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ShadyURL: Don't just shorten your URL, make it suspicious and frightening

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kryptothesuperdog
13 days ago
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London, UK
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The “Dark Yellow Problem” in Design System Color Palettes

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Designers try to strike a balance between “yellow being yellow” and meeting the accessibility requirements.



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kryptothesuperdog
29 days ago
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London, UK
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Bad grammar, bugbears and dæmons

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Dafne Keen as Lyra with Pantalaimon, from the BBC adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

Susan McDonald, an experienced subeditor at the Guardian, has written an article that appears to be about grammar and usage but is really about everyone’s favourite topic: how annoying other people are.

McDonald doubtless knows more than a thing or two about whipping ungainly sentences into shape. Her daily work involves tweaking punctuation, replacing clichés, shepherding stray verbs towards their subjects, and making all sorts of other small changes that smooth the path from the writer’s brain to the reader’s.

But she says she doesn’t nitpick for the sake of it, instead using common sense to decide when rules can be bent. I agree with that as a broad principle, but the thing about common sense is that it’s never as common as you think. What strikes one person as sensible flexibility will strike another as sloppy inconsistency; one person’s high standards will be another’s restrictive dogmatism.

McDonald gives some examples of things that definitely do matter (to her):

Some of my personal bugbears come up more regularly than others.

“Compared to” is different from “compared with”. Use the first if you want to liken one thing to another, the second to contrast.

And that reminds me: in my book “different from” is correct, “different to” and “different than” are not.

“Who” and “whom” are both needed but not interchangeable. The same goes for less/fewer, like/such as and imply/infer.

As a copyeditor, I think I would be absolutist about only one of these six. For moderately formal pieces, I’d probably apply three or four more of them across the board and the other one or two depending on context.

But I would also usually avoid using ‘regularly’ to mean ‘frequently’, as McDonald does here – so on that point I’m more of a stickler than her. And there are people who would scorn both of us for beginning sentences with ‘and’.

There’s no objective way of telling which ‘rules’ are the ‘correct’ ones. Any of us can talk about what’s right ‘in my book’ – but each of our mental rulebooks is different.

Some people respond to these differences by saying that the safest thing to do is always follow all the rules – that way, you won’t annoy anyone. But a lot of these (alleged) rules are, to put it politely, stupid. Picking every conceivable potential nit would be enormously time-consuming and make prose awkward, stiff – even annoying. McDonald rightly points out that, for instance, split infinitives and sentence-ending prepositions often produce better results.

A lot of these decisions are judgement calls. You have to think about audience, medium and desired effect. You have to keep abreast of how people are using the language and how they expect it to be used. You have to estimate which fine distinctions are too fine to be reliably clear, and you have to have a nose for what might be likely to cause a stink.

You also have to remember that the people who complain about ‘broken rules’ are far louder than those whose reading is eased by a certain breakage – but that doesn’t mean the loud ones are anything like a majority.

Sometimes there’s no right answer. Language isn’t like mathematics; it’s like life.

McDonald describes her linguistic gripes as bugbears, and many people talk semi-fondly of having pet peeves, but really these attitudes are more like Philip Pullman’s dæmons – they’re aspects of ourselves. They are changeable during childhood but become fixed as we grow up. They might cause us annoyance, but they are a dear, cherished part of who we are, and any attempt to separate them from us causes terrible pain.

The last line of McDonald’s piece is:

Language reflects – and can even define – who we are. So a little respect, please, for its rules.

It’s not just language but also our attitudes to language that are part of our identities. But the ‘rules’ we get the most righteously angry about don’t belong to language in itself. They belong to our personal conception of it. And when we meet someone whose internal rules are frustratingly different, we have two options: banish their dæmon or pacify our own.

Neither is easy.



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kryptothesuperdog
119 days ago
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London, UK
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Duck Runs the NYC Marathon Wearing Webbed Running Shoes

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A duck running in the New York City marathon

Photographers covering the New York City Marathon this year were treated to a strange and adorable sight: one of the competing athletes was a duck wearing webbed running shoes.

The annual NYC marathon is one of the world’s major marathons and among the most prestigious long-distance races in the United States. It’s also the largest marathon in the world, with over 50,000 finishers in a normal year, though this year that number was reduced to around 33,000 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of those racers this year, however, was an emotional support duck named Wrinkle.

