Poetry: smartphone-style

This is a guest post written by Charlotte Kertrestel, do enjoy!

“I wandered lonely as a cloud”...“texting on my new iPhone 5”. Sound familiar? Ok, so perhaps not the second line. I’m sure when Wordsworth wrote the lines of ‘Daffodils’, he imagined his sister, Dorothy, roaming through green pastures and trickling streams, marvelling at the wonders of the natural world. But now it seems that while modern poets might be getting their inspiration from alternative sources, they are also recording their innermost thoughts not with traditional pen and ink that the likes of Coleridge and Oscar Wilde, but with their mobile phones.

Not long ago I witnessed a friend recounting a rather unfortunate date that she had experienced the previous week. To top it off, she told me, with a particularly cringing look on her face, he wrote her a heartfelt love poem. Or rather he WhatsApped the said lyrical masterpiece.

Once upon a time, when mobile phones were a new and exciting phenomenon, users developed what we all will be familiar with as ‘text speak’; a new language whereby all words from the English dictionary were contracted and dissected, with letters changed for numbers, and numbers for words. The aim of this wasn’t to increase the challenge of having to decipher a text message before you could make sense of what was being said, but was ultimately due to the limited number of characters that could be sent in one message. Back in the day, you could only write 160 characters to limit a message to one single text. After all, this was before the days of unlimited text packages, when it cost you at least 10p to tell your mum what you wanted for tea, or to warn your friends that you were running late. It simply wasn’t feasible to demonstrate your finest vocabulary from the English language when a simple ‘C U l8r’ would suffice.

I for one am a firm hater of text speak- or should I say ‘txt spk’?- mainly because I’m not always brilliant at breaking the undecipherable code that some text messages can become. But I also hate it because of the fact that I actually value real words. In fact, I’ll admit that I’ve even gone as far as dumping a boyfriend due to his inability to compose a fully-fledged text message using full words that feature in the Oxford dictionary. Heartless, I know.

But while I may prefer to read a text message or email which reads as fluidly as a novel, it would seem that others are willing to celebrate works written in text speak. Back in 2001, the Guardian newspaper launched a nation-wide poetry competition especially targeted at mobile phone users. The competition limited entrants to using only one text message within which they had to compose a poem in either plain or shorthand English. The winning poem, written by a Hetty Hughes, won the prize. Courtesy of the Guardian newspaper, the poem goes as follows:

txtin iz messin,
mi headn'me englis,
try2rite essays,
they all come out txtis.
gran not plsed w/letters shes getn,
swears i wrote better
b4 comin2uni.
&she's african

Texting has changed a lot since 2001, however. With the influx of mobile phone developments over the past ten years, the majority of users now benefit from having access to unlimited text messages though pay-monthly tariffs. Also, with all smartphones featuring a QWERTY keyboard, whether physical or touchscreen, there really is no excuse not to type text messages out in full, plain English. Because of this, it’s now easier than ever to use your mobile phone to do what you would otherwise use a computer, or even a pen and paper for: to write. Whether you are sitting on the bus when you suddenly get a wave of inspiration, or whether you’re lying awake at night, pining over a lost love, the mobile phone seems to be the modern instrument to record your masterpieces.

That said, there has been a recent drop in the popularity of mobile phone poetry. Perhaps when the 160 character limit was taken away, the challenge of producing a text-style poem deemed became pointless for mobile poets. Though that is not to say that writing poetry using your smartphone is entirely a dying trend; with today’s smartphones offering users a multitude of functions, from texting, emailing and messaging on social media platforms, it is probable that modern poets are still writing pieces on their phones, but just not in the traditional text message format. In fact, Twitter poems have become the new phenomenon for modern smartphone era. With a 140 character limit, many users are typing out their ideas and emotions in tweets on the social media site, presenting their poems to the world. This can surely only be a good thing: poetry has so often been considered an art for the professionals, or for those who hide away their words on scraps of paper in bottom drawers. With the help of smartphones, poetry has now become accessible to all budding writers, or interested readers, with a simply touch of a button. For an example of Twitter poems, check out @TwitterPoetry.

Smartphones have not only enabled the pubic to write and read poetry by amateurs, though. There are numerous apps available for download which enable poetry enthusiasts to read the famous, or not so famous, words of, say, Carol Anne Duffy, Rupert Brooke, or even Edgar Allan Poe. The Poetry Foundation has released an app for both iOS and Android devices, which gives readers access to thousands of poems. Whether you’re a Literature student studying Shakespeare, or just Joe Blogs who enjoys reading good poems, the free app can make poetry accessible, in more ways than one.

So next time you’re feeling creative, you don’t necessarily have to reach for a notepad. Browse, type, tweet; with smartphone technology, the message can be firmly put out there: poetry doesn’t have to be boring.
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Watch 24 hours of internet activity around the world in 8 seconds

The animated map, from an anonymous researcher, is beautiful, mesmerizing — and made using highly illegal means, according to Peter Weber. Behold, the internet. In about eight seconds, you can watch a whole day's worth of internet activity around the world, with the higher activity in reds and yellows and the wave shape showing where it's day and night.

The map was put together by an anonymous researcher in a self-styled "Internet Census 2012." Why isn't he or she taking credit for this remarkable feat of cyber-cartography? The data came from infecting 420,000 computers with automated, web-crawling botnets — and "hacking into 420,000 computers is highly illegal," says Adam Clark Estes at Vice.

What are we actually seeing, and how sketchy is its provenance? The researcher, using the 420,000 infected devices, tried to figure out how many of the world's 3.6 billion IPv4 (Internet Protocol version 4) addresses are active; roughly speaking, he got responses from 1.2 billion devices around the world. The map shows the average usage of each device each half hour.

The map isn't totally comprehensive: His botnet, called Carna (after "the Roman goddess for the protection of inner organs and health"), only infected Linux-based devices with some user name–password combination of "root," "admin," or nothing. Also, the world is slowly switching to IPv6, and Carna doesn't measure those devices — in fact, he says, "with a growing number of IPv6 hosts on the internet, 2012 may have been the last time a census like this was possible." At the same time, "this looks pretty accurate," HD Moore, who used ethical and legal means to conduct a similar survey of smaller scope but larger timeframe, tells Ars Technica.

That said, it's a snapshot of 2012, with a limited shelf life. "With cheap smartphones taking off in Africa and $20 tablets popping up in India, the world is becoming more connected by the minute," says Vice's Estes. "So in a few years' time that confetti-colored map of the world above will look less like a chart of privilege and more like an acid trip of progress."

As for the ethics of this census, let's call it "interesting, amoral, and illegal," says Infosecurity Magazine.
The [botnet] binaries he developed and deployed — it's difficult to call them malware since they had no mal-intent; but it's difficult not to call them malware since they were installed without invitation — were designed to do no harm, to run at the lowest possible priority, and included a watchdog to self-destruct if anything went wrong. He also included a readme file with "a contact email address to provide feedback for security researchers, ISPs and law enforcement who may notice the project." [Infosecurity]

And if we're being charitable, you could argue that he performed a public service by highlighting how poorly protected our computers, routers, and other internet-connected devices are. Here's a "crude physical analogy" for what the researcher did, says Michael Lee at ZDNet: By himself, he would have been like "a burglar who walks from house to house in a neighborhood, checking to see whether anyone has forgotten to put a lock on their door."

