The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

We Just Want Normal Libraries

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Alia Wong writes an interesting article in The Atlantic - talking about how maybe in the digital age we are trying to re-invent what is and alway was unbroken:

Likely in the hopes of proving that they have more to offer than a simple internet connection does, many college libraries are pouring resources into interior-design updates and building renovations, or into “glitzy technology,” such as 3-D printers and green screens, that is often housed in “media centers” or “makerspaces.”

Yet much of the glitz may be just that—glitz. Survey data and experts suggest that students generally appreciate libraries most for their simple, traditional offerings: a quiet place to study or collaborate on a group project, the ability to print research papers, and access to books. Notably, many students say they like relying on librarians to help them track down hard-to-find texts or navigate scholarly journal databases. “Google can bring you back 100,000 answers,” as the writer Neil Gaiman once said. “A librarian can bring you back the right one.”

The library has always been for most people a collection of books and a quite place to read them - but it has also been a vital and central infrastructure of a functioning urban society.

As best summarized by Ruth Faklis, director of the Prairie Trail Public Library District in suburban Chicago

It never ceases to amaze me just what libraries are looked upon to provide. This includes, but is not limited to, [serving as] keepers of the homeless … while simultaneously offering latch-key children a safe and activity-filled haven. We have been asked to be voter-registration sites, warming stations, notaries, technology-terrorism watchdogs, senior social-gathering centers, election sites, substitute sitters during teacher strikes, and the latest — postmasters. These requests of society are ever evolving. Funding is not generally attached to these magnanimous suggestions, and when it is, it does not cover actual costs of the additional burden, thus stretching the library’s budget even further. I know of no other government entity that is asked to take on additional responsibilities not necessarily aligned with its mission

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Quote of the Day

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October 12, the Discovery.

It was wonderful to find America, but it would have been more wonderful to miss it.

Mark Twain "Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar"

Quote of the Day

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We're constantly being bombarded by insulting and humiliating music, which people are making for you the way they make those Wonder Bread products. Just as food can be bad for your system, music can be bad for your spiritual and emotional feelings. It might taste good or clever, but in the long run, it's not going to do anything for you.

Bob Dylan

HAL 9000 Prop

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I have always been fascinated by Fisheye lenses. Their crazy 180 degree (and sometimes more!) angle of view leads to some crazy images. However, I could never justify owning one as I had no idea what I would be using one for - besides the occasional goofy portraiture.

But here an interesting article over at Kosmo Foto about another use for a Nikon 8mm F8 Fisheye.

HAL 9000 needed to be all-seeing — the film’s plot hinges on his ability to detect a conversation between two of the crew. So he decided to use a camera lens.

The on-screen HAL 9000 — the single “eye” in blazing red — was played by one of Nikon’s most extreme lenses, its 8mm f/8 fisheye. But how did they add the glow? Simple — they used the camera’s very own red filter (R60) which screws on to the back of the lens. Then they simply shone a light through it.

Peter Jackson owns one of the original props now, and showed it to Adam Savage. What a clever use for a $1500+ specialty lens.


There are so many aspects of 2001: A Space Odyssey that were so dead on. HAL 9000 was everywhere. Quietly listening. Quietly analyzing. And Quietly plotting. Its amazing that all of the devices strewn through out our homes are doing the same thing - our iPhones, Alexa, Google Home, etc.

Gives me the chills…

Exercise Whenever You Think of It

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For the Atlantic, Olga Khazan writes about an approach to physical fitness called “greasing the groove”, which some people have translated into the Michael Pollan-esque “lift weight, not too much, most of the days”.

One way to grease the groove is to just do the exercise whenever you think of it. Ben Greenfield, in Beyond Training, describes how he would do three to five pull-ups every time he walked under a pull-up bar installed in his office doorway. By the end of the day, he’d have performed 30 to 50 pull-ups with minimal effort.

McKay opted for something similar: He set up a pull-up bar in his door frame, and every time he walked under it, he would do one. “You’re allowing yourself to practice more without going to fatigue,” he says. “If you’re constantly thrashing your body, doing max sets every time you do a pull up, you’re gonna have a bad time.” Anyone who has tried to climb the stairs to their apartment on achy quads after an overly ambitious leg day knows the risks of overexertion. Within a month, McKay says, he went from being able to do about five pull-ups to about 15.

