On what street did you lose your childlike sense of wonder

1: Karaoke ebooks

This is terrific. As you might guess from the ebooks part of the name, it creates Markov chains from your tweets, but it forms rhyming couplets and sets them to MIDI music. Brilliant.

2: Stop your team using technical terms and jargon – disambiguity

Most weeks I am ridiculed by someone for insisting on plain language – avoiding acronyms and technical language / jargon in particular. People tell me that I’m slowing the team down by making them use proper words, and that their end users or stakeholders expect them to use technical language.

These things are both true. You should still use plain language.

3: Across the USA by train for just $213

Traveling coast-to-coast across the United States by train is one of the world’s greatest travel experiences. Amazingly, it’s also one of the world’s greatest travel bargains — the 3,400-mile trip can cost as little as $213.

4: Scenes from our unproduced screenplay: ‘Strunk & White: Grammar Police’

It’s over here, detectives. The body was found about an hour ago.

Use the active voice, rookie.

5: As the Guardian Berliner format turns ten, we look back at a decade of design change

Ten years ago this month the Guardian launched its Berliner format. We talk to its creative team about a decade of rapid change at the paper, and examine how design is now more important than ever in helping us navigate an increasingly complicated media landscape…

6: How to Have 106 babies (and counting)

Ed Houben is Europe’s most virile man. And after years of donating sperm the “normal” way (sterile room, cup, cash), he and some women looking to get pregnant for free began cutting out the middlemen and getting it done as nature prefers it (sex!). Today, Houben has over a hundred children—and Ed the Babymaker is in greater demand than ever. We imagine you have some questions

7: How Spotify’s Discover Weekly cracked human curation at internet scale

The algorithms behind Discover Weekly finds users who have built playlists featuring the songs and artists you love. It then goes through songs that a number of your kindred spirits have added to playlists but you haven’t heard, knowing there is a good chance you might like them, too. Finally, it uses your taste profile to filter those findings by your areas of affinity and exploration. Because the playlist, that explicit act of curation, is both the source of the signal and the final output, the technique can achieve results far more interesting than run of the mill collaborative filtering.

8: Me Inc.

The paradoxical, pressure-filled quest to build a “personal brand.”

9: P.G. Wodehouse On The Dangers Of Literature

It was one of the dullest speeches I ever heard. The Agee woman told us for three quarters of an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required.


Freddie experienced the sort of abysmal soul-sadness which afflicts one of Tolstoy’s Russian peasants when, after putting in a heavy day’s work strangling his father, beating his wife, and dropping the baby into the city’s reservoir, he turns to the cupboards, only to find the vodka bottle empty.

10: Apologies To The Queen Mary turns 10

A truly terrific album gets a good anniversary review.

Apologies To The Queen Mary is far more approachable, an album that spins universal reverie out of family trauma, relational struggle, and spiritual crisis. It’s music that renders the horror and delight of life on Earth as an epic struggle we all share. “I’ll believe in anything!” Krug sings at the album’s peak, desperately reaching for a fresh start and the freedom of some anti-Cheers: “where nobody knows you and nobody gives a damn.” Apologies To The Queen Mary itself can function as that kind of common ground, a set of inspiring songs many kinds of people can rally around, if only for a few fleeting moments. A decade into its history, it remains music worth believing in.

11: Future reading

I’m not entirely swayed by this piece—straw men abound—but it seems to have gotten a lot of people talking about books and reading and formats and focus, and that can only be a good thing.

From 2009 to 2013, every book I read, I read on a screen. And then I stopped. You could call my four years of devout screen‑reading an experiment. I felt a duty – not to anyone or anything specifically, but more vaguely to the idea of ‘books’. I wanted to understand how their boundaries were changing and being affected by technology. Committing myself to the screen felt like the best way to do it.

11: Nihilistic password security questions

On what street did you lose your childlike sense of wonder?


Critiquing the Ewoks

1: Curiosity and the cat: quantum theory and the Coen brothers

I didn’t expect to read an article about quantum mechanics and the Coen’s ouvre. But I’m glad I did.

We’re used to a world in which seeing is believing, which we test through the evidence of our own eyes. It’s why expressions like these exist in the first place. Whether we’re scientists, artists or just looking at the view, what we see is a Newtonian world. Apples drop from trees, capsules hurtle into space and Van Gogh’s sunflowers can’t be anything else, no matter how hard we screw up our eyes in an effort to see something different. Anything outside of our Newtonian comfort zone seems immediately counter-intuitive, unreal, and often disturbing. But we’re in a comfort-zone nonetheless, because what we might like to think of as ‘real’ is bigger. We know that now. At the level of ultimate detail, the one on which everything else is built, the rules of engagement are different. Welcome to the quantum level. And welcome, too, to the Coen Brothers, those frustrating indie auteurs whose films seem most at ease when they occupy a space which seems both recognisable and alien in turn. Now we see it… or do we?

2: Notion

This looks very interesting: drag and drop elements to create and edit documents; link them together to create a hierarchy and publish them; collaborate with other within the doc and by video chat.

Beautiful. Lightweight. Always organized. Notion is an expressive and collaborative document editor that gives your ideas a place to grow.

3: I reviewed jail on Yelp because I couldn’t afford a therapist

User-review sites have become an unlikely destination for raw, informative accounts of Americans’ everyday interactions with our criminal justice system. Yelp declined to provide the number of prison and jail reviews on its site, but dozens of correctional facilities are filed under “Public Services & Government” alongside DMVs and post offices. Search for your local prison or jail and chances are that Google reviews will pop up alongside more traditional hits. (Even TripAdvisor once hosted a lively debate about whether a tourist visit to Sing Sing Correctional Facility or Rikers Island would be ethical, if such a thing were allowed.)

4: Mobile-friendly web pages using app banners

I missed this Google announcement from the beginning of the month about websites that take mobile users to an interstitial page to drive app installations:

After November 1, mobile web pages that show an app install interstitial that hides a significant amount of content on the transition from the search result page will no longer be considered mobile-friendly. This does not affect other types of interstitials. As an alternative to app install interstitials, browsers provide ways to promote an app that are more user-friendly.

