Haiku Finder Bot

Reddit has an endless supply of “bots”, programs that are used to comment automatically on the social network. They are mainly done for programming practice or personal amusement. However the Haiku Finder Bots also add a little beauty.

If panhandling is

so lucrative why aren’t

we all doing it.

The bots look for 17 syllable sections of text, and rearrange them into the prerequisite number of syllables per line. There are Twitter haiku bots, and a human generated New York Times Haiku service, of course. They all often seem to be more recorded speech than the strong mix of unexpected ideas often in great haiku. But I’m looking forward to seeing enough monkeys get enough typewriters here.

via overview for haiku_finder_bot.

Solar Prices Falling Much Faster than Expected

Some good news: solar energy costs are falling much faster than anyone was expecting. It seems that older price projections were based on variations of Moore’s Law, where costs would halve in a certain number of months, starting from the invention of solar cells. However, Citigroup thinks this is too conservative a method, as the mass production phase is the more important one, and that only began in 2008. We are in an early, and still very steep, part of a price drop.

Solar thermal electricity improvements appear to be even more dramatic. For reference, one provider is predicting electricity prices of 8c/kWh, in an area where current peak fossil fuel prices are 30c/kWh (and rising). At such a price it would be counterproductive for any provider to use fossil fuels – even if they were free, as some commentators have noted.

Citigroup: How solar module prices could fall to 25c/watt : Renew Economy.

Patriotism By Being Unpatriotic

In light of Germany’s stunning 7-1 World Cup win over Brazil, perhaps an even greater achievement: victory over nationalism. As Quora user Judith Meyer writes, some players routinely do not sing the national anthem

Germany is unlike other nations in that we have abolished patriotism. The players’ reasons are their own, but by not singing the anthem, Özil & Co are actually closer to the typical German fan, who will likely keep talking to his neighbour while the anthem is played.

Also note that even a few years ago (before 2006) it wasn’t typical for the rest of the team to sing the anthem.

While this sounds a little exaggerated, it reminds me of Australian broadcaster’s idea for a new Australian flag. His (then) un-nationalistic, often globetrotting country’s citizens should be represented by an empty flagpole.

via Quora.

Fight Facing Backwards

I loved this simple idea from Quora user Mauricio Estrella – turning around from your partner when you argue

I came up with the idea of sitting (or standing) leaning my back against my GF’s back whenever a discussion heats up and we need to resolve a dispute over something.

By doing this back-against-back thing, you continue the discussion as if you were still arguing face to face. After a couple of minutes, this ALWAYS helps us to end the discussion and have a really happy outcome. We have learned so much about ourselves and each other by doing this.

What happens is that the arguing becomes significantly more objective. You no longer have another person in front of you that you’re trying to rationalize, apologize, persuade or convince about something, instead, you’re more vulnerable because you’re talking to nobody in front of you. Your voice resonates and you can pretty much listen to your own voice and think, “Well, I do have a point!” or maybe, “Damn, I’m full of shit, this is wrong. I am wrong.”

It used to take a couple of minutes to end the discussion for good. At the end, when you turn around, you get to face the person that you just agreed with. It’s a moment where you go ‘ah.. There she is…’ Or ‘there he is…’ And realize how beautiful a peaceful moment feels.

Via – Tips and Hacks for Everyday Life: What are small changes you’ve made resulting in a big difference in your life?

The Effectiveness of Australian Gun Laws in One Simple Chart

After the latest killing spree in California I was reading questioning about gun laws’ abilities to stop mass shootings. Then I remembered the Australian experience, when assault rifles and large magazine clips were banned in 1996 (after massacres of increasing frequency and intensity there).

I decided to graph the last forty years of statistics, to see possible relationships between gun laws and attacks. Did gun mass killings go up? (“The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” we’re told.) Or did they go down?

The results were striking:


Shooting sprees have killed only two Australians in nearly two decades since the gun restrictions, and none in the 12 years after they were further tightened. (Compare this to the 73 deaths in the 12 years when modern, large magazine guns were freely available.)

Some good aspects to the Australian laws:

– They were bipartisan. Instigated by a Conservative leader, and backed by a large number of quality researchers, they had broad initial support.

– They were responsive, meaning they targeted one type of event (mass shootings), and the specific purchasing methods, and type of guns, that that particular shooter employed.