“Wrinkle the duck is more than just a beautiful Pekin duck,” the owners, New York artists Justin Wood and Joyce Kung, write on YouTube. She is a full-grown adult human child. She is fast. She is speed. She is zoom. She is Wrinkle. Still fast as duck boiiii.”

“I ran the NY marathon!,” “Wrinkle” writes on Instagram. “I’ll get even better next year! Thanks to all the humans that were cheering for me!”

You can see clips of Wrinkle in action in this 2.5-minute video:

Wrinkle was the center of attention as she waddle-ran down NYC streets during the 50th running of the race on November 7th. Runners and spectators alike smiled at the sight and cheered the little running on, and there were countless cameras pointed at her along the way.

Particularly of interest were the little red shoes on Wrinkle’s feet. Wood and Kung tell Runner’s World that they made Wrinkle the booties out of scuba-gear-like material that is soft, easy to clean, and waterproof to protect the duck’s feet from bumblefoot, a bacterial infection caused by running on rough ground.

“Everyone’s asking about the shoes,” Wood tells the running publication. “So we’re looking into trying to mass produce them and put them out there.”

Wrinkle has caught the attention of at least one “celebrity” who is now a fan: the Aflac Duck left a supportive comment on Instagram that reads “Ducks supporting ducks.”

A screenshot of an Instagram photo of a duck running the NYC marathon

Photos and videos and Wrinkle’s participation have since gone viral online. The duck is now receiving international news coverage, and posts on social media have received millions of views, reactions, and comments.

You can follow along with Wrinkle on his adventures through Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook. There’s also an online store that sells merchandise with Wrinkle’s face on it.

Perhaps Wrinkle’s next source of income will be a sponsorship with a webbed running shoe company.


Image credits: Still frames and video by seDucktive and used with permission

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kryptothesuperdog
193 days ago
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London, UK
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The Story of Jumbo the Elephant

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Jumbo the Elephant was one of the most famous animals in the world. Bought as a calf in Sudan by a European animal dealer in 1860, Jumbo found fame first at the London Zoo and later as the centerpiece of the Barnum & Bailey Circus in the US. Jumbo was so beloved in London that news of his sale to P.T. Barnum prompted 100,000 children to write to Queen Victoria, urging her to nix the deal. In the video above, Andrew McClellan recounts Jumbo’s too-short (and probably unhappy) life and the impact he had on society.

The word “jumbo” hadn’t been known or used in the English language before he came along and has since become the byword for anything humongous or supersized. So every time we use the word “jumbo jet” or “jumbotron”, we’re actually referring back to Jumbo the elephant.

(thx, ben)

Tags: Jumbo   language   video
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kryptothesuperdog
271 days ago
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London, UK
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A decade and a half of instability: The history of Google messaging apps

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Take the Google Messaging quiz! Can you name all the icons?

Enlarge / Take the Google Messaging quiz! Can you name all the icons? (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Google Talk, Google's first-ever instant messaging platform, launched on August 24, 2005. This company has been in the messaging business for 16 years, meaning Google has been making messaging clients for longer than some of its rivals have existed. But thanks to a decade and a half of nearly constant strategy changes, competing product launches, and internal sabotage, you can't say Google has a dominant or even stable instant messaging platform today.

Google's 16 years of messenger wheel-spinning has allowed products from more focused companies to pass it by. Embarrassingly, nearly all of these products are much younger than Google's messaging efforts. Consider competitors like WhatsApp (12 years old), Facebook Messenger (nine years old), iMessage (nine years old), and Slack (eight years old)—Google Talk even had video chat four years before Zoom was a thing.

Currently, you would probably rank Google's offerings behind every other big-tech competitor. A lack of any kind of top-down messaging leadership at Google has led to a decade and a half of messaging purgatory, with Google both unable to leave the space altogether and unable to commit to a single product. While companies like Facebook and Salesforce invest tens of billions of dollars into a lone messaging app, Google seems content only to spin up an innumerable number of under-funded, unstable side projects led by job-hopping project managers. There have been periods when Google briefly produced a good messaging solution, but the constant shutdowns, focus-shifting, and sabotage of established products have stopped Google from carrying much of these user bases—or user goodwill—forward into the present day.

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kryptothesuperdog
275 days ago
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