5: If you like Return Of The Jedi but hate the Ewoks, you understand feminist criticism

When I tweeted about my frustration with the female characters in Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (one human, one primate, both of whom contribute very little to the plot), a friend replied, “Sorry to hear it’s a bad movie.” But it isn’t a bad movie. In fact, it was one of my favorite action blockbusters of last summer. Yet my specific feminist frustrations were extrapolated into a larger condemnation of the film. No one assumes that critiquing the Ewoks means you dislike Star Wars. So why did my complaints imply I hated Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes?

6: A terrible perfect couple

A very short story about a couple who are a little too alike.

7: Exist

Exist links various services (calendar, fitness tracking, location, weather, social stuff) and provides feedback based on averages rather than goals. I’m not completely sold on the quantified self moment, but have signed up for a 14-day trial to see what this is like.

8: NASA Graphics Standards Manual

The original manual from 1976.

9: The hunt for a possible Pynchon novel leads to a name

I obviously had my eyes and ears closed while this was playing out on the literary scene last week:

The post went viral. How could it not? Even without proof, the possibility that Pynchon was playing a giant practical joke on all of us was too enticing. Even after Pynchon’s publisher, Penguin Press, told New York magazine’s Nate Jones, "We are Thomas Pynchon's publisher and this is not a book by Thomas Pynchon,” people kept sharing Winslow’s piece, and the subsequent, inevitable writeups in Vice and The New York Times. In fact, many saw Penguin’s denial as proof of Pynchon’s involvement. Jones himself ended his piece with a wink: “But, then again, they would say that, wouldn't they?”

10: How Google's new logo is just 305 bytes

By using standard geometric shapes with fewer anchor points Google have reduced their logo’s size from 14,000 bytes.

11: Where do languages go to die?

If a Middle Eastern man from 2,500 years ago found himself on his home territory in 2015, he would be shocked by the modern innovations, and not just electricity, airplanes, and iPhones. Arabic as an official language in over two dozen countries would also seem as counterintuitive to him as if people had suddenly started keeping aardvarks as pets.

In our time-traveler’s era, after all, Arabic was an also-ran tongue spoken by obscure nomads. The probability that he even spoke it would be low. There were countless other languages in the Middle East in his time that he’d be more likely to know. His idea of a “proper” language would have been Aramaic, which ruled what he knew as the world and served, between 600 and 200 B.C.E., as the lingua franca from Greece and Egypt, across Mesopotamia and Persia, all the way through to India. Yet today the language of Jesus Christ is hardly spoken anywhere, and indeed is likely to be extinct within the next century. Young people learn it ever less. Only about half a million people now speak Aramaic—compared to, for example, the five and a half million people who speak Albanian.

12: The mind-bending physics of a teen ball’s spin

How tennis players create spin is about as complicated a physics question you can set about solving without invoking subatomic particles.

13: “This is a shady business we in, fam”

Here’s another post about ‘parody’ Twitter accounts, the content they steal, and Twitter’s new (sort-of) stance against them.

14: Amazon web services in Plain English

Hey, have you heard of the new AWS services: ContainerCache, ElastiCast and QR72? Of course not, I just made those up.

But with 50 plus opaquely named services, we decided that enough was enough and that some plain english descriptions were needed.

15: Waluigi's Unbearable Existence

The new Mario Maker game for the Wii U looks fantastic—the levels some people are making are brilliant. Here’s a particularly unsettling one.

Migrants are too wealthy

1: Spotify is getting unbelievably good at picking music — here’s an inside look at how

There’s a playlist on Spotify I love called Discover Weekly. It’s updated every Monday with a mix of songs, some I know and some I’ve never heard, crossing into almost every genre with no discernible pattern. Like magic, it just knows what I want to hear.

It’s one of the reasons why I’m listening to Spotify more than ever. And I’m not alone.

I’m pleased with Spotify’s Discover playlist. Mine this week is 30 songs (2hr 1m) and is a nice mix of bands I’ve never heard of, back-catalogue songs by bands I know, and a handful of songs I own and/or I’ve listened to (on Spotify) multiple times. I think this last tactic is deliberate; relatively few people will want two hours of music that they’re completely new to, and will appreciate a bit of familiarity along the way. I'd like more new (to me) music, but I’m a bit odd: maybe ‘Discover’ could be an integral part of the Spotify app, along with ‘Browse’ and ‘Radio’ and the like, that we could tinker with using filters and settings depending on what we want to expose ourselves to.

I still like Apple Music, by the way, and I’ll likely carry on paying for it and using the free version of Spotify, which I downgraded to a couple of months ago. But the excitement of the ‘For You’ section in Apple Music has worn off. There’s only so many times I want to see ‘An Introduction To’ an act whose back catalogue I own in its entirety, nor ‘Deep Cuts’.

2: Social decay: How Tweets can predict the death of an app

We used Twitter data to analyze the health of social apps and find out which ones might be in trouble — or, as we call it, in social decay.

Interesting to see the slow decline of This Is My Jam, and how Ello has peaked, dropped and plateaued.

3: How to write a great error message

Your job as product manager, designer or developer of an app is to recognize that writing copy in your app is not something that you can just do on the side. It’s just as important as having the application work correctly and the user interface being easy and efficient to use.

4: Surprised that Syrian refugees have smartphones? Sorry to break this to you, but you’re an idiot

On the surface this may look like xenophobia searching for something to grab on to following a shift in the public mood towards refugees from the Middle East. But it is actually a fairly progressive stance: just weeks ago the anti-immigration brigade were complaining that migrants are unskilled and just want our benefits. And now they’re arguing that migrants are too wealthy instead, implicitly arguing we should prioritise helping the poor. But in any case, it does raise an interesting question: Exactly how surprised should we be that people from Syria carry smartphones?

5: How media ‘fluff’ helped Hitler rise to power

In the years preceding World War II, news outlets from home magazines to the New York Times ran profiles of the Nazi leader that portrayed him as a country gentleman — a man who ate vegetarian, played catch with his dogs and took post-meal strolls outside his mountain estate […] The 1930s marked the rise of celebrity culture, in the era of talking movies, radio and new lifestyle magazines […] Hitler’s propagandists took advantage of the new celebrity culture and even helped to shape it.

6: Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto explaining World 1-1 is the best game design lesson of the week

Miyamoto talks level design.

To cheep, as a young bird

1: An interactive guide to ambiguous grammar

This might be the best thing I’ve read all year. I didn't guess where it was going.

