Last bank holiday weekend of the year

This summer I went on and on about how unbearable the weather was. The scorching sun, the drought, and above all, the lack of air-conditioning in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Now looking out the window at the all-too-familiar rain and gloom, I feel as if it was all a dream.

Anyway, while staying dry and cozy in the house the whole day today, I have been watching a few YouTube clips I had bookmarked for later, including, but not limited to, Yuval Noah Harari’s interview with Al Jazeera (August 2018), Gina Neff’s OII London Lecture “Does AI Have Gender?”, and Zeynep Tufekci’s radio appearance “Why Online Politics Gets So Extreme So Fast?”. All insightful and also all interconnected (although this was not intended on my part). This post is, nevertheless, to record one particular remark by Harari that I found amusing. From 11:59 into the video above:

My personal impression is that all these science-fiction movies about robots becoming conscious and then starting to kill people and things like that – these are not about humans being afraid of intelligent robots. Actually these movies are about men being afraid of intelligent women because if you look carefully you will see that in almost all cases the scientist who develops the robot is a man and the robot is female, like in Westworld or in Ex Machina, and these movies are actually about feminism – about this male fear that “Hey, we’ve created this thing and now it’s becoming more intelligent and more powerful than us”.

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As long as there is wi-fi [3]

Rough translation: This is the [traditional Japanese Qinghai wave] pattern on my hubby’s handkerchief, which my son saw and said, “Wow, full of wi-fi!” Children seem to see things differently.

S: Perhaps this is evidence that there was wi-fi in those days.

My authentic pie

I wrapped up 2017 with baking. Creating something in the kitchen is not my strong suit, but with an unparalleled sweet tooth, I did a little bit of baking when I finally moved out of the campus halls of residence and had my own kitchen in 2009. It has been a while since that phase.

At that time I discovered many grownup-sounding desserts (e.g. green tea muffins, prune brownies, and a Guinness cake with Bailey’s cream), but in the end, the ultimate fail-proof recipe was for a tarte aux pommes. And that’s what I picked this time around.

While waiting for it to be ready, I suddenly started to think about a talk I attended on 14 December: Algorithmic Authenticity by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. It was a fascinating talk from beginning to end, but the particular bit that came back to me was her comment on how we as a society are obsessed with the currency of being authentic and believe/claim that we know when we see something that is not. What is interesting is that given this combination there now is a formula for appearing authentic. To paraphrase her words, the formula is to present a slightly less than best possible version. 😀

I thought it was spot-on. Her discussion was focused on the 2016 US presidential election, but the phenomenon is certainly not limited to it. Think about all those “no-makeup makeup” tutorials on YouTube, for example!

Against this backdrop, here is my authentic pie just before going into the oven.

2 apples + 1 egg yolk + 100g cream + 100g sugar.

190 degrees, 30 minutes.

Paying forward happiness

Let me start off my twelfth year of blogging on an indisputably positive note. In this age of misinformation and disinformation, I still feel that I am learning a lot on the internet. I now boil eggs perfectly every time thanks to a tip that I picked up on Twitter, for example. I also love hearing about little things that make people happy. Sound of Music style. There are numerous subreddits on that exact topic. There is also a Tumblr account called Things We Like, which used to have regular posts including one of my own a couple of years ago. One happiness hack that I will always remember was from a random stranger on Twitter: brighten your phone screen up a couple of notches in case you need an immediate mood booster. Yes, I have tried, and yes, it works.

Today I have discovered one such hack myself so I am sharing here – as a way of paying forward. WD-40 all door handles around your house. You will feel like your whole life is running swimmingly.

When I need something more powerful than Google

There was this strongman character who appeared across many entertainment shows in the early 90s in Korea. Last Saturday morning, for some trivial reasons, I ended up searching for a video clip of his performance, preferably where he would bite off the side of a beer can with his bare teeth. That was one of his signature gigs. I never knew his name, but I remembered that he had a very prominent mole in the centre of his forehead.

