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A Completely Accurate Map With No Distortion At All

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Does something seem off about this map? Maybe Amsterdam is a little too far inland? Maybe the coastline is a bit too squashed, or the sea a bit too narrow?

No. This map is fine. The problem is with you. Think of it as a riddle: what mistake are you making in reading this map?

Hints (after a fashion) here and here.

If you give up, the answer to the riddle is here.

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denismm
18 days ago
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Totally fair and I was totally baffled.
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Judge Rejects Man’s Claim to Be “Some Sort of Agricultural Product”

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Exactly what the man was arguing isn’t entirely clear from the report, not that it really matters. It was some sort of sovereign-citizen nonsense, and as usual with that stuff, it didn’t work.

The News-Times in Carteret County, North Carolina, reported last week that a 44-year-old man had been sentenced to at least five years in prison for a “slew” of drug and weapons charges. In August, Jerry Wayne Willis sold meth to an informant, police said, and a search warrant turned up more drugs and several firearms. Willis was arrested shortly thereafter, which is when the sovereign fun began:

Mr. Willis claimed not to be a person, but some sort of “agricultural product” and therefore not subject to the laws of North Carolina or the United States. He also told Judge Heath that his name was not Jerry Willis, but Willis Jerry.

The latter is just the sort of tricky argument that sovereign citizens like to make, the idea apparently being that the law has no power over you if it doesn’t say your name correctly or use the right punctuation. Dumb as it is, that argument’s pretty common.

The “agricultural product” claim seems to be new, though, and might be Willis Jerry’s own invention. The reporter may have misquoted him, of course. Willis/Jerry apparently made the argument in a written motion to dismiss, though, but if he did the reporter failed to share that document with the world, as it is his job to do, in my opinion. Jerry/Willis may have been making the “straw man” argument, which purports to distinguish between a person and the corresponding legal entity or “straw man” supposedly created at the time of that person’s birth. It’s the straw man that’s subject to legal rules, not the actual person, or so this ridiculous argument goes. A straw man could be considered a sort of agricultural product, I suppose, so maybe that’s what the reporter understood Jerry:Wayne:Willis to be saying.

Product’s liability

Regardless, the judge denied the motion to dismiss, holding that Willis was indeed subject to the law and would have to stand trial. That was scheduled for the following day—but Willis, maybe unsurprisingly, failed to show up. (The report just says he “fled,” not whether he was out on bail or fled from the courthouse.) The trial went on without him, and he was convicted. In the meantime, police got a tip on Willis’s location, and put a house under surveillance.

On September 25, an officer

observed three female subjects packing up and leaving in the night and upon a traffic stop, discovered Mr. Willis lying in the backseat disguised in a female wig.

Or, two female subjects and one very poorly disguised agricultural product, I guess.

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denismm
73 days ago
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"Are ye a human being and not a cabbage or something?"
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hannahdraper
73 days ago
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"Or, two female subjects and one very poorly disguised agricultural product, I guess."
Washington, DC

The mysterious Voynich manuscript has finally been decoded

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Enlarge / Roughly translated, many parts of the Voynich Manuscript say that women should take a nice bath if they are feeling sick. Here you can see a woman doing just that.

Since its discovery in 1912, the 15th century Voynich Manuscript has been a mystery and a cult phenomenon. Full of handwriting in an unknown language or code, the book is heavily illustrated with weird pictures of alien plants, naked women, strange objects, and zodiac symbols. Now, history researcher and television writer Nicholas Gibbs appears to have cracked the code, discovering that the book is actually a guide to women's health that's mostly plagiarized from other guides of the era.

Gibbs writes in the Times Literary Supplement that he was commissioned by a television network to analyze the Voynich Manuscript three years ago. Because the manuscript has been entirely digitized by Yale's Beinecke Library, he could see tiny details in each page and pore over them at his leisure. His experience with medieval Latin and familiarity with ancient medical guides allowed him to uncover the first clues.