– They were nation-wide.

– Legitimate interests of farmers, sports shooters, and hunters were respected.

– They did not require perfect borders to be effective (drugs and other prohibited items enter Australia as easily as the US.)

– They were open to testing and further improvement. After a second mass shooting in 2002, the details of how the killer obtained those types of weapons were investigated, and that particular avenue was also closed down.

Other gun homicides also dramatically decreased immediately after the 1996 and 2003 changes, as this chart shows:

gun laws in australia graph

You could argue it merely amplified a pre-exisiting decline. Even so, there were no upwards spikes due to “only criminals having guns” that proponents try to scare us with.

Farm suicides also dropped dramatically after the laws. Whilst preventing general gun homicides and suicides were not the aim of the Australian laws, any increasing drop were seen as icing on the cake.

Clearly mass shootings are one phenomena that can be reduced through a sensible approach to gun laws.

Source: Australian mass murders – Wikipedia.

Pencil Stylus


For those of us who have a personal aversion to using photoshop-style menus, the new pencil stylus will be a dream. Apple is unlocking the ability to vary line width with the size of an object – meaning unevenly shaped drawing devices (like the Pencil stylus) will be able to reproduce realistic shading and mark effects.

via Why Drawing On The iPad Just Got Way Better

Taking a Shaman to a Mental Hospital

There’s a growing interest in the idea that mental illnesses are cultural products – insanity brought about by wind was a big problem in 19th century France, before mysteriously disappearing almost overnight. Conversely, depression was practically unknown in Hong Kong before the arrival of Western media.

Mental illness anthropology is a fascinating topic – even more so when the observer is not from the West, and studies our strange phenomena. Dr Somé was born into an African shamanic tradition, and took a tour of a US mental institution to see how the West treated a sick friend during a visit.

“I was so shocked.  That was the first time I was brought face to face with what is done here to people exhibiting the same symptoms I’ve seen in my village.”  What struck Dr. Somé was that the attention given to such symptoms was based on pathology, on the idea that the condition is something that needs to stop.  This was in complete opposition to the way his culture views such a situation.  As he looked around the stark ward at the patients, some in straitjackets, some zoned out on medications, others screaming, he observed to himself, “So this is how the healers who are attempting to be born are treated in this culture.  What a loss!  What a loss that a person who is finally being aligned with a power from the other world is just being wasted.”

Dr Somé has been involved with bringing Americans to Africa for healing (a similar shamanic approach has been used in Mongolia to treat severe autism in American children.)

“People think something extraordinary must be done in an extraordinary situation like this,” he says.  “That’s not usually the case.  Sometimes it is as simple as carrying a stone.”

via What a Shaman See’s In a Mental Hospital

The Rubble Club

Sad architects take note. You may be eligible to join The Rubble Club – open to architects who have had their buildings pulled down in their own lifetimes.

Check the bylaws, though:

Firstly the building’s architect must be alive and not party to its destruction, secondly the building must be built with the intention of permanence (exhibitions, shops and interiors are not eligible) and thirdly it must be deliberately destroyed or radically altered, it can’t simply burn down.

via Reddit

How to Make a Speech Like Bill Clinton

It’s good to be prepared. What if you’re suddenly asked to be President of the United States, and have to give a speech? Quora user Vivek Viswanathan gave a great rundown on what made Bill Clinton so great.

George W. Bush asked Bill Clinton this very question as he prepared to move into the White House in January of 2001. “With all due respect, you used not to be so great a speaker,” Bush told Clinton. (Clinton had delivered a famously dull keynote address at the 1988 Democratic National Convention.) “You’re good now.” What advice, Bush asked, did Clinton have? As Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy recount in The President’s Club… the sitting president proceeded to hold a mini-clinic of his own for the new kid: “timing, Clinton replied, it’s all in the timing”.

And one or two other things.

Mildly Interesting Fact of the Day


That’s director James Cameron’s hand drawing Kate Winslet in Titanic. As Cameron is left-handed, the footage had to be mirrored, to match Leonardo DiCaprio’s freakish right-handedness. The drawing also had to be a mirror image version, to eventually match Kate’s depicted pose, and other versions used elsewhere in the film (aged, semi completed, etc).

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