With an opportunistic attack, given enough "neighborhoods" and enough time, one could potentially gain an insight into how poorly protected people are. However, with the burglar being a single person, doing so would take them a prohibitively long time — unless, theoretically, they were able to recruit vulnerable households and send them to different neighborhoods to do the same.... The Carna botnet... highlighted just how many people left their metaphorical front doors unlocked by using default passwords and user logins. [ZDNet]

Still, if this researcher were caught in the U.S., he'd "likely be slapped with one violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act for every computer breached and face something like 50 consecutive life sentences for the sum total," says Vice's Estes. "(I'm being sightly facetious here but only slightly.)" So why take that risk? To see if it could be done, basically.

Building and running a gigantic botnet and then watching it as it scans nothing less than the whole internet at rates of billions of IPs per hour over and over again is really as much fun as it sounds like. I did not want to ask myself for the rest of my life how much fun it could have been or if the infrastructure I imagined in my head would have worked as expected. I saw the chance to really work on an internet scale, command hundred thousands of devices with a click of my mouse, portscan and map the whole internet in a way nobody had done before, basically have fun with computers and the internet in a way very few people ever will. I decided it would be worth my time. [Internet Census 2012]

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Yes, the Internet is making you a meaner person (so let's be nice!)

Wow, according to an article by Chris Gayomali, 80 percent of one survey's participants say we're all becoming jerks. I have to say, over the years I've seen the problem getting worse. Let's see what he found out...

Hello, Internet user! Have you witnessed anyone being mean on a website today? Chances are you have!

According to a new survey from corporate training advisers VitalSmarts, nearly 80 percent of 3,000 respondents believe that people are becoming increasingly rude on the Internet. What's more disturbing, though, is that those same folks doing the finger-wagging say they have "no qualms" about being big ol' jerkfaces themselves when they're hurling insults in comment sections or getting into shouting matches on Facebook.

Other sad-face statistics from the survey include:

* Two in five users have severed contact with a one-time pal due to a digital altercation
* One in five people try to avoid former friends IRL that they've had an online argument with

How do otherwise decent human beings with hearts and stuff suddenly transform into ALL-CAPS USING JERKS not-nice-people when they're behind a computer screen? One probable answer, says VitalSmarts co-chairman Joseph Grenny, is that a lack of peer pressure in the digital realm means people feel like they can get away with being rude. Here's what Grenny recommends doing if you want your pixelated approximation to reflect a kinder, gentler you (and really, who doesn't?):

He said three rules that could improve conversations online were to avoid monologues, replace lazy, judgmental words, and cut personal attacks particularly when emotions were high.

In other words, yeah, that 800-word knee-jerk manifesto you were going to leave on your pal's Facebook status probably isn't the best idea in the world. We can change this! The next time something you read online makes you angry (probably in the next two minutes?), close your eyes, take a deep breath, and step away from the keyboard (or just close the tab). There. That wasn't so bad, was it?

So, let's all take it upon ourselves to not be jerks on the Internet. It's the hot new thing going forward in 2013. We can do this, you guys.

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How to search like a spy: Google's secret hacks revealed

Try: "filetype:xls site:za confidential"

The National Security Agency in May of 2013 declassified a hefty 643-page research manual called Untangling the Web: A Guide to Internet Research that, at least at first, doesn't appear all that interesting. That is, except for one section on page 73: "Google Hacking."

"Say you're a cyberspy for the NSA and you want sensitive inside information on companies in South Africa," explains Kim Zetter at Wired. "What do you do?"

Well, you could type the following advanced search into Google — "filetype:xls site:za confidential" — to uncover a trove of seemingly private spreadsheets. How about an Excel file containing Russian passwords? Try: "filetype:xls site:ru login."

These are just two examples of the numerous private files that are inadvertently uploaded to the Internet, and can be accessed if you know the right Google search terms.






















Pretty neat, huh? Declassified information being what it is, though, some of the search tips can appear a little dated.

And even if keyboard espionage isn't really your thing, the document contains a number of practical tips anyone can use to become a better Googler:

* Adding a tilde (~) immediately before a term will search for its synonyms. For example: "Scary ~animals" will also search for "scary creatures," etc.

* Repeating a word will help you find more relevant hits. For example a search for "java coffee coffee coffee" will cut down on the results about the programming language.

* You can use Google wildcard (*) to replace a term in a query if you don't know exactly what you're searching for. For example: "Sacramento is the * of California."

Take a look if you're interested over here. (Via Wired)

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Why Facebook makes breaking up even worse

Don't underestimate the emotional pain of going from "In a Relationship" to "Single" says Emily Shire, oh man, is she right. Are you a deleter, a keeper, or a selective disposer? Either way, technology is messing with your personal relationships.

Before you gleefully change your status to "in a relationship" and post photos with your new love for all of Facebook to see, consider this: A new study suggests that photos, posts on Facebook, and other digital reminders of an ex-love may prolong the pain of a break-up. Corina Sas of Lancaster University in the United Kingdom and Steve Whitaker of University of California Santa Cruz have researched how having to "dispos[e] of digital possessions" — posts, blog entries, videos, photos, even songs — hinders people's ability to move on after a relationship.

The authors interviewed 24 people aged 19 to 34 about their digital-breakup habits and found that they fell into three categories: Deleters, who immediately erase all texts, untag all photos, and defriend their exes; keepers, who hold onto everything and continue to follow (let's be real... stalk) their exes on Facebook; selective disposers, who hang onto just a few special physical and digital possessions and are "more adaptive" (healthier). Unfortunately, only four of those interviewed fell into that last category.

The other two approaches come with their own emotional turmoil that is exacerbated by social media. For the deleters, their actions are often impulsive. How many of us have sat with our laptops open and a glass of Merlot and quickly de-friended an ex on Facebook or erased their texts? This is "beneficial on a short-term basis," say the authors. However, "deleters sometimes regret failing to save mementos symbolizing a chapter in their lives." Moreover, total deletion isn't even always an option on Facebook. As Nick Collins at The Telegraph writes "pictures and messages posted on social networks are not so easy to erase, especially if they have been posted online by someone else."

For the keepers, it's extra hard to say goodbye to an old boyfriend or girlfriend. One participant admitted: "I try to get his information through social networks in a quiet way." According to the authors, keepers' behavior "leads the romantic attachment to persist, which prolongs the grief process." Facebook, in particular, is "very problematic," Sas told Today. "The other person is just a click away. There's almost this continual contact which is very compelling." While we can cut people out of photographs, donate exes' sweaters to charity (or burn them), and even delete phone numbers, finding the most up-to-date info on old flames is just a matter of one tempting search on Facebook. Furthermore, since there is such an abundance of digital memories in 21st century relationships, Sas adds that locating and erasing them all is "very, very emotionally taxing."

