The illusion of life by Cento Lodigiani (via)

The 12 basic principles of animation were developed by the ‘old men’ of Walt Disney Studios, amongst them Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, during the 1930s.

See also: The 12 Principles Tumblr GIF gallery

Neal Stephenson in front of Amazon's Fiona building
Shape of things to come

The Kindle’s wink to Fiona

Robin Sloan:

If you own one of Amazon’s e-readers, there’s a good chance you’ve accessed the “Manage Your Kindle” page at some point.

fiona in the Amazon URL

Do you notice anything strange about that URL? What’s fiona? An acronym, perhaps. Functional… Internet-Oriented… Native… Application? File I/O Network Access?

No. It’s not a what but a who.

Fiona Hackworth is character in The Diamond Age, a science fiction novel written by Neal Stephenson, published in 1992 with a plot that hinges on the theft of a kind of super-book.

A super-book that is engrossing, interactive, networked; with pages that change before your eyes; that knows more or less everything.

A science-fictional object that served as the lodestone for Amazon’s efforts, in the early 2000s, to develop an e-reader.

On Amazon’s campus in Seattle, many buildings are named for company concepts and codename. Neal Stephenson visited one.

The Kindle wink is a piece written by a collective publishing on Medium as The Message.


As an Amiga 500 owner, I recognise the Venus picture above as one of the sample images included with Deluxe Paint (without the third eye, of course).

Warhol’s Amiga experiments were the products of a commission by Commodore International to demonstrate the graphic arts capabilities of the Amiga 1000 personal computer. Created by Warhol on prototype Amiga hardware in his unmistakable visual style, the recovered images reveal an early exploration of the visual potential of software imaging tools, and show new ways in which the preeminent American artist of the 20th century was years ahead of his time.

Commodore Amiga computer equipment used by Andy Warhol

Commodore Amiga computer equipment used by Andy Warhol 1985-86, courtesy of The Andy Warhol Museum

The impetus for the investigation came when [Cory] Arcangel, a self-described “Warhol fanatic and lifelong computer nerd,” learned about Warhol’s Amiga experiments from the YouTube video of the 1985 Commodore Amiga product launch. Acting on a hunch, and with the support of CMOA curator Tina Kukielski, Arcangel approached the AWM in December 2011 regarding the possibility of restoring the Amiga hardware in the museum’s possession.

Light-based media

‘Forensic retrocomputing’ discovers previously unknown Andy Warhol Amiga art from 1985

A multi-institutional team of new-media artists, computer experts, and museum professionals have discovered a dozen previously unknown experiments by Andy Warhol on aging floppy disks from 1985. The purely digital images, “trapped” for nearly 30 years on Amiga floppy disks stored in the archives of The Andy Warhol Museum.

100 new emoji by Avery Monsen

100 new emoji - Avery Monsen

These seem to have been first released as a Vine. (via Boing Boing)

Life on the Internet

100 new emoji

Avery Monsen’s favourites are ‘A Box Which Must Never Be Opened’, ‘Three Worms Pretending To Be One Long Worm’ and ‘A Spectre Rises From A Seven Layer Fiesta Dip’, according to BuzzFeed.

George R.R. Martin
Use your words

George R.R. Martin on Tolkien

Mikal Gilmore has a great interview with George R.R. Martin for Rolling Stone. This answer sums up one of the reasons why I’m a fan of the Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire series:

Ruling is hard. This was maybe my answer to Tolkien, whom, as much as I admire him, I do quibble with. Lord of the Rings had a very medieval philosophy: that if the king was a good man, the land would prosper. We look at real history and it’s not that simple.

Tolkien can say that Aragorn became king and reigned for a hundred years, and he was wise and good. But Tolkien doesn’t ask the question: What was Aragorn’s tax policy? Did he maintain a standing army? What did he do in times of flood and famine? And what about all these orcs? By the end of the war, Sauron is gone but all of the orcs aren’t gone – they’re in the mountains. Did Aragorn pursue a policy of systematic genocide and kill them? Even the little baby orcs, in their little orc cradles?

