Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Contradiction in Typeface

On the way back from Kansas City the other day, I stopped at a rest area in southern Minnesota along the Straight River. Can't say I've ever heard of the Straight River before that moment, but now I will not forget it because of the typeface used on the sign:

That typeface is about as far from straight as you can get -- in both senses of the word. There's hardly a straight line in it, and it's even farther from the other meaning (synonyms like staid or mainstream come to mind) with its bottom-heavy serifs, all-lowercase setting, and generally psychedelic vibe.

Not the kind of thing I would expect from a state-run rest area, but I assume it is a little bit of the early 1970s being maintained by state Department of Transportation.


And what is the name of that typeface? Bottleneck, released in 1972.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Twitter in June: Mood Swings

Looking back through my Twitter favorites for June, the issues spring out in reverse order: the Supreme Court decision on marriage equality, taking down the Confederate flag, and the killings in Charleston. First those three, starting with marriage equality:

A bit jealous that Minnesotans have a Black, Muslim congressman who supports marriage equality.
By Saladin Ahmed

Marriage used to be so simple. You'd meet a man, buy his daughter; make awkward conversation til she died in childbirth. What went wrong?
By Alice R Fraser

So gay marriage is a threat to Democracy, but Citizens United isn't?
By Robert O. Simonson

It was a 5-4 ruling: Men 4-2 against, Women 3-0 for. Another reminder of benefits of women in leadership positions.
By Vinicius Vacanti

If you had told me in 2004 that America would have a black president, universal health care, and gay marriage by 2015, I would have laughed.
By Ezra Klein

I'd take Scalia's concern about SCOTUS inventing laws more seriously if he hadn't recently waved his hand and turned companies into people.
By Ken Tremendous

Scalia's next dissent will consist of him singing "Daisy" over and over while he slowly winds down into nothingness.
By jay smooth

Weird that the US now sanctifies the right to marry but has no similar protection of the right to vote.
By David Roberts

How far we've come since the President Obama & Senator Clinton ran against gay marriage in 2008! People can change. Never give up.
By Michael Moore

Don't worry, conservatives. In a way, the Supreme Court stopped gay marriage for good. Because it's just "marriage" now.
By Hemant Mehta
Taking down the ridiculous Confederate flag:
"Southern Lives Matter." Even when showing their hate for Black people they manage to appropriate from Black people.

By William Anderson

We also have a heritage in Italy. It's called fascism. We don't celebrate it or miss it. Time to grow up for some Americans.
By Federico Viticci

I can’t believe we’re even discussing whether to take down the flag of a treasonous, racist revolt against our country.
By David Roberts

The people who are offended by "Happy Holidays" want to know what your problem with the Confederate flag is.
By Pete Nicely

Bree Newsome is like part Spider Woman, part Ida B. Wells:

By Disgruntled Haradrim
Reacting to domestic terrorism when it’s committed by a white guy, and the aftermath of the Charleston mass murders:
Dylann Roof gets "a difficult childhood,” Mike Brown gets "no angel.”
By Sarah Kendzior

Still a lot of talk about how moved folks are by the victims’ sense of "forgiveness." One way to reflect this is by taking down the flag.
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

In the black church forgiveness isn't to absolve the horror but to preserve one's soul from being consumed by hate.
By The Libyan

Go directly to forgiveness. Do not pass accountability. Do not collect reparations.
By Vandal

Like it or not, killers ARE human. There's nothing wrong with 'humanizing' white killers. The problem is that ONLY white killers get to be human.
By Saladin Ahmed

In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.
By Dan Hodges

Bobby Jindal says this is a time to say "we're not blacks or whites...we're Americans."
By Ana Marie Cox

Sure that works ... Unless of course you're ACTUALLY fucking Black.
By besos!

Same whites who claim the Charleston church shooting is an ”isolated incident" shout "culture of poverty" and "thug culture" to demonize the poor and blacks.
By Paul Thomas

"If they are to be a part of our society, they must do a better job of rejecting violence and fanaticism." Never said about young white men.
By Saladin Ahmed

"Troubled loner w/ mental illness" & "suggestible ideologue taking cues from racist superstructure" are not mutually exclusive explanations.
By David Roberts

We can't swim, we can't buy skittles, we can't listen to loud music, we can't shop, we can't play, we can't breathe, we can't pray.
By P.K. Eduah
And the rest of my favorite subjects and a sprinkling of chuckles and aha moments. (This list is still running a bit shorter than average; I'm still not spending as much time as I was on Twitter before May.)
What if we made you terribly aware of your deficits every single day? What if you had to work on those deficits every moment of your day?
By Sisyphus38

Name-calling is what happens when you desperately want to argue, but you are in fact inarticulate.
By Neil deGrasse Tyson


