Tuesday, October 15, 2019


Einstein Bros. just announced the bagelrito. At Taco Bell, emergency response teams are forming.

Monday, October 14, 2019

On Pointing

This is an article that you'll think about all day: The pointing ape.

Here's an excerpt, and it's long, but it sets up the entire article:
But to what degree are humans truly unique? Psychology tells us that humans, alone among animals, have the capacity to theorise about the contents of other minds. If you’re reading this essay and wondering where I’m going with this, you’re displaying this capacity. We humans also regulate our own behaviour based on the outcomes of such computations. This is a core tenet in many branches of the cognitive sciences today: the idea that our mentations cause our behaviour. In terms of our language behaviour, human children are magnificent test subjects because every child who masters a language (and this describes the overwhelming majority of humanity) transitions from being a creature without any apparent capacity for symbolic communication, akin to other animals, to being a creature who can skilfully produce and comprehend complex utterances that are, apparently, unique in the world. If we can understand the changing competencies of human children, then, the argument goes, we can discern those infant and toddler capabilities that facilitate this language learning. We can glean the ‘psychological toolkit’ that human babies apply to their social environments to produce their native languages.

Because it is so easy to study children, the literature on this issue is immense. A sub-area in this active research domain involves identifying the competencies present in preverbal children while absent from our living relatives, the great apes. An ability displayed by preverbal children but not adult great apes would be seen as an adaptation unique to us. For decades, the sine qua non of human preverbal communicative exceptionalism was the pointing gesture. A language-competent individual can name an entity or event to which she would like to draw the attention of her social partner; a preverbal child armed with a pointing finger can accomplish much the same. 

In the early 1990s, it was a nearly universal axiom in psychology that pointing was a human adaption for creating a ‘referential triangle’ between two people. At that time, I had no particular reason to doubt this story, but quite by happenstance I met someone who gave me grounds to reconsider pointing as a human adaptation in the human toolkit for language. That ‘someone’ was Clint, an adolescent chimpanzee, and this is the story of how he trained me to question the mainstream scientific perspective on pointing as an evolved cognitive adaptation for the acquisition of symbols.

That's the set-up, but it's not just about pointing. It's about a friendship between a great ape and a researcher, and the kind of bond two creatures can have together, even if they're different.

The reason I thought about this article all day, besides its brilliance, is that it made me think about what really distinguishes humans, and how we decide that. Or rather, how we assume that.

In the last few decades, there have been many flags planted about what humans can uniquely do. It seems, though, that over time, those flags keep disappearing. Our claims seem to reflect more what we want to believe about ourselves.

The more research that gets done, though, the more we find pieces of ourselves in others. The great apes. Dolphins. Crows. Elephants. Killer whales. So many nuanced, sophisticated behaviors and emotions.

There is so much to digest in the article, so many rabbit holes to get lost in. It is a very satisfying, pleasant way to spend time.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Friday Links!

From Wally, and it's fascinating: Russia’s Retro Lenin Museum Still Runs on Decades-Old Apple II Computers. Next, and it's brilliant, it's Painting 'Zebra Stripes' on Cows Wards Off Biting Flies. This is excellent: Warp speeds in 'Star Trek' are achingly slow, and a simple animation by a former NASA scientist proves it. This is hilarious: This chicken breaks into her owner’s house daily to lay an egg on the bed.

From Eric Higgins-Freese, and it's an interesting look at design: An exclusive look at how Google designed its Stadia game controller.

From Joshua Buergel, and it's riveting: The Cheating Scandal Rocking the Poker World.

From C. Lee, and it's both simple and brilliant: Schoolgirls in Fukuoka use plastic bottle to save child in sea. This is fascinating: I learned how to do math with the ancient abacus — and it changed my life. Useful: How to Set Your Google Data to Self-Destruct. This could be huge: Just a drop of urine, worms for highly effective cancer screening. Yuck: Your Washing Machine Could Be a Breeding Ground for Hazardous Germs. What a rabbit hole: Mathematics in Movies. Bewitching (sorry): This Map Shows the Scale of 16th- and 17th-Century Scottish Witch Hunts. They probably interfered in the walrus elections: Walrus attacks Russian Navy, sinking inflatable boat.

