Happiness is not a riddle


When I'm listenin' to that big bass fiddle….


This was better than the original


That's Jacquie Lee on The Voice covering Serena Ryder's Stompa and just walking all over it.

Is it bad form to say so?


Gridiron Solitaire: the first preview



From game reviewer and gaming market analyst to game… developer?! Yep. Our friend Bill Harris of the fascinating blog Dubious Quality has been creating a game for the past couplethree years.

One thing that's special about Bill is that he has an intricate understanding of all the tactical and strategic nuances of every sport that interests him. For example, whenever there was a release of NCAA or Madden in their heyday, Bill would spend countless hours on empirical testing of various configuration slider settings and then release a definitive slider configuration to make the video game as much like the live game as possible.

Another is that he has a broad and deep understanding of what makes games enjoyable. He's both analytic and intuitive, and his judgment has been honed through decades of playing, reviewing, and discussing.

Understanding and good judgment–that's a magical combination for creative endeavors, and so the anticipation is high for his soon-to-be-released game, Gridiron Solitaire.

The exclusive first look at Bill's game is now up at Red Door Blue Key. I have no interest at all in football, but I can't wait to play this game because I know Bill. I trust that his creature will not only be accessible, suitably challenging, and hugely replayable, but also that it will somehow capture the feel and the fun of genuine football. For anyone who does love football, the game will undoubtedly offer many special moments that I'll fail to intercept.

The more I played Gridiron Solitaire, the more I kept repeating that phrase: just like real football. It’s astonishing that an abstract, card-based mechanic can so closely mimic the peculiar feel of this sport. Ball control, time of possession, and clock management are crucial. The games end with realistic scores…

Check out the preview, read his designer blog installments (starting here), and watch this space for further info about when and where the game will drop!


RIP, Hasan Niyazi

Art, Education

It seems Hasan Niyazi, the tireless blogger, talented amateur art historian, and independent Renaissance scholar behind the popular art history blog Three Pipe Problem and the ambitious Open Raphael project, has died suddenly at 37, the same tender age as his idol, Raphael.

I first interacted with Hasan in 2010, and we discussed things by email now and again over the years. A man of science by training, he harbored endless enthusiasm for evidence-based scholarship in art history, for the importance of the Digital Humanities movement, and for free and open educational content– values we shared.

If you're so inclined, take a moment to look at his websites, which now stand as monuments to his energy, focus, idealism, passion for beauty, and love of learning.

Edit: See also the moving tributes by Prof. Ben Harvey, Prof. Monica Bowen, and Dr. Francis DeStefano. Above all, Hasan promoted community, encouraged cooperation, and took delight in sharing the discoveries and insights of one and all. In some measure, the art historical blogosphere itself is his handiwork.


Glitch in the matrix

Traffic during the past 48 hours

Traffic during the past 48 hours

After 4 hours, the server came back to life. The ISP's customer service representative sent a note to explain that (a) they could not find a problem and didn't know what we were on about, and (b) they fixed it and were glad to help.



Effluvia, Poetry, Science

It was a formidable task, but agitators or Alinskyites have finally managed to pit the workers against the founders:

By such is my muse newly stirred:

Empirical lurkers,
We're studying workers,
And hoping to model their nest.

We've come from the foundry
To size up the boundary
And feel that old Al does it best.

We've taken great pains
To see no ant remains;
We've worked hard to effect their premoval.

You'll be happy to learn, the
New method would earn the
Fourteenth Dalai Lama's approval.


Hold that thought…


Simple comment bookmarking!

Thanks to lurker (and friend of the 'hat) Tony H. for providing a handy Javascript utility that allows readers of the site to mark their place among the comments and resume reading at that juncture. Tony rolled it for his own use, but was kind enough to share.

In the lower-right corner of each comment, you'll see a pushpin icon. If you click it, the browser will silently set a cookie remembering your place. Next time you visit that page of comments, look for the corresponding pushpin right at the top of the Comments section. Click it, and you'll scroll right down to the comment you previously marked (if it's on the present page).

That should allow you to pay attention to more weighty matters, such as correcting whoever's wrong on the internet!



Effluvia, Politics & Current Events


An Ode from Ur-Dad

Humor, Poetry, Science

While off to meander
The vale of Neander
I once took a gander at some lovely gal.