So, what are the impulsive and weak-willed Facebook users to do? The authors suggest the creation of "Pandora's Box" software that "scours online profiles for any trace of a former loved one and stores them in one place." Then, people can later erase or keep whichever digital possessions they choose... when they're in a better state of mind.

"Deleting, defriending, and signing out of an account can be done quietly and with dignity," writes Daisy Buchanan at The Guardian. "And when you're newly single, preserving your dignity should be your top priority."
See also: cyberimmortality cyberspace cybersuicide cybersoul digital footprint digital estate management service

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Samsung's super-fast '5G' antenna: What you need to know

Gigabyte-per-second download speeds? Yes, please, says Chris Gayomali. If the ability to download every season of Game of Thrones in a few seconds is the kind of thing that blows your hair back, you're in luck. Samsung has reportedly been hard at work building a lightning-fast "5G" antenna that would make gigabytes-per-second file-transfers on your phone a legitimate possibility. Here's what you need to know about it:

What is 5G exactly?
Wireless networks like AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile rely on spectrum bands to transfer information through the air. The latest and fastest cellular standard in the U.S., 4G, operates in the upper 700 MHz spectrum.

Samsung says it's built an antenna that can transfer data at a rate of up to 1.056 Gbps using the 28 GHz spectrum band. Yes, that means over a gigabyte of data per second — "several hundred times faster" than current 4G networks, notes Mashable.

Translation: Web pages that boot up instantly. Or streaming movies in glorious HD without so much as a hiccup.

(N.B.: 5G as an official standard hasn't been established yet, but Samsung is presumably using it here to characterize whatever high-speed network comes after 4G.)

How does it work?
The technology relies on an array transceiver using 64 different antenna elements. According to Samsung, it's kind of like how "increased water flow requires a wider pipe." So far, the new antenna works for distances up to 2 kilometers, or a little over a mile, and could theoretically be implemented in antenna towers nationwide.

What would a new high-speed network entail?
Hopefully, a 5G network will require fewer ugly cell towers adorning city skylines :-)

Buildings, physical geography like hills and mountains, and even atmospheric disturbances like rain or snow can interfere with a network's signal. That's one of the many reasons why cell towers are built high up. But Samsung's breakthrough reportedly eliminates "atmospheric attenuation," or basically when radio signals get absorbed by rain and snow.

In addition, it's believed that the key to building faster networks — especially indoors — lies in putting a larger number of smaller stations close to where users live, Jens Zander, professor and dean at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, tells PC World.

So can I expect blazing-fast speeds on my phone?
Theoretically, yes. In actuality, well... we'll just have to see. Matt Peckham at TIME notes that just because the upper threshold for speed exists doesn't mean phone- and tablet-owners will be able to reach it:

The trouble's not that my 4G smart phone or tablet connection isn't fast enough (in theory) to instantly stream high quality videos and music — even a 3G connection's capable of competently handling services like Netflix or Spotify, after all — it's that these connections often live down to worst-case expectations because the towers are simply overcrowded.

The reason cell service providers are putting the kibosh on unlimited data plans (and raising usage costs for their real bugaboo, data tethering) has as much to do with crowd control as scraping a little extra from our purses. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: The faster you make mobile communication technology, the more likely people are to use it and the more likely the network’s going to choke.

When is 5G coming?
Samsung says the antenna tech will be ready to commercialize seven years down the road, or around 2020. If we're lucky, maybe Game of Thrones will even be done by then.

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Google vs. Sweden: The linguistic war over the word 'ogooglebar'

The lovely, bouncy word ogooglebar means "something unable to be found on a search engine." And according to Arika Okrent, Google doesn't like it.

The Swedish Language Council is the semi-official authority on matters pertaining to Swedish language use. In addition to issuing recommendations on spelling and grammar, it puts out an annual list of new Swedish words. The list tends toward the playful, covering the same type of coinages that various organizations nominate for "word of the year" in the English speaking world (YOLO, hashtag, fiscal cliff). The Swedes' 2012 list included 40 new words, including "henifiera" — a word for the practice of replacing the gendered "he" and "she" pronouns in Swedish (han and hon) with the neutral "hen."

But more interestingly, for the first time ever, a word has been removed from the list. Today, Language Council director Ann Cederberg announced that they will be removing the word "ogooglebar" (ungoogleable) — thanks to pressure from Google, which objected to the council's definition of the word as "something unable to be found on a search engine." Rather than give in to the company's demands to change the definition to refer to a Google search rather than any old web search, the council has decided to drop the word entirely.

Cederberg makes clear, however, that this doesn't mean the word is gone from the language. "Who has authority over language? We do, the language users. We decide together which words should exist and how they should be defined, used and spelled. Language is the result of an ongoing democratic process. We all participate in deciding which words to let into the language by choosing the words we use. If we want 'ogooglebar' in the language we will use the word, and it is our use that will determine the meaning — not the pressure of a multinational company."

She also points out that anyone who now googles "ogooglebar" will not only find the original Language Council definition, but also all of the surrounding coverage about the decision to take the word off the list. All of it is now part of the history of the word and its usage, on record online for anyone curious about the meaning of this lovely, bouncy word, no matter which search engine they might be using.

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Rainbows and Unicorns: A Linguistic History

It all seems to date back to a 19th-century French book. It's not all rainbows and butterflies, you know. Or rainbows and unicorns. Or butterflies and unicorns. But when it comes to referring to impossibly perfect conditions where everyone's happy and nothing goes wrong, we're living in a golden age of RBUs.

A Google News search for just the past week brings up almost 500 hits for rainbows and unicorns or rainbows and butterflies. On this Google Ngram Viewer graph below, you can see that both expressions, as well as butterflies and rainbows, are on the rise, with rainbows and unicorns in particular shooting steadily up since 2003.

Rainbows and butterflies came together first. The earliest attestation I've found is from an 1864 book by Jenny d' Hericourt (translated from French) titled A Woman's Philosophy of Woman, where on pages 191 and 192 we read:

...if [women] were free and happy they would be less eager for illusions and cajoleries and it would no longer be necessary in writing to them to place rainbows and butterflies' wings under contribution…

It's butterfly wings instead of entire butterflies, but the sentiment seems the same. The phrase also occurs in William S. Lord's 1897 poem Jingle and Jangle, which lists some things that the pleasant sound of a jingling bell brings to mind:

Sunshine and sugar and honey and bees
Rainbows and butterflies wings,
Bird songs and brook songs and wide spreading trees,
Of joy little Jingle bell sings.

Butterflies and rainbows also appears in the late 19th century, in an 1896 editorial that scornfully refers to the idea of moving the U.S. to a dual gold-and-silver standard as "chasing free silver butterflies and rainbows."

Pairings of rainbows with butterflies (not just butterflies' wings) continue to appear on into the 20th century, often as the objects of chasing, before the steady rise in the graph that began in the 1970s. Since then, "rainbows and butterflies" has been the title of a 1983 song by Billy Swan, the title of two books of poetry, and part of the lyrics of Maroon 5's 2005 song "She Will Be Loved."

