Kids struggling to hold pencils thanks to too much tech

Parents who load their tablets and smartphones up with fun educational apps for their kids to play with may actually be doing them more harm than good. According to The Guardian, spending too much time tapping and swiping away at touchscreens is leaving the muscles in many children's hands too weak to hold a pencil.

In the article, Sally Payne, a pediatric occupational therapist, explains that the nature of play has changed over the past decade. Instead of giving kids things to play with that build up their hand muscles, such as building blocks, or toys that need to be pushed or pulled along, parents have been handing them tablets and smartphones. Because of this, by the time they're old enough to go to school, many children lack the hand strength and fine motor control required to correctly hold a pencil and write. In order to correct the problem, some parents are going so far as to send their kids to pediatric occupational therapists, like Payne:

Six-year-old Patrick has been having weekly sessions with an occupational therapist for six months to help him develop the necessary strength in his index finger to hold a pencil in the correct, tripod grip.

His mother, Laura, blames herself: “In retrospect, I see that I gave Patrick technology to play with, to the virtual exclusion of the more traditional toys. When he got to school, they contacted me with their concerns: he was gripping his pencil like cavemen held sticks. He just couldn’t hold it in any other way and so couldn’t learn to write because he couldn’t move the pencil with any accuracy.

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The myth of the "genius creator" requires that we ignore the people they build on, or insist they don't matter

The wonderful Copy Me project (previously) has revealed the first installment in its new three-part series on The Creativity Delusion, which takes aim at the "myth of genius," which picks a small subsection of creators, scientists and entrepreneurs and declares them to be "original" by ignoring all the work they plundered to create their own and erasing all the creators whose shoulders they stand upon. Read the rest

Charlie Stross on the sorry state of science fictional worldbuilding

Charlie Stross explains that he's more-or-less stopped reading science fiction, no longer capable of stomaching the paper-thin worldbuilding that refuses to contemplate the profound ways in which technology changes human relations and motivations. Read the rest

The Awl bids farewell

Alex Balk: The Awl, 2009-2018.

The surprise shouldn’t be that The Awl didn’t last, it should be that it lasted as long as it did. And now it’s dead. The archives will remain up, but I hope they degrade in the way everything on the Internet does and that eventually they sink into the vast sea of undiscoverable content so that a decade from now one of you can look at a young person who is ignoring you while she stares at her phone and say, “You can’t find it anymore, but the most amazing thing on the Internet was The Awl. It’s impossible to believe something that incredible existed.” And since everything will have disappeared no one will be able to dispute it. If we wait around long enough our legacy will be legend. We’ll secretly know the truth, but it won’t make any difference then, will it?

Thank you, in advance, for lying about how amazing we were. And thank you, right now, for your attention. You will never know how much it meant.

Now that we all know that the internet dissolves everything, not just bad things, perhaps it never deserved The Awl in the first place. The Awl implies a web that was never really lost because it never existed or could exist, a (wonderfully) conservative vision of the medium's potential to not be what it is. Yet for nearly ten years they proved that things implicit, things never really lost, things hoped for, the unrepressed sublime, can still be. Read the rest

Superb science fiction story in the form of a list of failed attempts to stave off climate extinction

Debbie Urbanski's story "An Incomplete Timeline of What We Tried" for Motherboard takes the improbable form of a list of failed strategies for coping with the incipient, climate-driven uninhabitability of the Earth, and it works beautifully. Read the rest

Support Internet visionary Howard Rheingold's Patreon

Boing Boing pal Howard Rheingold is an Internet culture visionary. In fact, he was probably the first Internet culture visionary. Since 1984, he's written about the intersection of technology, consciousness and media in foresight-filled books like Tools for Thought (1985), Virtual Reality (1991), The Virtual Community (1993), Smart Mobs (2002), Net Smart (2012), and researched the power of cooperation with Institute for the Future. Howard's paintings and sculptures are deeply psychedelic, beautiful, and weird. Howard's work has had a massive impact on my life since I first went online in the 1980s and I feel fortunate to call him my friend. Now, Howard has launched a Patreon to support his continued efforts to change minds and move culture.

As Howard once said, "Openness and participation are antidotes to surveillance and control."

Support Howard Rheingold on Patreon.

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Alphasmart modded with mechanical keys

The Alphasmart ($30 on Amazon, but also ebay) is a low-end gadget much-loved by writers for its simplicity and enforced focus on the task at hand: writing. But among the many limitations is its cheap rubber-dome keyboard, the stuff of nightmares for serious typists. Enter Lazy Dog on the geekhack forums, who replaced his with a proper clicky 'board, all hacked into the original case.

