Posts Tagged ‘blog: worth it’.

15 More Articles Well Worth Your Time

Today’s comic was informed by an article I read, about one person’s experience with OCD, which I thought was very compelling. (Link just below.) So I think it’s time for another Extensive List Of Articles (Arguably) Well Worth Your Time! (Previously.)

Toss the links into your Instapaper or whatever! But do note: The McSweeney’s piece on grammar and the BBC piece on teeth have a ton of images that make them best read on their actual sites.

7 things I wish people understood about OCD (Vox)

The common media portrayal of people living with OCD is that they need to clean everything or have rituals — checking a door lock or light switch, for example — that they must repeat on a regular basis. This misses what OCD is actually about: it’s not about the rituals themselves, but what makes the rituals feel necessary.

Before I go to bed or leave the house, I have to check all the knobs on the stove to make sure they’re turned off. I have to touch every knob on the stove to make sure it’s not in the wrong position. This is something I have to do. If I leave the house without checking those knobs, whatever I’m setting out to do will be ruined, overwhelmed by anxiety and dread.

I don’t do this because I enjoy checking the stove or because the mere act of checking the stove gives me relief. I do this because I know that if I don’t check the stove, the house will catch on fire and the person and things I care most about will go down in flames — and it will all be my fault.

An Interactive Guide to Ambiguous Grammar. (McSweeney’s)

From time to time, writers may well find illustrative value in the lightest of phrases, sentences so weightless and feathery that they scarcely even seem to exist at all. These can convey details well beyond the crude thrust of the hulking active voice, and when used strictly as ornamentation, they needn’t actually convey anything at all.

As a thought experiment, let’s examine in extremely close detail a set of iterative changes that can be made to a single simple grammatical structure, turning it from a statement taken at face value into one loaded with unrealized implication…

The Most Misread Poem In America (The Paris Review)

[Robert] Frost once claimed his goal as a poet was “to lodge a few poems where they will be hard to get rid of ”; with “The Road Not Taken,” he appears to have lodged his lines in granite. On a word-for-word basis, it may be the most popular piece of literature ever written by an American.

And almost everyone gets it wrong…It may be the best example in all of American culture of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The dentures made from the teeth of dead soldiers at Waterloo (BBC)

In the late 18th and early 19th Centuries “everyone was dabbling in dentistry”, says Rachel Bairsto, curator of British Dental Association’s museum in central London. From ivory turners to jewellers, chemists, wigmakers and even blacksmiths.

Among the wealthy, sugar consumption was on the rise and early attempts at teeth-whitening — with acidic solutions — wore away enamel… And so human teeth, set in a denture, were more desirable. But the number of live donors was finite, and grave robbers could offer only limited supplies.

The prospect of thousands of British, French and Prussian teeth — sitting in the mouths of recently-killed soldiers on the battlefield at Waterloo — was an attractive one for looters.

PC Comedy and Paul Revere (Medium) Contains a discussion of sexual violence and animal cruelty.

The “PC in comedy” debate has been going on for a long time now, and there’s a tendency — on both sides — to let “the ideas are bad” become “the people with the ideas are bad.” In some cases, it’s true. Some people really do harass, abuse, or seek to harm people in the name of being “funny.” Or, potentially, in the name of being “right.” But I think this conflation of person and idea undercuts the debate, or at least limits its potential…

So you call them garbage, and they call you garbage, and since the only possible response to “you’re garbage” is “nuh-uh,” it just becomes a chorus of people on every side of the issue saying “I’m not garbage” over and over and over.

“Picture yourself as a stereotypical male” (MIT Admissions)

I’m guessing that you’re familiar with common notions that men are spatial and logical thinkers, while females are more verbally proficient. A man being tested for spatial ability might assume that he’s going to have an easier time than a woman of otherwise equal intelligence, his conclusion based not on sexism but on objective science. And statistically speaking, he’s right…

Soon after participants described themselves with either the male- or female-associated traits, they were asked to take a mental rotation test presented as independent of the first part of the study, supposedly to measure their personal spatial aptitude…As it turns out, there is zero statistically significant gender difference in mental rotation ability after test-takers are asked to imagine themselves as stereotypical men for a few minutes. None.