By Sean Leahy

The Greek crisis is being fought over $240 billion in Greek debt. Wondering if stocks will lose over $240 billion in value because of it.
By Steven Greenhouse

!!! "In Alabama, an adult in a 4-person household w/ income of $4,400 a year earns too much to qualify for Medicaid." [Citing the New York Times.]
By Steven Greenhouse

I like the term "douchebag" because it means "a thing that women were historically told they needed, but actually does more harm than good."
By Occubrarian Rachel

Protest is confrontation. Protest is disruption. Protest is the end of silence. It is not the solution, it creates space for the solution.
By DeRay Mckesson

Hours/week associate professors spend on service by race/gender:

By tressie mc

The testing industry makes more money annually than the NFL and the box office.
By Nikhil Goyal

Walkable cities called "a trend." Hardly: thriving cities have been walkable for centuries. Planning around cars is a blip in comparison.
By jennifer keesmaat

Don’t reactionaries ever notice how much they have in common with other reactionaries, even their purported enemies?
By David Roberts

Remember: when someone calls you a resource, call them overhead.
By Sean Cribbs

When I was in college a pack of smokes was $1.50. Everyone smoked. Now they’re $10. Almost no one smokes. Make bullets $1000.
By Mike Monteiro

It’s dangerous to assume that you are a better human than slaveholders. It misses the great power of structures, and furthers the myth of the individual.
By Ta-Nehisi Coates

The idea that the solution to gun violence is more guns is analogous to the medieval belief that you cure syphilis by giving it to a virgin.
By Neven Mrgan

Don't do this, Target:

By abi who?

Local grocery store has baby formula locked in glass cage, across from security desk. Think what it means that baby formula is a theft risk.
By Andy Barenberg

Shout out to the people outraged that the president said "nigger" once but don't care about the countless times he's been called it since ’08.
By Marc Lamont Hill

obama: racism is real. media: ... obama: racial tension in the US is a serious issue. media: ... obama: "nigger.” media: OOO U SAID A BAD WORD.
By blacklivesmatter

For every criminal killed in self defense, 2 people die from misfire, 34 die from gun homicide, and 78 die from gun-suicide. So the "logic" that more guns would prevent gun violence is not only crazy, it is demonstrably false.
By Jonathan Foley

The world spends $15 billion each year on ocean cruises while all it would take is $11 billion to provide clean drinking water for all.
By Injustice Quotes

I wish we could have expansion of train service, just one more train to Chicago a day from Union Depot.
By Avidor

“What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?” Rich Californians on water limits.
By Joseph Nathan Cohen

I think it is OK when women are really into furniture and property because it used to be our cousin.
By Aparna Nancherla

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” ― Ernest Hemingway
By David Roberts

And this is what happens when your education system dies:

By Charles Hoskinson

In conversations with peers in my school district I notice that they talk a good game about innovation and change but they really want known and sameness.
By Sisyphus38

On an average day, an offshore wind turbine produces the energy needed for production of 20 tonnes of steel, paying back the energy invested.
By Kees van der Leun

Tell me more about how hiring people you feel comfortable with, based on an interview, is going to change your school.
By Sisyphus38

Your afternoon reminder that masculinity is the most fragile thing in the world:

By c_d

It's crazy that once personal video recorders became ubiquitous UFOs stopped visiting Earth and cops started brutalizing people all the time.
By Stephen Judkins

America is founded on "the race card," the false superiority of whiteness. "Don't pull the race card" is code for "black folk be silent."
By DeRay Mckesson

Online is a horrible urban legend come to life. If you say a brand's name too many times, it appears in order to torment you.
By Matt Christman

If America's police for one day treated white kids like kids of color, they'd all lose their pensions. [Referring to the police overreaction at a Texas pool party.]
By Andrew J. Padilla

Bullet points and spacing can add clarity to your writing:

By Jason L. Sparks

Monthly reminder: They're not SPEAKING through a translator; you are LISTENING through a translator.
By Merlin Mann

Learning should help child discover unique talents, not standardize them.
By John Chase

A useful response to *so* many Twitter conversations:

By Tom Tomorrow

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Few Photos from Kansas City

I just spent a couple of days in Kansas City, Missouri, mostly in the Westport neighborhood and the nearby area around the art museums. As usual, I notice more things when I am away from home than I do when I'm in familiar settings.

First, a few images from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

Outside the main door, in the 20+-acre sculpture garden, are four giant sculptures by Philip Haas, who renders the works of Renaissance painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo into three dimensions.

They're about 15 feet tall.

