Romain Laurent GIFs

Nor­mal­ly when I think of GIFs it is about fun­ny clips of peo­ple look­ing amazed or of cor­gis look­ing cute. But Romain Laurent’s GIFs, or loop­ing por­traits as he calls them, are minia­ture art­works, many of which are slight­ly dis­con­cert­ing. I’ve cho­sen the eeri­est one I could find, although there are plen­ty of con­tendors here on his tum­blr. He can also be found at his web­site and on insta­gram — plen­ty of, well I would have said nor­mal pho­tos but they are decid­ed­ly not, lets stick to sta­t­ic pho­tos

looped picture titled "An inner ghost"

We Wear Whiskers on Wednesdays

Research on in-groups in rats casts a rather chill­ing light on empa­thy towards fam­i­ly and friends. Thank­ful­ly, this is only at the behav­iour in rats stage of study­ing but I wouldn’t be sur­prised to read a book in the next decade which elab­o­rates on how this area (prob­a­bly pub­lished by Pen­guin Press).

“Expo­sure to and inter­ac­tion with dif­fer­ent types of indi­vid­u­als
moti­vates them to act well toward oth­ers that may or may not look like
them,” adds Mason. “I think these results have a lot to say about human
soci­ety.”

Unapolo­getic for the Mean Girls quote for the title though; couldn’t resist.

Colour of 2014

Pan­tone say that the colour of 2014 is Radi­ant Orchid. It’s maybe feel­ing a bit win­tery for it at the moment but I expect I’ll warm up to it, just like with last year’s Emer­ald. I still think Emer­ald is not the name I’d choose as emer­alds them­selves always seemed much dark­er to me; Radi­ant Orchid is much more accu­rate­ly named and it is such an evoca­tive name: rare, exot­ic, and full of light.

Pantone Radiant Orchid
Radi­ant Orchid (Pan­tone 2060)

Part­ly Pan­tone are sell­ing an idea more than the colour — you only need to go look at their Pin­ter­est board to see that the focus is not so much on the shade or tone, but on a cer­tain feel. Lux­u­ry, cel­e­bra­tion, the unre­al, hyper­sat­u­ra­tion.
It’s quite inter­est­ing if your inter­net con­nec­tion isn’t too fast, as Pin­ter­est then loads the pins as sol­id colour blocks (I assume based on the most com­mon colour in the image) and you can real­ly see the vari­ety of colours, from pale laven­der through to hot magen­ta, that are rep­re­sent­ed in the images. On the oth­er hand, they’ve done a fan­tas­tic job of focus­ing on images where the back­ground colours are most­ly very neu­tral so there are no com­peti­tors against the pur­ples and pinks, or if not neu­tral then green which sets of the pur­ple and works well with the orchid idea.

Colour stan­dards spec­i­fied here, in case you want to to add a drop of this shade to your life.

Manuscripts Online

Medieval man­u­scripts that you can view on a com­put­er screen any­where in the world — some­thing about this is just per­fect: that they have made it this far, that we have access to so much data, that one sto­ry has made it all this way and suc­ceed­ed in get­ting to an unbe­liev­able audi­ence. And as Peter at the ever fab­u­lous BookRi­ot points out: even if you can’t read them, they still look beau­ti­ful. It’s espe­cial­ly true in the case of Beowulf, which is hard to read, in a dead lan­guage, and has only sur­vived this long by the very slimmest of chances. I can only imag­ine what sto­ries and poems have been lost through the cen­turies.

3D Replication

This is an obvi­ous but stun­ning use of new tech­nol­o­gy — 3D print­ing the tex­tures of famous paint­ings. It’s some­thing that prints nev­er real­ly cap­ture and what has helped to make orig­i­nal paint­ings gen­uine­ly worth so much more (nev­er mind the issue of the oth­er rea­sons peo­ple pay so much for them). As Charley’s arti­cle points out, there will be no prob­lems with iden­ti­fy­ing the orig­i­nals due to the com­plex­i­ty of match­ing the exact com­po­si­tion of the oil paints and pig­ment ori­gins. But this could be a love­ly leap for­ward for legit­i­mate copies of famous paint­ings: imag­ine hav­ing a 3D repli­ca of a Mon­et in your lounge. And of course, there is a whole world of pos­si­bil­i­ties out there for aspir­ing artists — imag­ine doing mod­ern restyles on top of 3D copies of the tex­ture of a renais­sance paint­ing?

Goodreads Recommendations (and why they don’t work)

