Open Thread: Someone Is Right on the Internet (or, XKCD Sells Out)

This seems relevant to our interests, from the NYTimes:

At 29, Randall Munroe still revels in a recent honor that can resemble a lifetime achievement award — an asteroid in orbit between Jupiter and Mars and once known simply as 4942 was renamed last year by the International Astronomical Union as 4942 Munroe.

For a generation of computer programmers, astrophysicists and other scientists, Mr. Munroe and his online comic, xkcd, have been lodestars. There are the clever riffs and jokes about computers codes and the culture of the Internet that only someone steeped in those worlds can fully understand illustrated by stick-figure characters who show their humanity even as they are absorbed by numbers and paradoxes…

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt announced this week that it would be publishing a book written and illustrated by Mr. Munroe based on a side project on the xkcd website called “What If?” Though the book won’t appear for six months, “What If?” quickly reached No. 2 on Amazon’s best-seller list on the strength of pre-orders, trailing only a history book from Rush Limbaugh….

(Insert your own joke about smart cartoons and dumb cartoons here.)

… Years earlier, [Houghton Mifflin editor] Ms. Young said, she tried to get a book — any book — from Mr. Munroe, writing an unsolicited email to him when she was at Penguin. She was a fan, she explained, dating to her time as a technical writer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. Mr. Munroe, who also had worked for NASA, instead decided to, in essence, self-publish a collection of his comics that were also available online. Even so, that book sold more than 100,000 copies, he said…

When Ms. Young heard that Mr. Munroe was considering going to a traditional book publisher, “I tried to buy it before there was a proposal — I ran to my publisher and got as much money as I could to just throw at him.”…

It’s nice to see an artist properly appreciated.

Apart from that, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up another weekend?

60 replies
  1. 1
    drkrick says:

    Happy for him. As an Old, knowing what XKCD is and opening for the Bad Brains once years ago are the only things anyone born after 1992 has ever thought were cool about me.

  2. 2
    Anoniminous says:

    Curious. It seems one cannot cross reference threads using the reply button.

  3. 3
    cathyx says:

    @drkrick: How old are you when you consider yourself an old?

  4. 4
    rikyrah says:

    Sunday, March 23, 2014
    Hillary, Super Frenemy
    Expect to see a lot of this over the next few years from Hillary Clinton:

    During a forum at the Clinton Global Initiative University, Clinton fielded a question from Vrinda Agrawal, a student at the University of California, Berkeley who asked, “If you don’t represent women in politics in America as a future president, who will?”

    More than 1,000 students roared with approval and applauded while former President Bill Clinton smiled, whispered into TV host Jimmy Kimmel’s ear and clapped along.

    The former first lady said she appreciated the sentiment but was still deciding.

    “I am very much concerned about the direction of our country and it’s not just who runs for office but what they do when they get there and how we bring people together and particularly empower young people so we can tackle these hard decisions,” Clinton said.

    uh huh

    uh huh

  5. 5
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Police searched the apartment of the former Energy Minister of Ukraine (he was a Yanukovych crony, and was replaced when Yanukovych ran away) and found 42 kilograms of gold (that’s 92.5 pounds in American) plus $4.8 mil in cash.

    This was in connection with a corruption investigation. Yeah, you think?

  6. 6
    the Conster says:

    XKCD opened the door for SMBC, the physics comic. Subscriptions allow this guy to read Sartre (Myth of Sisyphus) for inspiration and to make a living writing comics for engineers and science geeks. I just happened to be cleaning out old books today and came across the Myth of Sisyphus and my collection of Kliban books, so yay internet, comics and synchronicity.

    Also, this happened here this weekend.

  7. 7
    Baud says:


    Expect to see “I’m still deciding” over the next few years?

  8. 8
    Mnemosyne says:


    Meh. Even if she doesn’t run, she’s going to milk it for all she can for as long as she can. Wouldn’t you?

  9. 9
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    …particularly empower young people…

    By young people, Clinton means all those fifty year old whippersnappers.

  10. 10
    Kay says:


    Hillary and Jeb? I’m not talking about the 2016 presidential race — at least not yet. For now, Hillary Clinton has accepted an invitation from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush to appear at a conference in Texas that he is co-hosting next week on higher education.

