An Interview With Olivia Jaimes 

Tuesday, November 27th, 2018

As noted back in April, New Nancy is lit. Recently, Vulture scored a rare and extended interview with its pseudonymous creator, “Olivia Jaimes”.

Sifting Through Shit for Science 

Monday, November 26th, 2018

Those poor LEGO heads.

Merry Christmas, Ya Filthy Animal 

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

Do you want your dog to tear open the presents under your tree while you sleep, only for him to be left so disappointed that he poops in your slippers? Then get this sausage-scented wrapping paper from Jimmy Dean.

Gone in 49 Minutes 

Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

Growing up in a car-centric suburb where almost nothing was walkable, getting my driver’s license meant freedom to me. I was determined to pass the driving test on the first try, and spent hours practicing parallel parking and other skills.

So today, I’m thankful I didn’t do something stupid enough to cause me to lose my license 49 minutes after I got it, like this poor, dumb German teen.

Game-Used

Wednesday, November 21st, 2018

Since the Red Sox won the 2018 World Series, I’ve received a fair number of emails from the team pitching all sorts of swag. This one really made me laugh.

First off, as the 2001 Seattle Mariners know, regular season wins don’t mean much once the playoffs start. Once the regular season ended, the Red Sox magic number became 119 wins. They hit that goal, and thus, the 108 regular season wins no longer mean too much.

That’s not the truly goofy part of this email, however. Instead, it’s this line:

Oo, game-used dirt! How enticing! And yet, how can I be sure it really is game-used dirt? I don’t want to be fooled by any fake dirt, or even Major League Baseball field dirt that wasn’t game-used. Can Major League Baseball allay my fears?

Fortunately, they can. I know, thanks to the last gift my father gave me before he died. As you can see below, the cover of the 2013 Red Sox World Series Champions book includes a small bit of “Authenticated World Series™ Dirt”, with a hologram sticker and everything. You probably thought there were no dirt authenticators, but you were wrong.

I don’t think my dad bought this expressly for the dirt. Still, now I’ll always be left to wonder.

Finally, We Know About the Amazing Intestines of Wombats 

Tuesday, November 20th, 2018

Today, I learned that wombat poop is cubic, and also that scientists were previously unsure how it got to be that way.

Rich Uncle Pennybags Is No Millennial 

Monday, November 19th, 2018

“Monopoly for Millennials” is a real thing Hasbro made for some reason, and its target audience is more than a little insulted by it.

Previously in Monopoly Spin-offs: Cheaters Often Prosper

This Baseball Thing Might Catch on, Thanks to Mookie Betts 

Friday, November 16th, 2018

Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts is very, very good. Yesterday, he finished off a World Series championship season (go Sox!) by winning a much-deserved MVP award. Grant Brisbee broke it down.

If you’re fan of baseball, or even just a fan of drama, do yourself the favor of taking a few minutes to watch Mookie Betts’ incredible at-bat from a game back on July 12th. The Sox had won 9 straight at the time, but were losing to the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 in the 4th. Mookie came up with the two outs, but the bases loaded. 13 pitches later, the situation was quite different.

The whole thing is worth a watch in real-time, and I love so much about it. Color commentator Dennis Eckersley’s urging that it was “time to party” set a tone for the rest of the season. Mookie’s’ jubilation when he finally connected is deeply human, as is the fact the he almost tripped while starting his well-earned trip around the bases. Even Eck’s simple home run call of “Yaaaaaaaay!” is perfect. Seriously, just watch, and enjoy a smile.

Lousy Emoji Suggestions

Thursday, November 15th, 2018

Since 2016’s release iOS 10, the Messages app on the iPhone has been able to make suggestions to replace text with emoji.


Emoji suggestions for “Happy”, “Sad”, and “Dog”

These are all perfectly cromulent suggestions, and this is a vaguely useful feature, or at least a vaguely enjoyable one. However, I recently noticed that iOS was giving some very flawed suggestions. It started, as these things so often do, with the word “squirrel”.

When typing the word “squirrel”, iOS suggests this:

Upon spotting this, I initially thought “that’s not a squirrel, it’s a chipmunk”. And indeed, a bit of research showed me that the official Unicode 7.0 spec lists the character in question (U+1F43F) as “CHIPMUNK”. Despite that fact, iOS is treating it as interchangeable with the word “squirrel”, which seems flat-out wrong.

Now you can call me old-fashioned, but before leaning in to my outrage, I wanted to be sure of my facts. While the tremendously common Eastern gray squirrel is monochromatic, I had to consider the possibility that some squirrels may indeed have stripes. It turns out that’s the case, and there are indeed ground squirrels that have stripes. Here’s a comparison provided by NatureMapping:

At a glance, it seems obvious that the chipmunk emoji could also substitute for the golden-mantled ground squirrel. However! The aforelinked page informs us that while chipmunks and ground squirrels are both striped, ground squirrels “look similar to chipmunks, but do not have stripes on the head”. Let’s take a closer look at the 🐿️ emoji in question. Enhance:

Enhance…

Enhance!

Oo, that’s a bingo! We’ve got head stripes, which means that’s a chipmunk, not a squirrel. Come on, Apple. Until we get a proper squirrel emoji, you simply need to not suggest any replacement for that word.

When I first spotted this, I thought it was just an amusing one-off. However, it wasn’t long before I saw another problem. While typing the word “sluggish”, I got this suggestion:

OK, come on! Even at the tiniest size, it’s clear that that is a snail, with a massive shell. That’s the biggest difference between a slug and a snail! Here’s the very first paragraph from the Wikipedia entry for slug:

Slug, or land slug, is a common name for any apparently shell-less terrestrial gastropod mollusc. The word slug is also often used as part of the common name of any gastropod mollusc that has no shell, a very reduced shell, or only a small internal shell, particularly sea slugs and semislugs (this is in contrast to the common name snail, which applies to gastropods that have a coiled shell large enough that the animal can fully retract its soft parts into the shell).

That makes at least two cases where Apple’s emoji suggest feature is missing the mark. The emoji set is of course incomplete, and always will be. But as it gets larger and more specific, it becomes ever more ridiculous to suggest we substitute in entirely different animals. We all look like idiots here, Apple.

Still, at least we don’t look as ridiculous as this emoji snail. Snails are weird, man.

Not Safe For Work, Except if This Is Your Work 

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

When machine learning is combined with massive amounts of data, computers can be taught to do tasks better than humans can. To give just one example, computers have learned to detect lung cancer more accurately than doctors.

Engineers at the center have taught a computer how to detect tiny specks of lung cancer in CT scans, which radiologists often have a difficult time identifying. The artificial intelligence system is about 95 percent accurate, compared to 65 percent when done by human eyes, the team said.

That’s all very impressive. This is also a worthwhile use of machine learning.