The Community Weblog. In byte-sized chunks.

Constrained Synthesis

Bitmap & tilemap generation from a single example with the help of ideas from quantum mechanics.

A neat example: this GIF of a bitmap being autocompleted after a human sets some starting points.

Hey, you got water in my fuel mixture. Hey, you got fuel in my water.

New York Times: "For decades, automakers have relied on turbocharging, which uses energy captured from exhaust gases to force additional air into the cylinders, to increase the power and efficiency of some gasoline engines." "[Now] a prominent automotive supplier has developed a counterintuitive technology that could enhance turbocharged engines for passenger cars by improving fuel economy with no reduction in power. How? By spraying water into the cylinders as the engine is operating." Warning: Some marketing speak in quotes.

Babi Yar at 75: Filling in the Blanks in Ukrainian History

Long before Auschwitz, long before Treblinka and Sobibor, there was Babi Yar—the sprawling ravine on the outskirts of Kyiv where the Nazis, with support from the locals, murdered 33,771 Jews in a two-day killing spree on September 29 and 30, 1941. The Holocaust as the "final solution" began here, in Ukraine and other Soviet territories. Over the fall of 1941 the number of victims at Babi Yar grew to 100,000, to include, beside the Jews, the mentally ill, Roma, Ukrainian nationalists, Communists, and other undesirables.

Biggy Pop

Iggy Pop has a pet cockatoo named Biggy Pop. Biggy Pop is on Instagram. They have sweet adventures together, like today's.

Roll up for the murderous mystery tour

Dark Tourism On her great blog, historian Donna Seger discusses the phenomenon of Dark Tourism - a cultural trend responsible for the proliferation of ghost tours, vampire tours, and graveyard tours as well as interest in more historically serious places such as Holocaust sites, Civil War Battlefields, and even contemporary war zones. Also known in academia as thanatourism, its subcategories include fright tourism[PDF], disaster tourism, morbid tourism, and grief tourism.

Linked in the Article:
Seduced by the Dark Turn, Gettysburg Compiler
Institute for Dark Tourism Research

Other links of interest:
Guide to Dark Tourism sites worldwide(page is originally in German)
Is Dark Tourism OK?
Can Dark Tourism Help Cambodia Heal?
The Draw of Death Row - dark tourism helps Texas prison museum thrive
Dark Tourism site, older but interesting

The World Passes 400 PPM Threshold. Permanently.

2016 will be the year that carbon dioxide officially passed the symbolic 400 ppm mark, never to return below it in our lifetimes. In the centuries to come, history books will likely look back on September 2016 as a major milestone for the world's climate.

As noted previously, xkcd provides a helpful infographic to illustrate what kind of temperature change we're talking about here (long scroll, the end is worth it).

What A Horrible Year To Have A Curse

In honor of the 30th anniversary of Konami's iconic horror series Castlevania, USGamer has put together a retrospective of the series' history and influence and the AV Club has picked it's favorite songs from the soundtrack (YouTube link). If you want a trip down memory lane, VG Junk has a loving review of the first game, Dracula X, and a collection of Symphony of the Night ephemera. Or refresh yourself on what made the series so mechanically great with Tim Rogers essay In Praise of Sticky Friction.

Meerkats - the most murderous mammal!

Cute but deadly

Which mammal is most likely to be murdered by its own kind? It's certainly not humans—not even close. Nor is it a top predator like the grey wolf or lion, although those at least are #11 and #9 in the league table of murdery mammals. No, according to a study led by José María Gómez from the University of Granada, the top spot goes to... the meerkat.

Gauge your risk based on your species with this fun graph!

The Evolution of Pepe

In light of the Clinton campaign calling Pepe the Frog "a symbol associated with white supremacy" (which the ADL has now added to its online hate symbols database), The Atlantic interviews Matt Furie, the creator of Pepe: "My feelings are pretty neutral, this isn't the first time that Pepe has been used in a negative, weird context. I think it's just a reflection of the world at large. The internet is basically encompassing some kind of mass consciousness, and Pepe, with his face, he's got these large, expressive eyes with puffy eyelids and big rounded lips, I just think that people reinvent him in all these different ways, it's kind of a blank slate. It's just out of my control, what people are doing with it, and my thoughts on it, are more of amusement."