    Bush is a national leader in the school reform movement that is centered around standardized test-based “accountability” systems and school choice. In fact, one of his foundations, the Foundation for Educational Excellence, which is funded in part by corporate testing companies, just unleashed an ad campaign to support — what else? — testing and accountability!

    Clinton, the former secretary of state and first lady of the United States, leads a conference list of speakers, which also includes Duncan and New York Times columnist Tom Friedman.

    It’s like they’re trying to make me mad :)

    David Brooks isn’t a “headliner” but you know he’ll be skulking around there too.

  11. 11
    gbear says:

    This should get out the hipster vote:

    GOP candidate for governor is a registered sex offender
    Glenn Champ says his criminal record, which includes voluntary manslaughter and other charges, could help him deal with politicians.

  12. 12
    Belafon says:

    @rikyrah: She won’t announce until after the November elections, the ones we should all be concentrating on.

  13. 13
    YellowJournalism says:


    Glenn Champ says his criminal record, which includes voluntary manslaughter and other charges, could help him deal with politicians.

    Because they already share common interests?

  14. 14
    Baud says:


    That sucks. I saw a Chris Hayes piece on the war between de Blasio and Cuomo on charter schools in New York, so your fight is gaining more press coverage. I guess it’ll be interesting to see what Hillary says — whether she’s generic and bland or goes all in with these folks.

  15. 15
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    Poor Hills: her advanced age is causing her to suffer premature triangulation.

  16. 16

    @Kay: Didn’t you get the memo, if you are not enthusiastic about Hillary, you are supposedly waiting for a fantasy date. So fall in line and welcome the queen.

  17. 17
    Mike in NC says:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the MSM is going to bet the farm on a Clinton vs. Bush faceoff for 2ppresident in 2016. Of course, they’ll paint Hillary as an nasty, unstable bitch and JEB! as the one to finish off the “remarkable” work that his brother and dad started. By then Poppy will probably have recently died and they’ll be milking that for all it’s worth, also, too.

  18. 18
    gbear says:

    @YellowJournalism: He’ll have a lot in common with Darrell Issa. Apparently Champ is playing the Jesus card.

  19. 19
    Kay says:


    Oh, make no mistake, they’re on it. They’re already asking her. Repeatedly.

    The WaPo article I linked was written by one of the most outspoken advocates, Valerie Strauss. It immediately went racing around Twitter and inspired 500 blog posts.

  20. 20
    Bill Arnold says:

    @Mike in NC:

    I’ve come to the conclusion that the MSM is going to bet the farm on a Clinton vs. Bush faceoff for 2ppresident in 2016.

    Convince the MSM that some other narrative will sell more advertising, and they will embrace it.
    (I don’t believe that the MSM will go wholeheartedly for Bush III. At most they’ll try to make it a horse race.)

  21. 21
    MikeJ says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    if you are not enthusiastic about Hillary, you are supposedly waiting for a fantasy date.

    It worked last time.

  22. 22
    Baud says:


    Any inroads with her among the public school advocates?

  23. 23
    Kay says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I have a nuanced view of Clinton :)

    Jeb Bush is already lying about his Florida education miracle, very much like his brother George lied about his Texas education miracle when he was running for President.

    This week, the Foundation for Excellence in Education began running a television ad in the Tampa Bay market touting Florida school progress.
    The ad serves two purposes: it argues Florida schools are improving, and that improvement is due to annual statewide testing, school grading and other policies promoted by former Gov. Jeb Bush. Bush founded the Foundation for Excellence in Education. The ads are tied to the 15th anniversary of Bush’s A+ education plan.

    So what does the ad claim? And is it accurate?

    hah! Of course not.

    I was pleased to see the piece on a public radio site, because the ad was actually debunked by a public ed group. Public radio then picked it up.

  24. 24
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Didn’t you get the memo, if you are not enthusiastic about Hillary, you are supposedly waiting for a fantasy date.

    Not only that. If you are not enthusiastic about Hillary it means that you want Ted Cruz or Rick Santorum to be elected president.

  25. 25
    Baud says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Meh. I’m not planning on voting against anybody when the primary rolls around. I’m going to vote for the person I think is the best choice. So until there is an actual contest to be had, I’m not going to be into trash talking any potential candidate. (That includes Schweitzer, who is apparently Palinesque in his ability to handle gimme questions from reporters.)