In real life, real-life kings had real-life problems to deal with. Just being a good guy was not the answer. You had to make hard, hard decisions. Sometimes what seemed to be a good decision turned around and bit you in the ass; it was the law of unintended consequences. I’ve tried to get at some of these in my books.

My people who are trying to rule don’t have an easy time of it. Just having good intentions doesn’t make you a wise king.
George R.R. Martin: The Rolling Stone Interview

Humans and other animals

Football, football, football…

A great analogy from redditor TheHoneyThief about what it’s like to be someone who doesn’t care about football from a thread in r/britishproblems:

Firstly, imagine every time within a day that football is mentioned by someone else. Secondly, replace it with something that you don’t want to hear about every day. Say… Archaeology. Then, think about how an average day would pan out.

So, you awaken to the clock radio. It’s 7AM. Just as you awaken, it’s time for the news and archaeology already. Not news and other historical investigations, like library restorations or museum openings (unless there’s another event happening), but just the news and archaelogy. Malaysian plane is still missing. Pistorius is still on trial. New dig announced in Giza. Ancient Mayan temple discovered. Exciting stuff.

Time for a bite to eat over the morning TV. More news. More archaeology. Yes, you are aware of what is up with the missing plane. Fine. Now the archaeology in video format. Video of people dusting off some skulls and bits of pottery. All well and good, but archaeology isn’t your thing. It would be nice to hear about something else. Even when it isn’t archaeology season, the media follow noted archaeologists. They drive fast cars, have sex with beautiful women, advertise fragrances, and sometimes they go to nightclubs and act in the worst possible way. Scandals erupt as the tabloids follow these new celebrities when they’re not searching the past for answers. It is entirely possible you can recite the names of certain researchers, even if you don’t pay attention to archaeology. You don’t know what transfer season is, but you know that someone was transferred to a dig in Peru for a sum of money that could fund the London Underground for two whole days.

Out of the car at 8:55 and into work. What are the colleagues talking about, I wonder? Oh, Jones dropped a 3,890 year old pot and smashed it? What a useless wanker! Someone should do something unpleasant to him. And don’t even ask about the unfortunate incident in Athens two years ago – you’ll be there all day! Breaking a pillar like that! We don’t talk about that here, mate. What? You don’t want to discuss the finer points of the prevalence of phallic imagery in Pompeii? Is there something wrong with you?

The drive home from work. Every thirty minutes, no matter the station, someone mentions the archaeology. Best sit in silence. Drive past a huge billboard with a black and white picture of a rakishly handsome archaeologist draped over an impossibly beautiful woman. He’s winking at you. Trowel in his left hand, supermodel in the right. Jurassic, by Calvin Klein.

And now the pub. A nice pub with a beer garden. Posters in the windows. LIVE EXCAVATION AT THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS! All of it on a huge TV with the volume up too loud. Drunken people yelling at the screen. “SEND IT FOR CARBON DATING, YOU USELESS CUNT!” “WHAT ARE YOU ON, MATE? DUST THE ANCIENT MEDALLION GENTLY! SMELTING METHODS OF THE TIME PRODUCED VERY SOFT AND IMPURE METALS EASILY PRONE TO DISFIGURATION!” All this from two men out of a crowd of twenty. One lousy drunken idiot and his chum ruin the image of other archaeology fans. Carbon dating report from the lab updates on TV, read by a man employed because they’ve been following the beautiful science since they were a boy. The drunk chimes in again. “WHAT PHARAOH’S REIGN DID YOU SAY? DO YOU KNOW WHAT THIS SAYS ABOUT THE UNDERPINNINGS OF OUR THEORY OF AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT OF 4TH BC EGYPT? GET IN, MATE!” A cheer cascades through the building and you can only wonder why.

Best go home and avoid anyone who might be drinking and singing. You once met a disagreeable chap who threatened to beat you up because you didn’t watch the archaeology. “Not a late paleolithic era supporter are you? Think you’re better than me? I’ll fucking have you, you scrawny cunt!”

To bed. To repeat the cycle tomorrow. The inescapable, inevitability that wherever you go, someone, somewhere, is just dying to talk to you about the archaeology.