From Mark Hollett, and it's terrific (also, "How to Weigh a Whale" is an excellent title for a children's book): How to weigh a whale without a scale.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Consider This

This is an actual place, per the brochure:


So, some important notes from the dedicated axe throwing page. Pay attention:
-Groups of less than 4 maybe mixed with other walk-ins.
No problem. I'll just throw axes with complete strangers. No problem.
--Guaranteed Private Lane with 4 or more.
What's the Public Lane look like? Wait, don't even tell me.
--Everyone in Axe Arena Floor MUST wear closed toe shoes.
[insert the obligatory sandals joke HERE.]

Oh, and full bar service. Drinking and axe throwing. That dude on the brochure holding up his index fingers? Those are the only ones he has left.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Oh, Man

Well, it's another absolutely humiliating day to be an American, but you already knew that.

Eli 18.2 sent a text yesterday
Fun brain teaser. 
Each word is a 6-digit number.

Each letter stands for a number between 0-9.
No number can stand for more than one letter.
D = 5.

It's very challenging and very relaxing to work on. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

At The Game

It was Parent's Weekend, so we did the only reasonable thing: ignored all the presentations and just went to the football game.

It's hard to convey in a photograph how large this stadium feels. It seats over 110,000 people. Right now, that's the second largest sports stadium in the world (there's a stadium in North Korea that seats 115,00 people, at least until they get executed). In ancient times, the Circus Maximus had a capacity of 150,000, and more recently, I believe there was a soccer stadium in Mexico that was 200,000+.

We were in row 91 (of 100 rows), and incredibly, I could still see very well. I wasn't expecting such a good view, which allowed me to very clearly see the most boring game in the history of football. 10-3, and it wasn't as exciting as the score.

The pageantry, though, was fantastic and highly enjoyable, and so was the crowd. Nobody blind drunk, no fights, only the obligatory Head Coach In Row 91 offering near-constant advice in the row above us. Oh, wait, that would mean he was the obligatory Head Coach In Row 92, actually.

Here's a very Michigan thing that happened.

The bathrooms were packed at halftime, at course, and when I finally made it through the line and was on my way out, two guys were trying to sneak in via the exit door (which was separated from the entrance). A guy behind me put his hand out and said, "This isn't an entrance. Stop trying to cut and go get in line," and because this is Michigan, they did. Not one word of argument.

If it wasn't for the hellspawn of weather, this would be an ideal place to live.

The other very Michigan thing was that leaving was remarkably orderly, like a murmuration of starlings. No one was trying to break ranks and race through, and there were lots of people apologizing if they bumped into you.

All in all, a very nice day, and we had dinner with Eli 18.2 afterwards.

Monday, October 07, 2019

Outside the Shell Thinking

"Where are the straws?" I asked the lady at the counter.

"No straws," she said cheerily. "We have to save the turtles."

That's fair. I like turtles.

That made me think, though. Is it better that we stop using straws to save the turtles, or should we start teaching turtles how to use straws?

This is provocative, edgy thinking.

Top three ways that turtles could enjoy using straws:
1. adult beverages
2. a snorkel
3. a periscope (bendy straws only)

Friday, October 04, 2019

Friday Links!

This is an excellent read: He Never Intended To Become A Political Dissident, But Then He Started Beating Up Tai Chi Masters. Another branding craze stops as soon as people realize what they're eating: The Kale Craze Might Be Ending.