In the 1980s, unicorns made their entry, at around the same time that Hasbro began marketing its My Little Pony line of toys, which included both a Rainbow Ponies and a Unicorn Ponies collection. However, I can't claim that this event was the you-got-your-chocolate-in-my-peanut-butter moment for rainbows and unicorns; it may be that an increasing popularity of unicorns was responsible for both phenomena. A 2010 post on the Zandl Marketing Group's blog puts the increasing popularity of rainbows and unicorns in the context of the mainstreaming of gay cultural symbols. In any case, in the mid-80s we begin to see examples like this one from 1984:

The only calendars left in the stores just before the holidays are those with unicorns and rainbows on them.

Although unicorns arrived late to the party, they've hit it off so well with rainbows that for some, it's not enough just to have the two words conjoined by and. In the past few years, unicorns that fart rainbows seem to have become their own meme. For an even tighter linkage, there's Lady Rainicorn, a half-rainbow, half-unicorn character in Cartoon Network's Adventure Time series.

These days, unicorns sometimes get together with butterflies to the exclusion of rainbows. There aren't enough examples to have been captured in the Google Ngram corpus, but Google Books has a 1996 example of butterflies and unicorns in Skywriting, by Margarita Engle:

I would take the alligators out of its rivers and the scorpions out of its soil, replacing them with butterflies and unicorns.

In the other order, "Unicorns and Butterflies" is the name of not one but two blogs, each begun sometime in the last two years.

Some people prefer not to choose between unicorns and butterflies with their rainbows. The "Rainbows and Butterflies and Unicorns" Facebook page doesn't. And in the 2008 movie Horton Hears a Who, a child character takes that earlier scatological unicorn-rainbow connection, reverses its direction, and brings in the butterflies, telling of an imaginary world where "there are unicorns who eat rainbows and poop butterflies!"

Other words to appear in RBU contexts include smiles, sunshine, balloons, bunnies, kittens, and lollipops. In a 1981 monologue, Steve Martin declares that he believes in "rainbows and puppy dogs and fairy tales." Three-syllable nouns, it seems, tend to be favored for rainbow collocations; specifically, three-syllable nouns consisting of an unstressed syllable sandwiched between two stressed syllables: BUTTerflies, Unicorns, LOLlipops, PUPpydogs, FAIRy tales. This kind of three-syllable string is known in poetry circles as a cretic.

So if you'd like to enrich the language with some new rainbow-cretic collocations, I offer my suggestion: Rainbows and boogeymen and heart attacks.

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How 3-D Printers Might Help Us Build a Base on the Moon

Mankind's quest to live among the stars gets a little more realistic with the advent of 3-D printing.

If humanity's longtime dream of a moon colony is ever going to be achieved, its architects will have to deal with the fundamental logistical problem of having to haul boatloads of building materials into outer space — an expensive and time-consuming endeavor that, quite simply, isn't feasible considering the financial troubles NASA is currently facing.

So... what then? The answer, say skyward-looking engineers, is to harvest available materials from the moon itself. The European Space Agency recently revealed plans to use a 3-D printer to build the complex shapes and pieces of equipment that would make up an inhabitable space base.

3-D printing, lest you forget, is a technique that allows users to "print" three-dimensional objects layer-by-layer. Usually, the printers employ plastic in place of ink, but a diverse range of materials like metal, clay, and yes, even chocolate can be used to print toys, furniture, or whatever else can be sketched out with AutoCAD, software for computer-assisted design and drafting. More recently, 3-D printers have been the subject of intense scrutiny, with several media outlets reporting that people can theoretically build operational handguns and rifles at home if they download the correct plans.

Now, a team of researchers from the architecture firm Foster + Partners is exploring the possibility of using portable 3-D printers to convert lunar material into a moon base. Working with a UK-based company called Monolite, researchers were able to chemically mold sand-like material together with a special kind of binding salt that forms into a sturdy, stone-hard solid. "Our current printer builds at a rate of around 2 m per hour," Monolite founder Enrico Dini tells Discovery News, "while our next-generation design should attain 3.5 m per hour, completing an entire building in a week." (Take a look at the base and the machine here.)

This, however, isn't the first time 3-D printing has been tapped to possibly build a moon base. Last year, NASA challenged researchers at Washington State University to develop a technique to build smooth, cylindrical shapes for a future space habitat.


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3-D Printing: The Next Industrial Revolution

Three-dimensional printers make manufacturing possible at home. Could they spell the end of mass production?

What is 3-D printing?
It’s a revolutionary manufacturing process in which the design for physical objects, from toys to jewelry to machine parts, can be digitally transmitted to a device that makes them out of plastic, metal, or ceramic materials. Once the stuff of science fiction, 3-D printers have rapidly evolved in recent years, becoming smaller, faster, and cheaper. A basic, microwave-size 3-D printer costs less than $1,000, making almost anyone a potential manufacturer. Tonight Show host Jay Leno uses a $30,000 device to print hard-to-find parts for his collection of classic cars. “It’s a bit like when I was a kid and I watched The Jetsons and they’d walk up to a machine and press a button and get a steak dinner,” Leno said. “But instead of a steak dinner, you’re getting an old car part.”

How do 3-D printers work?
Just as a traditional ink-jet printer sprays ink onto a page line by line, modern 3-D devices deposit material onto a surface layer by layer, slowly building up a shape. The process begins with a designer using computer software to create a virtual 3-D model of an object, such as a toy car. Another program slices that model into thin horizontal sections and instructs the printer to lay down an exact replica of each slice. Some printers use a computer-controlled heated nozzle that moves back and forth across a print platform, setting down a layer of melted material. Others use a laser or electron beam to fuse powdered plastic or metal into the required shape. After each layer is completed, the printing platform is lowered by a fraction of a millimeter and the next layer is added, until the object is completed.

What’s the advantage of this technology?
It makes it easier and cheaper for ordinary people to get into the business of making things. Inventors can print a model of their latest creation in a few hours, then tweak it and print again, instead of waiting weeks for a prototype to emerge from a factory. Injection molding, which requires toolmakers to build metal casts into which heated plastic is poured, is only cost-efficient for large-scale production. With 3-D printing, the cost per unit stays the same whether you manufacture one part or one million. “I can cost-effectively make a cellphone cover that is unique to every customer,” said Ryan Wicker, an engineer at the University of Texas at El Paso. “I could build 100 different ones just as cost-effectively as building them all the same.”

What are people printing now?
MyRobotNation.com lets customers design their own toy robot, which is manufactured on a 3-D printer, and the online retailer Shapeways.com sells everything from printed jewelry to desk toys. But the technology isn’t being used just to build novelties. Danish firm Widex prints hearing aids perfectly tailored to the wearer’s ear canal, and San Francisco’s Bespoke Innovations is experimenting with printing custom-fitted prosthetic limbs. Aerospace firms like Boeing and EADS are starting to print complex aircraft parts in single pieces rather than multiple sections. By doing away with bolts and screws that previously held components together, 3-D printing has reduced the weight of certain parts by up to 30 percent, saving fuel costs, said Boeing design engineer Michael Hayes. Eventually, Boeing thinks it might be able to print an entire aircraft wing. “That’s where the industry is trying to go,” said Hayes.

