Posts Tagged ‘blog: things you should check out’.

Check out: GeoGuessr, the Google Maps game

My newest obsession is GeoGuessr, a game that places you at a random point in the world (via Google Maps Street View) and makes you guess where you are.

let's do!!

You can navigate around as much as you like, looking for identifying clues (such as signs or landmarks) before making your guess. You can play specific maps (restricted to a country or even a city), or let it plop you down anywhere that Google has mapped. You can also play specific challenges created by other people.

This is basically the perfect game for me. I don’t really want to fight bosses or solve reflex-based challenges; I just want to wander around and explore and discover things. And the fact that you’re exploring the real, actual world is so much fun, for someone like me who’s into geography: you start looking at billboards and bus signs and pieces of trash on the side of the road as if they are clues placed for you in a video game, freighting it all with a larger meaning that’s barely outside your grasp, believing that you can unravel the puzzle with the clues you were meant to find.

Siberia.

There are a lot of roads in the world, so when set to random, I’ve found that GeoGuessr often lands me on some lonesome highway in the middle of nowhere. To me, that first moment feels just as quest-like as the start of any video game (except the NPCs are very unhelpful).

Mexico.

These are challenging rounds, to be sure. Yesterday I clicked through a windy, backwoods Australian road for ten or fifteen minutes before finding any sort of signage that I could read. It’s not fun, for most definitions of fun, but it was absolutely interesting.

Texas.

You can navigate around in Street View, and you can also explore the world map in as much detail as you like. (But the game never shows you where you are, of course, and you can’t search on the map.)

Much of the time, I end up poring over the map in eye-watering close-up, scanning unknown regions for an Argentine or Turkish town name that matches one I’ve found in Street View.

It’s a game that you can always win, if you’re patient and nitpicky enough. I’m not, every time. But when I can figure it out, it’s extremely satisfying.

ahhhh, relaxing

No video game designed by a human (except maybe Desert Bus) would make you click through a Mexican desert for twenty minutes before you got to anything useful, or reward the player who’s able to look through a map of Brazil for the longest time.

But I accept it in GeoGuessr, because the game world is the real world. If I don’t know enough about the real world to identify a name, or a landmark, or a type of terrain quickly, then it becomes a chance to figure it out. I am pretty good at recognizing languages on signs, and yesterday I learned all about how the Japanese organize their highway numbering systems vs. how the French do it.

It’s not all desolate roads, of course. You often land in cities, or once, the game spawned me inside an enclosed Tunisian parking lot with no route back out to the main road. (I got a very poor score on that round.) The game navigation is limited to what Google has mapped, so some areas are poorly photographed, or the navigation is incomplete. That, I think, is all part of the fun.

That said, let’s be clear: clicking around through a map of France or Wales or Texas looking for a specific road number or town name — on a map that hides small towns and roads when you’re zoomed out — is tedious.

But doing so has the effect of showing me how big the world really is, which I think we sometimes forget. I love it for that.

Play GeoGuessr in your browser, for free.

Loads of people play GeoGuessr on YouTube, too.

11 More Articles Well Worth Your Time

Here is (what I believe is) another Extensive List Of Articles (Arguably) Well Worth Your Time!

When I read something interesting that I think you might like to see as well, I leave it open in my Instapaper queue. It’s been a while since I made a post like this, so now there’s a huge bramble-bush of links in there, growing and multiplying.

Below, find a few afternoons’ worth of reading for you, of a variety of things on a variety of topics. The only quality they share is that I found reading them worth the time it took to do so.

Oh, and I’ll also say, none of these articles are about presidential politics, I promise. I’ll save those for a whole separate list.

(Previous reading lists here and here.)

Your Letters Helped Challenger Shuttle Engineer Shed 30 Years Of Guilt (NPR) Note: this story has a version in audio format, as well. Listening is recommended, if you can.

When NPR reported Bob Ebeling’s story on the 30th anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, hundreds of listeners and readers expressed distress and sympathy in letters and emails…

“It’s going to blow up,” a distraught and defeated Ebeling told his wife, Darlene, when he arrived home that night.