The museum had a special exhibit of American folk art. It was heavy on 19th century work, and dominated by portraits, which aren't my favorite kind of folk art. But it did have this cool carved set of dentures, which were a dentist's trade sign from about 1890.

Moving on from the art museum, a few shots from the street:

First, this ineffective logo. Am I the only one who sees it as a reference to flames more than blood, and even to tortured souls burning in hell? Yes, I know it has the stereotypical "drop of liquid" shape, but the oval at the bottom reads as a head. I think it's meant to read as a head, in fact -- representing the "human element" that clients always seem to ask for when they're getting a new logo. But in this case, it looks like the human element is being tortured for all eternity.

I know that I am one of the few people who is this sensitive to kerning, but when I look at this sign I read it as the "SAY LES" Building, rather than the Sayles Building.

Finally, two shots from the another building:

First I noticed the metal "plants" and made a joke that this is what they should be growing out in California, given the drought.

But then I realized that the brick wall is topped with triangular metal protrusions that are clearly meant to keep people from resting on the wall. And then I thought, wow, that's just unfriendly. Who wants to sit on their skinny wall anyway?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Taking Credit Where Credit Is Due

Last fall, I shared a photo of a Menards billboard that lacked a hyphen. At some point during the winter, I noticed they had changed the billboard to add the hyphen, but it's taken me until now to get a photo of it:

Still not a great photo (taken -- by the non-driver -- from a car going 70 miles an hour down an interstate), but it's better than nothing: proof that either they're listening or someone finally thought of it on their own.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

New Reading from Doug Muder

A Facebook friend (no, not that friend) just shared an article called Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party. Highly recommended reading.

It's written by Doug Muder, an ex-mathematician from Nashua, New Hampshire. A white guy about my age who's been thinking and writing online for about ten years, though I've never heard of him.

So now I've got a whole bunch of new stuff to read, with titles like The Distress of the Privileged, Why I’m Not a Libertarian, Six True Things Politicians Can’t Say, “Religious Freedom” Means Christian Passive-Aggressive Domination, and Red Family, Blue Family.

So, sorry for the short post, but I have some reading to do. And see, sometimes it does pay off to hang around on Facebook.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Chris Monroe, Now Online

I've written about Minnesota cartoonist Chris Monroe many times, but I've never been able to link to her work online. That has finally changed: Her home-town newspaper, the Duluth News Tribune, has recently begun posting her weekly comic "Violet Days" on their website.

Here's one from the past few weeks:

The whole archive is here and can be checked weekly for the latest with much larger images than I have shown here. Finally!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Disliker of Your Likes Is Not Your Friend

If you use Facebook, you may know that it's fond of telling you when your friends "like" some random post or page. None of asks to be shown this stuff -- in fact, I've never found a person who wants their likes to be shown to their friends. If I want my friends to see something, I share it -- I don't want any odd time I click "like" to show up in the feeds of old friends, casual acquaintances, or people I met through work.

Would you? Why does Facebook do this, since it's pretty obvious it's not something users asked for? What does Facebook get out of  it?

Here's one of the things this "feature" showed me yesterday, as liked by a high school acquaintance, whose name I have blurred at the top:

This is one of the more reprehensible things I've seen personally on Facebook (not including things that were drawing general outrage from some part of the media or the interweb).

The original graphic isn't the problem -- it's the ALL CAPS comment from Gidon Yoel Eilat, who not only can't spell "stinking," but also wishes the president dead at her feet (implying she had something to do with his death).

I dared to read through the comments, hoping that some significant number of people would condemn this violent hatred, but I was disappointed in that hope. One person did dare to go against the stream of invective, and was roundly abused for it. A few commented positively on the idea of Obama quitting, and some called for him to be brought to trial, but most were violent, including several photos of nooses.

And someone I used to know liked this. A woman who from her Facebook posts considers herself quite a Christian, I would note. It's almost always God or grandchildren with her. I'm sure she doesn't want others to see that she liked this, but now I have to unfriend her or at least mute her or something.

Would I be better off not knowing she thinks this? Maybe not. Maybe I should thank Facebook for letting me know this. But it makes me sad.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Thinks Go Better with Cook

I recently spied a new product in a grab-and-go cooler:

A new beverage targeted to cooks? What will they think of next?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Burning Piggies

A recent Star Tribune business story told of how a local company had been acquiring other companies that specialize in animal-related products, and illustrated it with this photo:

I looked at that photo for way too much time, and admit I had to read the caption to really understand what it showed. That is a litter of gray piglets, and a person is holding some type of high tech scanner (maybe infrared?) that reveals something about the animals.

But what it looks like is a burning fire inside the device, right? And the gray color of the device blends into the gray hair of the animals, making it all the more confusing.