Why the Rich Love Burning Man (Jacobin)

Burning Man is earning a reputation as a “networking event” among Silicon Valley techies, and tech magazines now send reporters to cover it. CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Alphabet are foaming fans, along with conservative anti-tax icon Grover Norquist and many writers of the libertarian (and Koch-funded) Reason magazine. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even went so far as to claim that Burning Man “is Silicon Valley.”

…In a just, democratic society, everyone has equal voice. At Burning Man everyone is invited to participate, but the people who have the most money decide what kind of society Burning Man will be — they commission artists of their choice and build to their own whims. They also determine how generous they are feeling, and whether to withhold money.

My Letter From Oliver Sacks (The Morning News)

In November 2002, Oliver Sacks wrote me a letter.

Dr. Sacks did not write to me out of the blue. It was a reply to a letter I had written him. I had a specific question about neurology and vision and I couldn’t find the answer myself. I realized that if anyone knew the answer, he would. So I asked and he answered.

A Short Lesson in Perspective (Linds Redding)

Many years ago, when I first started to work in the advertising industry, we used to have this thing called The Overnight Test. It worked like this: My creative partner Laurence and I would spend the day covering A2 sheets torn from layout pads with ideas for whatever project we were currently engaged upon –- an ad for a new gas oven, tennis racket or whatever. Scribbled headlines. Bad puns. Stick-men drawings crudely rendered in fat black Magic Marker. It was a kind of brain dump I suppose.

…It’s remarkable how something that seems either arse-breakingly funny, or cosmically profound in the white heat of its inception, can mean absolutely nothing in the cold light of morning.

Your Brain Is Primed To Reach False Conclusions (FiveThirtyEight)

Psychologists have a name for the cognitive bias that makes us prone to assigning a causal relationship to two events simply because they happened one after the other: the “illusion of causality.”

…This finding might seem like nothing more than an interesting psychological quirk if it didn’t make us so vulnerable to quackery. Many so-called “alternative” remedies exploit the illusion of causality, Matute said, by targeting conditions that naturally have high rates of spontaneous recovery, such as headaches, back pain and colds. Quack cures remain popular in part because they bestow a sense of empowerment on people who are feeling miserable, by giving them something to do while they wait for their problem to run its course.

When the Birds and the Bees Were Not Enough: Aristotle’s Masterpiece (The Public Domain Review)

John Cannon, a teenaged agricultural laborer, bought a book called Aristotle’s Masterpiece for a shilling in 1700…

It is, however, one of the best-selling books ever produced in English on sex and making babies. First published in London in 1684, it went through hundreds of editions in England and America. It was still for sale, largely unchanged, into the 1930s and beyond. References to the work pop up in the historical record like some kind of Zelig figure, often on the margins of unexpected moments.

The Late, Great Stephen Colbert (GQ) — I don’t know why this was given such a negative title, by the way.

When I raised the idea that he was one of the country’s few public moral intellectuals, and that there were plenty of people out there wondering how that role might express itself in the new show, he said, “I have a morality. I don’t know if it’s the best morality. And I do like thinking. If people perceive that as a moral intellectualism, that’s fine. That’s up to them to decide. A friend of mine once said, ‘If someone says you’re influencing them, then you’re influential. It’s not up for you to say. You can’t take that away from them.’ But it’s entirely not my intention. This I promise you. Because that’s a short road to being a comedian in all seriousness. ‘As a comedian, in all seriousness, let me not entertain you.’ ”

Slow Poison: Even if the police don’t kill me, a lifetime of preparing for them to just might. (Pacific Standard)

If stopped by the police, I thought to myself, I would set my phone to record audio and put it on the passenger seat. I would send a tweet that I was being stopped and had every intention of complying with the police officer. I would turn on Periscope and livestream the stop, crowdsourcing witnesses. I would text my family and tell them that I was not feeling angry or suicidal, that I was looking forward to seeing them soon. There would not be time to do all of these things, but maybe if I prepared in advance I could pull off one or two of them. What all of these plans had in common were that none of them were meant to secure my safety, but rather to ensure that my death looked suspicious enough to question.