After looking at the so-called code for a while, Gibbs realized he was seeing a common form of medieval Latin abbreviations, often used in medical treatises about herbs. "From the herbarium incorporated into the Voynich manuscript, a standard pattern of abbreviations and ligatures emerged from each plant entry," he wrote. "The abbreviations correspond to the standard pattern of words used in the Herbarium Apuleius Platonicus – aq = aqua (water), dq = decoque / decoctio (decoction), con = confundo (mix), ris = radacis / radix (root), s aiij = seminis ana iij (3 grains each), etc." So this wasn't a code at all; it was just shorthand. The text would have been very familiar to anyone at the time who was interested in medicine.

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denismm
97 days ago
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I've seen very strong dubiousness from actual Voynich experts - so far this is nonsense.
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amemait: roachpatrol: the-real-seebs: sptrashcan: roachpatrol: prokopetz: I’m usually pretty...

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amemait:

roachpatrol:

the-real-seebs:

sptrashcan:

roachpatrol:

prokopetz:

I’m usually pretty particular about the sorts of traits that get assigned as humanity’s “special thing” in sci-fi settings, but I have to admit that I have a weakness for settings where the thing humanity is known for is something tiny and seemingly inconsequential that it wouldn’t normally occur to you to think of as a distinctive trait.

Like, maybe we have a reputation as a bunch of freaky nihilists because we’re the only species that naturally has the capacity to be amused by our own misfortune.

Alien: Why are you happy? You’ve been seriously injured!

Human: *struggling to control laughter* Yeah, but I can imagine what that must have looked like from the outside, and it’s pretty hilarious.

Alien:

Captain XXlr’y: First Officer Jane The Human, your olifactory protuberance is severely damaged! Why is this a matter for mirthful celebration???

First Officer Jane The Human: A SPARKLY LITTLE POMERANIAN THING WITH A GODDAMN UNICORN HORN CHASED ME STRAIGHT INTO A WALL! OH MY GOD! DID YOU SEE THAT? I RAN STRAIGHT INTO THE WALL. 

Captain XXlr’y: Yes I just observed this sequence of events! It was terrible!

 First Officer Jane The Human: OKAY WHO GOT THAT ON CAMERA, I WANNA SEE. 

Captain XXlr’y: So you more fully understand that this is a situation you should never get into again?

First Officer Jane The Human: SO I CAN SEND THE VIDEO TO MY MOM!

Captain XXlr’y: For… for the solicitation of maternal concern…?

First Officer Jane The Human: NO, BECAUSE SHE’LL THINK IT’S HILARIOUS TOO. 

Sidetrack but: I am of the opinion that we will be known as the Throwers. The biomechanics of our shoulder joints, which allow us to hurl things farther, faster, and more accurately than any other animal, set us apart almost as much as our intelligence. And indeed our dominance as a species on Earth has a lot to do with applying that intelligence to throwing more better.

When the aliens come visit via seventh dimensional space fold like sensible people, I can only imagine their reaction when we ask them to point out where they come from so we can fling our ambassadors at them.

That would be fascinating. Imagine if, for whatever reason, they were simply very badly adapted to throwing, and never picked up the habit. And the first time they saw someone toss a thing to someone else, they’d just be like “why did you … drop that thing sideways?”

oh my god that’s fascinating. imagine a bunch of alien species that never evolved a socket joint. like, tentacles or hinges, that’s it. maybe some pivoting paired bones like our radius and ulna. then we show up and we’re like ‘haha watch this’ and windmill our arms and the Zygosian ambassador gets really grossed out. 

later some aliens are like ‘so, as remarkably throwy guys, what’s your opinion on this mathematical acceleration experimentation tensile device one of our philosopher kings recently invented?’ and show humans a little desk-sized catapult. 

Heeeee I do like the idea of a tiny catapult.

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denismm
321 days ago
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In Phil Foglio's Buck Godot series, humanity's big thing is having invented popsicles.
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eraycollins
321 days ago
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They don't call it throw weight for nothing.
skorgu
321 days ago
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This is delightful. I'd read all these books.