And it did, 73 seconds after liftoff. Seven astronauts died. Cold weather and an O-ring failure were blamed, and Ebeling carried three decades of guilt.

“That was one of the mistakes God made,” Ebeling, now 89, told me three weeks ago at his home in Brigham City, Utah. “He shouldn’t have picked me for that job. But next time I talk to him, I’m gonna ask him, ‘Why me? You picked a loser.’ ”

Jim Sides listened to the NPR story in his car in Jacksonville, N.C.

“When I heard he carried a burden of guilt for 30 years, it broke my heart,” Sides, an engineer, says. “And I just sat there in the car in the parking lot and cried.”

Stop Trying To Be Creative (FiveThirtyEight)

In one experiment a bipedal robot programmed to walk farther and farther actually ended up walking less far than one that simply was programmed to do something novel again and again, Stanley writes.

Falling on the ground and flailing your legs doesn’t look much like walking, but it’s a good way to learn to oscillate, and oscillation is the most effective motion for walking. If you lock your objectives strictly on walking, you won’t hit that oscillation stepping stone.

Stanley calls this the “objective paradox” — as soon as you create an objective, you ruin your ability to reach it.

She Wanted to Do Her Research. He Wanted to Talk ‘Feelings.’ (NY Times)

Since I started writing about women and science, my female colleagues have been moved to share their stories with me; my inbox is an inadvertent clearinghouse for unsolicited love notes. Sexual harassment in science generally starts like this: A woman (she is a student, a technician, a professor) gets an email and notices that the subject line is a bit off: “I need to tell you,” or “my feelings.” The opening lines refer to the altered physical and mental state of the author: “It’s late and I can’t sleep” is a favorite, though “Maybe it’s the three glasses of cognac” is popular as well.

The author goes on to tell her that she is special in some way, that his passion is an unfamiliar feeling that she has awakened in him, the important suggestion being that she has brought this upon herself. He will speak of her as an object with “shiny hair” or “sparkling eyes” — testing the waters before commenting upon the more private parts of her body. Surprisingly, he often acknowledges that he is doing something inappropriate.

How David Beats Goliath (The New Yorker)

Ranadivé was puzzled by the way Americans played basketball. He is from Mumbai. He grew up with cricket and soccer. He would never forget the first time he saw a basketball game. He thought it was mindless…

It was as if there were a kind of conspiracy in the basketball world about the way the game ought to be played, and Ranadivé thought that that conspiracy had the effect of widening the gap between good teams and weak teams. Good teams, after all, had players who were tall and could dribble and shoot well; they could crisply execute their carefully prepared plays in their opponent’s end. Why, then, did weak teams play in a way that made it easy for good teams to do the very things that made them so good?…

The Turks simply did not think that their opponent would be mad enough to come at them from the desert. This was Lawrence’s great insight. David can beat Goliath by substituting effort for ability—and substituting effort for ability turns out to be a winning formula for underdogs in all walks of life, including little blond-haired girls on the basketball court.

Bang Bang Sanity (Stonekettle Station)

Laws against theft and murder don’t stop theft and murder, they give society legal options when theft and murder occur.

Saying new gun laws won’t end gun violence is a non sequitur. Of course gun laws won’t end gun violence.

Laws don’t stop crime, however, what well written laws do is to put responsibility where it belongs – on the criminal.

Well written laws are about pragmatism.

For example, we all know that laws against drinking and driving won’t stop drunk driving, but they weren’t intended to. We know it’s going to happen. People are going to drink and drive and kill themselves and each other. We know we can’t eliminate it completely. That’s the pragmatism part.

Instead, drunk driving laws were intended to do two things, 1) give us legal recourse as a society, 2) make us responsible for our antisocial behavior – which in turn leads over time to a change in culture…

We need gun laws that give society legal recourse by making each gun owner/user personally accountable for their own actions.

For Love and Honor: Hollis Frampton to Donald Richie (Letters of Note)

In December of 1972, Donald Richie, then film curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, wrote to artist Hollis Frampton and suggested that they organise a retrospective of his work at this most prestigious of museums.