From C. Lee, and it seems like this could be a harbinger of upcoming problems: Shawn Layden departs Sony amid restructuring confusion and potential power struggle. This is excellent (Lee R. alert): Video: Ars talks Civilization with the man himself: Sid Meier. This is the ultimate mic- drop: Kid’s mom says video games are pointless, kid grows up to be part of new Zelda game’s soundtrack. This might be useful: Learn How to Code in Python With Microsoft's Free Classes. This is so interesting: To Pay Attention, the Brain Uses Filters, Not a Spotlight. An excellent explanation: How decades of L.A. smog led to California’s war with Trump over car pollution

From Wally, and I never thought we needed this, but hey: AMD vs Intel: Which CPU Cooks Better Pancakes? This is quite fascinating, actually: What The Inventories Of Various Emergency Services Look Like Over The World. This is quite incredible: The antique audiotape was a mystery. Then a researcher got it to play. It was a dispatch from D-Day. Very, very interesting: Punching Out: evolution of the ejection seat. This is very funny: Woman who sleeps in $500 EMF-blocking sack wants area-wide Wi-Fi limits. This is astonishing: The Chris Ramsay Playing Card Press.

If you only watch one video this week, let it be this one (thanks, Wally): Pee Wee Football Dance Off.

From Joshua Buergel, and it's mandatory reading for cat owners (okay, not really): The Little-Known History of Cat Litter.

From Ken Piper, and boy, this is incredible:  This ‘129 Ways to Get a Husband’ Article From 1958 Shows How Much The World Has Changed.

Thursday, October 03, 2019


Well, I heart you, too, little golf course:

How do you load a truck? Click to enlarge, because that truck is certainly enlarged. I don't think the inverted pyramid loading technique should be used except in post-apocalyptic circumstances, and then only sparingly.

Honestly, Charlie looks pretty sketchy to me. I don't think I want to play any soccer games with you, sir. Best of luck to you.

She's a Snander

Gloria was eating potato chips in the kitchen. She snacks in the kitchen like this whenever she's stressed.

"Oh, you're snanding," I said.

"Snanding? What?"

"You know, 'snanding.' Snacking while standing." So far, so good.

"Is that a thing?" she asked.

"It's totally a thing," I said. It's totally not a thing.

Wednesday, October 02, 2019

The Coward

This is an actual conversation I had with a relative by marriage, who was coming for an annual visit (you can figure it out).

"Well, you know how it is now."

"No, how is it?" I asked.

"One of my friends got fired because two people at work said he tried to run them over."

"Wait, what?" I wasn't sure I heard that correctly.

"I know he didn't do it. But they said he did, and the dispatcher lied and said she saw it, and they fired him."

"Well, that's something, all right." Going super neutral here for diplomatic reasons.

"You know how it is now. Anyone can make up anything they want to and people will believe them. You must have seen this all the time when you had corporate jobs."

"Oh, hell, yes. When I worked for Dell, people were getting run over in the parking lot every week."

That's what I wanted to say.

What I actually did was pause for a couple of seconds, then say "No, I really didn't."


Also, in what world is the go-to card for getting someone fired falsely accusing them of trying to run you over in the parking lot?

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Bad Man Gets Suspended.

This guy has been so dirty for so long.

Alberto Salazar, track coach and marathon champion, gets four-year doping ban

Combo Post

California Pokes The NCAA With A Stick

California Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign [Note: he did] the state’s Fair Pay to Play Act into law today. That bill, which passed the state senate with overwhelming support earlier this month, forbids the state’s public colleges and universities from revoking the eligibility or scholarships of athletes who sign endorsement deals, hire agents, or otherwise make money off of the use of their names and likenesses.

Baby steps.

The NCAA isn't paying their employees wages yet, but this is a start.

Meanwhile, the NCAA rattled every saber they had, including threatening to ban PAC 12 athletes from championships, and you know what's going to happen now?

They're going to cave.

They're going to cave in record time, because everyone knows this is wrong, and has always been wrong, and now the dam has broken.

It's like a police officer accidentally walking into the wrong apartment and murdering the guy living there because she "feared for her life," and then you get all these morons explaining how this is actually quite reasonable, and everybody holds the line. Then the case goes to the jury and they're all "Oh, hell no. This is straight-up murder," and everyone suddenly goes "Oh, yeah. That's murder AF."

Site Meter