As great as that is, I feel a better comparison would be with another form of entertainment, like film, TV or music. Archeology may be irrelevant to most people’s day-to-day lives, but it still advances our knowledge of the world. What if the prominence given to football was given to country music or historical fiction instead?

Soccer ball icon by Ricardo Moreira

Use your words

Google’s simple formula for killer résumés

According to Google’s senior vice president of people operations Laszlo Bock:

“The key is to frame your strengths as: ‘I accomplished X, relative to Y, by doing Z.’ Most people would write a résumé like this: ‘Wrote editorials for The New York Times.’ Better would be to say: ‘Had 50 op-eds published compared to average of 6 by most op-ed [writers] as a result of providing deep insight into the following area for three years.’ Most people don’t put the right content on their résumés.”

Image of Lena Söderberg used in many image processing experiments
Light-based media

Lenna, the JPEG girl

The Rathaus:

Lenna is a standard test image whose rise in computer nerd popularity led her to become the first JPEG compression file ever created. The picture was chosen spontaneously in 1972 when engineers were searching for a high gloss image of a human face and someone walked in with an issue of Playboy. The tech engineers couldn’t resist and so the photo was cropped and scanned at the University of Southern California image processing lab and Lenna went on to become a staple of the imaging and later digital imaging world.

‘Lenna’ is actually Lena Söderberg – her name was anglicised by Playboy.

Lena Soderberg posed as a centerfold in the November 1972 issue of Playboy. Notorious for enforcing copyright laws, Playboy has intentionally ignored the excessive copyright infringement of the 5.12″ x 5.12″ image. In May 2006 the company reported the Soderberg issue as the best selling Playboy of all time.

There’s lots more information on Wikipedia’s page about ‘Lenna’ and yet more at The original image is still available as part of the USC SIPI Image Database in their ‘miscellaneous’ collection.

See the full centrefold image after the jump [Mild nudity] →

Use your words

xkcd PSA on free speech

xkcd 1357: Free Speech:

I can't remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you're saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it's not literally illegal to express.

Alt text: I can’t remember where I heard this, but someone once said that defending a position by citing free speech is sort of the ultimate concession; you’re saying that the most compelling thing you can say for your position is that it’s not literally illegal to express.

Plus I saw this pretty perfect tweet by @gracepetrie on the same subject at around the same time:


Shape of things to come

Princeton study concludes that America is not a democracy


A new scientific study from Princeton researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page has finally put some science behind the recently popular argument that the United States isn’t a democracy any more. And they’ve found that in fact, America is basically an oligarchy.

Members of the oligarchy are the rich, the well connected and the politically powerful, as well as particularly well placed individuals in institutions like banking and finance or the military.

It’s beyond alarming. As Gilens and Page write:

“The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”

In other words, their statistics say your opinion literally does not matter.

Princeton Concludes What Kind of Government America Really Has, and It’s Not a Democracy


Samsung’s design philosophy, in their own words:

“Sustainable values”? “Humans are the heart of Samsung design”, as opposed to what? “Reason and emotional sensibility are harmoniously enabled”! “Emptying” comes after “filling” and “overflowing” with insight, eh? Are they really “creating new values and cultures”? Do we even want that from a company that makes televisions, washing machines and mobile phones?

In conclusion, “Samsung aspires to the design that delivers a new ‘meaning’ and ‘delight’ to people, which contributes to society by creating sustainable and innovative value.”

Is this meaningless guff really what drives Samsung’s designers?

(via The Next Web)

Use your words

Samsung’s design philosophy

“Inspired by humans, creating the future”, as you do. Samsung’s three design values, they say, are: “Balance of Reason and Feeling”, “Simplicity with Resonance” and “Meaningful Innovation”. Meaningful innovations like ‘tilt to zoom’ and ‘shake to update’ I assume they mean.

Meyrin: CERN Terminal Font
Craft and creativity

Creating the Meyrin CERN terminal font

Brian Suda:

In mid September 02013, a small team of talented programmers, designers and thinkers all got together to recreate the experience of browsing the web on the first popular web browser. As part of that process, Mark Boulton and myself teamed-up to attempt to recreate the original font used on the terminal screen. This would give the look and feel of the simulator even more of that green glowing cathode-ray tube warmth.