What more could 3-D printing do?
A possible next step is for virtually every home to have its own printer. “Once that happens, it will change everything,” said Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, which makes imaging software used by designers, architects, and engineers. “See something on Amazon you like? Instead of placing an order and waiting 24 hours for your FedEx package, just hit print and get it in minutes.” Most experts, though, think the Jetsons era remains far off. The desktop 3-D printers available on the market now can only extrude plastic, limiting the objects they can produce. And even if you owned an advanced machine capable of creating whatever you wanted, you’d need a large stockpile of different materials. If your microwave breaks and you want to print a replacement part, “what are the chances that your 3-D printer is going to have the right material?” said industry analyst Terry Wohlers.

How might people use 3-D printers in the future?
Instead of fiddling around at home, we’re likely to turn to manufacturing hubs with specialist 3-D printing machines, “rather like when people go to specialist shops to get higher quality photos printed,” said Richard Hague, an expert on 3-D printing at Loughborough University in the U.K. Once introduced on an industrial scale, 3-D printing could have a profound economic impact. Companies would no longer need to keep huge warehouses filled with goods, as products could be printed locally on demand. And 3-D printing could compel American manufacturers to repatriate production now done abroad. “There is nothing to be gained by going overseas,” said Bespoke Innovations co-founder Scott Summit, “except for higher shipping charges.”

Download, print, aim, fire
Forget background checks and waiting periods. If you have a 3-D printer, you might soon be able to build a gun in your own home. That’s the goal of a group called Defense Distributed, which wants to create downloadable blueprints anyone could use to print a fully functioning firearm. They’re not there yet, but late last year the project’s leader, University of Texas law student Cody Wilson, announced that the group had successfully fired six shots from a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle built with several printed plastic parts. The gun then fell apart. Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) is urging Congress to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act—which bans the production of guns that don’t show up on metal detectors—before it expires at the end of 2013. “When the [act] was last renewed in 2003, a gun made by a 3-D printer was like a Star Trek episode,” he said. “But now we know it’s real.”

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How to Travel the World... While Working!

Vanessa Van Edwards' 6-step roadmap to taking the "workation" of your dreams is an inspiration! Check it out...

"I take a sip of chilled Sauvignon Blanc while gazing at the sprawling vineyards below my balcony. With the sun on my face, my husband and I dig into some fresh fruit from the local farmers' market — crisp pears, figs and goat cheese.

A warm breeze flutters the gauzy fabric of my sundress as we open our laptops to start the workday. It's 1:00 PM in Santa Cruz, Chile, 9:00 AM on the West Coast in the U.S. — and day 17 of our "workation."

Six years ago, my husband (then boyfriend) and I set out to find a way to develop our careers while traveling the world — and without breaking the bank.

People told us we were crazy.

During some of our low points — power outages in China, freak storms in Belgium and lost luggage in South America — we thought that they might be right. But the highlights, such as working from a cruise ship that was sailing through Chilean fjords, have made what we have dubbed our "workations" worth the effort.

To date, we've taken our virtual office to 24 locations, turning the process of traveling while working into a science. Whether you're an independent entrepreneur like me or you hold down a regular nine-to-five (the way my husband does as a marketing manager for an education company), you, too, can see the high-rises of Shanghai, the peaks of Patagonia or the beaches in Singapore — all while achieving your career goals.

The Career Benefits of Workations

Before you decide that taking a workation would be the equivalent of committing job suicide, consider these facts:

* Research has found that multi-cultural experiences and exotic surroundings generate more inspired and creative work.

* Workations decrease stress, which increases productivity, and leads to fewer sick days. Studies show that people with high levels of stress spend nearly 50 percent more on health expenses.

* A study in the Harvard Business Review found that when employees take just one day off per week, they report greater job satisfaction, more open communication with team members and better work-life balance, compared to regular employees.

As long as you do it right, a workation could very well improve your performance. Here are six of my personal tips to help get you on the road to work-travel bliss.

1. Take stock of your job
It's true that workations best lend themselves to certain professions, especially ones that require a lot of computer work. So surgeons or chefs probably won't be able to pull off a workation regularly, if at all.

But if you do have a job that can be done mostly by computer or phone, you should try to fit workations — even just one every year or two — into your life. As for work tasks that need to be done in person, most can be accomplished virtually on a temporary basis, such as face-to-face meetings via Skype or conference calls conducted using speakerphone.

For example, my husband is on work video chat from nine to five, so his team can send questions any time — and ask to see the view from wherever in the world we're working.

2. Prepare before talking to your boss
First, try to schedule a workation for times that work best with your office schedule, such as a slow month. Or look at tacking a workation onto a work conference or some other event that requires travel, so you can spend a few extra days workationing before or after the work trip.

Once you pinpoint a good time, draft a plan to make your workation go as smoothly as possible. It should account for any necessary meetings, time zone differences and your ability to stay in touch. If needed, plan to also work during the hours that you normally spend commuting. And try to propose the idea of a workation to your manager right after you've delivered on an important goal — no boss will grant a workation to an employee who isn't performing well.

3. Choose a vacation-worthy destination
Now for the fun part. If you aren't tied to a specific location due to a work event, then pick a destination that excites you.

Our home base is Portland, Oregon, and my husband and I structure our workations based on locations with the best weather. During the winter we'll travel to the Southern Hemisphere where it's summer, such as South America, Australia and New Zealand. And we spend summers in the United States, Europe or Asia.

Our general schedule is to spend four to six weeks at home, regrouping and conducting in-person work, and then head on a two- to four-week workation. This allows us to conduct necessary face-to-face business, and get out of town.

4. Organize communication methods
Technology is essential for seamless workations, so make sure that your destination has speedy Internet access. And coordinate with your office on which technologies you will need to use to keep in touch, like attending meetings via video (Google offers free video chat) and conducting conference calls on Skype.

If you're in a different time zone, designate working hours each day — and set boundaries with colleagues by letting them know when you will be online.

5. Travel affordably
Workations don't need to break the bank. Consider swapping your apartment with a fellow traveler to save on hotel costs, or check out Airbnb.com and VRBO.com, which feature furnished, short-term apartments and homes for rent.

You can also rent out your own home to cover housing costs and earn extra travel money. (Some cities have made short-term renting illegal, so just be sure to research whether regulations in your cities make this a viable option for you.)

My husband and I pay about $1,200 in monthly housing expenses. However, thanks to the short-term-rental market rates in our Portland neighborhood, we can charge up to $3,200 per month or $108 a night — which covers our rent and gives us an extra $2,000 to spend on flights and other travel costs.

6. Balance work with vacation
Be sure to spend evenings and time on the weekends away from the computer, so you actually get refreshed by your new surroundings. If you are in a different time zone, designate certain working hours each day — and set boundaries with colleagues by letting them know when you will be online.