To an artist of any standing, this would be a tempting offer; however, Frampton took issue with one particular line in the proposal, a single detail of Richie’s which rendered the suggestion entirely unattractive: “It is all for love and honor and no money is included at all…”

Unwilling to work without financial reward, Frampton responded at length with a rousing letter, reprinted below in full, that has since become legendary in the art world for reasons which are plain to see.

Lawyering Is About Service, Not Self-Actualization (Popehat)

People traditionally recognized as being in need of social justice are also the people in most dire need of competent legal representation.

When they have a few days to contest an eviction or they’ve been arrested and may lose their job, they don’t need someone who is exquisitely prepared to explain and denounce the racist and oppressive structures that led to their unfortunate predicament.

They need someone who knows what he or she is doing. They need someone who knows all of the petty substantive and procedural rules of landlord-tenant law and how the local court actually operates.

They need someone who can swiftly assess whether an arrest or interrogation was unlawful and formulate a plausible and effective plan for dealing with it.

They need someone who knows how to get things into evidence in court even under pressure on their feet when the judge is being difficult and the opposing counsel is making nonsensical objections. They need a grubby little practitioner.

When U.S. air force discovered the flaw of averages (Toronto Star)

Before he crunched his numbers, the consensus among his fellow air force researchers was that the vast majority of pilots would be within the average range on most dimensions. After all, these pilots had already been pre-selected because they appeared to be average sized. (If you were, say, six foot seven, you would never have been recruited in the first place.) The scientists also expected that a sizable number of pilots would be within the average range on all 10 dimensions. But even Daniels was stunned when he tabulated the actual number.

Zero.

Out of 4,063 pilots, not a single airman fit within the average range on all 10 dimensions. One pilot might have a longer-than-average arm length, but a shorter-than-average leg length. Another pilot might have a big chest but small hips. Even more astonishing, Daniels discovered that if you picked out just three of the ten dimensions of size — say, neck circumference, thigh circumference and wrist circumference — less than 3.5 per cent of pilots would be average sized on all three dimensions. Daniels’s findings were clear and incontrovertible. There was no such thing as an average pilot. If you’ve designed a cockpit to fit the average pilot, you’ve actually designed it to fit no one.

My Wife and I Are (Both) Pregnant (New York Magazine)

Emily: Exactly three weeks after we found out I was pregnant Kate called me at work and was like, “Guess what?” I fell off my chair. I was sitting on the floor, alternating between laughing hysterically and hyperventilating and crying. It was so overwhelming.

Kate: We were like, “Oh my God, we just overshot this. We can’t live in a one-bedroom apartment with two babies!”…

Emily: I really loved being pregnant. It was very easy for me. I felt good, I was very happy. I didn’t have any issues at all besides the fact that my feet grew so much that I had no shoes. Everything has been very easy for me and nothing has been easy for her. I’ve really had to try to not feel bad about that because I don’t want to feel sorry for her. It’s not that I don’t have sympathy, of course I feel deeply for her, but I didn’t want that emotion to be a part of either of our pregnancies. And I didn’t want to not have a great pregnancy because I felt bad about it.

Kate: The pro and con of having your wife, another woman, go through pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood in tandem with you is that you can’t help but compare.

Star Wars Is a Postmodern Masterpiece (Slate)

Star Wars is a Western. Star Wars is a samurai movie. Star Wars is a space opera. Star Wars is a war film. Star Wars is a fairy tale.

A Jedi craves not such narrow interpretations. In fact, Star Wars­­­—the original 1977 film that started it all—is all these things. It’s a pastiche, as mashed-up and hyper-referential as any movie from Quentin Tarantino. It takes the blasters of Flash Gordon and puts them in the low-slung holsters of John Ford’s gunslingers. It takes Kurosawa’s samurai masters and sends them to Rick’s Café Américain from Casablanca. It takes the plot of The Hidden Fortress, pours it into Joseph Campbell’s mythological mold, and tops it all off with the climax from The Dam Busters. Blending the high with the low, all while wearing its influences on its sleeve, Star Wars is pretty much the epitome of a postmodernist film.