2: The great big Twitter purge (you probably haven’t heard about)

Specifically the millions of followers that have been wiped from dozens of so-called parody accounts, the influential profiles that satirize celebrities or pop culture. The most powerful accounts have audiences in the millions, and their owners can make thousands of dollars per day through sponsored posts. But many accounts are being accused of stealing the content they share.

3: Facebook's new spam-killer hints at the future of coding

When Facebook engineers needed to build new anti-spam system, they turned to Haskell, a relatively niche programming language. Here’s why. (This is of broader appeal than it might first appear!)

4: Today I fucked up by letting my brother take advantage of my Yu-Gi-Oh! card addiction

A cautionary tale of why you should always follow doctor’s orders. No matter if your siblings bribe you.

5: How podcasts have changed in ten years: By the numbers

I’ve noticed since starting a podcast of my own that research on the field is scant. Most of the research I’ve read has focused on listener behavior, which is fine for marketers, but other questions about the medium have gone unanswered. I decided to address a few.

  • What iTunes categories have the most podcasts?
  • How many podcasts are launched per month?
  • How many podcasts are active?
  • How long is a typical podcast episode? How often is a typical podcast updated?
  • How many podcasts have explicit content?
  • How many podcasts are not in English?
  • How many ratings or reviews does a typical podcast receive?

6: Tools we use 1: Publishing print newspapers online: CMSs

Which newspaper sites use which CMSs? I expected to see a big difference between BLOX for U.S. dailies and Wordpress for everything else, but the gap is huge.

7: A brief history of yippee-ki-yay

The yip part of yippee is old. It originated in the 15th century and meant “to cheep, as a young bird,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The more well-known meaning, to emit a high-pitched bark, came about around 1907, as per the OED, and gained the figurative meaning “to shout; to complain.”

8: Create free brand & design style guides with Frontify style guide

Manage logos, images, colours, typography etc. See also Canva for Work.

9: Tips for writing and editing news stories involving trans people.

10: Dear pedants: Your fave grammar rule is probably fake

It turns out, virtually all authoritative sources agree these rules are nonsense. We can consider the authority of historical texts before the advent of these pop grammar rules. Does historical record show that speakers were breaking these rules before they even existed? Yes. Or we can appeal to literary usage by expert wielders of the English language such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, Austen, James Joyce, Mark Twain to name just a few. They’ve all had their fair share of grammatical ‘errors’. There are examples throughout the history of the English language of many of these grammar rules being blithely broken by speakers. Even the style guides of contemporary publications such as The Economist admit that “Happy the man who has never been told that it is wrong to split an infinitive: the ban is pointless. Unfortunately, to see it broken is so annoying to so many people that you should observe it.” Or as Geoffrey K. Pullum wryly translates it “this mythical and pointless prohibition against a natural syntactic construction has never been defended by any serious grammarian; but observe it anyway, because we’re scared of our readers.”

11: Lastly, type I’m feeling curious into Google.

Ballet Slipper, Spice Route, Jurassic Gold, and Sea Turtle

1: What it’s like to run the Twitter handle “@message”

It’s an increasingly important part of any publication on the web, and it’s always changing and moving. Doing it successfully takes more than being good at Twitter, being good at talking to people, coming up with headlines or snappy descriptions, paying attention to traffic and timing, being willing to experiment and learn from it. It’s also depressingly easy to screw up and send the wrong tweet from the wrong account, which I managed to do more than once. Social media is a full-time job, and anyone who does it well has my admiration and respect.

2: Movie lists

Analysing the sentiment and volume of Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb ratings to find lists of the best recent, best unknown, most underestimated, and most overrated movies. Lots to dig through.

3: Rain is sizzling bacon, cars are lions roaring: the art of sound in movies

Skip Lievsay is one of the most talented men in Hollywood. He has created audioscapes for Martin Scorsese and is the only sound man the Coen brothers go to. But the key to this work is more than clever effects: it is understanding the human mind.

4: A blankness full of meaning

The app, OMBY, is a game that you win by unscrambling Moby-Dick, a few words at a time. The complete text of the book has been broken into 10,395 consecutive morsels of about twenty words each, but with each morsel missing a few words, and the missing words’ letters mixed up like Scrabble tiles. Rearrange the alphabetic chaos of those tiles to form the missing words, and swipe forward to the next puzzle. Now do that 10,394 more times, in order, all the way through the book […] What I love about this is the occasion it provides to engage Moby-Dick on the level of the word, which might be Moby-Dick’s weirdest and most delicious level.

5: How pantone is still turning color into money

Some 210 new colors came into the world last week. Ballet Slipper, Spice Route, Jurassic Gold, and Sea Turtle, among others. These shades always existed in nature, but now they are official—dramatic names and all. One can buy them from Pantone, a small company in Carlstadt, N.J., that literally snatches its products out of the air.

6: The secret history of “Y’all”: The murky origins of a legendary Southern slang word

Many discussions of the word connect it to the history of second-person pronouns in English. Old English had singular and plural forms of “you,” and these eventually morphed into the formal “you” and informal “thou” pronouns you find in Shakespeare and the King James Bible. But “y’all” isn’t a descendant of these, and there’s still debate about its origins.

7: Bar chart baselines start at zero

There are visualization rules and there are visualization suggestions. Most are suggestions. The ones that are rules exist because of how our brains process visual information. There’s just no getting around it.

I already covered the small handful of rules that pertain mostly to traditional statistical graphics. The first one—to always start your bar charts with a zero baseline—unexpectedly drew some disagreement, and I am unexpectedly compelled to go into more depth.

It’s true that every rule has its exception. It’s just that with this particular rule, I haven’t seen a worthwhile reason to bend it yet.

How most people experience ink

1: The momentary compression of design

It’s not that designers coding is totally irrelevant right now; I would happily debate that with anyone interested. But if software is eating the world, software design ought to be as diverse as the world itself. I would encourage designers to think about their roles and skills in the broadest sense, in terms of their knowledge of humanity and the world, rather than the technical deliverables of today. Divergent processes will become mandatory for survival and in the future I expect the question “should designers code?” to make as much sense as “should urban planners carve wood?” Our practice on the other end of this moment has a good chance of entering the most diverse, vital era we’ve ever known, which should be celebrated and encouraged rather than squashed and judged.

2: Limetown

New fiction podcast: part Serial, part X-Files. A bit hammy at times, but promising.