CERN screen photograph

We’ve put the font-file, the template and all the pieces up to share for anyone to use. If the font can work for you, please feel free to use it any projects. Take the files and modify them.

You can download the files from Github:

Use your words

The ten worst pieces of writing advice

Some counter-advice from Susan DeFreitas:

1. Show don’t tell (part one)

Take this advice beyond the beginning stages and what you get are stories that really should move the reader but don’t, either because the emotions are all related from the outside or because the narrative doesn’t provide the sort of dense, information-rich substrata upon which complex characters are built.

2. Show don’t tell (part two)

Your story is about Gina, at forty, deciding whether or not to leave her boyfriend. Are you really going to spend half your story showing us Gina’s white-trash childhood in Elbridge, Michigan (a key bit of backstory)? Or are you just going to cut to the chase, provide a few key details, and move on?

3. When in doubt, cut

That’s because beginning writers tend to be verbose. We can’t tell the difference between an essential detail and an inessential one.

4. Write what you know

To keep advancing you have to stretch your limits. And sometimes that means writing from the point of view of someone who is super not you.

5. Omit adjectives and adverbs

Consider this line from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses:

“Below the knee, the hairiness came to a halt, and his legs narrowed into tough, bony, almost fleshless calves, terminating into shiny, cloven hooves, such as one might find on any billygoat.”

Language is your Swiss army knife, and you can’t do shit like this with just the knife and the corkscrew.

6. Work on only one thing at a time

Different types of projects can feed off of each other. Immersed in a long-haul novel about a deep, dark family drama? Play hooky with sci-fi. Tinkering with the intricacies of short stories? Plunge into plot with a bona fide book. Stretch out. Have fun. Just don’t stop writing.

7. Start in the middle

As fiction writers, we’re often told to start en media res. Which is a fancy way of saying, when the shit has already hit the fan. But start too late, and the first third of your story will have to lift three times its own body weight in exposition—at the precise point where it should be charming the pants off your reader.

8. Kill your darlings

If you, as a grown up, still love some crazy turn of phrase or sentence or plot development that’s wildly inappropriate for the story, maybe it’s the story that needs help. If that thing is your darling, I say, date it.

9. Vary your word choice

Sometimes a bear is just a bear—especially if you find yourself reaching for constructions that will get you pegged as a pretentious ass.

10. You must be in a writers group

Here’s a bit of advice from Neil Gaiman that may be worth as much as any workshop:

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.”

The Ten Worst Pieces of Writing Advice You Will Ever Hear (and Probably Already Have) (via Chuck Palahniuk)

Typewriter icon by Simon Child from the Noun Project


China Morning Post infographic of Kowloon Walled City

Infographic by South China Morning Post

I also found these brilliant cross sections by Zoohaus via Arch Daily:

Kowloon city cross section

Humans and other animals

Kowloon Walled City

Kowloon Walled City was a densely populated, largely ungoverned settlement in New Kowloon, Hong Kong. Originally a Chinese military fort, the Walled City became an enclave after the New Territories were leased to Britain in 1898. Its population increased dramatically following the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong during World War II. In 1987, the Walled City contained 33,000 residents within its 2.6-hectare (0.010 sq mi) borders. From the 1950s to the 1970s, it was controlled by Triads and had high rates of prostitution, gambling, and drug use. – Wikipedia


Cosmos: science propoganda

I’m not a big fan of science shows like the new Cosmos, and while listening to the most recent episode of the podcast Still Untitled: The Adam Savage Project Norm captured my feelings perfectly. He explained that it feels a lot like science propaganda and that if there was a creationist version of Cosmos that just stated things as if they were fact that he would be totally unsatisfied with it. Cosmos suffers from the same failings.

(That’s my highly paraphrased version of Norm’s words, but you can hear the Cosmos discussion right at the start of the episode. The nub is about 4 minutes in.)

