Wordle is a fun tool for making what I will call “nice-looking tag clouds”. It’s like tag-tinted glasses for the written world.

Here are two I made today.

LaTeX – from the first few paragraphs of the Wikipedia entry on LaTeX

My del.icio.us tags – from my del.icio.us

These are super-customizable but I can’t let myself play with it that long. (That’s what she said.)

I am very busy finishing my thesis; the plan now is to finish and move out of Cambridge at the end of July. I will come back to blogging, hopefully daily again, at that point. I miss it quite a bit. So stay tuned…

June 13, 2008. computers/programming, information visualization, words. 1 Comment.


graph·i·ca·cy [ gráffikəssee ]


understanding of symbols and diagrams: the ability to use and understand such things as symbols, diagrams, plans, and maps

[Mid-20th century. <graphic , after literacy]

More on Wikipedia. Also: graphicacy in education.
How have I gone so long without this word?

February 12, 2008. information visualization, words. No Comments.

Missed Scrabulous opportunity

scrabulous screenshot

Other prohibited possibilities: LOVEMEAT, MEATPOLE
(Thank you, Ian!)

February 8, 2008. games, words. 2 Comments.

Funniness threshold

Do you ever watch or read a tremendous amount of something intended to be amusing, don’t find yourself laughing at first, but at some point start laughing and then just can’t stop? I do. And I love that there is something like that… kind of a threshold for silliness.

For example, I had this happen yesterday, because I did, as mentioned, watch all the “Get a Mac” ads at once. There are 30-35 of them on the site right now. I watched the first couple, thinking, “Sure, these are funny… ish.” But around when I finished the 15th one, I just couldn’t help but laugh out loud at every single one of them. I’m sure I was chuckling heartily for the last four that I watched, but I’m also pretty sure they weren’t any funnier than the first few. (My favorites were “Work Vs. Play”, “Choose a Vista”, and “Misprint”, btw.)

Other recent experiences with this phenomenon: Flight of the Conchords episodes and Cute Overload posts.

I need a name for that particular characteristic of amusing media that, with sufficient exposure, becomes exceedingly funny. All I can think of right now is “snowlol” …which may, as it happens, become much funnier if I had already made a similar joke 15 times.

February 1, 2008. comics, words. 1 Comment.

Canary Islands named after dogs

I just reviewed a couple of papers for the 2008 International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces, which will be in the Canary Islands. Reminding myself where the Canary Islands are (west of Morocco! …even though they are Spanish islands) led me to the wikipedia page, which tells me that the Canary Islands are likely named from the Latin term Insula Canaria, meaning “Island of the Dogs”, and the canary birds are probably named after the islands.

(Much more info here.)

November 8, 2007. travel, words. 1 Comment.

Feelings of Punjab

Tonight for dinner I had Trader Joe‘s Punjab Eggplant, which had the distinct characteristic of spiciness that makes my throat itch. There should be a name for food with this trait… spitchy? prickled? irritasty?

October 16, 2007. food, words. 3 Comments.

indigo : pea :: sepia : cuttlefish

Sepia is just that brownish color you can use to make your digital photos look old, right? Guess where the word comes from!

It’s actually the Greek word for cuttlefish. ((from the Oxford American Dictionary))

sepia |ˈsēpēə| noun
a reddish-brown color associated particularly with monochrome photographs of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

  • a brown pigment prepared from a black fluid secreted by cuttlefish, used in monochrome drawing and in watercolors.
  • a drawing done with this pigment.
  • a blackish fluid secreted by a cuttlefish as a defensive screen.

(And indigo dye comes from a tropical plant of the pea family. ((Oxford English Dictionary, n. (a.))) )

September 19, 2007. words. No Comments.


From Wikipedia:

“Omphaloskepsis is the contemplation of one’s navel as an aid to meditation.”

Apparently people who practice omphaloskepsis have taken Fermat’s spiral as their symbol.


July 18, 2007. patterns, words. No Comments.

define: voxel

A voxel is the 3D equivalent of a pixel. So, where a pixel is the smallest sample element in a 2D image, the voxel is the smallest sample element in a volume image. The word “voxel” is a combination of “volumetric” or “volume”, and “pixel”.

“Some alternative 3D rendering techniques use voxels to render 3D scenes: whilst it is not a common technique within real-time 3D at the moment, with the increasing power of computers, it will probabally become more important in the future.” ((http://www.machinima.com/article.php?article=69))


April 30, 2007. computers/programming, words. 3 Comments.

Word of the day: prosody

(from my handy dashboard dictionary, which for some reason does not have galavanting…)


April 20, 2007. words. No Comments.