Ten years ago, over three hundred men, women and children disappeared from a small town in Tennessee, never to be heard from again.

In this seven-part podcast, American Public Radio host Lia Haddock asks the question once more, "What happened to the people of Limetown?"

3: Radical sandcastles

These aren't your prototypical bucket-and-pail sand structures. Matt Kaliner's creations deserve an architectural category all their own.

See also Renzo Piano: how to build the perfect sandcastle.

4: Woman with no recollection of last 10 years asked to run major media company

She has a knack for a good story, she’s great with people. Sure she couldn’t remember whether the Prime Minister of Great Britain attended her 40th birthday party. But then, who does remember these sorts of finer details?

5: The guy who owns .xyz will only get $8 from Google every year

Sure, but he’s making over $160k per day on new registrations.

6: The hamburger menu doesn't work

It's a beautiful, elegant solution that gets it all wrong, and it's time to move on.

7: How the ballpoint pen killed cursive

The ballpoint’s universal success has changed how most people experience ink. Its thicker ink was less likely to leak than that of its predecessors. For most purposes, this was a win—no more ink-stained shirts, no need for those stereotypically geeky pocket protectors. However, thicker ink also changes the physical experience of writing, not necessarily all for the better.

See also Bic uses the same photo to advertise their pens and razors.

Memory is like a text that cannot change

1: Secretive fusion company claims reactor breakthrough

In a suburban industrial park south of Los Angeles, researchers have taken a significant step toward mastering nuclear fusion—a process that could provide abundant, cheap, and clean energy. A privately funded company called Tri Alpha Energy has built a machine that forms a ball of superheated gas—at about 10 million degrees Celsius—and holds it steady for 5 milliseconds without decaying away. That may seem a mere blink of an eye, but it is far longer than other efforts with the technique and shows for the first time that it is possible to hold the gas in a steady state—the researchers stopped only when their machine ran out of juice.

2: Inspirograph

Nathan Friend’s digital replica of the classic Spirograph toy. Written in TypeScript, using D3.js.

3: Writing.Rocks: Tighten This! challenge

I like this weekly challenge to readers to rewrite a sentence as concisely as possible. It’s likely that by the time you read this, the answers to this week’s challenge will be posted. The sentence to shorten is ‘This tool helps companies identify which of the 60 the most likely cyberattack scenarios are relevant to their situation’.

4: Introducing the MailChimp Style Guide

I forgot to post this last week. MailChimp have released their internal style guide under a Creative Commons licence. See also Voice and tone their guide to, well, those two things.

5: Emoji mosaic

THIS IS CRAZY MAGIC. Upload an image to turn into a mosaic made out of emoji. (Emojis?)

6: In defense of the present tense

In the present tense, you aren’t stuck to the moment—you can go forward and backward in time. In fiction, the demands of the present tense are in some ways the opposite of that exploration of uncertainty—the tense places a demand for the elimination of all other possibilities in the writer’s imagination—this is what happened and is what is still happening whenever this memory returns to this character or whenever this moment matters. Granted, it requires a belief that memory is like a text that cannot change, in the way writing can, once printed, be permanent and collectible. But the best writers play with this, say, as in Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye, where she moves from the past tense recollections of an adult painter returned to her hometown to the present tense narrative of the child that painter was—and the subject is soon what she has chosen to remember and what to forget—and this is given to the reader, not to the narrator, to discover.

Write a comma using a mailbox

1: Laugh factory

Read this one even if you read none of the rest of the links today.

It’s not just the Fat Jew. A whole online ecosystem exists to cut, paste, and cash in on other people’s jokes.

2: Wired Style: A linguist explains vintage internet slang

Two of my favourite topics collide: linguistic style and internet history. Gretchen McCulloch digs out Wired’s style guide to explore the evolution of internet slang and the importance of having a personal style guide.

3: Philosophy: the subject that improves children’s literacy, numeracy and conduct

We’re only about 2,500 years behind the Greeks but Philosophy is finally making it on to the school curriculum. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment is drafting plans for a short course in the subject to be introduced as part of the new Junior Cycle curriculum.

4: Replacing “crazy” for ableism and preciseness of language

If you’ve arrived at the conclusion that the word “crazy” is ableist, or at least makes some people uncomfortable, or is commonly misused and overused to the point of losing its meaning, you may be struggling to find substitute words. This post is for you. I’ve put together a list of many words that convey better what you mean when you say “crazy” and the specific usages and contexts where they make sense. And fear not: many of them are colorful, and all of them pack punch.

5: Imgur Is the last true internet culture remaining — but can it survive?

There is no more popular online destination for the modern male than Imgur. By the numbers, this humble photo-sharing site is in firm command of the millennial dude, blowing BuzzFeed, Reddit and even Tumblr out of the water with over 150 million monthly visitors and the highest concentration of millennial males in the U.S.

But you wouldn't know it unless you've stared Imgur right in its eyes. Or unless you're part of the club.

6: The hidden bias of science’s universal language

The vast majority of scientific papers today are published in English. What gets lost when other languages get left out?

7: Why the Wingdings font exists

It seems as bizarre as it is ubiquitous. What is Wingdings thinking? Why would someone want to write a comma using a mailbox? Why would anyone think we want to compose in peace signs and crosses and heart shapes?

Harry and the rest of the Connick Jrs

1: The rise of phone reading

Since the release of the bigger, sharper iPhone 6 and 6 Plus last September, Apple has seen an increase in the number of people downloading books onto iPhones through its iBooks app. Some 45% of iBooks purchases are now downloaded onto iPhones, an Apple spokeswoman said. Before that, only 28% were downloaded onto phones, with most of the remainder downloaded onto iPads and a small percentage onto computers.

2: Europe shouldn’t worry about migrants. It should worry about creeping fascism

The greatest threat to our “way of life” is not migration. It is that we will swallow the lie that some human lives matter less than others.

3: One of these images is Jupiter’s moon Europa, the rest are frying pans

4: 'Space Jam' forever: The website that wouldn't die

How a ragtag group of young coders skirted the studio and created a pop culture sensation that's still standing two decades later.

5: The danger of being neighborly without a permit

All over America, people have put small ‘give one, take one’ book exchanges in front of their homes. Then they were told to tear them down.