Although workations can help you feel rejuvenated, it's also important to take full work-free vacations, which are essential for our minds and bodies to rest."

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Is J the sexiest letter?

It certainly seems to be featured in an inordinate number of sex-specific words! According to Bruce Price, less than 1 percent of English words start with J, a minor letter with an odd shape and few other distinctions. Except when it comes to sex. Then J is jumping, one might even say jolly and juicy.

Leadbelly sang about Jumping Judy:

Well, jumping Little Judy, she was a mighty fine girl.
Judy brought jumping to this whole round world


Dylan Thomas liked to get juiced and tell the prettiest girl at the party, "I want to jump your bones."

J has some weird sexual je-ne-sais-quoi mojo, some humor (jests, jibes, jokes, jocularity), some sweetness (jams and jellies, Jujubes and Jujifruit), and some heat (joules).

Mick Jagger just sounds randy. And mint julep just sounds debauched, as The Clovers revealed in the 1952 hit "One Mint Julep":

I didn't know what I was doin'
I had to marry all day screwing....
One mint julep was the cause of it all.


Jugs jiggle; and a johnson is a big one. A hooker's customer is a John. Jack basically means male. The female of some species is called a jenny (e.g., jenny wren). And sexy young girls are jailbait.

The First Lady of the jungle was "You, Jane." Mary doesn't work, does it? While we're in the jungle, a famous lesbian novel was called "Rubyfruit Jungle."

Yes, that's what it means, as does jelly roll. An old blues song pulsed:

Jelly roll, jelly roll, sittin' on a fence
If you doan get some you ain't got no sense
Just wild bout my jelly
My sweet jelly roll.


Sexy women often have J-names: Jezebel, Jasmine, Jewel, Joy, Josephine. If you listen to Fats Domino sing about Josephine, you know she's hot:

Hello Josephine, how do you do?
Do you remember me baby?
Like I remember you
You used to laugh at me and holler, woo woo woo


Just about the only color name with J is Jade, a green stone, a girl's name, and a word with hot subtext. Urban Dictionary says, "Jade is someone who overreacts about a sexually orientated situation. For example, 'Oh my god, my nipples are erected!' 'You're such a Jade!'" Too much of that makes you jaded.

Jockey is all about riding, sometimes riding people. Jubilees are occasions for jubilation. Jamborees are good parties, people jitterbugging, sexy music on the jukebox. Juke originally meant "bawdy" or "wicked."

Hand jive, doesn't that sound dirty? When Johnny Otis (A.K.A. Willie and the Hand Jive) sang about "doing that crazy hand jive," this was serious titillation. Censors believed the song glorified masturbation, at least. That was all they could dare mention in 1958:

Mama, mama, look at Sister Flo
Doing that hand jive with Uncle Joe
When I gave little sister a dime
I said "Do that hand jive one more time"


Jazz was sexual slang before it was music. "Jas" was a Creole brothel where jezebels worked. Music for the clients became known as "Jas music", sometimes "Jass music." When the word "Jass" was printed on posters, the letter "J" was sometimes crossed out for a joke. Promoters knew "ass music" was offensive, so the spelling moved from "Jass" to "Jazz", hence "Jazz music."

A lot of porno words start with J; and words that aren't always porno words move in that direction very quickly: junk, jack, jerk, jag, jam, jimmie, and joint. Sex can hardly be discussed without the word job. "Jack off" spawned "jill off."

A printed J doesn't look sexy. But script a cursive capital J. It's rubenesque and voluptuous. Maybe that's J's secret.

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How You Can Connect Any Two Pages on the Internet in 19 clicks or less

A Hungarian physicist finds that the web's organizing principles aren't all that different from "six degrees of Kevin Bacon."

The outer limits of the worldwide web can feel like an infinite fraying of loose ends and time-sucking wormholes. But the web's estimated 14 billion individual pages and 1 trillion documents are actually connected more efficiently than anyone might reasonably imagine.

Researchers, publishing their findings in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, have discovered that you can navigate from any single page on the web to any other page in a mere 19 clicks or less. The principle is similar to the game "six degrees of Kevin Bacon," except with obscure, fringe-y GeoCities pages instead of, say, Cameron Diaz.

The 19-click threshold was discovered by Hungarian physicist Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, who used computer simulations to get a better grasp of the web's vast, unmapped architecture.

Here's where things get particularly fascinating: Even though the web is growing at an unprecedented rate — some estimates suggest as many as 3.7 million new domains are registered every month — Barabasi claims the magic number 19 will hold true until the last ethernet cable on Earth crumbles into dust.

How can this be? According to Smithsonian Mag, Barabasi argues that the web, while it may seem random, is actually arranged "in an interconnected hierarchy of organizational themes, including region, country, and subject area." In that sense, it doesn't matter how much bigger the web gets, since it will always be organized in a similar way.

How does this organization work? Look at this website's navigation bar up above, for example. Or scroll to the bottom of Wikipedia to see data organized by different languages. The basic organizing principles employed by search engines, aggregators, and other big, connecting nodes like Reddit help to make the web a less messy place overall. In fact, these large internet hubs are what make getting from Point A to Point B possible in the first place — like the LAXs and JFKs of the digital globe.

So go ahead. Give it a shot. We can't guarantee you'll be able to pull off 19 clicks at first blush. But, in the spirit of interconnectedness, we do recommend that you try starting your journey from here :-)


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The 5 Best Reactions to the TIME cover story on Millennials

Millennials like listicles, right? Millennials stopped sexting and posting selfies just long enough this week to notice something curious on the Internet: A story in TIME titled, "The Me Me Me Generation: Millennials are lazy, entitled narcissists who still live with their parents. Why they'll save us all."

It was written by Joel Stein, a member of Gen X, which invented flannel and Wynona Ryder. The cover features a girl taking a selfie on her iPhone. It's a skill every millennial learns now instead of how to write in cursive. (We made a listicle about it, the millennial's preferred way of consuming information.)

Stein balances negative traits associated with millennials (narcissistic, lazy, stunted) with positive ones (resourceful, optimistic, adaptable) for what Salon's Daniel D'Addario calls an "admirably executed" story. TIME's cover alone, however, was enough to raise the ire of millennials, who took to the internet to do what they do best — talk about themselves:

1. The Awl
The Awl — an online publication popular with millennials — summed up TIME's business savvy in a tweet that linked to some photos, a new-fangled method of driving something they call "traffic" to "content."