I was figuring out how to enter evidence into the inquiry of my own death.

How Art History Majors Power the U.S. Economy (Bloomberg View)

Contrary to what critics imagine, most Americans in fact go to college for what they believe to be “skill-based education.”

A quarter of them study business, by far the most popular field, and 16 percent major in one of the so-called Stem (science, technology, engineering and math) fields. Throw in economics, and you have nearly half of all graduates studying the only subjects such contemptuous pundits recognize as respectable.

The rest, however, aren’t sitting around discussing Aristotle and Foucault.

Solitude and Leadership: If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts (The American Scholar)

That’s really the great mystery about bureaucracies. Why is it so often that the best people are stuck in the middle and the people who are running things — the leaders — are the mediocrities? Because excellence isn’t usually what gets you up the greasy pole. What gets you up is a talent for maneuvering. Kissing up to the people above you, kicking down to the people below you. Pleasing your teachers, pleasing your superiors, picking a powerful mentor and riding his coattails until it’s time to stab him in the back. Jumping through hoops…

That’s the first half of the lecture: the idea that true leadership means being able to think for yourself and act on your convictions. But how do you learn to do that? How do you learn to think?

…I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play, that I arrive at an original idea.

Okay everyone, read up, and then make yourself a quiz, and then quiz yourself! If you did well, YOU PASS THE CLASS.

12 Articles Well Worth Your Time

FIRSTLY: Hey Los Angeles! I’m performing improv with my team The Audience, tonight (Friday the 12th) at the Gangbusters show in Hollywood! Then, on Monday night in Santa Monica!

SECONDLY AND MOSTLY: Here’s some articles I’ve read recently that I think you might find interesting or thought-provoking! These are all things that I’ve read and NOT REGRETTED READING, which I feel is as good a standard for recommendation as any.

I dumped ’em into my Instapaper to read in bed on my iPad, I recommend you do the same or something equivalent. Or whatever, it’s a free country!…OR IS IT? Read these articles, and see!

The Mary Sue Interview: Kate Beaton On Step Aside, Pops, Her Fantastically Feminist Follow-Up To Hark! A Vagrant

I want to make a comic about [Ida B. Wells] but I don’t, because I respect her so much, and there’s nothing funny about a lot that she went through and fought against. Nothing at all. I’m thinking, “I can’t make some stupid poop comic about this woman!” That would be out of line for the respect I have for her. But more time passes, and I start to look at my work, and I’m thinking that if you leave out these people whose lives were hard and who were overlooked in history, and instead you just go for the easy targets, you’re just making comics about dead white presidents and leaving stories like Ida’s out yet again. It’s not like my comics are some kind of cultural masterpiece, they’re just dinky comics, but you know what I mean? So I made comics about Ida, and they are in the book, and I hope I did a good job, because I wanted to celebrate her.

Cached Thoughts – Less Wrong

If you did need to write realtime programs for a hundred billion 100Hz processors, one trick you’d use as heavily as possible is caching. That’s when you store the results of previous operations and look them up next time, instead of recomputing them from scratch. And it’s a very neural idiom—recognition, association, completing the pattern.

It’s a good guess that the actual majority of human cognition consists of cache lookups…

In modern civilization particularly, no one can think fast enough to think their own thoughts. If I’d been abandoned in the woods as an infant, raised by wolves or silent robots, I would scarcely be recognizable as human. No one can think fast enough to recapitulate the wisdom of a hunter-gatherer tribe in one lifetime, starting from scratch. As for the wisdom of a literate civilization, forget it.

But the flip side of this is that I continually see people who aspire to critical thinking, repeating back cached thoughts which were not invented by critical thinkers…

Is Coding the New Literacy?

Much like cooking, computational thinking begins with a feat of imagination, the ability to envision how digitized information—ticket sales, customer addresses, the temperature in your fridge, the sequence of events to start a car engine, anything that can be sorted, counted, or tracked—could be combined and changed into something new by applying various computational techniques. From there, it’s all about “decomposing” big tasks into a logical series of smaller steps, just like a recipe.