6: How SETI will understand messages broadcast by an alien intelligence

Imagine the day when we finally receive a signal from an extraterrestrial intelligence, only to find that there’s a message embedded within. Given that we don’t speak the same language, how could we ever hope to make sense of it? We spoke to the experts to find out.

7: Guy annoys girlfriend with puns at Ikea

This is funnier than it should be.

8: A conspiracy theorist’s guide to understanding Anna Kendrick’s 2012 film “Pitch Perfect.”

How long was Harry and the rest of the Connick Jrs working for the Taliban?

Nothing to do with abdominal glandular organs

1: Timelike

Another time-travel based short. Because why break the habit of a lifetime?

Madeline and her boyfriend are enjoying a quiet evening at home when they are interrupted by a visit from a stranger bearing a message from Madeline’s future self. (An explanation of sorts?)

2: How London’s terminal stations got their names

St Pancras International: The international part is fairly obvious, given that this is the London home of Eurostar services to the continent. But who was this St Pancras? London's most magnificent station and the surrounding area take their name from a Roman teenager, who was beheaded for converting to Christianity at a time when this was outlawed (c. 304 AD). Young master Pancras had probably never even heard of Londinium, and it's unclear exactly why the founders of the first church on the site should choose him as their dedicatee. It may be that Pancratic relics found their way to the region, or perhaps his memory was promoted by members of a nearby Roman camp, established at a date when Christianity was more widespread within the Roman Empire. Either way, this is thought to be one of the most ancient sites of Christian worship in the country. The name has nothing to do with abdominal glandular organs.

3: 2 kinds of people

There are only 2 kinds of people in this world, those that find this blog hilarious and those that have no sense of humor whatsoever.

4: Something fishy

The true story behind four curiosities of everyday sushi.

5: Design a cover for the twentieth anniversary edition of Infinite Jest

There are two routes to literary immortality:

  • Slave for years—if not decades—over a work of fiction so searingly sui generis, so well and truly fused with an authentic zeitgeist, so deeply attuned to life’s vicissitudes and the mysteries of the soul, that establishment and nonestablishment figures alike have no choice but to revere you and send you soaring toward the firmament, never to be forgotten.

  • Hitch your wagon to David Foster Wallace’s star.

6: Time is a privacy setting

John Herrman on the ephemerality of Twitter and Facebook posts. Social networks change with such frequency, and the passing of time removes context and meaning from our posts. How do we deal with this? Herman deletes things after a week.

Facebook’s Timehop-esque feature was interesting to me at first until it started showing me things from my early days on the service that made me shudder and squirm. I initially used it as a prompt to delete old stuff that was just awful. Now I can barely use that feature. Seeing the ‘You have memories’ notification is enough to send waves of undiluted cringe flowing through my body.

7: Inside the manipulative world of film color correction

Professional colorists reveal their secrets—and a neuroscientist explains why they work.

8: All hail the Ned Flanders-themed metal band Okilly Dokilly

Nekrogoblikon, a band with a goblin mascot, once famously sang “We Need a Gimmick.” Phoenix band Okilly Dokilly have found one, and it’s blowing up the internet. The five-piece band are entirely inspired by and about Homer Simpson’s neighbor Ned Flanders. They’re hardly the first band to be inspired by The Simpsons (hello, Fall Out Boy), or even the first metal band to take their name from the show (what’s up, Evergreen Terrace?), but the world’s only “Nedal” band are fully committed to their shtick. All five of them dress like Homer’s nemesis (green sweaters, gray pants and spectacles, and three of them even have mustaches.

You’ll come across an unnerving reality

1: New Zealand announces 40 potential new flag designs

New Zealanders are to get a chance to vote on a new flag for their country, which could replace its existing graphic featuring the Union Jack.

2: Attack on the pentagon results in discovery of new mathematical tile | Science | The Guardian

Joy as mathematicians discover a new type of pentagon that can cover the plane leaving no gaps and with no overlaps. It becomes only the 15th type of pentagon known that can do this, and the first discovered in 30 years.

3: Love boat rejects: Unforgettable photos of people on cruise ships in the 1990s

Love Boat Rejects is a collection of pictures taken by Ian Hughes and his fellow photographers onboard American, Norwegian and Italian cruise ships throughout the 1990s.

4: Tech’s enduring great-man myth

The idea that particular individuals drive history has long been discredited. Yet it persists in the tech industry, obscuring some of the fundamental factors in innovation.

5: Guy walks into a bar

So a guy walks into a bar one day and he can’t believe his eyes. There, in the corner, there’s this one-foot-tall man, in a little tuxedo, playing a tiny grand piano.

So the guy asks the bartender, “Where’d he come from?”

And the bartender’s, like, “There’s a genie in the men’s room who grants wishes.”

Make sure you read the rest. It doesn't proceed as you'd expect.

6: The music web is now so closed, you can’t share your favorite song

First, This Is My Jam announced they're closing the service. (Note how classily they're doing this: the site will go read-only with a permanent archive and API, all the data is being open sourced, users can export their data and/or opt-out it being archived.)

In the link above, Peter Kirn bemoans the devolution of our web-based music services:

Call it a jam session that has completely fallen apart.

Having Web services go dark is certainly not news in this day and age. We’ve come to expect that Internet services won’t be there forever. (Google Reader, anyone?)

But if you pull apart some of the backstory behind the end of a service called “This Is My Jam,” you’ll come across an unnerving reality of the way music on the Web is evolving (or devolving).

See also Rev Dan Catt's post on how he's manually archiving anything that isn't persistent, like Spotify playlists.

A depressed, laconic Luigi

1: Ennuigi

Spend some time with a depressed, laconic Luigi as he chain smokes and wanders through a crumbling Mushroom Kingdom, ruminating on ontology, ethics, family, identity, and the mistakes he and his brother have made.

2: I’m You, Dickhead

Another great time-travel short.

In a world where time travel is a simple hospital procedure, a man jumps back in time to force his 10-year-old self to learn guitar so that he can get more action with the ladies in the present day.

3: The earthquake that will devastate the Pacific Northwest

I have some thoughts on this but they mostly echo my Twitter pal Charlie Loyd's, who repeatedly brings so much more considered thought to everything, it's unfair on the rest of us.

When the Cascadia fault line ruptures, it could be our worst natural disaster in recorded history.