The
goodreads rec­om­men­da­tion func­tion seems like a real­ly good idea but I
haven’t yet had good rec­om­men­da­tions from it. I sup­pose this is part­ly
based on what you think a rec­om­men­da­tion should do — should it find you
books you have nev­er heard of before, go in a new direc­tion to
unex­pect­ed next reads, lead you to the next major famous book that would
be the obvi­ous choice after this one? And how niche should the
rec­om­men­da­tion be? I find that after read­ing a fan­ta­sy nov­el I tend to
get a lot of quite niche fan­ta­sy books rec­om­mend­ed and I won­der if this
is because the fan­ta­sy fans on goodreads are very keen and tend to shop
inside their favourite genre — and if you aren’t read­ing famous
main­stream fan­ta­sy the algo­rithms send you down a nar­row rab­bit­hole? 
But
your rec­om­men­da­tions can only be as good as your data and here is a big
prob­lem. Goodreads can store what you rat­ed a book, what you tagged it
with and what genre it is (I’m intrigued to know how much meta-data they
get now that they aren’t linked to Ama­zon any­more). What they let you
enter is rel­a­tive­ly lim­it­ed though and in some strange ways. You can
enter how many times you have read a book but can only put the dates for
the first time you read it — so if you love re-read­ing as much as I do
this bare­ly gets rep­re­sent­ed as a count of times read doesn’t tell you
if that is in the last year or over the last ten years (and it
frus­trat­ing­ly means a book only counts once in your “read” meter rather
than in each year you read it). Rat­ing out of five stars also annoys me:
it just isn’t enough vari­a­tion, espe­cial­ly as peo­ple tend to steer away
from the out­er ranges. Why not have ten star rat­ings — and then you can
sep­a­rate the “ok-but-not-great” from the “ok-and-would-rec­om­mend-to-friends”
lev­el books. Of course, it looks less appeal­ing on the site but you
could resolve that by com­press­ing it to five stars on the page for the
book by round­ing up from all the more fid­dly scores giv­en by read­ers. 
How­ev­er,
the worst prob­lem is that the data doesn’t tell you very much. I rat­ed a
Pratch­ett book five stars (of course) and so goodreads assumes I want
lots of rec­om­men­da­tions for com­e­dy fan­ta­sy nov­els: I don’t. Most­ly I
find them bor­ing and unfun­ny. I rat­ed the Pratch­ett this high­ly because
of the indi­vid­ual author not because of the genre, and because I enjoy
com­e­dy that is equal oppor­tu­ni­ties, wit­ty, and not the main dri­ve for
the book. I can’t tell goodreads this; I could cer­tain­ly add these tags
but unless every­one else is, it won’t help. More impor­tant­ly, I can’t
tell it what instant­ly puts me off a book and I have to just fil­ter
these from my rec­om­men­da­tions one by one until it gets the pic­ture.
It
still feels like this has a long way to go before it is real­ly use­ful
rather than just inter­est­ing. For now, it isn’t up to the stan­dard of
rec­om­men­da­tions from peo­ple — old fash­ioned but still effec­tive,
espe­cial­ly when they know you.

Best Twitter Clients

I’ve been look­ing around for a decent twit­ter client and in the end decid­ed to go with their own one just for the sim­plic­i­ty of reli­able ser­vice, full fea­tures and that it is like­ly to keep going for a good long while. It is frus­trat­ing though that they don’t let oth­er devel­op­ers use all their fea­tures but that they won’t push the devel­op­ment of their own brand apps fur­ther. Obvi­ous­ly, it’s good busi­ness sense but it is frus­trat­ing as the user — though on the upside, at least the whole thing is free! It’s easy to for­get, with so many things being free, that if you aren’t pay­ing you can’t expect quite the same lev­el of ser­vice: although, all those free users do make them a fair amount of mon­ey.

Here are some of the best rec­om­men­da­tion sites I found. Hope­ful­ly I won’t need to come back to them any time soon but just in case, best to have them writ­ten down:
Desk­top Twit­ter Clients
Android Twit­ter Apps
iPhone Twit­ter Apps

Gorgeous stationary: Muji notebook

A perfect notebook needs to both look great and be effortless to use.

I love my Muji A5 thread­bind­ing note­book — so much so that it is being used for my per­son­al jour­nal. And, best of all, it is not expen­sive at all at only £2.95. It real­ly is just a note­book: no envel­op at the back, no pen loop, not even a page mark­er. But if you only want a sim­ple note­book then this one is ide­al.

Closed notebook, with plain black cover and black enpapers just visible.     Open notebook, plain pages lightly lined and no margin.

  It has round­ed cor­ners, which looks good and is prac­ti­cal as they help it sur­vive being bashed around in a hand­bag much bet­ter. The spine is fab­ric bound so again it is more resilient. It isn’t a hard­back cov­er; per­son­al­ly I like this as it is lighter but it means you would find it hard­er to use it to write on your lap. It opens flat though with­out a large gut­ter in the mid­dle — I should think this would make it ide­al for left hand­ed writ­ers.

This muji notebook in use as my journal and looking rather neat.It has very nar­row ruled lines, which I like as it tends to make my hand­writ­ing look nicer on the page; hav­ing plen­ty of space for it encour­ages scruffy loops and lets you notice the irreg­u­lar­i­ty of it all the more. And there are lit­tle dash­es at the top and bot­tom of each page mark­ing out reg­u­lar inter­vals, in case you want to rule in any ver­ti­cal lines and want them to be just so. The paper is smooth, creamy and has very lit­tle show through of ink.

Tak­ing a browse around the Muji store is very tempt­ing. Lots of nice, use­ful and inex­pen­sive items that are sim­ple with­out feel­ing cheap.

Open organiser and pencil, with letter ready to post, all on a worn wooden table. Links to Muji website.
Muji sta­tion­ary — go look! (pho­to from their web­site).

I am lik­ing the look of these note­books  as well in a nice match­ing set from Muji.
Five notebooks. Image links to Muji website.