Inside the Chicago Police Department's secret budget

Through numerous Freedom of Information Act requests, the Chicago Reader, working with the Chicago-based transparency nonprofit Lucy Parsons Labs and the public records website MuckRock, obtained more than 1,000 pages of Chicago Police Department documents—including the department's deposit and expenditure ledgers, internal e-mails, and purchasing records—that offer an unprecedented look into how Chicago police and the Cook County state's attorney's office make lucrative use of civil asset forfeiture.

The Reader found that CPD uses civil forfeiture funds to finance many of the day-to-day operations of its narcotics unit and to secretly purchase controversial surveillance equipment without public scrutiny or City Council oversight. (The Cook County state's attorney's office, for its part, clearly indicates narcotics-related forfeiture income in its annual budget. According to its 2016 budget, the office will use this year's expected forfeiture revenue of $4.96 million to pay the salaries and benefits of the 41 full-time employees of its forfeiture unit.)

The amount of money seized from any given individual is, by itself, negligible to police and prosecutors' budgets—the median value of a forfeiture in Illinois is $530, according to the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit Libertarian public-interest law firm. But losing this sum of money or access to a vehicle can be devastating to the impoverished people civil forfeiture often affects. And in Chicago the millions of dollars accumulated through so many individual seizures don't go toward public services like schools or roads, but are used to fund the operations of the police division that carries out civil forfeiture.

A peek behind the investigative reporting process:

Under Illinois law, if you request a large number of records, an agency may deny your request for being "unduly burdensome." Going on the assumption that CPD's most significant purchases would be greater than $5,000, we requested only purchase orders corresponding to checks above that threshold.

But we ran into another roadblock. Again, under the Illinois law, a government agency may take longer to respond if a person sends multiple requests in a short period of time. To get over this hurdle, Lucy Parsons Labs launched a collaboration with MuckRock, a FOIA and transparency website, asking ordinary users to send FOIA requests on our behalf.
Civil forfeiture on Metafilter previously:
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
The Use and Abuse of Civil Forfeiture

"...Mr. Obama's strongest allies on Capitol Hill turned against him."

Congress Votes to Override Obama Veto on 9/11 Victims Bill [The New York Times] "Congress on Wednesday voted overwhelmingly to override a veto by President Obama for the first time, passing into law a bill that would allow the families of those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to sue Saudi Arabia for any role in the plot. Democrats in large numbers joined with Republicans to deliver a remarkable rebuke to the president. The 97-to-1 vote in the Senate and the 348-to-77 vote in the House displayed the enduring power of the Sept. 11 families in Washington and the diminishing influence here of the Saudi government. The new law, enacted over the fierce objections of the White House, immediately alters the legal landscape. American courts could seize Saudi assets to pay for any judgment obtained by the Sept. 11 families, while Saudi officials have warned they might need to sell off hundreds of billions of dollars in holdings in the United States to avoid such an outcome."

Angered by 9/11 Victims Law, Saudis Rethink U.S. Alliance [The New York Times]

The Saudi government has not commented on the law since Mr. Obama's veto was overridden, and it remained unclear how it would respond. But Saudi and gulf analysts said that the depth of the Saudi-American alliance gave the kingdom many ways to express its displeasure. "It is certain that the strategic alliance between the two countries is in a real crisis," Salman Aldossary, the editor in chief of the Saudi-owned Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper, said in an email. "If it is true that Riyadh shall be harmed by the crisis, Washington also has interests in the region, and they will definitely be affected as well." Saudi Arabia has lots of money invested in the United States, and Mr. Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, warned that such investments could be withdrawn if Saudi Arabia feared that its assets were in jeopardy of seizure as part of American legal proceedings. It remains unclear if Saudi Arabia will start withdrawing those assets.
Obama Criticises Decision by Lawmakers to Issue First Veto Override of Presidency [The Guardian]
"The concern that I've had has nothing to do with Saudi Arabia per se or my sympathy for 9/11 families, it has to do with me not wanting a situation in which we're suddenly exposed to liabilities for all the work that we're doing all around the world, and suddenly finding ourselves subject to the private lawsuits in courts where we don't even know exactly whether they're on the up and up, in some cases," he told CNN. "So this is a dangerous precedent and it's an example of why sometimes you have to do what's hard. And, frankly, I wish Congress here had done what's hard. I didn't expect it, because if you're perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that's a hard vote for people to take. But it would have been the right thing to do."