4: Briefly

I thought twice about including this as I read something similar most days. But the point of this blog is that not everyone reads what I read and, anyway, I'm such fan of brevity (stop laughing, Twitter followers and Facebook friends) that I want to press this home to everyone. Omit needless words!

Getting things into 140 characters might be teaching young writers one of the most cherished virtues among those who deal professionally with writing: brevity.

5: Haruki Murakami: The moment I became a novelist

If you’ve read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running then you’ve heard a version of this story before, but it’s supremely interesting anyway.

I think Hiroshima’s starting pitcher that day was Yoshiro Sotokoba. Yakult countered with Takeshi Yasuda. In the bottom of the first inning, Hilton slammed Sotokoba’s first pitch into left field for a clean double. The satisfying crack when the bat met the ball resounded throughout Jingu Stadium. Scattered applause rose around me. In that instant, for no reason and on no grounds whatsoever, the thought suddenly struck me: I think I can write a novel.

6: The persistence of vinyl

I hadn’t ever heard of this site before (Stories from the American South) but, boy howdy, is it ever good.

For almost 70 years, United Record Pressing has been in the business of pressing vinyl records. A quarter century ago, everyone thought those old black disks were going the way of the dodo. Then a few years ago, a funny thing happened: The kids started buying vinyl again. And now, one of Nashville’s oldest manufacturing businesses is growing to beat the band.

7: Joanna Newsom announces new album, Divers, shares “Sapokanikan”

Joanna Newsom has announced her first new album in five years. Entitled Divers, the follow-up to 2010’s Have One on Me is due from Drag City on October 23rd.

8: The Proclaimers: how we made I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)

When I first learned to play the guitar I would often ‘entertain’ people, half-joking/half-serious, with a slow, angsty, fingerpicked version of this song. People laugh about the track but as far as I can see, it’s completely truly objectively brilliant.

A sort of reptilian Michael Fassbender-looking guy

1: There are sharks living in a volcano, and this is not a drill

Just when you think the world can’t get any surprise you any more, you learn that there are sharks swimming around in a volcano. Truth really is stranger than fiction: Syfy brought us Sharknado and then the universe counters with Sharkcano, otherwise known as Kavachi. This very, very active volcano off the Solomon Islands is 60 feet underwater, and sharks and rays have apparently been hanging out in its caldera between eruptions.

2: Twitter contest winning as a service

This is the story of how I wrote a Twitter bot to automatically enter contests and ended up winning on average 4 contests per day, every day, for about 9 months straight.

3: Wikiwand

Wikiwand is a modern interface for web and mobile that optimizes Wikipedia's amazing content for a quicker and significantly improved reading experience.

4: 99% Invisible podcast’s brilliant response to criticism of women’s voices

You've written in to voice your dislike of one of our female reporter's voices. You're not alone. We have a filter set up that automatically sends these types of emails into a folder labeled 'zero priority'. We'll review this folder and consider the complaints within, well, never.

(See also: 13 tips on how to speak while female.)

5: How can you tell if you’re being sexually empowered or objectified? Ask yourself this simple question

There’s a long-standing debate in feminism about sexual empowerment: How do we know when someone is being sexually liberated versus being sexually objectified, since they sometimes can look similar from the outside? Well, the answer is simpler than you think: The difference is in who has the power.

6: Homme de Plume: What I learned sending my novel out under a male name

George sent out 50 queries, and had his manuscript requested 17 times. He is eight and a half times better than me at writing the same book. Fully a third of the agents who saw his query wanted to see more, where my numbers never did shift from one in 25. [...] That was when George came to life. I imagined him as a sort of reptilian Michael Fassbender-looking guy, drinking whiskey and walking around train yards at night while I did the work. Most of the agents only heard from one or the other of us, but I did overlap a little. One who sent me a form rejection as Catherine not only wanted to read George’s book, but instead of rejecting it asked if he could send it along to a more senior agent. Even George’s rejections were polite and warm on a level that would have meant everything to me, except that they weren’t to the real me. George’s work was “clever,” it’s “well-constructed” and “exciting.” No one mentioned his sentences being lyrical or whether his main characters were feisty. A few of people sent deeply generous and thoughtful critiques, which made me both grateful and queasy for my dishonesty.

I begin to hate their smiling faces

1: Grimes in reality

Grimes started as a fantasy project, then became too real. Now Claire Boucher is taking back control and showing the world that pop stars can be producers too.

2: Happy Birthday copyright bombshell: New evidence Warner Music previously hid shows song is public domain

Last minute evidence that completely turns a legal case on its head doesn't come about all that often—despite what you see in Hollywood movies and TV shows. The discovery process in a lawsuit generally reveals most of the evidence revealed to everyone pretty early on. And yet... in the high profile lawsuit over the copyright status of the song "Happy Birthday," the plaintiffs "Good Morning to You Productions" (who are making a documentary about the song and are arguing that the song is in the public domain) have popped up with a last minute filing, saying they have just come across evidence that the song is absolutely in the public domain.

3: No. 32: Who’s your daddy?

I could read burger blogs all day every day.

4: I Poked all of my 615 Facebook friends. Here’s what happened

At first, it is delightful. I don’t know Facebook’s algorithm – if there is a rhyme or reason to why people appear in the list the way they do. But in the beginning they are all dear friends, and I flick through their pages, seeing profile pictures of them with loving spouses or beautiful children. The messages on their homepages vary – from inspirational quotes to cartoons to outrage over Sandra Bland’s death. I am proud of my friends. They care about people. They are politically aware. I love them. After 108 pokes, barely scratching the surface of my list of more than 600 friends, I begin to hate their smiling faces. I start poking out of spite.

5: Prune for iPhone

A lovely relaxing puzzle game in the same mould as Monument Valley.

Prune is a love letter to trees. A game about the beauty and joy of cultivation. With a swipe of a finger, grow and shape your tree into the sunlight while avoiding the dangers of a hostile world. Bring life to a forgotten landscape, and uncover a story hidden deep beneath the soil.

6: Spaghetti in cones might be NYC's most loved street food

But however frivolous and gimmicky it might seem, the spaghetti cone is a highly utilitarian innovation. A cardboard cone, it turns out, is an ideal delivery system for spaghetti [...] The cone shape facilitates the trick by giving natural purchase to the tines of the fork as they twist. The curved sides of the cone help guide the strands of spaghetti into a ball around the fork. The twirl excludes the need for spearing any bit of food with the fork.

