Category Archives: Links

Calling Bullshit →

Awesome idea for a course by Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West at the University of Washington in Seattle:

The world is awash in bullshit. Politicians are unconstrained by facts. Science is conducted by press release. So-called higher education often rewards bullshit over analytic thought. Startup culture has elevated bullshit to high art. Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullshit, then take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with second-order bullshit. The majority of administrative activity, whether in private business or the public sphere, often seems to be little more than a sophisticated exercise in the combinatorial reassembly of bullshit.

We’re sick of it. It’s time to do something, and as educators, one constructive thing we know how to do is to teach people. So, the aim of this course is to help students navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combatting it with effective analysis and argument.

I would definitely have taken a course that has Harry G. Frankfurt’s On Bullshit as its first reading. Let’s hope they get the university administration to approve it.

Unconventional academic writing

If you have a few minutes to spare (or need some cheering up after one of your papers has been rejected), here’s a nice read:

Guillaume Cabanac (2015) Unconventional academic writing.

Cabanac wrote this as an addendum to Hartley’s Academic writing and publishing: A practical handbook (2008), and as a present for Hartley’s 75th birthday. It contains lots of unusual – and very funny – titles, papers, and figures, all of which have been published in academic journals. My favorite may be this one-page paper on writer’s block:

Hat tip to Viola Voß for the pointer.

Open Reblock →

I just learned about Open Reblock from my students. Very cool project:


Reblocking is the process of physically transforming an informal settlement to provide an access path to all its structures. This project analyzes the spatial structure of informal city blocks, and uses an algorithm to suggest reblocking solutions that provide access to all structures within the block in a minimally disruptive way.


How an internet mapping glitch turned a random Kansas farm into a digital hell →

Interesting read about what can happen if you use a technology – IP addresses in this case – for something completely different than it was meant to:

For the last decade, Taylor and her renters have been visited by all kinds of mysterious trouble. They’ve been accused of being identity thieves, spammers, scammers and fraudsters. They’ve gotten visited by FBI agents, federal marshals, IRS collectors, ambulances searching for suicidal veterans, and police officers searching for runaway children. They’ve found people scrounging around in their barn. The renters have been doxxed, their names and addresses posted on the internet by vigilantes. Once, someone left a broken toilet in the driveway as a strange, indefinite threat.

The title is a little bit misleading – it’s not really a mapping glitch, but I can see how using IP-based geocoding in the title would turn most readers away without even reading the first sentence of the article.