December 1, 2019

Mansplaining

Rebecca Solnit

Mansplaining is a pejorative term meaning ‘(of a man) to comment on or explain something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or oversimplified manner.’ Lily Rothman, of ‘The Atlantic,’ defines it as “‘explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman.’

In its original use, mansplaining differed from other forms of condescension in that it is rooted in the assumption that a man is likely to be more knowledgeable than a woman. However, it has come to be used more broadly, often applied when a man takes a condescending tone in an explanation to anyone, regardless of the age or gender of the intended recipients: a ‘man ‘splaining’ can be delivered to any audience. Continue reading

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November 27, 2019

Gongshi

Taihu stone

Gongshi also known as ‘scholar’s rocks,’ are naturally occurring or shaped rocks which are traditionally appreciated by Chinese scholars. As rocks are broadly fractal (geology journals require a scale to be included in images of rocks), the small rocks can resemble the larger landscape.

Scholars’ rocks can be any color, and contrasting colors are not uncommon. The size of the stone can also be quite varied: scholars’ rocks can weigh either hundreds of pounds or less than one pound. The term also identifies stones which are placed in traditional Chinese gardens. Chinese scholar’s rocks influenced the development of Korean suseok (viewing stones) and Japanese suiseki. Continue reading

November 24, 2019

Cicada 3301

ciphertexts

Cicada 3301 is a nickname given to an organization that on three occasions has posted a set of puzzles to recruit codebreakers from the public. The first internet puzzle started on January 4, 2012 on 4chan and ran for approximately one month. A second round began one year later on January 4, 2013, and a third round following the confirmation of a fresh clue posted on Twitter on January 4, 2014.

Much speculation exists as to its function. It has been speculated that the puzzles are a recruitment tool for the NSA, CIA, MI6, a ‘Masonic conspiracy’ or a cyber mercenary group. Others have claimed Cicada 3301 is an alternate reality game. No company or individual has taken credit for it or attempted to monetize it, however. Continue reading

November 22, 2019

Luther Blissett

Q

Luther Blissett is a multiple-use name, an ‘open pop star’ informally adopted and shared by hundreds of artists and activists all over Europe and the Americas since 1994. The pseudonym first appeared in Bologna, Italy, in mid-1994, when a number of cultural activists began using it for staging a series of urban and media pranks and to experiment with new forms of authorship and identity.

From Bologna the multiple-use name spread to other European cities, such as Rome and London, as well as countries such as Germany, Spain, and Slovenia. Sporadic appearances of Luther Blissett have been also noted in Canada, the United States, Finland and Brazil. Continue reading

November 18, 2019

Plausible Deniability

Iran Contra by Martin Kozlowski

Plausible deniability is the ability of people (typically senior officials in a chain of command) to deny knowledge of or responsibility for any damnable actions committed by others in an organizational hierarchy because of a lack of evidence that can confirm their participation, even if they were personally involved in or at least willfully ignorant of the actions.

In the case that illegal or otherwise disreputable and unpopular activities become public, high-ranking officials may deny any awareness of such acts to insulate themselves and shift blame onto the agents who carried out the acts, as they are confident that their doubters will be unable to prove otherwise. Continue reading

November 12, 2019

Homo Economicus

Neuroeconomics

The term homo economicus, or economic man, is the sometimes satirical portrayal of humans as agents who are consistently rational, narrowly self-interested, and who pursue their subjectively-defined ends optimally.

In game theory, homo economicus is often modeled through the assumption of perfect rationality. It assumes that agents always act in a way that maximize utility as a consumer and profit as a producer, and are capable of arbitrarily complex deductions towards that end. They will always be capable of thinking through all possible outcomes and choosing that course of action which will result in the best possible result. Continue reading

November 7, 2019

Rationality

Homo economicus

Rationality is the quality or state of being rational, i.e. agreeable to reason. Rationality implies the conformity of a person’s beliefs with their reasons to believe and of their actions with their reasons for action. When a goal or problem requires making a decision, rationality factors in all information that is available (e.g. complete or incomplete knowledge).

It is meaningless to assert rationality without also specifying the background model assumptions describing how the problem is framed and formulated. Rationality is relative: in models that optimize for personal benefit, self-interested or even selfish behavior is rational; in models that favor benefiting the group over the individual, purely selfish behavior is deemed irrational. Continue reading

November 1, 2019

Izakaya

akachōchin

An izakaya [ee-zah-ka-yah] is a type of informal Japanese pub. They are casual places for after-work drinking. They have been compared to Irish pubs, tapas bars, and early American saloons and taverns.

The word ‘izakaya’ is a compound word consisting of ‘i’ (‘to stay’) and ‘sakaya’ (‘sake shop’), indicating that izakaya originated from sake shops that allowed customers to sit on the premises to drink. Izakaya are sometimes called ‘akachōchin’ (‘red lantern’) in daily conversation, as such paper lanterns are traditionally found in front of them. Continue reading

October 16, 2019

False Equivalence

False balance

False equivalence is a logical fallacy in which two completely opposing arguments appear to be logically equivalent when in fact they are not. This fallacy is categorized as a fallacy of inconsistency.

False equivalence is a common result when an anecdotal similarity is pointed out as equal, but the claim of equivalence doesn’t bear because the similarity is based on oversimplification or ignorance of additional factors. False equivalence arguments are often used in journalism and in politics, where the minor flaws of one candidate may be compared to major flaws of another. Continue reading

October 8, 2019

Hoist With His Own Petard

Petard

‘Hoist with his own petard’ is a phrase from a speech in William Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’ that has become proverbial.

The phrase’s meaning is literally that the bomb-maker (a “petard” is a small explosive device) is blown up (‘hoisted’ off the ground) by his own bomb, and indicates an ironic reversal, or poetic justice. Continue reading

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October 2, 2019

Rocket Mail

Astrophilately

Rocket mail is the delivery of mail by rocket or missile. The rocket lands by deploying an internal parachute upon arrival. It has been attempted by various organizations in many different countries, with varying levels of success. It has never become widely seen as being a viable option for delivering mail, due to the cost of the schemes and numerous failures.

The collection of philatelic material (‘stamps’) used for (and depicting) rocket mail is part of a specialist branch of aerophilately known as astrophilately. Continue reading

September 24, 2019

Firehose of Falsehood

Russian web brigades

The firehose of falsehood is a propaganda technique in which a large number of messages are broadcast rapidly, repetitively, and continuously over multiple channels (such as news and social media) without regard for truth or consistency.

Since 2014, when it was successfully used by Russia during its annexation of Crimea, this model has been adopted by other governments and political movements around the world. Continue reading