George Orwell: "Politics and the English Language"
“Modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for the words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious.” [tx B]
How uses, not innovations, drive human technology
“Carl Sagan once said, ‘We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.’ If he meant that we are unfamiliar with the principles on which the technology around us works, he was right—there’s an enormous gap between the knowledge of makers and the knowledge of users—but this is exactly as it should be. As users, we typically want our technology to be a black box; we don’t want to be bothered with adjusting it, monitoring it, repairing it, or knowing about its inner workings. A sure sign of the success of a technology is that we scarcely think of it as technology at all.”
Humane interface philosophy
“Setting the time on a wristwatch, for instance, shouldn’t be that hard; on old analog wristwatches, it basically involved pulling out a knob, twisting it until the watch showed the correct time, and pushing the knob back in again. But on newer digital wristwatches—ones that claim to be more powerful and feature-loaded than their analog counterparts—it involves pressing a series of buttons in a hard-to-remember, often unforgiving order. Most people dread setting the time on their digital watches, and for good reason.”
Video: David Byrne and Daniel Levitin conversation
The singer/songwriter/artist/author discusses music, science, memory, and more with the producer/neuroscientist. Fascinating discussion.
Are you climate friendly?
“Calculate the carbon emissions from driving your car, air travel, and the electricity used in your home or office or combine travel and power to offset events such as a wedding or conference. We’ll tell you how many carbon credits you need to neutralise your emissions and become Climate Friendly.”
“Looking for a way to see how your web creations will look on iPhone? Look no further. iPhoney gives you a pixel-accurate web browsing environment—powered by Safari—that you can use when developing web sites for iPhone. It’s the perfect 320 by 480-pixel canvas for your iPhone development. And it’s free.”
“Freegans are scavengers of the developed world, living off consumer waste in an effort to minimize their support of corporations and their impact on the planet, and to distance themselves from what they see as out-of-control consumerism. They forage through supermarket trash and eat the slightly bruised produce or just-expired canned goods that are routinely thrown out, and negotiate gifts of surplus food from sympathetic stores and restaurants.They dress in castoff clothes and furnish their homes with items found on the street.”
Comet killed the mammoth?
“There are intriguing new clues in the mystery of how the woolly mammoth met its demise in North America more than 10,000 years ago…Recently, a group of more than two dozen scientists offered a new explanation. They have found signs that a comet — or multiple fragments of one — exploded over Canada about 12,900 years ago with the force equivalent to millions of nuclear weapons. That unleashed, they said, a tremendous shock wave that destroyed much of what was in its path and ignited wildfires across North America.”
2008 political futures
“If a single prediction market is wiser than the pundits and the polls, imagine how wise all the prediction markets are together. That’s the idea behind Slate’s ‘Political Futures,’ which offers a comprehensive guide to all the big political prediction markets.”
Interactive US budget chart
A visual guide of where your taxes go. [via GK]