7: Domain stories: Citizen Ex

Tales of techno-geo-socio-politics.

Behind each domain you visit are other stories, that might happen to other people. As part of Citizen Ex, James Bridle explores six of these domains: Libya, Syria, Scotland, Wales, Yugoslavia, and the British Indian Ocean Territory, all of which are available to read online.

8: Reading War and Peace on my iPhone

Will our flighty brains ever get as much out of phone screens as paper? Are the great works of literature doomed to fade away like ghosts? I wanted to find out. So I did an experiment. I pulled out my iPhone and downloaded the hugest, weightiest tome I could think of. War and Peace.

They pay in faeces

1: A/B tests are destroying your conversion rate

Have I heard clients tell me that they incur performance slowdowns due to their use of A/B tests? Absolutely. But when I hear that, I don’t hear “A/B tests are the problem.” I hear “maybe you need to put in a bit more work until you get it right.”

2: Ultimate steak sandwich: rib-eye, Boursin & watercress

This really does look excellent.

3: The 33 best 33 1/3 books

The 33 1/3 series has revealed a way that we can save the album: by dislocating it from history and letting a new generation develop their own canon. Recently announced titles suggest this trend will continue, but while we wait for new editions on Beat Happening, the Raincoats, and the Geto Boys, here are the 33 best 33 1/3 titles in alphabetical order by artist.

4: Incubus on Instagram

The mostly-forgotten band Incubus are doing something extremely interesting with their Instagram feed. (This looks much better in the app as there is less padding between posts.)

5: A brief note to readers new to Infinite Jest (and a very incomplete list of motifs in the novel)

Yes, I am still re-reading this goddamn novel.

6: When you give a tree an email address

This is wonderful:

The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.

7: leejohnphillips on Instagram

Spending the next 4 years of my life drawing every item in my late grandfather's tool shed.

8: lightyear.fm

Radio broadcasts leave Earth at the speed of light. Scroll away from Earth and hear how far the biggest hits of the past have travelled. The farther away you get, the longer the waves take to travel there—and the older the music you’ll hear.

9: My burger manifesto

10: One-minute time machine

A great short film.

11: God tier: Facebook moms run the meme game

The advice meme as we knew it (original characters captioned in Impact) is dead. But while the internet cultural vanguard moved on, a newer class of internet user, the well-connected mainstreamer, reinvented it. We live in the age of the post-meme.

12: This plant is a hotel for bats, and they pay in faeces.

13: Archeologists have found 2,000 ancient golden spirals and they have no idea what they are

I was also surprised to find out that I live about 1 mile away from one of the biggest concentrations of Bronze Age gold known from Great Britain, valued at £290,000.

14: Species in pieces

30 species. 30 pieces. 1 fragmented survival. A CSS-based interactive exhibition celebrating evolutionary distinction.

A popular dong repository

1: How Minions destroyed the internet

I loathe those bastard Minions. Readers may remember them as the archetypal hashgag.

Minions have been engineered to be everything and nothing at once. They are not sexual, but they can develop romantic interest. They are androgynous but have distinctly male names. Their language is a hodge-podge of others. Their bodies have both a slender skinniness and the curves of fatness. They all need corrective eyewear […] They are paper-thin archetypes that we cast our own ideas, aspirations, and worries onto. […] Minions are “SCREAMING CORNPOPS WHO ARE TEARING APART SOCIETY THROUGH MIDDLE AGED MOM MEMES.”

2: How to read the internet

(via Today in Tabs.)

3: How the eggplant surpassed the banana as the most phallic fruit

Last November, 22-year-old Khiry Johnson took the stand on the syndicated daytime television show Divorce Court and accused his significant other, Erin Rodgers, of being sextually untrue. “We both have iPhones, and we both have emojis,” Johnson testified. “Now, I feel like certain emojis shouldn’t just get sent to anybody. I’m referring to emojis with the heart eyes. Blowing a heart kiss. … Even the eggplant that some people refer to as male genitalia.” […] Soon, the #EggplantFridays hashtag became such a popular dong repository that Instagram administrators were compelled to shut it down in an attempt to enforce the network’s strict nudity ban.

4: Exploring linguistic patterns in best-selling book series

Why do some books, as simple as they may be, succeed in becoming worldwide sensations? Do their authors treat the language differently? How do printed symbols lure us into epic worlds? I had to dig in. I picked the most successful book series of the last 20 years and applied text mining techniques, seeking for patterns and, well, a way to reverse engineer an author’s mind while writing.

5: How to design a metaphor

Can metaphors be designed? I’m here to tell you that they can, and are. For five years I worked full-time as a metaphor designer at the FrameWorks Institute, a think tank in Washington, DC, whose clients are typically large US foundations (never political campaigns or governments). I continue to shape and test metaphors for private-sector clients and others. In both cases, these metaphors are meant to help people to understand the unfamiliar. They aren’t supposed to make someone remark: ‘That’s beautiful.’ They’re meant to make someone realise that they’ve only been looking at one side of a thing.

Piano faces

1: Can Wikipedia survive?

A recent Pew Research Center report found that 39 of the top 50 news sites received more traffic from mobile devices than from desktop and laptop computers, sales of which have declined for years. This is a challenge for Wikipedia, which has always depended on contributors hunched over keyboards searching references, discussing changes and writing articles using a special markup code.

2: Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain and the gendering of martyrdom

The way media dotes over its tortured male artists while undermining the personal struggles of women who suffer the same is nuanced, but a look into the archive suggests the phenomenon is well documented across race, genre, and generation. When Janis Joplin died on October 4, 1970 the New York Times called her a “misfit” whose “behavior was explosive” and remembers her as “drinking from a bottle at her concerts” and “screaming obscenities at a policeman in the audience”. Two weeks prior when Jimi Hendrix died— also at the age of 27— the same paper’s headline referred to him as a “Top of Music World Flamboyant Performer Noted for Sensuous Style” above an article that failed to highlight his fabled and widely-acknowledged affinity for mixing drugs with alcohol, even as new evidence emerged that he was wildly out of control during his final days.

3: Headline writing with NYT guru

Podcast: Kyle Massey on what catches readers’ attention, and why the “paper of record” never would have written, “Headless Body in Topless Bar.”

