Labs @ Medium. Avid reader, long time blogger.

Michelle McGhee and The Pudding have collaborated on an incredible piece of cultural data analysis about representation in crossword puzzles.

We sampled tens of thousands of clues across decades and publications from Saul Pwanson’s crossword corpus. Then, we manually labeled each person’s race and gender after researching them. For the purpose of this analysis, we classified people using US Census’s categories. We believe that the lines between races and genders are social constructs, and their precise delineations are moving targets without unanimous agreement. …

Kicks Condor answers the Uses This questions. I wrote about Uses This recently (and answered Daniel’s questions a decade ago), but Kicks Condor brings their unique vibe.

What would be your dream setup?
Cody: Envision a room full of millions of people holding one giant, hugely sprawling conversation. Such a thing has never been possible. I think if I could one day find myself in that room, even as a simulation, and it felt real — and I knew that it was just my sister and I having a conversation through these myriad expressions of us — it would be a dream come true.

Go read the whole thing.

Barack Obama, from an excerpt of A Promised Land. Emphasis mine.

I’m not yet ready to abandon the possibility of America — not just for the sake of future generations of Americans but for all of humankind. I’m convinced that the pandemic we’re currently living through is both a manifestation of and a mere interruption in the relentless march toward an interconnected world, one in which peoples and cultures can’t help but collide. In that world — of global supply chains, instantaneous capital transfers, social media, transnational terrorist networks, climate change, mass migration, and ever-increasing complexity — we will learn to live together, cooperate with one another, and recognize the dignity of others, or we will perish. And so the world watches America — the only great power in history made up of people from every corner of the planet, comprising every race and faith and cultural practice — to see if our experiment in democracy can work. To see if we can do what no other nation has ever done. …

The New Yorker interviews Nate Cohn about what happened with the polls this year. These two paragraphs are sticking with me, because the first positions polling at the very center of our democracy…and the second basically tells us we’re screwed.


If you can’t tell the story of an election at the end of it, then the democratic process has some serious problems. Because, in a democracy, politicians need to reflect the will of the electorate, and if you cannot do a good job of interpreting the will of the electorate at any given time, our politicians won’t either. And you end up in a position where the public may not be happy with what politicians try and do on their behalf. …

Kottke on holes. Jason blogs about a Reddit user’s poll re “How Many Holes Does a Given Object Have?”

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It’s interesting that many more people say that donuts have a hole than washers or rubber bands. I guess donut holes have better marketing? As for straws — reason tells me they only have one hole but I know in my heart they have two.

There is very little defensible internal logic to my gut reactions, but here we go… Straws have two holes. Donuts have one. Rubber bands do not have holes, nor do loops on a knot. Cups have one hole; bowls and spoons have none. The letter “O,” and, importantly, the number “0” each have one.

Dave Chappelle’s Wearing a Suit. mauludSADIQ dives into Chappelle’s SNL monlogue from this weekend. I’ve watched it three times now; and each time I’m finding something new in it.

I’m no expert but I’m of the belief that this monologue will be studied by comedians from now until eternity. There were so many layers, stories, punchlines, and enough shit to ruffle the feathers for the faint of heart — intelligent humor that makes the listener/viewer think — and it was sixteen minutes and twenty some odd seconds — a masterclass.

Patricia Lockwood on Nabokov, ostensibly to review a new volume of his uncollected interviews, essays, lectures and the like.

If Lolita is in many ways the most accessible of Nabokov’s novels, it is because it places the labyrinth outside, in the sunlight. After all, most people who read Lolita in a swoon of desire don’t want to fuck a child, they want to go on a road trip, and read Burma Shave billboards out loud from the passenger seat. It is a commonplace by now that Lolita is the greatest novel ever written not about love, but about advertising. … I am reminded of my father-in-law (no, not like that), who once insisted on staying at a hotel called the Free Breakfast Inn simply because of the promise implicit in its name. …

Human beings are inveterate planners. The brain’s capacity to construct hypotheticals — to imagine future scenarios and adjust behavior accordingly — is one of the defining traits of our species. But while our ability to anticipate and plan can be an asset, it can also act like a bug in our programming. Uncertainty — either a little or a lot, depending on the person — can hijack our planning machinery and weaponize it against us.

Markham Heid nails why today, in particular, feels so unsettling.

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In the past four years [Trump] has repeatedly desecrated the values, principles and practices that made America a haven for its own people and a beacon to the world.

The Economist: Why it has to be Biden, with that incredible cover image.

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When I was in first grade, all I wanted was to grow up and be an astronaut. This wasn’t some idle dream; I had done my research. I knew that to become an astronaut you had to (1) get good grades, (2) join the military, (3) learn how to fly fighter jets, and then, through some mysterious process, you get to become an astronaut and go to space.

As a six year old, I was ready.

As a seven year old, my teacher noticed me squinting at the chalkboard. She sent a note home, I got my eyes checked, was prescribed my first pair of glasses, and then my parents broke it to me: kids with glasses still need to work hard and get good grades, but they don’t get to fly fighter jets. …

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