Best of Luck: A brief introduction to death (The Awl)

The last thing I remember before the cardioversion was the anesthesiologist saying, “This is only going to take a second, but you do not want to be awake to feel it.” When I came to, my heart was back to a normal rhythm and there was an electrode burn on my sternum about the size and shape of a deck of cards. It lingered for weeks, scabbing over and itching and reminding me of the time they powered me down.

Lots of stuff for you here! Some creativity, some inspiration, some death, some life.

Next roundup post, some time in the future: ALL POLITICS, ALL THE TIME. Go ahead and delete your bookmark now, I guess, or else pour yourself a fifth and have it ready.

Hand-painted flapper girl workouts

flap them wings baby

The Fashion Institute of Technology blog recently posted a series of pages from a 1920s fitness club manual:

The publication La Culture Physique de la Femme Elégante is an exquisitely rare and beautiful testament to these early days of the widespread promotion of fitness for women.  It was issued as a folio containing twelve pochoir plates on board depicting women in a variety of calisthenic poses.

The illustrations, by fashion illustration icon Germaine-Paule Joumard, are absolutely gorgeous.

Pochoir was a pre-lithography printmaking technique involving the hand-application of gouache paint in stenciled patterns. It was often used as a high-end way to reproduce (and was a perfect fit for) the bold shapes that were the hallmark of Art Deco illustration.

Check out the entire set — a full dozen of these full-color windows into a cheery, bright, pre-Pilates world — at the FIT blog or on the Slate Vault.

Check out: The history of insulting ‘Vinegar Valentines’

BURNNNN

Just prior to this past Valentine’s weekend, Marksman Rob D. wrote me with this note, about what could be considered an antecedent of today’s online abuse:

When first I heard of the concept of vinegar valentines (thanks NPR One) you came to mind, but your latest comic (#1197) cemented the necessity of reaching out to you about them.

Dating to 1840ish, they were illustrated missives sent anonymously on Valentine’s Day with the intent of insulting the recipient. The degree of burn ranged from ‘you drink too much’ to ‘kill yourself, no-one loves you’.

Annabella Pollen of UBrighton (UK) seems to be the foremost scholar on the matter.

Rob sent along this link: an interview with Ms Pollen at the site Collectors Weekly. Here’s an excerpt:

You could send them to your neighbors, friends, or enemies. You could send them to your schoolteacher, your boss, or people whose advances you wanted to dismiss. You could send them to people you thought were too ugly or fat, who drank too much, or people acting above their station. There was a card for pretty much every social ailment…

You have to remember that often they were sent anonymously. They were to say “Your behavior is unacceptable.” For example, there are quite a few cards that mock men with babies on their laps as being henpecked—the kind of thing now we would think was a man doing the right thing by taking his share of child care. But these cards were specifically designed to make the man seem emasculated and disempowered by being left holding the baby. Or there’d be images of women holding rolling pins, threatening their husbands.

The people sending such cards were usually not either one of the couple. It wasn’t the wife sending to the husband or the husband sending to the wife. It was somebody outside, looking in at their relationship and saying, “This doesn’t conform with what’s expected”…

The cards are quite a surprise to those who think the past was always so safe and the present is so very daring, and that we’re much more libertarian now than we have ever been in any other period in time. I think we only have to look back at this sort of stuff to see that that’s not the case.

The full interview is well worth a read, with a ton of pictures of vinegar valentines dating back to the 1840s or so. (There’s even a picture of what might be a relative to our friend Gax.)

Thanks for the link, Rob!

Happy Valentine’s Day, I Hate You – Collectors Weekly

Bonus ‘Funny Pages Zine’ comic!

what a load of bs

As I did a year ago, this holiday season I was pleased to make a special Wondermark comic strip for the Cards Against Humanity holiday project, which this year was Eight Sensible Gifts for Hannukah.

You can read the entire comic here! That’s just the first panel, above.