The Haunting of Netflix House 4: The Netflix Master

Comics writer Benito Cereno gives his now traditional guide to "good, notable, or at least interesting horror and horror-adjacent movies available to stream on Netflix" in October *, the spookiest of months.

* Except The Exorcist, watch that one now.

Stop Flipping Forks

On putting your emotional energy into things that matter and ignoring the things that don't.

No more vagina pillows (at that location)

Back in 2015, Portlandia was renewed for a sixth and seventh season, and season 7 is almost upon us.
One of the many recurring sketches on the program features Toni and Candace, the owners of the Women and Women First bookstore. While the name is a play on Chicago's Women and Children First, episodes are filmed at Porland's In Other Words.
On Monday, after a particularly intrusive shooting session, the staff at In Other Words have put a "Fuck Portlandia!" sign in the window, written a blog post about their issues why, and cut off their relationship with the program. Additional coverage/reposting at Splitsider, Jezebel and The A.V. Club

French might be the language of love but German is the language of anger

Rammstein-Du Hast (Bossa Nova Version) (SLYT)

"It belongs in a museum!"

Indiana Jones: the Animated Series (slyt)

A delightful fan-fantasy from animator Patrick Schoemaker.
See sketches and production art on his blog.

And, if you're frightened, you can be frightened, you can be, it's ok.

"So who here doesn't know about it..."

"Everybody knows. What I'm talking about."

And: reflections, same band, same place, 9/11/2016

I guess Chinese men don't have tears

Lovey Banh is a figure I became completely transfixed by during a period of really unstable emotional health. She has mild notoriety as an amazon oddity author for her irreverent book titles ("An Ant See A Lion Marry A Butterfly: I Am Sleeping In My Car B/C I Am Not The Next RJ Rowling", "30 Years I Do Not Brush My Teeth", "One Kid Two Lungs To Harvest"), book covers prominently featuring what is presumably the author in swimwear, book pricing (most sitting at around $2,000), and the incomparable sum of books written and available to purchase: currently equaling 265...

...It's all very easy to quickly dismiss as funny and weird and move on from. But upon closer inspection and some pouring through of "look inside" offerings of her books, there was something namelessly too human and that connected too much within itself to convince me there wasn't intelligence behind the books.

The Case of Lovey Banh.

Mary Cavendish: 17th century duchess, author, scientist, philosopher

Browse through the history of science fiction and you don't see many women named. One of the first is Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, who published a proto-SF novel in 1666, 152 years before Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. Also notable, Mary Cavendish published her book, titled The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World (Internet Archive), under her own name. The book is a curious mixture of themes and styles: part science fiction, part fantasy, part scientific musing, part political tract, part social commentary and satire, and part autobiography. This diversity of topics reflected the amazing life and interests of its "Happy Creatoress," a woman of means but without formal education of her male peers.

As written in the biography in Cavendish by David Cunning (a study of her philosophical works),

Named Duchess of Newcastle in 1665, she was famous for her unusual occupation as a woman writer, and she was famous for being unusual more generally.... Her intellectual and creative achievements were remarkable, especially given her lack of formal academic training.
Duchess Cavendish wrote and spoke on a number of topics, including on sciences in her earlier publication, Poems, and fancies written by the Right Honourable, the Lady Margaret Newcastle (1653, text-only, digitized copy from University of Michigan) and philosophy (see her entries in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy and the International Encyclopedia of Philosophy, housed at the University of Tennessee, Martin).

