw fit to send to jail must be guilty in one way or another. There are those who view every exoneration as the result of a sly criminal’s—and a liberal lawyer’s—machinations of our... [More]

Eurovision Song Contest 2007

Published by marco on

The annual chance for Europeans to embarass themselves in a no-holds-barred music contest finished up on Saturday evening. Ukraine and France were clearly having the most fun, with France entering a band singing French in a horrible British accent and English in a horrible French accent while a very bald guy ran around with a stuffed cat attached to his neck. The Ukraine was led by a transvestite in mirrored silver with awesome Boogie Nights sunglasses who sang in several languages—though... [More]

A Soldier Comes Home

Published by marco on

Soldiers involved in America’s imperial maneuvers throughout the world have the heretofore unknown privilege of making their voices heard in real-time on the Internet. Their blogs are in a variety of styles, covering a variety of topics, revealing both remarkable sensitivity and ignorance for that which is not American. There is naturally a lot of filtering going on—this is, after all, the US empire’s military—but some really good stuff does get through. On Being Home by SGT Derek McGee (The Sandbox) is the most recent... [More]

Kurt Vonnegut 1922–2007

Published by marco on

 Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday at the ripe old age of 85. Despite explicitly asking for the following epitaph, “the only proof he needed for the existence of God was music”, bloggers around the Internet are tossing around his catchphrase, “and so it goes…”, ad nauseum instead. He made the request in his most recent book, a slim volume of thoughts he published after returning from retirement in a fit of pure frustration at the way the Bush administration was sullying America and doing such a crass,... [More]

Free Will in the Laboratory

Published by marco on

As reported in I think therefore I am, I think by Stephen Cave (Financial Times), there are reports of repeatable experiments, which have the potential to obviate vast swaths of philosophical hypothesis and religious theory: science has its hands wrapped around free will’s throat and is starting to squeeze.

I Made You Read This

First, there’s the experiment by “American neuroscientist Benjamin Libet”, in which he tested brain activity of participants as they were performing various activities. Participants swore up and down... [More]

The Decline of Western Civilization

Published by marco on

The term in the title stems from two movies released in the 80s, The Decline of Western Civilization (IMDb) and The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years (IMDb), which documented the world of punk rock and heavy metal, respectively. With metal and punk safely behind us, there are now much more insidious cancers eating away at the fabric of our society. One of the more prevalent, Local TV News, is discussed in Things That Still Exist But Shouldn’t by Amelie Gillete (AVClub). The article covers a few things, but leads... [More]

Idiot’s Guide to Economics

Published by marco on

This guy breaks down Mankiew’s principles of economics into terms we can all understand (though the original list isn’t what you would call earth-shattering either).

“Let’s begin by separating them into the first seven principles, which are microeconomics, and the last three, which are macroeconomics. The difference, of course, being that microeconomists are economists that are wrong about specific things, and macroeconomists, who are wrong about things in general.”

Principles of economics, translated by Yoram Bauman on 02/16/07 (YouTube)

Eerily Prescient

Published by marco on

The Onion has staked a claim in the world of news reporting: to report that which never happened, and likely never could have, but in a manner that suggests that it did. For the most part, the intended humor is relatively transparent, making it easy to laugh along as the author gets increasingly outrageous. It’s funny because it’s sometimes hard to discern articles from the Onion from the human interest pieces in what are considered mainstream news sources.

The “Politics” section necessarily... [More]

14 years Ago

Web Anthro

Published by marco on

People’s interactions with each other online and how the web affects what kind of content they create is the subject of this short film by an anthropology professor. It’s got a nice soundtrack and the animation and transitions are really well-done. It takes the viewer visually through HTML content creation and the transition to XML and newsfeed creation through creation of videos and social bookmarking sites for organization to mashups of any kind of data.

“Digital text is different … more... [More]”