Ridiculous Products: Kérastase Hair Coach

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The Consumer Electronics Show (also known as CES) just finished up last week, and as always, it was full of a plethora of technology you almost certainly don’t need. While it can be fun to see what’s coming in the future, it’s perhaps more enjoyable to laugh at the bizarre future some companies envision. To that end, allow me to present the Kérastase Hair Coach.

If you’ve ever thought “This hair brush just isn’t smart enough”, while also thinking “I’d be willing to spend almost two hundred dollars on a hairbrush”, then the Hair Coach is for you. Of course, it’s likely that this site is not for you, so you may wish to stop reading now.


The Hair Coach is much like Zoolander, in that it’s not an ambi-turner. Also, it’s stupid.

The CEO of Withings, the company behind the Hair Coach, was quoted as saying “The last thing we want to do is turn a simple device into a complex device”. So naturally, his company added wi-fi and Bluetooth to a hairbrush. But they didn’t stop there. The brush also includes (taken directly from their press release):

  • A microphone that listens to the sound of hair brushing to identify patterns, providing insights into manageability, frizziness, dryness, split ends and breakage.

  • 3-axis load cells that measure the force applied to the hair and the scalp when brushing.

  • An accelerometer and a gyroscope which help further analyze brushing patterns and count brush strokes, with haptic feedback signaling if brushing is too vigorous.

  • Conductivity sensors to determine if the brush is being used on dry or wet hair, in order to provide an accurate hair measurement.

If you’ve ever felt like you weren’t brushing up to your full potential, the solution is here. If you were perfectly at peace with your hair brushing, and your life in general, I’m sorry to tell you those days are over. You’re bad at brushing, and you should feel bad about your brushing. Only the Hair Coach can save you now.

I recognize that I am far from the target market for this device. I won’t even venture a prediction that this product will be unsuccessful. I will however state, without equivocation, that this is a ridiculous product which should not exist.

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denismm
338 days ago
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Please tell me the Bluetooth toothbrush is blue.
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drchuck
338 days ago
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I don't know which is more ridiculous, this brush or the electric toothbrush with Bluetooth.
Long Island, NY

Revisiting the Threaded Thanks

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We’re all connected, and I’m thankful for that.

Last year I wrote this piece on the subject, and this year I think the idea is worth revisiting because we’re much less likely to spew hatred and vitriol when we recognize our connections.

Consider today’s feast, if you’re an American participating in the feasting, or if you’re a human who happens to be eating: farmers from around the world contributed to the things on the table. If you’re enjoying poultry it may be local, but the spices applied to it were likely grown much further afield—Hungary for your paprika and Vietnam for the black pepper, to name two likely contenders.

Did anything sit in your refrigerator? Components for that miraculous bit of technology were built by engineers from many nations, using materials that include petroleum products and rare earth metals. When you open the refrigerator you’re operating equipment with bits from China, Thailand, Malaysia, Russia, the United States, Australia, and Saudi Arabia, and that’s the short list.

The “threaded thanks” exercise works in this way: Pick a thing for which you are thankful, and then read up on that thing. Where did it come from? Before it came from there, where did its parts come from? Who hauled it from all those places to the place where you got it? How were they able to make the trip? Find the thread and keep pulling, and identify as many connections as you’re able to. Then express your gratitude for each of those connections.

It might take a while. Probably don’t do this while others are waiting to eat.

There is no room for jingoism or any other dehumanizing belief system in this exercise. There were no “lesser” people involved in bringing you the things that made today’s meal possible. You depend on them, and when they sit down to eat, they depend on you. If you’re reading this, it’s likely that I depend upon you in some way for the meal I’m enjoying. My own living is earned in a massive web of transactions that include the streams of data moving to and from the device upon which you’re reading this text.

Last year at this time I described myself as a thankful person. To me, being thankful means acknowledging the countless hands that bear me up, and expressing my love and appreciation for them. It means being grateful, and learning to whom I owe the debt of gratitude. It means embracing the idea that when I pay for a thing and bring it home, the financial transaction is just one small part of the established connection.

We are all connected, and I am thankful for that. You’re part of those connections in more than just one way. I’m thankful for you, and the work you do to make our world a better one.

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denismm
387 days ago
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