Sunday, February 27, 2011

Big Birds in Our Tree

Shortly after the prior post went live, the gigantic raptor below came by and landed on the cable right outside our living room window. (If these things mean anything to you: the images were slightly cropped from 135mm and 165mm focal lengths on an APS-C sensor.) Unfortunately the light was much less favorable and the bird did not stick around very long, so the photos are not so good, but I thought they were worth posting anyway!

We advised the cat not to attempt to eat this bird as she might find the tables turned.

Birds in Our Tree

The tree in front of our living room window gets a fair number of birds, particularly now that we have a bird feeder out there.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What Causes This?

What causes this weird striped sidewalk drying?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

On Twitter Follow Spam

It seems that there is a trend of advertising one's crappy service by following people on Twitter. I do a lot of "block and report for spam" on these people; lately, it seems that the strong majority of my new followers are spammers.

Since I opened my Twitter account about a year ago, I've received 243 notices of new followers, yet I have 104 followers. Now obviously there are some people who've simply unfollowed me, but I do a lot of spammer blocking, and I'm confident the vast majority of the 139 no-longer-followers are spammers. Those numbers suggest that spam follows are potentially 57% of all follows; my guess is that the true number is certainly over half.

I don't see an easy way to see a log of my blocks and/or a log of new followers, but I'd be curious to see what the trend over time is.

Anyway, I encourage you to adopt a similar policy of blocking and reporting new followers that have no discernable reason to be interested in you (unless they are individuals with no apparent agenda).

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Old-School Red Line Map

Spotted this seriously old-school Red Line map in a subway car the other day. Note the new stations written in by hand. This map predates the 1980 extension to Braintree (upper right).

Thursday, February 3, 2011

On How to Overcome Difficulty (and Praising Children Right)

I'm uncomfortable with the gendered framing of this Psychology Today piece, but the core argument is one that I've seen before and find quite compelling: that if you praise children in ways emphasizing that intellectual skills can be developed through effort, they become better problem solvers.
Bright girls were much quicker [than boys] to doubt their ability, to lose confidence, and to become less effective learners as a result.

Researchers have uncovered the reason for this difference in how difficulty is interpreted, and it is simply this: more often than not, bright girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.

How do girls and boys develop these different views? ... Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their "goodness." ... This kind of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness, and goodness are qualities you either have or you don't. ... Boys are given a lot more feedback that emphasizes effort (e.g., ... "If you would just try a little harder you could get it right.") The net result: when learning something new is truly difficult, girls take it as sign that they aren't "good" and "smart", and boys take it as a sign to pay attention and try harder.