This teacher had to tell her deaf students that people can hear farts. Their reaction was hilarious.

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Anna Trupiano is a first-grade teacher at a school that serves deaf, hard-of-hearing, and hearing students from birth through eighth grade.

In addition to teaching the usual subjects, Trupiano is charged with helping her students thrive in a society that doesn’t do enough to cater to the needs of the hard-of-hearing.

Recently, Trupiano had to teach her students about a rather personal topic: passing gas in public.

A six-year-old child farted so loud in class that some of their classmates began to laugh. The child was surprised by their reaction because they didn’t know farts make a sound. This created a wonderful and funny teaching moment for Trupiano.

Trupiano shared the conversation on Facebook.

Puzzle Montage Art by Tim Klein

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Iron Horse, by Tim Klein

Jigsaw puzzle companies tend to use the same cut patterns for multiple puzzles. This makes the pieces interchangeable, and I sometimes find that I can combine portions from two or more puzzles to make a surreal picture that the publisher never imagined. I take great pleasure in “discovering” such bizarre images lying latent, sometimes for decades, within the pieces of ordinary mass-produced puzzles.

The Simple Joy of “No Phones Allowed”

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A few nights ago I saw Jack White in concert. It was a wonderful night, and a big part of that was due to a new rule he has imposed on all his tour dates: no phones.

When you arrive, you have to put your phone into a neoprene pouch, supplied by a company called Yondr, which they lock and give back to you. If you want to use your phone during the show, you can go into the concourse and unlock it by touching it to one of several unlocking bases. The concert area itself remains screen-free.

The effect was immediately noticeable upon entering the concert bowl. Aside from the time-travel-like strangeness of seeing a crowd devoid of blue screens, there was a palpable sense of engagement, as though—and it sounds so strange to say it—everyone came just so they could be there.

The most-significant observation in this article, in my mind, was that even putting a 20-second delay to people using their phones – that is, having to walk out to the concourse to unlock their bags – was sufficient to dramatically remove the temptation for their use. That’s amazing, but unsurprising: Veritasium recently did a video about boredom and how the desire to avoid ever feeling bored (despite its scientifically-demonstrable benefits), coupled with the easy access of instant stimulation from our smart devices, leads us into the well-known check phone, replace, check again cycle (or else “zombie smartphoning”).

I’ve been trying to be better about paying less-attention to my phone, this year, and it’s gone well… except that (as David also observes in the linked article) I’ve become more acutely aware of the feeling of the conversational/interpersonal “void” created when somebody else chances a “quick check” of their phone under the table. I used to blame social media mostly for this – and I still think that it’s an issue, and it’s certainly true that my Facebook/Twitter/Reddit-heavier-using friends are the biggest culprits for getting lost in their devices – but I’ve come to see it as a bigger, more-human issue, coupled with the availability of the new technologies around us.

Similar to how we eat too much fat, and sugar, and meat… simply because it’s available, we crave the stimulation that we can easily get from the device in our pocket to such an extent that we’ve become unhealthy in our habits.

Push without notifications

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On the first day of Indie Web Camp Berlin, I led a session on going offline with service workers. This covered all the usual use-cases: pre-caching; custom offline pages; saving pages for offline reading.

But on the second day, Sebastiaan spent a fair bit of time investigating a more complex use of service workers with the Push API.

While I’m very unwilling to grant permission to be interrupted by intrusive notifications, I’d be more than willing to grant permission to allow a website to silently cache timely content in the background. It would be a more calm technology.

Then when I’m on a plane, or in the subway, or in any other situation without a network connection, I could still visit these websites and get content that’s fresh to me. It’s kind of like background sync in reverse.

Yes, yes, yes.The Push API’s got incredible potential for precaching, or even re-caching existing content. How about if you could always instantly open my web site, whether you were on or off-line, and know that you’d always be able to read the front page and most-recent articles. You should be able to opt-in to “hot” push notifications if that’s what you really want, but there should be no requirement to do so.

By the time you’re using the Push API for things like this, why not go a step further? How about PWA feed readers or email clients that use web-pushes to keep your Inbox full? What about social network clients that always load instantly with the latest content? Or even analytics packages to push your latest stats to your device? Or turn-based online games that push the latest game state, ready for you to make your next move (which can be cached offline and pushed back when online)?

There are so many potential uses for “quiet” pushing, and now I’m itching for an opportunity to have a play with them.

Drowning cow saved by ‘mermaid’ on 200-mile swim

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 Lindsey Cole is swimming part of the River Thames to raise awareness of single-use plastic

A drowning cow was rescued from a river by a passing “mermaid” on a 200-mile swim of the Thames.

Lindsey Cole splashed into the river in a wetsuit, tail and hat at Lechlade, Gloucestershire, on Friday. She is raising awareness of the environmental effects of single-use plastic.

As she passed through Oxfordshire on Sunday, she spotted the stricken cow.