  26. 26
    ruemara says:

    Struggling with the titles for my latest piece. I want a specific look and feel, but that requires 3D that I can use without blowing a motherfucking gasket (fuck you, Blender). I want Cinema 4D so much. But I think I acquitted myself ok on this one. If you get to see it, remember that I have to do everything: shooting, writing, producing, editing, post, audio-everything. Not sure how I’m going to handle the other interviews, beyond the usual ENG style. I could use a clone.

  27. 27
    Baud says:


    He understands the oppression of big government!

  28. 28
    Kay says:


    No, and they’re uncovering all sorts of photos of her with Eli Broad and various other scoundrels, so that’s not good. There aren’t that many of them but they’re really scrappy and industrious and determined, and it’s siloed, ya know what I mean? It’s a world apart from regular political debate. Specific.

    The whole thing is fascinating because my sense is they would be supporters of hers, that there’s affection or an affinity towards her. She’ll have to answer their questions at some point.

  29. 29
    Chris T. says:

    @Gin & Tonic: If I did the math right, that’s about $2 million in gold. So he was keeping just under a third of the money ($6.5 million total) in gold.

    Various experts recommend no more than 5% of one’s portfolio be in precious metals. So either he had another $33.5 million stashed somewhere, or he was a gold bug?

  30. 30
    Anoniminous says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    All the womens are waiting for a Hilllary coronation nomination.

    I read it on the Internets so it must be true.

  31. 31
    Kay says:

    I passed my Ohio pollworker online training course today. I know you all were on pins and needles.

    I got one out of 20 wrong, but honestly the question was poorly-worded and I feel my choice better reflected democratic ideals, in an aspirational sense :)

    I may have to appeal, demand a recount.

  32. 32
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Chris T.: I’m going to go way out on a limb here and suggest that the cash on hand and bullion in his apartment represent a fraction of his total assets.

  33. 33
    Baud says:


    If you could sit down with her (or Obama for that matter), what specific thing would you be asking her to endorse or oppose? Realistically, in terms of what the public school advocates think is or soon will be currently achievable? (I’m assuming a nationwide ban on all charter schools is not in the cards.)

  34. 34
    Baud says:



  35. 35
    Kay says:


    You know, it’s pretty simple, what they want. They want an advocate. They feel (rightly, in my view) that there are passionate advocates for charters and vouchers on one side (Republicans) and “agnostics” on the other (Democrats). That IS uneven, unequal, not a fair fight. They’re right. They feel attacked, targeted and maligned , and I agree with them there, too. I’m not one of them and I feel it.

    Karen Lewis said at the Austin event I went to “they don’t value public schools” and that to me is a really profound statement and one they should pay attention to because it’s an indication of how deep this goes. Public schools aren’t just consumer service providers. They’re much more than that to people. This seems so blatantly obvious to me just looking at the heat around the battles that I almost feel as if they’re being deliberately obtuse about this. I want to say: “ADDRESS this, speak to these people!” It isn’t going away. It’s a real divide.

  36. 36
    danielx says:


    It’s a moveable feast, always five years older than you are.

  37. 37
    Smiling Mortician says:


    I almost feel as if they’re being deliberately obtuse about this.

    They are. We need stronger, better, and more democrats.

  38. 38
    Baud says:


    It’s never a fair fight when you’re going against industry. All I can say is, don’t give up hope. You can never tell when the political situation will force someone to become your ally. Trite, but true IMHO.

  39. 39
    Kay says:


    Oh, it’s pretty exciting, all right.

    I’m only doing it because the Democrat at the BOE begged me. I get too cranky when they don’t read the rules and then I alienate and offend the Republicans at my precinct table. We really think differently about this, liberals and conservatives. I get snippy: “how many times are you going to ask him that?” if I feel like they’re interrogating people.

    In mediation training they call that “oppositional”. Stop getting OPPOSITIONAL :)

  40. 40
    Roger Moore says:


    Even the CA GOBP isn’t stupid enough…

    This is in the primary, mind you, and it’s fairly easy to get on the ballot. Of course California now has an open primary, so who knows what’s going to happen.

  41. 41
    danielx says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    This was in connection with a corruption investigation. Yeah, you think?

    From what I’ve read, sounds more like business as usual in a former SSR.

    @Chris T.:

    As far as finding that much gold is concerned, a 5% allocation may make sense here, in a (by comparison) noncorrupt and stable environment. Over there is so different that we don’t grasp it, and gold is, although heavy, a universal currency.

