Battle Of The Octopus


This territorial struggle between two octopuses (octopi, octopodes) is a thrill to watch. The tentacle free-for-all and color changing turmoil from the sea provides for an exciting couple of minutes. The ambushes an guerrilla style aggression exhibit the undeniable intelligence of our cephalopod friends.

A Poem So You’ll Know All Of Scrabbles Two-Letter Words

Happy National Scrabble Day! David Bukszpan, author of Is That a Word?, wrote this poem to help us remember all 101 105 two-letter words that you can use in Scrabble.

The most important lesson for aspiring Scrabble nerds
is to memorize the whole list of two-letter words.
There’s one hundred and one, just like the Dalmatians,
but instead of pooches they’re pronouns, prepositions, exclamations.
And rather than skinning these pups, à la Cruella de Vil,
you’ll play with them daily—it’s your opponents you’ll kill.
Some of these words are obvious, others uncanny
But master them all and you just might beat Granny.
AA, pronounced “ah-aah,” is cindery lava,
the word’s from Hawaii but you may find some in Java.
An AB is a muscle found on magazine covers,
an AD in the mag says Virginia’s For Lovers.
AE thing is one thing, the word’s oldish and Scottish;
AG means agriculture, the word’s academic and oddish.
AH expresses surprise, like “Ah, look at those!”
an AI is a sloth who’s just got three toes.
AL is not just Pacino, it’s an East Indian tree,
and AM is not just talk-radio, it’s a form of “to be.”
AN is an indefinite article, I just said it twice,
and AR is the letter that starts the word “rice.”
When you use an example, you can use the word AS,
and AT tells you where, such as “At Alcatraz.”
We make the sound AW when we see kittens sneeze,
or when lumberjacks insensitively AX stately trees.
AY one might say, to say “I agree.”
BA is the Ancient Egyptian idea of the soul, basically.
To BE is to exist, to have actuality;
a BI is a guy or girl with bisexuality.
BO is a pal, like “Meet my bo, Jackson.”
“BY the way,” one might say, “he’s looking for action.”
DE, from the French, means “of” as in “from;”
DO, like the deer, is the first tone you hum.
ED is education, it’s just shorter this way,
And EF is for F, like “What the ef word did you just play?”
EH…it’s like…I don’t know…like an expression of doubt?
The EL train (think el tren elevado) is a pain to wait for when it’s raining out.
EM refers to the letter; the same goes for EN.
ER is…hesitation; use ES to start “sen.” (A former Japanese currency.)
ET is a past tense of to eat; the letter EX marks the spot.
FA is also sung as part of the scale. (Some folks think it’s “far” but it’s not.)
The Hebrew letter FE (“fay”) was long ago used by Moses.
As GO is a word referring to the game, so its plural gos is.
“HA!” blurted Adam, earlier in the Bible, when HE saw Eve evolve from his rib,
“HI,” she replied, then “HM,” because she couldn’t ad lib.
“HO!” Adam said, easy—it can be another sound of surprise—
and Adam’s ID fought his ego. (The superego decides.)
IF, IN, IS and IT we pretty well know
But how about for sweetheart the endearing term JO?
Then there’s a couple kay words that can keep back a conniption,
the first one is KA: the spiritual self—like ba, it’s ancient Egyptian.
The other is KI—pronounced “chee”—is a deep concept, son,
referring to the Chinese vital life force—way before Obi Wan.
LA, a note to follow sol
LI, about five hundred yards
That, LO—attention!—will bring us up to MA, a mom, a female mom,
ME, a name a I call myself…
But in the song of course MI also a note meant.
Use “MM” to assent; and a MO is a moment.
The Greek letter MU, MY friend, should NA (not) be unknown to us,
At least compared to El Greco’s real name—NE Dominikos Theotokópulos.
NO, the Greek letter NU should likewise not be a shock,
Unlike the word coined by the German Baron Dr. Carl von Reichenbach,
who came up with OD, a hypothetical life force,
which he derived from the god Odin—who of course was Norse.
From that same part of the world, not far from the Highlands,
we get the word OE, a whirlwind off OF the Faroe Islands.
“OH,” you cry, “OI, my brain is starting to swell!”
But relax, my friend, take heart, you’re doing so well,
try saying an OM to help counter confusion,
for ON we go to OP, abstract art based on illusion.
OR think also of OS, another word that might be new to us,
it could refer to a bone, or an orifice of the uterus.
You might exclaim, “OW!” if like an OX,
you stub your big toe, wearing just sox.
“OY,” you might cry, “come help me, PA!”
(Which reminds me to warn you not to try to play “da.”)
PE, like fe, is another Hebrew letter,
tho Greek and math people prefer their PI better.
QI, Scrabble’s most popular word, is just ki spelled with a kue,
and like qat (or your cat) it doesn’t need U.
Back to the Von Trapps, let’s not forget the tone RE,
and don’t SH them yet—they have more to say:
there’s also SI and SO from the scale diatonic,
and don’t say TA, or thanks, to them yet, for their lesson harmonic
because we likewise have to make time for TI,
TO which the music teacher Sarah Ann Glover changed the tone si.
UH, UM…oh yeah, there’s UN,
Juste comme the French, it simply means one.
There’s UP and US, and UT—an old name for the first (and last) tone, do,
and WE (the funnest pronoun) and WO, which is woe.
With the Greek letter, XI, we’re near the end of our song.
The Viet coin, XU, was a cent to their dong.
Congrats: YA got all the words that I wanted to teach YE
And—YO! —I almost forgot: there’s ZA, which is pizza!
So now you know your Scrabblish AA, BO, QIS,
next time won’t you sing with MI?