4: Tobias Jesso Jr. stars in new Pitchfork.tv documentary

Tobias Jesso Jr. is the subject of Pitchfork.tv’s latest documentary, “Goon”. Directed by Jon Leone, the film follows Jesso around New York City and Hollywood as he prepares for the release of Goon earlier this year. He discusses why he makes those “piano faces,” covers Ray Charles with help from his manager’s dog, and performs with Danielle Haim, Ariel Rechtshaid, and a string section on “Conan”.

One of my favourite albums of the year so far.

5: Why I answered my dad’s gay sex ad

In the Christian parenting books my dad wrote, we were always the most perfect devout family. When I found out he was secretly trolling for gay sex online, I became obsessed with unmasking the truth.

6:. A linguist explains how we write sarcasm on the internet

In context, sarcastic typography is part of a larger ecosystem of ways to convey emotional nuance and textual tone of voice — and it’s anything but random. Compared with all these subtle distinctions, a single sarcasm punctuation mark is too blunt an instrument: it defeats the entire saying-without-saying part of sarcasm that makes it engaging in the first place. Using a a percontation point or a SarcMark™ is like explaining why a joke is funny — if you have to bother, you’ve just ruined it anyway.

6a: See also: Welcome to Night Vale: where even “not” isn’t what it seems, and What part of “No, totally” don’t you understand?.

Seems to be made at least partially of dogs

1: This mystery photo haunting Reddit appears to be image recognition gone very weird

Ok, look again, closer this time. This squirrel has a weird amount of eyes, yeah? And seems to be made at least partially of dogs? Check out its weird rear appendage, which is composed of slug tentacles that are themselves composed of birds. A two-headed fish lurks in the foreground, and upon reexamination the background is not mere swirls, but a warped, repetitive city, like a long lost Borges story illustrated by a hungover chalk artist. What is going on?

2: A special feature

We’ve worked hard to make Twitterrific work well with the accessibility features in iOS. Hearing that these efforts make things easier for customers with disabilities is rewarding beyond words. […] But now there’s another incentive for thinking about accessibility: helping others also helps your downloads.

3: How to be amazing

Slightly strange to listen to Black in serious mode, when he’s spent so long honing a comedic personality based around insincerity. My favourite episode so far is with Bob Odenkirk.

How to Be Amazing is an in-depth interview show, hosted by comedian, author and actor Michael Ian Black. Black sits down with some of today’s most provocative writers, entertainers, artists, innovative thinkers and politicians for humorous, thought-provoking conversations that dive into the creative process and the intricate minds of some of the most influential voices of our time.

4: I once tried to cheat sleep, and for a year I succeeded

An experiment with polyphasic sleep, which requires you to take short naps multiple times per day.

5: I made a linguistics professor listen to a Blink-182 song and analyse the accent

But there are some more complex things going on in the pop-punk voice. Eckert walked me through the Blink-182 song word by word, pointing out places where DeLonge was playing around with accent. “When they say ‘to pick you up on our very first date,’ the interesting thing about ‘date’ is that he renders it as a monophthong ‘dehhht’ instead of ‘date,’ says Eckert. “In most American English it’s a diphthong.” A diphthong is a vowel sound with two simpler sounds in it; for most Americans, “date” is a kind of compound vowel made up of the “eh” sound and the “ee” sound. Not so much for Tom DeLonge, who eliminates all but the “eh,” making it a single sound, or a monophthong.

6: The Byrds’ isolated vocals on Mr Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!

For his part, Crosby applied his skills as a harmony singer in unconventional ways. Rather than attempting three-part harmonies like the Beatles (or five-part harmonies like the Beach Boys), the Byrds almost always employed the two-part harmony strategy of the Everly Brothers. But Crosby took the two-part approach a step further, based on his understanding of jazz and Indian modes. While McGuinn and Gene Clark sang the same notes in tandem, Crosby would move freely between a perfect fifth, flatted fifth, third, or seventh, resulting in an unusual sound that ranged from haunting to ethereal.

7: Helen Rosner: On chicken tenders

(AKA goujons, or fingers, or strippers, or dippers.)

It’s true that ribeyes and oysters and even pizza and tacos share a soothing simplicity, but nothing is more nothing than a chicken tender. A roast chicken has a certain dinner-party elegance to it, and you know at least the sketch of an origin story for your pizza or your taco—but a chicken tender is a chicken tender is a chicken tender. Some restaurants might try to gussy them up, gently carve each tender from the breast of a bird that lived a happy life and lovingly dust them in a custom spice blend, but a true chicken tender comes out of a five-hundred-count freezer bag. They come from nowhere in particular—when you eat them, you could be anywhere.

8: I was a teenage Little Chef supervisor

A service station is not the type of place you’d expect to have regulars, but there were plenty at our Little Chef. The toast lady who came in at 10am every day and wanted two slices of brown toast, no butter. And the handsome coffee man who came in at 11am every weekday, occasionally on Sundays. He looked a little like Kevin Spacey. There was also the guy who would come in late at night, order half a bottle of wine with his dinner and spend ages filling out the Daily Mail crossword, but mostly he was perving on the staff. And he never left a tip. A transvestite would frequent about once a month. One time a young businessman left me his number on a napkin.

Journalists vs. readers

Three new services in the amorphous sphere of news, "storytelling" and social media. What's most interesting to me is the way they describe themselves, and what that in turn tells us about how they perceive the ultimate audience: users.

Sure, I've cherry-picked the quotes and the services are aimed at different audiences, but there is a collosal gulf in language and expectation between those who make news services and the people who will ultimately read or use them.

Google launches First Draft Coalition to answer questions and offer training around social media reporting:

Launching today, the First Draft Coalition is a group of thought leaders and pioneers in social media journalism who are coming together to help you answer these questions, through training and analysis of eyewitness media.

What the fuck? Ugh. Imagine writing a sentence like this and making it bold in the middle of the launch article.

Google and Storyful are launching YouTube Newswire, a feed of verified user-generated videos:

The platforms for Storyful are both the source and the destination for great content and powerful storytelling [...] But those platforms are getting noisier and it’s our job to find the stories worth telling and help journalists do great journalism using the power of eyewitness media.

Slightly better?

BuzzFeed's new app is everything the site isn't: Short, news-focused and serious

It’s an interesting challenge, to get information to people who aren’t always swimming in it the way journalists like me are.

That makes sense! You should tell that to other people in your field.