XKCD vs hand-wringing about what texting does to kids' literacy


It's great, and the tooltip's even better: "I'd like to find a corpus of writing writing from children in a non-self-selected sample (eg handwritten letters to the president from everyone in the same teacher's 7th grade class every year)--and score the kids today versus the kids 20 years ago on various objective measures of writing quality.

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Side-scroller life-lessons


Owl Turd's most recent webcomic, We Go Forward, has a surprising barb hidden in its lighthearted parable about life considered as a side-scroller. It brought me up sharply this morning when I read it, and I can't get it out of my mind.

Law Comics: legal masterclass in webcomic form


With Law Comics, Cambridge law PhD candidate Julia Powles and illustrator Ilias Kyriazis are creating a masterclass in thorny issues of law...in webcomic form!

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Twitter jerks, the webcomic


Gerard Way -- former frontman for My Chemical Romance and creator of Dark Horse's brilliant comic Umbrella Academy -- sent me this funny and somewhat uncomfortable comic about the sociopathy of jerks on Twitter.

Some considerations for potential XKCD phone purchasers

Randall Munroe's xkcd Phone has the greatest warning label of all time: "Presented in partnership with Qualcomm, Craigslist, Whirlpool, Hostess, LifeStyles, and the US Chamber of Commerce. Manufactured on equipment which also processes peanuts. Price includes 2-year Knicks contract. Phone may extinguish nearby birthday candles. If phone ships with Siri, return immediately; do not speak to her and ignore any instructions she gives. Do not remove lead casing. Phone may attract/trap insects; this is normal. Volume adjustable (requires root). If you experience sudden tingling, nausea, or vomiting, perform a factory reset immediately. Do not submerge in water; phone will drown. Exterior may be frictionless. Prolonged use can cause mood swings, short-term memory loss, and seizures. Avert eyes while replacing battery. Under certain circumstances, wireless transmitter may control God."

Only Living Boy: pulp-inspired YA webcomic


David writes, "Inspired by classic pulp novels, old-time radio broadcasts and Saturday morning cartoons, Harvey Award Winning Creators David Gallaher and Steve Ellis have created the young adult webcomic The Only Living Boy. The series presents the adventures of Erik Farrell, a 12-year old who just might be the last human alive. Gallaher and Ellis first collaborated seven years ago on the award-winning series HIGH MOON."

Randall "XKCD" Munroe is doing a What If? book!

XKCD creator Randall Munroe has announced that Houghton Mifflin will collect his amazing What If? science columns into a book called What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions, to be published in September 2014. It will include in-depth answers to questions that he hasn't yet answered online, as well as expanded and updated versions of his previous columns.

What If? is one of my Internet must-reads, and I look forward to each new installment, and always read it with delight.

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New Girl Genius arc starts today


Carol writes, "After a much-needed break, this week Phil & Kaja Foglio started up a new story arc on their multiple-Hugo-award-winning 'Girl Genius' comic series. This new story arc is a good place for new readers to jump in, as Agatha Heterodyne sets out on a new adventure. 'Girl Genius' is a long-form series, with three new full-color comic pages posted on the site each week. Updates appear on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. 'Girl Genius' has been running since 2001, following the gaslamp fantasy adventures of Agatha, the titular girl genius mad scientist."

I love this stuff. Here's my review of the novel version of the story.

Here we are, back with the second act of the Girl Genius story! (Thanks, Carol!)

Now: XKCD helps you visualize the time of day all over the world


In Now, the latest XKCD cartoon, Randall Munroe provides a handy, continuously updated way to visualize the current time all over the world. I happen to know that Munroe is an inveterate long-distance driver who likes to pass the hours on the road by calling friends; I imagine that a wheel like this would be handy for helping him figure out which continent he should be searching for in his address-book in order to find conversational partners at any hour of day.

XKCD: Now

Comic explains problems with Oakland's Domain Awareness Center surveillance plan


Hugh sez, "What's wrong with Oakland's proposed Domain Awareness Center? This new comic by Susie Cagle lays out the issues."

The Testing Ground for the New Surveillance (Thanks, Hugh!)

XKCD's brilliant explanation of Fermi Estimation


The latest installment in Randall Munroe's XKCD "What If?" series is called Paint the Earth and it is amazing. One of Munroe's readers wanted to know "Has humanity produced enough paint to cover the entire land area of the Earth?" and Munroe uses this as a springboard for explaining Fermi estimation, a powerful, counter-intuitive tool that has applications in many fields.

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XKCD's "Frequency" - using blinking GIFs to visualize the relative frequency of the momentous and trivial

In Frequency, the latest XKCD cartoon, Randall Munroe has assembled a grid of animated GIFs representing various events in the universe, each keyed to blink in the frequency in which they occur in reality. As with the best of Munroe's work, it's a mix of the trenchant and the silly, and the juxtapositions are smart and provocative. There's real genius in putting "50,000 plastic bottles are produced" and "50,000 plastic bottles are recycled" next to each other, the former blinking much more often than the latter -- but the best part is "A Sagittarius named Amelia drinks a soda," just above them, mixing up the alarming and the humorous.

The other juxtapositions are just as delicious -- one birth/one death; China builds a car/Japan builds a car/Germany builds a car/US builds a car/someone else builds a car; someone buys "To Kill a Mockingbird"/someone's cat kills a mockingbird -- and so on. This being XKCD, you can be sure that Munroe has an absurdly well-thought-through process for establishing and documenting his numbers, too.

The tool-tip notes that he wanted to include pitch-drops in the chart, but "it turns out the gif format has some issues with decade-long loops." Frequency (via IO9)

Google Glass is a borg mullet


In today's Diesel Sweeties strip, R. Stevens nails the social role of Google Glass in the 21st century.

Wearable computing is the new Bluetooth headset

Hyperbole and a Half book delivers

Back in October, I predicted that I would love the long-awaited Hyperbole and a Half book, adapted from Allie Brosh's absolute treasure of a webcomic. One of the highlights of my winter holiday so far has been gobbling up this book as quick as I could cram it into my eyeballs, a task complicated by being frequently convulsed with laughter -- at least when my heart wasn't being torn out.

Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened

New London police powers: the right to bite


Britons, take note: Spelling Mistakes Cost Lives has a timely reminder about the London Police's new powers. The new biting powers will be useful alongside the ASBO, detention without charge, the right to seize domain names, illegal harvesting of innocent peoples' DNA, the right to arrest you for reading things that might help terrorists, the right to kettle legal demonstrations, the right to shoot people in the street, the right to beat people standing near demonstrations to death, the right to arrest you for taking pictures that might help terrorists, and all the other legal doctrines that are so consistent with all the invisible words in our "unwritten constitution."

New Police Powers (via Boing Boing Flickr Pool)