The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary Fifth Edition has added some new two letter words since this poem was first published at The Daily Beast way back in 2003. I have created the following addition to modernize David’s poem.

Since time has passed, Scramble has changed its ways
and you will come to find out DA is a safe word to play.
GA is the white robe worn while performing martial arts.
TE sounds like TI, the seventh note if you’re smart.
PO is a chamber pot, a safe place to pee in.
And now that you know this, more Scrabble you should win.

This Is Your Brain On Drugs

A research group at Imperial College London have made what major break through in understanding LSD’s impact on the brain. The first modern brain scans of people high on the drug have given researchers an unprecedented insight into the neural basis for effects produced by LSD. The scientists measured blood flow, functional connections within and between brain networks, and brainwaves in the volunteers on and off the drug.

The brain scans revealed that trippers experienced images through information drawn from many parts of their brains, and not just the visual cortex at the back of the head that normally processes visual information. Under the drug, regions once segregated spoke to one another.

Further images showed that other brain regions that usually form a network became more separated in a change that accompanied users’ feelings of oneness with the world, a loss of personal identity called “ego dissolution”.

There is more about the findings in the Guardian article: LSD’s impact on the brain revealed in groundbreaking images. More images and detailed information can be found in the original paper.

See also: Benoit Paillé’s LSD Photos

Five Web Based Analytical Tools That Will Improve your Writing

Over the last couple of months I have stumbled across a slew of new writing tools. Below is a collection of ones I determined to be helpful or interesting.

Sharethrough Headline Analyzer: Helps you craft successful headlines that engage the brain, communicate an idea at the moment of impression while still enticing readers to click through to a full content experience. The analyzer will help you analyze and improve the quality of your headlines, optimizing for both impression and engagement. More here.

Expresso: A practical tool to analyze, edit and compare text styles. Enter your text into the web app, hit analyze, and you’ll get a breakdown of filler words, weak verbs, modals, clustered nouns, and more. The tool relies on metrics that are broken down into two groups: metrics for editing and general metrics. As the names suggest, the first group has useful tools for editing your texts and improving writing style while the second one contains other interesting metrics to explore.

Cleartext: A Mac text editor that only allows the 1,000 most common words in English. It is based on Randall Monroe’s Simple Writer, a web app that does the same thing. Don’t miss out on trying out the Trump Mode.

Proselint: This tool calls itself a linter for prose and is currently only available as a command line utility or a plugin for Sublime Text. Its focus is on detecting redundancy, jargon, clichés, sexism, misuse of symbols, malapropisms, oxymorons, hedging, apologizing, pretension, and more.

Hemingway App: This web app puts an emphasis concision and brevity and not general style. Its goal to help your reader will focus on your message, not your prose. There is also a recently released desktop app called Hemingway Editor 2 for Mac and Windows.

Hamburger Helper Wins April Fools

Yeah yeah yeah, I know, you think April Fools Day on the internet sucks. I get it, most attempts at authentic humor by major brands fall flat, are completely annoying, or even potentially harmful. And Paul Ford is right when he says, “As the number of users (of a service or product) increases, humor opportunities approach zero.” It’s true, laughter does not scale. And most attempts by major brands to appear to be authentically funny on funny day, just end up not being that funny.

However, that doesn’t mean all attempts aren’t funny, or at least enjoyable, even by the most jaded of internet denizens. Comedy is hard. Very hard. But if it’s good it doesn’t matter the size of the audience. This year, General Mill’s Hamburger Helper bucked the trend by dropping a surprisingly great mix on SoundCloud. I love this. Yo Glove, turn up!!

2016 SXSW Free Music Torrents & Radio

In what has become a sort of tradition around here, I am once again posting a link to the torrents that have all the MP3 files publicly posted on the SXSW Website that will be at the music showcase this year. This year’s torrents include 1,593 files totaling 10.33GB, making it the largest to-date.

SXSW 2016 Showcasing Artists Part 1, 1,006 files, 6.50GB
SXSW 2016 Showcasing Artists Part 2, 587 files, 3.82GB

Links to torrents for earlier years can be found on The (Unofficial) Home of SXSW Torrents website.

If you don’t want to have all these songs on your hard drive but want to have a listen, use this SXSW radio to give a random selection a listen.

Pinball Is A Game Of Skill, Not Chance

Pinball was illegal in New York City from 1940 till 1976. The above short explores the surprisingly troubled history of pinball in New York and why it was banned there for over 35 years. The ban was lifted when WWII ended and the state finally (and rightfully) determined that pinball is a game of skill and not a game of chance. The great Big Story explains:

In 1940, pinball machines were banned in New York City. Like most contraband, this simply pushed pinball underground. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, the “Salvage for Victory” campaign called on Americans to turn in scrap metal to bolster the war effort. As a result, then New York City mayor Fiorello LaGuardia went on a hunt for pinball machines. By February 1942, more than 3,000 machines has been confiscated, turning roughly 2,500 of them into one ton of metal for the war. Unfortunately for pinball enthusiasts, the ban in New York lasted for decades, outliving LaGuardia, who died in 1947.