However, my extensive search, both in Korean and English, yielded nothing useful. It was a big blow on my confidence in my information skills! So I needed something more powerful than Google or Naver. I turned to the family chatroom. Literally within a minute, all siblings (except one who wasn’t online at that moment) fired back his name, his recent activities (including his volunteer work in the Sewol rescue operation), and suggestions on how I should have gone about my search.

You thought I had an elephant’s memory? That’s because you haven’t met my family. And this chatroom is like an external brain from which I am only one tap away. ❤

Not a cat person, but …

… darn, I had to reblog this. GOM Player, South Korea’s home-grown and most popular media player, now offers a ‘Cat Mode’. If you select this mode, all standard shortcut keys will be disabled, so that you will be able to watch a movie without interruption even with your cat sitting on your keyboard.

(Cat Mode on, as indicated by the paw symbol)

Since we are on the topic, let me also share another collection of mine that I put together a while ago. (There are quite a few on this blog alone, such as this, this, this, and this.)

The Cute Cat theory (Ethan Zuckerman, 2008)

Towards a theory of internet cats (D. E. Wittkower, MiT6, 2009)

Srsly phenomenal: An investigation into the appeal of lolcats (Kate Miltner, unpublished master’s dissertation, LSE, 2012)

RT @jeanburgess The internet is made *of* cats, and *for* porn. Get the facts right @Hermida #science #mit8 (3 May 2013)

There have also been games developed where you can be a cat, such as Catlateral Damage (crossposted 12 January 2014) and HK.

Big cats like boxes too! (crossposted 9 April 2015)

Cats and academia: A short history (Glen Wright, Times Higher Education, 18 December 2015)

Downing Street cats: All the essential information about the most important Westminster residents (Robert Midgley, Telegraph, 3 January 2017)

A softer side of government: How Larry the cat became a purr-fect political companion on Downing Street (Lauren Scott, CBC News, 22 January 2017)

South Korean president’s rescue pets are so popular they have their own fan art (Yi Shu Ng, Mashable, 15 May 2017)

나는 정치하는 고양이로소이다 (Hankyoreh, 14 August 2017)

Typing away [2]

I have bought a bluetooth keyboard for my mini tablet. I was very reluctant to do so because I felt that would just turn the device into another laptop, slightly smaller and lighter. What would be the point of having a tablet then? I kept saying.

Having said that, I am sure this will date me, but I am definitely more a keyboard person than a touchscreen person. Were you here in 2007? Do you remember the fuss that I made about searching for a right keyboard for my PDA(!) back then? Also, as I boasted before, I type effortlessly. So, why shouldn’t I make it suit me better? My resistance didn’t make much sense, come to think of it.

Whenever I see people (including myself) try to improve a piece of technology by fashioning it with accessories and software, I end up remembering this line and chuckle.

The typewriter through the eyes of an 8yr old: “A computer that prints while you type and you don’t have to plug in.” (cited in Martin Bryant, The Next Web, 13 October 2011)

Who knows – typewriters could strike back big time. I, for one, never imagined I would see Pokémon being relevant again (see also Peterson, 2003: 11-16).

Ajumma FTW

Back from a DH workshop by CHASE colleagues. The programme was great. More importantly, when we were doing an exercise on ‘crossmedia search’ scenarios, my little idea earned my team the creativity award (i.e. not a real award but an invisible one that the instructor just made up). It was about putting in tactile information on a fabric and getting corresponding laundry instructions in return. Ajumma for the win. 😉

Watching digital paint dry

It looks like today is a data crunching day. Even ‘big data‘ at that. So, [co-conspirator] Fabio and I were joking during the seemingly endless wait that staring the progress bar is the digital equivalent to watching paint dry.

Then it suddenly came back to me that a few years ago there was a following of people watching cheese mature in real time. Yup, call me an Internet historian.