She was low in the hip
And smart as a whip,
But that brow ridge! It made me her pal.

I said, "Though I'm cro-magnon,
I'll be yer companion,
If you'll join me now down in the valley."

With a come-hither look,
My comparatively frail hand she took,
And we down toward the river did sally.

With no hint of neurosis,
We danced the meiosis,
And maybe a tango or two.

And that's why knuckle-dragger
Snips, like a stone dagger
Enhancing your swagger,
Now make you a bragger
'bout the chromosomes that she left to you.



Georgia On My Mind

Effluvia, Science

Bad news for the objectively anti-Neanderthal and anti-Denisovan bigots and others concerned about genetic variation among populations in the deep south of Georgia: some early hominid "species" may not be different species after all:

Early, diverse fossils — those currently recognized as coming from distinct species like Homo habilis, Homo erectus and others — may actually represent variation among members of a single, evolving lineage. In other words: just as people look different from one another today, so did early hominids look different from one another, and the dissimilarity of the bones they left behind may have fooled scientists into thinking they came from different species. (source: NYTimes)

The idea is that Homo habilisHomo rudolfensis and Homo erectus are not branches but variation within the single trunk. Further, the degree of variation among the skulls from Georgia– all evidently from a single population– is similar to, or greater than, the degree of variation among skulls from Africa. This suggests that speciation has been overprojected for Africa, too. Finally, the differences between the Georgian and African fossils are similar to the differences among the Georgian fossils. So speciation relative to migration may have been overprojected:

Naturally, some scholars affirm and some dissent. A lot of bones to pick!

[Fred Spoor from University College London] added that the very specific characteristics that had been used to define H.erectus, H.habilis and H.rudolfensis "were not captured by the landmarks that they used".

"They did not consider that the thick and protruding brow ridges, the angular back of the braincase and some details of the base of the cranium are derived features for H.erectus, and not present in H.habilisand H.rudolfensis."

Chris Stringer at the Natural History Museum in London said that the team had made an excellent case "that this remarkable new skull, with its huge jawbone", was part of the natural variation of the Dmanisi population.

But he said he was doubtful that all of the early Homo fossils can be "lumped into an evolving H.erectus lineage".

So the dispute is over which features different among the samples are sufficient to assert speciation, and which count as natural variation within a single species. Seems like we'll need more fossils before that issue can be resolved definitively. The site in Dmanisi may well provide them!

Update: interesting, slightly different coverage from WSJ: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304384104579141600675336982


Filner? I hardly know her! (redux)

Effluvia, Poetry, Politics & Current Events

So it turns out that disgraced former mayor of San Diego, Bob Filner, has owned up to some small portion of his odious malefaction.

What better time to revive The Ballad of Sweet Old Bob?


Women Painting Caves

Art, Effluvia

No, it's not the latest design show on HGTV|DIY. It's what passes for news in some circles:

Women made most of the oldest-known cave art paintings, suggests a new analysis of ancient handprints. Most scholars had assumed these ancient artists were predominantly men, so the finding overturns decades of archaeological dogma.

Well, if you hang around these parts, that's olds, not news!


Bank Shot


This is lovely:

Yesterday I set up a stall in the park selling 100% authentic original signed Banksy canvases. For $60 each.

The artworks sold to probably-unwitting buyers were worth… well, considerably more than that. Click the pick for details.

Photo via The Guardian

Photo via The Guardian

To learn more about Banksy, stream Exit Through the Gift Shop through your favorite service.


On Sapiosexuality


It may seem a mite unwholesome
To lust after a corpus callosum,
That hard body inviting fixation
On mammillary fornixation,
But I'm told there's temporally more sex
In proportion to a convoluted cortex,
And that with decreased neural density
Come connective intensity
And a naturally selective propensity.
So don't be hesitant to probe.
There's nothing like falling in lobe!


I have altered the blog


Pray that I alter it further.

In the meantime, be sure to express your opinion in the comment field enhancement post.

I have implemented the following features for now:

  • A preview pane that appears below the comment field as you type and shows you how your comment will appear after you submit it.
  • A 5-minute timeout allowing you to edit your comment in case the preview pane betrays you.
  • New HTML tags, including <table> and <tr> and <td> and <ul> and <li>.
  • Clearer explanatory text below the comment field.
  • Top Commenters by Volume (as measured in decibels) in the sidebar.
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