Lady Cavendish studied the works of natural philosophers (the term 'scientist' was coined in 1833), and wrote a number of works herself. In 1655, she published The philosphical and physical opinions written by Her Excellency the Lady Marchionesse of Newcastle (Internet Archive; text-only at U Mich) and a subsequent title, Observations upon experimental philosophy (U Mich; edited, with footnotes, by Eileen O'Neill [Google books preview]), which Lady Cavendish published in 1666 or 1668 to improve upon her arguments from the prior title. With these titles, she challenged the ideas expressed by contemporary natural philosophers, and had the two books dispatched by special messenger to the most celebrated scholars of the day.

To this, she wished to be invited to the The President, Council, and Fellows of the Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, commonly known as the Royal Society, which was formed in 1660. In May 1667, she was the first woman to be invited to speak at the Royal Society, as recounted in limited detail by Samuel Pepys. Cabendish's 'nonsense' was derided for centuries, until her reputation was rehabilitated by feminist historians and scholars of women's history, who have argued that her views have real worth and should be taken seriously (Margaret Cavendish and the Royal Society, a scholarly paper by Emma Wilkins, published in 2014).

You can peruse more of her original writings on, with some duplication, and see her works in University of Michigan's collection of Early English Books. If you want to read a more presentable copy of The Blazing World, the University of Adelaide has such a copy online. You can also listen to a nice audiobook copy of the title from LibreVox reader Sarah Terry.

History of urban nightlife in America

Here are 12 interesting facts about urban nightlife from Peter C. Baldwin's article for the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History, which shows how times have greatly changed and, remarkably, how some things have remained the same.

[Election 2016] If you stand for nothing, what'll you fall for?

In the wake of the first presidential debate Monday night, which was widely recognized as a Clinton win even by the Republicans, polls in swing states have begun to swing back toward Clinton and even Nate Silver is calming down a bit.

While Clinton was poised and prepared and increasingly delighted with the way the debate was shaping up, Trump's performance quickly devolved from calm and rehearsed to angry word salad, punctuated by sniffles which were heard round the world, and health concerns were raised again at a rally the next day.

But the big takeaway from debate night was a story about Trump's treatment of Miss Universe Alicia Machado which Clinton brought up near the end of the debate and the Clinton campaign quickly followed up with a well-executed video shortly afterward. The story quickly gained legs and Trump's treatment of women became a national topic of conversation.

Trump's troubles don't end there, however: while the New York Attorney Generals's investigation of the Trump Foundation appears to be widening, Newsweek has broken a story about Trump's violation of United States embargoes with Cuba, which could potentially have implications with Florida voters. And there are hints that Trump plans to use Bill Clinton's sex scandals against Hillary, which could go very badly for him, as the Clinton camp seems to be prepared for such an event.

Meanwhile, Gary Johnson had another Aleppo moment when he was unable to name a world leader -- ANY world leader.

At 12-9, the US military has a journeyman baseball pitcher's W/L record

"If, in SOCOM's accounting, the United States has engaged in relatively few actual wars, don't credit "deterrence." Instead, the command has done its best to simply redefine war out of existence, as in Iraq and Afghanistan, in favor of those "gray zone challenges." If one accepts that quasi-wars are actually war, then the Defense Department has done little to deter conflict. The United States has, in fact, been involved in some kind of military action — by SOCOM's definition — in every year since 1980." How's successful has the US been in achieving those aims, reducing conflict, and actually succeeding in it's objectives? Face it, America doesn't win a lot of wars.

More saliently, these grey zone conflicts don't seem to be dying down or going away. How effective has our policy of low level conflict been at reducing the overall conflict? A paper from SOCOM (Special Operations Command) investigates American's win/loss record and how the notion of war and peace is different than the actual realities of conflict.

Who Tells Their Story?

"For Asian-American actors, there is a persistent fear of being left out of the conversation entirely, since "diversity" has often been conflated with black representation only. As Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. put it, "In America, things get boiled down into a black and white issue, but I want to see stories about Asian people, I want to see stories about trans people — diversity is not just a black and white issue. ... We've still got some work to do when you talk about real diversity." (Buzzfeed longform)