2. TIME Millennials
Once millennials are done tweeting, they check Tumblr, just in case someone posted a picture of Ryan Gosling. That's where TIME Millennials was born. It showcases one of the Me Me Me Generation's greatest talents: Creating memes, this time out of a controversial magazine cover:


3. Marc Tracy, New Republic
Marc Tracy, a self-proclaimed millennial, wonders if members of his generation are "stunted" — i.e., not leaving their parents' house, getting married, or having kids — because older generations left them with a shattered economy:

Right now, older generations are in the process of slowly bequeathing millennials a society more "in debt" than ever before: "in debt" in the sense of living on borrowed time, with only future, merely hypothetical promises as collateral — "in debt" ecologically, financially, politically, culturally. At this moment, TIME has decided to focus on the millennials, and to tar them as "entitled" for not feeling totally okay about all of this. [New Republic]
4. Elspeth Reeve, The Atlantic Wire
Reeve takes us on a nostalgic tour of alarmist magazine covers past, from a 1976 New York article by Tom Wolfe titled "The Me Generation," to another TIME special saying this about Generation X:

They have trouble making decisions. They would rather hike in the Himalayas than climb a corporate ladder… They crave entertainment, but their attention span is as short as one zap of a TV dial… They postpone marriage because they dread divorce. [TIME]

The problem with these stories, says Reeve, is that everyone, in every generation, is kind of lost and navel-gazing in their 20s.

"Basically, it's not that people born after 1980 are narcissists, it's that young people are narcissists, and they get over themselves as they get older," Reeve writes. "It's like doing a study of toddlers and declaring those born since 2010 are 'Generation Sociopath: Kids These Days Will Pull Your Hair, Pee On Walls, Throw Full Bowls of Cereal Without Even Thinking of the Consequences.'"

5. Ezra Klein, The Washington Post
Ezra Klein, the media world's very own millennial wunderkind, put his objections to the article in easy-to-digest chart form:



That looks awfully like the priorities past generations had. To many in the media, however, the 1 percent of millennials who think becoming famous is "one of the most important things in their lives" are the only ones that exist.

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Life in the Age of Internet Addiction

The vast majority of the American population is mildly addicted to technology.

Anyone who spends their day staring at screens can speak to the modern-day epidemic of eye fatigue. But what is our digital obsession doing to our brains?

Researchers have noted a rise in something called Digital Attention Disorder — the addiction to social networks and computers in general.

How does it work? More than 50 years ago, psychologist B.F. Skinner was experimenting on rats and pigeons, and noticed that the unpredictability of reward was a major motivator for animals. If a reward arrives either predictably or too infrequently, the animal eventually loses interest. But when there was anticipation of a reward that comes with just enough frequency, the animals' brains would consistently release dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that (basically) regulates pleasure.

What does this have to do with the Internet? Some researchers believe that intermittent reinforcement — in the form of texts, tweets, and various other social media — may be working on our brains the same way rewards did on Skinner's rats.

"Internet addiction is the same as any other addiction — excessive release of dopamine," says Hilarie Cash, executive director of the reStart program for Internet addiction and recovery, a Seattle-area rehab program that helps wean people off the Internet. "Addiction is addiction. Whether it's gambling, cocaine, alcohol, or Facebook."

"The vast majority of the American population is mildly addicted to technology, and our clinic treats only very serious cases," she told me in a phone interview. "Most of the people that come are young adult males around the ages of 18 to 30 who spend a lot of time on the Internet. Their health is poor, their social relationships have turned to crap, they have no social confidence or real-world friends. They don't date. They don't work."

Cash continued:

Internet and video game addiction starts young. Most young men are given computer or video games when they are five or six years old and therefore their childhood development is profoundly wired for these activities. It's quite different to drug addicts and alcoholics who are usually exposed to drugs or alcohol closer to the age of 15. Internet addicts usually have 15 to 20 years of addiction on them due to starting younger.

The problem isn't just young men, either. "Women are getting addicted, too," Cash told me. "Although women usually become addicted later in life and, more often than not, directly to social media, while men are more adept to becoming addicted to multiplayer games. Women seem to juggle addiction and life better than men."

So how does Cash's program work? According to the website: "Our professionally trained clinicians understand technology related process addictions, and the impact problematic use has on life. We work with individuals, couples and families to promote a better understanding of problematic technology use; assist users in discovering the underlying issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, ADHD, learning differences, stress, family relationship issues, and addictions) that may be co-occurring with excessive use patterns; and work together to design an individualized plan to promote a healthy, balanced lifestyle."

Now, at "just under $20,000" for a minimum 45-day Internet rehab (60- and 90- day options are available), the reStart program may not be for everyone. Indeed, you could always just... turn off your phone and computer.

Still, the new wave of young Internet addicts that Cash describes might be heralding something sinister for future generations: We've all seen the ease at which a toddler can operate an iPhone or iPad. These days, maybe kids are just born addicted to the Internet.

Read the DSM's 8 criteria of Internet addiction here.


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Google's Government-Snooping Data Dump: By the Numbers

The search giant is getting swamped by warrantless requests for users' information.

"It may be easier than you think for government entities to demand the private data you've stored on Google's servers," says Andy Greenberg at Forbes. In its latest biannual Transparency Report, Google has announced yet another rise in the number of government and law enforcement requests for data on users — anything from web surfing habits to identifying who owns an email account to the content of emails — and for the first time broke down the U.S. requests by how the authorities asked for the information. In the vast majority of cases, officials didn't bother with a search warrant — the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) allows authorities to just issue subpoenas for data that's at least six months old.

The king of search complies with about 90 percent of U.S. government snooping requests, "but Google's willingness to reveal this data in the first place should be seen as a credit to the company's respect for privacy," says Greenberg, and one not shared by its peers — Microsoft and Facebook — or wireless carriers. The government authorities asking to peer into your electronic life don't inspire much confidence, either, says Matt Sledge at The Huffington Post. At a tech panel devoted to investigating how the government obtained the emails exposing former Gen. David Petraeus' career-ending extramarital affair, Google legal director Richard Salgado dropped this "depressing and revealing factoid about how law enforcement is actually using its subpoena and warrant powers to get information" about you: "I can't tell you how many requests we get for Facebook."

Here's a numerical look at how often U.S. and foreign governments try to tap into the e-lives of Google users, and how often they succeed.

21,389 = Government requests for data worldwide from July to December 2012

33,634 = User accounts targeted in those searches

66 = Percent of those requests that resulted in Google handing over at least some data

20,938 = Government requests for data from January to June 2012

70 = Percentage rise in number of requests for data since 2009

8,438 = Requests from U.S. government authorities and investigators from July to December 2012

68 = Percent of those requests that came through subpoenas instead of court-issued warrants

88 = Percent of those requests Google complied with

22 = Percent of requests that were through search warrants, usually approved by judges under the ECPA

88 = Percent of those requests Google complied with

10 = Percent of requests from "court orders issued under ECPA by judges or other processes that are difficult to categorize"

90 = Percent of those requests Google complied with

2,431 = Data requests from India

66 = Percentage of those requests Google complied with

1,693 = Data requests from France

44 = Percentage of those requests Google complied with

1,458 = Data requests from the UK

70 = Percentage of those requests Google complied with

97 = Data requests from Russia

1 = Percentage of those requests Google complied with

149 = Data requests from Turkey

0 = Percentage of those requests Google complied with


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10 Acronyms with Unintended Double Meanings

The Wisconsin Tourism Federation realized in 2009 that geek-speak had made its acronym WTF pretty laughable.