I designed the PCB in KiCAD. This was my first time using KiCAD or any EDA software. I found it surprisingly straightforward and accessible, but also like most open-source software, possibly designed for use by aliens. ... After carefully connecting the flex cables, screwing it all together, and placing the keycaps, I finally had a fully working machine! It produces predictably loud tock tock tock noises, and is an enormous improvement over the previous keys.

What a beautiful monster. Read the rest

How to hand letter like an architect

I'm the son of a physician and inherited his poor penmanship. I wish I had the invaluable but dying life skill demonstrated in this video. (via Uncrate)

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Uncanny Japan: a podcast highlighting "all that is weird from old Japan"

Thersa Matsuura was born and raised in the USA but spent the past 25 years -- more than half her life -- living in a small Japanese fishing village with her husband and son. Read the rest

American books are getting swearier

Psych scholars from San Diego State and U Georgia used Google Books to systematically explore the growth of swear-words in published American literature: they conclude that books are getting swearier and that this is a bellwether for a growth in the value of individualism: "Due to the greater valuation of the rights of the individual self, individualistic cultures favor more self-expression in general (Kim & Sherman, 2007) and allow more expression of personal anger in particular (Safdar et al., 2009). Thus, a more individualistic culture should be one with a higher frequency of swear word use." Read the rest

Anti-heckler judo for the amateur magician

Andy at The Jerx (previously) describes a surprisingly effective tactic for putting a heckler in his place during the performance of a magic trick. Read the rest

Daniel Handler: "Want Teenage Boys to Read? Give Them Books About Sex."

Teenage girls read far more than teenage boys. Daniel Handler, author of the Lemony Snicket series and other fantastic tales, has a suggestion on how to increase teen boys' interest in books: more sex in the pages. From Daniel's essay in the New York Times:

It is a gross generalization, of course, to say that what young men want to read about is sex — or to imply that the rest of us aren’t as interested — but it’s also offensive to pretend, when we’re ostensibly wondering how to get more young men to read, that they’re not interested in the thing we all know they’re interested in. There’s hardly any real sex in young adult books, and when it happens, it’s largely couched in the utopian dreams or the finger-wagging object lessons of the world we hope for, rather than the messy, risky, delicious and heartbreaking one we live in.

My new novel portrays a young boy’s emotional, heteroflexible sex life — and I’d like young people to read it. But it’s being published for adults, partly because the guardians of young people’s literature get so easily riled up about sex, preferring to recommend, say, books about teenagers slaughtering one another in a post-apocalyptic landscape, rather than books about kids masturbating at home.

To which many would say, so what? Don’t we have more important things to worry about than giving sexually explicit literature to young people? Shouldn’t we be more concerned about, say, the rampant misogyny of everyday life, in a nation led by a self-admitted sexual predator?

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Insights from statistical analysis of great (and not-great) literature

Ben Blatt's Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing takes advantage of the fact that so much literature has been digitized, allowing him to run statistical analyses on writers, old and new, and make both fun and meaningful inferences about the empirical nature of writing. Read the rest

How African speculative fiction gave birth to itself

Geoff Ryman -- the brilliant science fiction author who curated last year's 100 AFRICAN WRITERS OF SFF project, continues to publish and curate excellent, exciting science fiction from across Africa. Read the rest

Shade the Changing Girl v. 1: On sidequels and writing the teenage alien.

This week (and next due to the nature of different release dates for the direct market and the book market) marks the release of the first collection of SHADE THE CHANGING GIRL v.1: Earth Girl Made Easy, which compiles issues 1-6 (previously). It’s a heavy load to recreate a character that giants before you have written. Steve Ditko is a master of the strange. His mind a merry-go-round of experimentation.

How to write pulp fiction that celebrates humanity's essential goodness

My latest Locus column is "Be the First One to Not Do Something that No One Else Has Ever Not Thought of Doing Before," and it's about science fiction's addiction to certain harmful fallacies, like the idea that you can sideline the actual capabilities and constraints of computers in order to advance the plot of a thriller. Read the rest

Steven Boyett on Fata Morgana, his new WWII/alt-history mashup novel

Today on John Scalzi's Whatever blog, Steven R Boyett (author of the classic fantasy novel Ariel) writes about Fata Morgana, the new alternate history/WWII novel he's just published with Ken Mitchroney. Read the rest

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