Category Archives: Etc

Reasons to be Cheerful

Rare it is that I find myself almost 100% onboard for an article at, even if it is one of the relatively few right-wing sites I think is worth my time. But Elizabeth Nolan Brown,, 40 Ways Things Are Getting Better hits it out of the park, even if I have a few quibbles, notably…

1. Home entertainment. OK, I would sure have this on the list…but #1?

5. Information access I’d have been tempted to put the Internet #1. The quality of elite medical care [distributed on their #13 (AIDS care) #15 (mental health treatment), #23 (cancer care)] would be the other contender.

8. Attitudes toward LGBTQ people and their treatment under the law. Top five for me.

And I’d put a lot of tech–phones, computers, cameras. Machine Learning in my top ten too.

Musical accompaniment here is either Ian Dury or The Beatles depending on your proclivities,

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Adventures in Terminology

What is the opposite of “woke”?


I need a better answer than “DeSantis”….


Photo credit: Sheba_Also 43,000 photos, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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I Always Wanted One of These

When I lived in London I wanted a geographically correct map of the London Underground.

Not to take anything away from the iconic excellence of the Tube map, but sometimes you want a better sense of where stuff actually is in relation to other stuff.

More info on the map here; spotted via Boing Boing.

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Some Friday Fun

I love it when someone mashes up two things that I like but that people don’t usually connect. There’s someone else out there who gets it! Here’s a video of sci-fi spaceships (and other iconic sci-fi stuff, some silly), to the tune of Nicki Minaj’s “Starships”.

Warning: there are a couple lines in here that might offend sensitive co-workers.

(Spotted via David Brin, Science Fiction round-up: from humorous to inspiring to uplifting.)

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Common Tongues

I enjoyed playing the Great Language Game — in which you have to identify the language being spoken on short clip from among ever-harder choices — even though I only got a paltry 550 on my first try. Maltese and Shona tripped me up, as did a choice among Slavic languages.

Spotted via Fun with languages.

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Michael is a Great Name

In the early ’80s, Pepsi ran a marketing campaign where they touted the success of their product over Coca-Cola in blind taste tests. They called this the Pepsi Challenge. Psychologists had already determined you choose your favorite products often not by their inherent value, but because the marketing campaigns and logos and such have cast a spell over you called brand awareness. You start to identify yourself with one marketing campaign over another. That’s what happened in the all the taste tests up until the Pepsi Challenge. People liked Coca-Cola’s advertising more than Pepsi’s, so even though they tasted pretty much the same, when they saw that bright red can with a white ribbon people chose Coke. So for the Pepsi Challenge, they removed the logos. At first, the researchers thought they should put some sort of label on the glasses. So, they went with M and Q. People said they liked Pepsi, labeled M, better than Coke, labeled Q. Irritated by this, Coca-Cola did their own study and put Coke in both glasses. Again, M won the contest. It turned out it wasn’t the soda; people just liked the letter M better than the letter Q.

from Why We Can’t Tell Good Wine From Bad.

The rest of the article is pretty interesting too: it reinforces my expectation that expectations strongly shape perceptions.

I often say that white hairs are the best teaching aid I ever had: my student evaluations shot up once I got a bit of salt-and-pepper.

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