Delightful. The “urban mermaid” Lindsey Cole has been swimming along the Thames as a mermaid in order to raise awareness of plastic pollution. She spotted what she thought was a big white plastic sack and swam on, indicating to her support boat to pick it up… but when they caught up they realised that it was a drowning cow! Some while later, they arranged for its successful rescue.

Hands on with neural-network toolkit LIME: Come now, you sourpuss. You’ve got some explaining to do

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How well does the algorithm perform? Setting it up to work in LIME can be a bit of a pain, depending on your environment. The examples on Tulio Ribeiro’s Github repo are in Python and have been optimised for Jupyter notebooks. I decided to get the code for a basic image analyser running in a Docker container, which involved much head-scratching and the installation of numerous Python libraries and packages along with a bunch of pre-trained models. As ever, the code needed a bit of massaging to get it to run in my environment, but once that was done, it worked well.

Below are three output images showing the explanation for the top three classifications of the red car above:

Thre sports cars, photo by Andy Cobley

In these images, the green area are positive for the image and the red areas negative. What’s interesting here (and this is just my explanation) is that the plus and minuses for convertible and sports car are quite different, although to our minds convertible and sports car are probably similar.

A fascinating look at how an neural-net powered AI picture classifier can be reverse-engineered to explain the features of the pictures it saw and how they influenced its decisions. The existence of tools that can perform this kind of work has important implications for the explicability of the output of automated decision-making systems, which becomes ever-more relevant as neural nets are used to drive cars, assess loan applications, and so on.

Remember all the funny examples of neural nets which could identify wolves fine so long as they had snowy backgrounds, because of bias in their training set? The same thing happens with real-world applications, too, resulting in AIs that take on the worst of the biases of the world around them, making them racist, sexist, etc. We need audibility so we can understand and retrain AIs.

Why the pencil is perfect

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I love to discover people who are hugely and deeply passionate about things that seem inconsequential to the rest of the world. Especially when they’re especially able to express that passion and how exciting their special-thing is, to them. This video (and to a lesser extent the others in the Small Thing Big Idea series) really embodies that; man, this woman really likes pencils.

The International Flag of Planet Earth

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Flag of Planet Earth

Inspirational, well thought-out proposal for a flag for unified, “for Earth” projects. The website is terrible, but the artwork’s great, and it’s always nice to see an artist focus on the idea of “uniting humanity” in spite of our politically-fractured world.

The CSS Working Group At TPAC: What’s New In CSS?

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Last week, I attended W3C TPAC as well as the CSS Working Group meeting there. Various changes were made to specifications, and discussions had which I feel are of interest to web designers and developers. In this article, I’ll explain a little bit about what happens at TPAC, and show some examples and demos of the things we discussed at TPAC for CSS in particular.

This article describes proposals for the future of CSS, some of which are really interesting. It includes mention of:

  • CSS scrollbars – defining the look and feel of scrollbars. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s not actually new: Internet Explorer 5.5 (and contemporaneous version of Opera) supported a proprietary CSS extension that did the same thing back in 2000!
  • Aspect ratio units – this long-needed feature would make it possible to e.g. state that a box is square (or 4:3, or whatever), which has huge value for CSS grid layouts: I’m excited by this one.
  • :where() – although I’ll be steering clear until they decide whether the related :matches() becomes :is(), I can see a million uses for this (and its widespread existence would dramatically reduce the amount that I feel the need to use a preprocessor!).

How Do You Move A Bookstore? With A Human Chain, Book By Book

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Human chain moving books

When October Books, a small radical bookshop in Southampton, England, was moving to a new location down the street, it faced a problem. How could it move its entire stock to the new spot, without spending a lot of money or closing down for long?

The shop came up with a clever solution: They put out a call for volunteers to act as a human conveyor belt.

Delightful application of volunteer effort.

Stranger Danger: Still the right message for children?

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Stranger Danger ad

Many parents remember the “Stranger Danger” message given to children during the 1970s and 80s. Government videos warned children not to talk to people they didn’t know. But a new message is being trialled in the UK, which its creators think is better at keeping children safe.

“I tried to get the [old] Stranger Danger message across to my son a few years ago and it backfired badly,” says Suzie Morgan, a primary school teacher who lives in Fareham, Hampshire.

He got frightened and confused, couldn’t sleep at night and was worried somebody was breaking into the house.

Like any parent she wanted to keep her child safe.

But she felt the Stranger Danger message she was teaching – which she herself had grown up with – was unhealthy for her six-year-old son, making him too afraid of the world.

“I didn’t know where else to go,” she says.

So she was hopeful when her son’s school piloted a new safety message. It’s called Clever Never Goes and was devised by the charity Action Against Abduction.

It aims to make children less afraid of the world, by giving them the confidence to make decisions about their own personal safety.

Morgan says it has given her son more freedom and independence.