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”

The Neil deGrasse Tyson quote above (often simplified as “facts are true whether you believe them or not”) exhibits the same problem. It sounds compelling if you’re pro-science (as I very much am) but it’s a needlessly hostile statement to science skeptics, for whom the counterargument could just as easily be that the good thing about Christianity is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.

It also seems to grossly misrepresent the ‘truth’ of science, which isn’t that it has all the answers but that it’s a working method for being able to discover all the answers. Religion is a fixed truth and only changes (when it does) by looking backwards and reinterpreting itself. By contrast science looks forwards to learn whatever it can, updating the facts as it goes.


qCraft: A Beginner’s Guide To Quantum Physics In Minecraft

qCraft is a mod that brings the principles of quantum physics to the world of Minecraft.

qCraft is not a simulation of quantum physics, but it does provide ‘analogies’ that attempt to show how quantum behaviors are different from everyday experience, allowing players to create structures and devices that exhibit Minecraft versions of quantum properties like observer dependence, superposition and entanglement.

Burlingame: A New Typeface Designed for Split-Second Legibility


The Burlingame family is strong, sturdy, and hyper-legible.

Burlingame is a multi-purpose font family that started out as a single typeface with a more specialist purpose. There’s a clue in the name: it was originally intended for a game identity. It has found a wider purpose following pioneering investigations by Monotype into the legibility of vehicle displays. The research revealed a set of optimum criteria for dashboard display fonts: large counters and x-heights, simple shapes and a loose spacing of characters.

A search of Monotype’s own library turned up nothing that fitted the bill exactly, so Carl Crossgrove was asked to develop his game font, Burlingame, with its open, clear shapes, into a family of faces that could meet the high-performance demands. His refinements, increasing the x-height, loosening the spacing and paring down the corners, improved the clarity and led to a design in two widths and nine fine weight grades, suited to a wide range of uses, from packaging and publishing to game and motion graphics.

Burlingame details

Craft and creativity

Burlingame: A typeface designed for split-second legibility

In a journey from game console to steering console, one little typeface transformed to meet the need for speed.


As soon as the bouncy music starts playing it seems like it’s going to be just another cloying Apple-esque promo, trying to make you feel that your life could be this perfect too, if only you used this new photomanagement app, or whatever. And it is just that, but it’s also really nicely done.

The app is called Carousel, and it is a photomanagement app from Dropbox. There’s also a nice post from designer Alice Lee about how they crafted the ‘story’ behind the app, including the development of the logo.

Carousel logos

Twitter Emoji
Craft and creativity

Twitter’s emoji for the web

I’m really fond of these emoji characters Twitter had designed for the web (as apposed to mobile clients, which handle these icons themselves).

Twitter emoji

They’re not unlike the new flat emoticons WordPress put out recently, but I think I like these even more. Of course, they’re a more comprehensive set too.


In this fun and possibly useful tutorial, David Malki shows you how he constructed a teleprompter using nothing but the things he already had lying around.

“Did you know whenever you clip off the ends of zip ties you should make a wish? My wish is for them not to ricochet and hit me in the eyes, but you can wish for whatever you want. Oh, I don’t know if I should have told you my wish though…”

Use your words

Interestingness vs. truth

Oliver Burkeman on maverick sociologist Murray S. Davis’ 1971 paper That’s Interesting! [PDF].

We live in the Era of Interestingness: attention is money, and purveyors of the interesting can make millions from Twitter feeds of amazing facts – even if they’re not always true facts – or from books or blogs offering intriguingly counterintuitive perspectives.

There are only a handful of main ways for an idea to be interesting. To grab people’s attention, you should argue that something we think of as bad is good, or vice versa; that some apparently individual phenomenon is really collective; that several seemingly disparate things are actually part of the same thing; and a few others.
This column will change your life


Wired: The Most Insane Truck Ever Built and the 4-Year-Old Who Commands It

World's biggest RV

Bran Ferren (61) is trying to create the same environment for Kira – his four year old daughter – as he had growing up: one of constant, boundless learning. But he is not the type to simply buy her a globe and a few reference books. Ferren is a man who builds things—huge, intricate, brazenly theatrical things. Fittingly, he has embarked on a childhood-enrichment project so lavish, ornate, and over-the-top it makes even the most aggressive tiger mom seem tame.