The caption reads:

Animal Health International was purchased by Patterson Companies last week for $1.1 billion in cash. Animal Health supplies animal health, food and software products and services to farmers and ranchers.
Topping off the oddity of the image, the photo is credited to istockphoto. What?! There are stock photos of piglet scanners?

I suspect that the credit is an error, and that the photo was actually supplied by the company. Searching istockphoto for the words "piglet" and "lying" didn't turn up this photo. (There are 52 pages of results for just the word "piglet," which I didn't feel up to perusing, so it's possible I missed it by adding "lying" to the search parameters, though that did result in 181 images.)

So, all in all, pretty weird, Star Tribune

Monday, June 22, 2015

The DNA of Europe

As a young reader, I loved Rosemary Sutcliff's historical novels for kids, which were mostly set in the British Isles between 3,000 B.C. and 1,000 A.D. From these stories, I got a sense of the ongoing waves of migration (or invasion) that happened there, leading to present-day Britain.

Often in the Bronze Age stories, there would be "hill people" or "little dark-haired people" who lived nearby the main characters. They were never explained, but clearly they had been there first.

News of some recent DNA research brought it all back to me. Scientists analyzed skeletons from a range of sites across Europe and found that three particular genetic groups dominate the DNA and can be dated:

[From about 45,000 years ago] until about 9,000 years ago, Europe was home to a genetically distinct population of hunter-gatherers, the researchers found. Then, 9,000 to 7,000 years ago, the genetic profiles of the inhabitants in some parts of Europe abruptly changed, acquiring DNA from Near Eastern populations.

Archaeologists have long known that farming practices spread into Europe at the time from Turkey. But the new evidence shows that it wasn’t just the ideas that spread — the farmers did, too.

The hunter-gatherers didn’t disappear, however. They managed to survive in pockets across Europe between the farming communities.

“It’s an amazing cultural process,” said David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School who led the university’s team. “You have groups which are as genetically distinct as Europeans and East Asians. And they’re living side by side for thousands of years.”

From 7,000 to 5,000 years ago, however, hunter-gatherer DNA began turning up in the genes of European farmers. “There’s a breakdown of these cultural barriers, and they mix,” Dr. Reich said.

About 4,500 years ago, the final piece of Europe’s genetic puzzle fell into place. A new infusion of DNA arrived — one that is still very common in living Europeans, especially in central and northern Europe.

The closest match to this new DNA, both teams of scientists found, comes from skeletons found in Yamnaya graves in western Russia and Ukraine.
So Sutcliff's hill people were those original hunger gatherers. The Celts were most likely descended from the Middle Eastern farmers. And her Bronze Age redheads were late-arriving Yamnaya descendents.

The new DNA evidence sheds some light on scholarly discussions about the spread of Indo-European languages as well. The DNA evidence shows the Yamnaya went east into Siberia as well as west in Europe:
For decades, linguists have debated how Indo-European got to Europe. Some favor the idea that the original farmers brought Indo-European into Europe from Turkey. Others think the language came from the Russian steppes thousands of years later.

The new genetic results won’t settle the debate, said Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary biologist at Copenhagen University who led the Danish team. But he did say the results were consistent with the idea that the Yamnaya brought Indo-European from the steppes to Europe.

The eastward expansion of Yamnaya, evident in the genetic findings, also supports the theory, Dr. Willerslev said. Linguists have long puzzled over an Indo-European language once spoken in western China called Tocharian. It is known only from 1,200-year-old manuscripts discovered in ancient desert towns. It is possible that Tocharian was a vestige of the eastern spread of the Yamnaya.

“We can just say that the expansion fits very well with the geographical spread of the Indo-European language,” said Dr. Willerslev.
Now if they can just fill me in on how much Neanderthal DNA is in these Yamnaya samples...

Sunday, June 21, 2015

When Negative Is Good

Here's my nomination for the best use of negative space on a poster, 2015:

I'm suspect the design wasn't actually printed with wood type on a letterpress, but it's a good representation of it nonetheless. And that use of the space in the M made my night.

Seen at Izzy's Ice Cream... the event is today.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Sticking It to the Comma-Loving Liberals

It's probably just my imagination (or confirmation bias), but it seems like every vehicle I see with bumper stickers that go out of their way to insult liberals (or progressives or anyone to the left of Bill O'Reilly) is an SUV or light truck.

Here's another one:

The sticker on the right says:

Silly liberal checks are for workers
No comma allowed in that reference to the old breakfast cereal catch phrase.

The faded one on the left reads:
Annoy a Liberal [line break] Work [space] Succeed [space] Be Happy
The black-and-white sticker at the top says "Danger Will Robinson." I'm not sure how that makes sense in this political context, but the lack of punctuation fits right in.