Quote of the Day

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Have you seen the old man in the closed down market,
Kicking up the papers in his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride, hands hang loosely at his side
Yesterdays papers, telling yesterdays news.

How can you tell me you're lonely,
And say for you the sun don't shine?
Let me take you by the hand
Lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind...

Have you seen the old man outside the sea-man's mission
Memories fading like the metal ribbons that he wears.
In our winter city the rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero and a world that doesn't care...

Gun Control

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America’s gun control laws are the loosest in the developed world and its rate of gun-related homicide is the highest. Of the world’s 23 “rich” countries, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is almost 20 times that of the other 22. With almost one privately owned firearm per person, America’s ownership rate is the highest in the world; tribal-conflict-torn Yemen is ranked second, with a rate about half of America’s.

Here is what gun control looks like in Japan:

To get a gun in Japan, first, you have to attend an all-day class and pass a written test, which are held only once per month. You also must take and pass a shooting range class. Then, head over to a hospital for a mental test and drug test (Japan is unusual in that potential gun owners must affirmatively prove their mental fitness), which you’ll file with the police. Finally, pass a rigorous background check for any criminal record or association with criminal or extremist groups, and you will be the proud new owner of your shotgun or air rifle. Just don’t forget to provide police with documentation on the specific location of the gun in your home, as well as the ammo, both of which must be locked and stored separately. And remember to have the police inspect the gun once per year and to re-take the class and exam every three years.

Contrast this with Texas, USA:

Anyone can openly carry rifles in Texas without a permit, and a handgun license lets them put semi-automatics over their shoulders or pistols on their hips when they run to the corner store. Spotting an armed Walmart shopper in the produce aisle is not exactly a cultural rarity. When open-carry laws were approved in Texas, Walmart adopted a policy that employees must request to see a shopper's gun license before allowing them to carry their weapon in the store. Open-carry activists were not happy with the corporate decision.

So how does this translate into gun violence? Here are the numbers for 2019 (only half way through the year as of this writing) Here are the gun death rates per 100,000 people from World Population Review for Japan & the US.

Country Total Homicide suicide Accidental
Japan 0.06 0.00 0.04 0.1
USA 12.21 4.46 7.32 0.15

And her it is visually:



To our elected officials - we don’t need our thoughts and prayers. We don’t need the outpouring of emotion and the standard visits with the family. We need GUN CONTROL and we need it passed NOW. And yes, it should be as stringent as Japan’s.

Builder's Remorse

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A great post by Tim Carmody on kottke.org.

This is the builder’s remorse. Not that you invented a thing, not that the consequences were unforeseen. It’s that you gave the thing to a power structure where things were overwhelmingly likely to end in ruin. You gave the power to people who don’t care about what you claim to care about. And that problem, because of the nature and structure of money and power, is extremely hard to avoid.

A Pixel Is Not a Square!

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A technical memo that I came across by Alvy Ray Smith from July 15, 1995. A good point is made here. Every other book/article/graphics tutorial always models a pixel as a square.

A pixel is a point sample. It exists only at a point. For a color picture, a pixel might actually contain three samples, one for each primary color contributing to the picture at the sampling point. We can still think of this as a point sample of a color. But we cannot think of a pixel as a square—or anything other than a point. There are cases where the contributions to a pixel can be modeled, in a low-order way, by a little square, but not ever the pixel itself.

Walkman 40 Years Old Today

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On July 1 of 1979 - Sony first began to sell the TPS-L2 Soundabout, and soon rechristened the Walkman.

It’s weird to think that, in the years before the Walkman, there was no way to listen to music privately while out in public. There were ways to bring music with you — on transistor radios, on boom boxes, on car stereos — but they forced you to subject everyone around you to that music, as well. The Walkman freed us up. It allowed us to make music more a part of our lives, to build our own private soundworlds.

It was a transformative invention, one of the few that utterly upended the way we listen to music. Soon enough, more and more portable cassette players would hit the market, and the price fortunately dropped. But no matter which company made them, we still used the word “Walkman” to describe them.