Around the time Kira was born, Ferren had an idea. What if he built an all-new, bigger and better expedition vehicle? No, more than that, what if he made the ultimate adventure truck, the very platonic ideal of such a thing—which he could outfit for a family of three?

Shape of things to come

The KiraVan: The most insane RV ever built

Bran Ferren is a man who builds things—huge, intricate, brazenly theatrical things. Fittingly, he has embarked on a childhood-enrichment project so lavish, ornate, and over-the-top it makes even the most aggressive tiger mom seem tame.

Craft and creativity

Courier Prime: The perfect typeface for screenplays

That previous post reminded me of another font that improves on a flawed classic: Courier Prime. This one is released under the SIL Open Font License (OFL) license.

Courier Prime

Screenwriter and app developer John August commissioned type designer Alan Dague-Greene to create Courier Prime.

I wanted a font that could be substituted letter-for-letter with Courier Final Draft, but look better, both on-screen and printed. I wanted a bolder bold and real italics, not just slanted glyphs.

The Courier typeface was designed in 1955 by Howard “Bud” Kettler for IBM. It’s classified as a monospaced slab serif, with each character taking up the same space and constructed with even stroke widths. IBM deliberately chose not to seek any copyright, trademark, or design patent protection on Courier, which is why it’s royalty free. It was the standard typeface on IBM’s best-selling Selectric II typewriter, and soon became the default typeface in Hollywood.

By standardizing around one typeface set at a specific size, we can take advantage of some rules-of-thumb.

For example, one page of screenplay (roughly, sometimes) equals one minute of screen time. More importantly, producers can be assured that a 119-page draft really is shorter than a 140-page draft. Unlike college freshmen, screenwriters can’t fiddle with the font to change the page count.

The biggest problem with Courier is that it often reveals its low-res heritage. Designed for an era of steel hitting ribbon, Courier can look blobby, particularly at higher resolutions.

But it doesn’t have to.

John August: Introducing Courier Prime

Courier Prime alphabets


Comic Neue

Comic Neue

Comic Sans wasn’t designed to be the world’s most ubiquitous casual typeface. Comic Neue aspires to be the casual script choice for everyone including the typographically savvy.

The squashed, wonky, and weird glyphs of Comic Sans have been beaten into shape while maintaining the honesty that made Comic Sans so popular.

Comic Neue is free and has been released into the public domain by Craig Rozynski.

Craft and creativity

Comic Neue: A more palatable Comic Sans

A variation on Comic Sans for the typographically savvy. Perfect as a display face, for marking up comments, and writing passive aggressive office memos.


The History of the Movie Trailer

Some people consider them the best part of the movie going experience – the Movie Trailer. Take a look at the evolution of the “coming attractions” from simple silent film splices, through the template style of the Golden Age of Hollywood, through Auteurs and finally into the Blockbuster era.


Shape of things to come

Joys and ethics of insect eating

NPR’s Barbara J. King talks to Robert Nathan Allen of Little Herds, a nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about the environmental and nutritional benefits of edible insects:

Compared to traditional meat sources like cows, pigs, chickens and fish, edible insects can have comparable or higher amounts of essential proteins, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, and other nutrients needed for healthy growing bodies.

With iron, protein, magnesium, calcium and zinc some of the most widespread and debilitating vitamin deficiencies both abroad and here in America, edible insects provide a delicious solution to a very real problem. When compared to the same traditional livestock, insects can be farmed with much less land and water, lower feed costs, higher yields, faster growth cycles, lower greenhouse gas emissions like methane and ammonia, less waste and with a far lower risk for animal to human diseases like swine flu or avian flu.

I was also surprised to learn that eating insects may trigger a shellfish allergy.

Ben Sack - Danse Macabre
Craft and creativity

Ben Sack’s mad maps

I don’t know much about these maps, except that they’re created by Ben Sack and they’re incredibly detailed. Check out this amazing timelapse:

More on his Tumblr blog