In 2010, New York City's Metropolitan Transit Authority announced that it would be rearranging some of its subway signs because they resembled a slightly naughty bit of internet slang. The signage for the F, M, and L lines read "FML," which savvy web users know as self-deprecating shorthand for "F*** My Life." The double meaning of its signs caught the transit authority off guard, but they worked quickly to switch around the letters. New York's subways are hardly the first victims of acronym problems, though.
According to Ethan Trex in Mental Floss, here are 10 other organizations, places, and businesses that have realized a bit too late that their initials meant a little more than they had intended.

1. WTF
In 2009, the Wisconsin Tourism Federation's biggest problem wasn't finding a way to attract more people to the metropolitan Kenosha area; it was the realization that its initials mirrored the slang abbreviation for "What the F---?" The WTF from America's Dairyland has been around since 1979, so it likely predates the vulgar WTF. In the end, though, you can't fight an internet meme. The organization changed its name to the Tourism Federation of Wisconsin.

The WTF's only consolation must be that it's not alone. In 2008, the North Carolina DMV allowed drivers whose license plates contained "WTF" to swap out their tags free of charge. The DMV also had to change its website; the sample plate pictured on the site was "WTF-5505."

2. DOA
In a move that must have been unsettling for thousands of Iowa's seniors, the state changed the name of its Department of Elder Affairs to the Department on Aging, or DOA, in 2009. Something's telling us that the change hasn't helped Iowa's elderly sleep any easier. The organization now goes by IDA, for Iowa Department on Aging.

3. AIDS
When Joan Woehrmann started her ambulance company in Whittier, Calif., in 1955, she hit on a pretty brilliant acronym: AIDS. The letters stood for "attitude, integrity, dependability, and service," which are all great qualities for an ambulance line. The name was also easy to remember in times of crisis.

She didn't foresee the name eventually signifying one of the greatest medical catastrophes of the century, though. By 1985, The Los Angeles Times reported that Woehrmann's drivers were being taunted and that the public mistakenly started to think that the line only transported AIDS patients.

Finally, she had enough and changed the line's name to "AME," even giving up the ambulances' customized line of "AIDS 1" and "AIDS 2" license plates.

4. SUX
While FAA identifiers for airports aren't technically acronyms, the three-letter codes can give rise to their own headaches. Just ask the Sioux City Gateway Airport, which the FAA saddled with the unfortunate designator "SUX." Airport authorities petitioned for a new code, and the FAA — "this is not a joke" — offered them "GAY" as a nod to the "Gateway" part of the airport's name.

Sioux City decided that switching to GAY probably wouldn't save them much sophomoric taunting, so officials decided to make the best of the SUX situation. Now the airport markets playful t-shirts emblazoned with slogans like "Fly SUX."

SUX might not even be the worst airport code. According to a 2008 Los Angeles Times story, Fresno's is FAT, and Perm, Russia's is PEE. The big winner has to be Fukuoka, Japan, though. We'll let you guess how that one gets abbreviated.

5. SLUT
In 2007, Seattle opened a new streetcar line connecting the South Lake Union neighborhood to the city's downtown. While the project was officially called the South Lake Union Streetcar, local residents began ribbing it as the South Lake Union Trolley, or SLUT. Although the city and the line's developers did what they could to dispel the notion that the line had a bawdy name, residents still refer to it as the SLUT; in 2007 the Seattle Post-Intelligencer even reported that a coffeehouse was selling t-shirts that read, "Ride the SLUT." Cringe.

6. CCRAP
In 2000, delegates of Canada's United Alternative convention needed a name for their newly formed political party. They came up with Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party, which in addition to taking roughly six minutes to pronounce was abbreviated CCRAP. Organizers quickly realized the blunder and changed the party's name to the Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance.

7. WPPSS
In 1998, the Washington Public Power Supply System chose to change its name to Energy Northwest to discourage people from pronouncing its unfortunate acronym as "Whoops!" The old name left the utility open to quite a bit of taunting in 1983, when the WPPSS defaulted on $2.25 billion worth of bonds. Whoops indeed.

8. POOF
In 1990, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Florida decided it had heard just about enough kidding about its acronym, POOF, which resembled an old offensive term for a homosexual man. The musicians changed their name to the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra.

9. THE C-WORD
In 2002, Microsoft had to do a little rearranging on the fly. It quickly and quietly changed its ribald "Critical Update Notification Tool" to the more family friendly "Critical Updated Notification Utility."

10. NIC
What's wrong with NIC? In English, nothing. In Arabic, a whole heck of a lot. When the Coalition Provisional Authority began planning new Iraqi armed forces in 2003, they originally called them the New Iraqi Corps. They hit a big snag, though. As ABC News reported, in Arabic "nic" is "a colorful synonym for fornication." The coalition quickly changed the name to the New Iraqi Army.
Go to the NetLingo List of Internet Acronyms & Text Message Jargon!

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Do your texts make you sound old?

Younger generations are far more adept at textspeak, a rich and subtle form of communication, according to Arika Okrent in The Week.

When people talk about textspeak — the acronyms, abbreviations, and emoticons used in electronic communication — their arguments (complaints, really) are usually framed around the idea of a generational decline. Kids text too much. Kids are forgetting how to spell and use proper grammar. College students are turning in term papers littered with textspeak!

It's the latest iteration of the same old story: Youngsters are ruining the language, and we are all doomed. But of course, just as in every previous iteration of the story, the language will be fine, and we are not doomed. Well, the youngsters aren't anyway.

English professor Anne Curzan, who in 20 years of teaching has never seen an essay using textspeak, writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education about how textspeak in the classroom can be a great teaching tool. She describes an exercise she does with her students to help them discover the implicit rules of their electronically mediated communication or "EMC" (not a textspeak abbreviation but an academic one). Rules? critics might say. Isn't EMC just a random, disorderly corruption of English? Apparently not:

One student noted that his dad texts like a junior-high-school airhead. His dad, it appears, doesn't yet have control of the stylistic choices that constitute 'sophisticated texting.' For several semesters now, I have asked students to compile with me a list of EMC etiquette rules, and I am struck by how detailed, creative, and consistent the rules are. Anyone who says that text language is chaotic isn't paying enough attention to the system of rules that users have developed to move real-time conversation into written form.

If students notice when the rules are being broken, then there must be rules. Older people, who don't get as much exposure to the conventions, get the conventions wrong. Do you use too many acronyms and abbreviations? Do you miss the subtle distinction between "ok." "ok!" and "ok…"? Do you still use LOL to represent laughter when it often means "just kidding"? ("hahaha" is a better choice for laughter.) Then you might be showing your age.

That's okay. It just means that if you don't want to be judged for not knowing the rules, you need to spend some time being exposed to them. The same goes for people who don't want to be judged for not knowing the rules of formal written English. Curzan, as an English professor, has the job of being that expert for the youngsters she teaches, and she has found an ingenious way to use what they know to help them learn what they might not yet know. Once they go through the exercise of discovering the rules of the systems they are most comfortable with, they can see "that the conventions of formal academic writing are just another set of rules for writing well in a specific register — maybe not as 'fun' as EMC but not in any way an alien exercise.

- As seen in The Week
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