On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs

There is a whole class of salaried professionals that, should you meet them at parties and admit that you do something that might be considered interesting (an anthropologist, for example), will want to avoid even discussing their line of work entirely. Give them a few drinks, and they will launch into tirades about how pointless and stupid their job really is.

This is a profound psychological violence here. How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist?

The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think

But in the 1970s, a professor of Psychology in Vancouver called Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs. What would happen, he wondered, if we tried this differently? So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want. What, Alexander wanted to know, will happen then?

The Art of Richard Thompson book excerpt: Thompson and Bill Watterson talk comics

BILL WATTERSON: When I was a kid, I loved Peanuts, so I wanted to be the next Charles Schulz. I didn’t understand what that meant of course, but it seemed like a plan. You came to your comic strip from a different path, however.

RICHARD THOMPSON: Yeah. Off in my own little world of being a pretend cartoonist. Without a plan.

Four Myths About Creativity

Some people think that a solution must be new and different in order to be creative. How superficial. Being new and different is not the necessary ingredient. Solving the problem is what is necessary. (By definition, “new and different” has already been done.) So don’t worry about it.

Rebellion for its own sake isn’t edgy or groundbreaking; it’s tired and hackneyed, and no more original or creative than the adolescent hormones that produce those feelings. Breaking rules is not the hallmark of creativity, solving problems is.

Forgotten Failures of African Exploration

The exploration of Africa by the British is a story that has been told time and again, often in tiresome detail. We have shelves full of biographies of famous explorers like David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley, along with countless other books on the subject. These tales of adventure invariably end in the hero’s triumphant return to “civilization” or brave death in “darkest Africa”. Such stories were popular with the Victorian public, and they remain popular today. Yet some major African expeditions have never received much attention. These were expeditions that ended in ignominious failure. Because they undermine the triumphalist narrative of the European encounter with Africa, they have been all but erased from historical memory. For this reason alone, they deserve revisiting. They also happen to tell us a lot about what the British hoped to achieve in Africa, and why it proved such a challenge.

All in All, Another Brick in the Motte

The motte-and-bailey doctrine is when you make a bold, controversial statement. Then when somebody challenges you, you claim you were just making an obvious, uncontroversial statement, so you are clearly right and they are silly for challenging you. Then when the argument is over you go back to making the bold, controversial statement.

When Women Wanted Sex Much More than Men (And How the Stereotype Flipped)

…Women were considered to be temptresses who inherited their treachery from Eve. Their sexual passion was seen as a sign of their inferior morality, reason and intellect, and justified tight control by husbands and fathers. Men, who were not so consumed with lust and who had superior abilities of self-control, were the gender more naturally suited to holding positions of power and influence…

By positioning themselves as naturally chaste and virtuous, Protestant women could make the case for themselves as worthy moral and intellectual equals. They could carve out a space for themselves to participate in political life as social reformers advocating for moral causes like charity for the poor and prohibition.

The Galaxy-Sized Video Game

…Planets in the universe will be the size of real planets, and they will be separated from one another by light-years of digital space. A small fraction of them will support complex life. Because the designers are building their universe by establishing its laws of nature, rather than by hand-crafting its details, much about it remains unknown, even to them. They are scheduled to finish at the end of this year; at that time, they will invite millions of people to explore their creation, as a video game, packaged under the title No Man’s Sky.

Finally, to wrap up and for extra credit, the essay that everyone should read carefully once a year: Self-Reliance, by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The other terror that scares us from self-trust is our consistency; a reverence for our past act or word, because the eyes of others have no other data for computing our orbit than our past acts, and we are loath to disappoint them.

But why should you keep your head over your shoulder? Why drag about this corpse of your memory, lest you contradict somewhat you have stated in this or that public place? Suppose you should contradict yourself; what then? It seems to be a rule of wisdom never to rely on your memory alone, scarcely even in acts of pure memory, but to bring the past for judgment into the thousand-eyed present, and live ever in a new day. In your metaphysics you have denied personality to the Deity: yet when the devout motions of the soul come, yield to them heart and life, though they should clothe God with shape and color. Leave your theory, as Joseph his coat in the hand of the harlot, and flee.