  42. 42
    Roger Moore says:

    @Chris T.:
    I’m not sure if traditional portfolio analysis is the way to look at a case like that. Corrupt government officials who are worried about getting chased out of the country have different needs from the conventional investor. Extreme liquidity is very important in a case like that, though I’d think bearer bonds might have been a better choice.

    [ETA: Also consider that this is what got left behind when he fled. You don’t know what he was able to take with him.]

  43. 43
    Keith G says:

    My start of week just got a bit more interesting in an Obamacare kind of way.

    Some time ago I was made aware that an expanding business in my native state, Ohio, would needing to fill some new positions. It seemed a good match and I had in inside track.

    Weeks turned into a couple of months, but alas when we finally got down to details they could not meet the number that I needed to compel me to move back to the North – even though it would be near to family and have a health care benefit package.

    So tonight, I fired up to quickly get an account and choose an insurence plan that I had already researched and felt comfortable with. I figured in and out in 30 min tops.

    That is until the site told me that it could not verify my identification.

    No problem call the number provided for verification help….Oh, they (Experian) are closed til Monday. Great. Do they really want to have limited hours during the last week of march?

    I am sure it will be quickly resolved, but an interesting twist nonetheless.

  44. 44
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    I have to get ridiculously pedantic here and point out that it’s xkcd, not XKCD.

    (Odd that this would bother me, as I’m usually the other way around. It drives me crazy when the Brits refer to Nafta or Aids, which to my mind should be all-capital-letter acronyms.)

  45. 45
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:


    It’s a moveable feast, always five years older than you are.

    Maybe for a while. I turn 66 in less than five weeks so although I hike, surf and lead an active life, I know that I am old. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.

  46. 46
    cyntax says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Can you still get bearer bonds?

  47. 47
    Baud says:


    Well, Ohio is lucky to have you, oppositional or not.

  48. 48
    danielx says:

    @Chris T.:

    There’s a domestic school of thought that says everyone should have a big bunch of gold at home, as it can’t be stolen by politically connected looters…which doesn’t say anything about nonconnected looters, of course.

  49. 49
    Mike E says:

    Tonight’s Cosmos is a great story hamstrung by commercial breaks: the gospel according to Sir Edmund Halley.

  50. 50
    Kay says:

    @Smiling Mortician:

    I don’t know. So the fear behind it is that they’re privatizing public schools. This is a rational fear. Many of them say they’re privatizing public schools. The Netflix guy for example. He’s not making any bones about what the goal is.

    But they won’t address that fear directly, they have this kind of bland, patronizing brush-off of “who US?” which leads to real anger and frustration. Well, Duncan isn’t “bland”. He’s small and petty and and passive aggressive, but the “corporate” types are smooth and bland and scripted. It’s like you can’t get a hold of them. They sort of smilingly recite slogans. Obviously, I sympathize with the frustration on the public school side. I would tear my fucking hair out dealing with Bill Gates’ giant Oz head, beaming down at me.

  51. 51
    rikyrah says:

    Kay, thanks for your responses.

  52. 52
    Kay says:


    Anytime. It’s good to see you. Sherrod and Elizabeth Warren are doing a joint event in Cleveland. The voting rights people are trying to get them to do voting rights as part of it. I’m sure Sherrod will say something, because it’s Cleveland and that’s his voting rights event city.

    We got a really sharp aggressive lawyer on our BOE here, on the Dem side. He’s a happy warrior, someone who thoroughly enjoys a fight, so that should be fun with the new voting rules in the gov race.

    Republicans purged their only lawyer-member because he isn’t insane and is therefore insufficiently pure so now they don’t have a lawyer. It sucked because he got health insurance thru the job and he has 4 kids. BUT, he wasn’t pure enough! PURGE. It was nasty. He’s a decent person. Maybe he’ll switch sides.

  53. 53
    Warren Terra says:

    I’m looking forward to the book. I’m a big fan of webcomics generally; I’d point in particular to this week’s Monster Of The Week, expecially the third panel, which made me giggle out loud even though I’ve never cared for The X Files in the slightest (I’m a fan of the work of the cartoonist, Shaenon Garrity, rather than her subject matter here).

  54. 54
    Steeplejack says:


    Then the New York Times must drive you nuts. They have been mixed-casing acronyms for several years now. (It drives me nuts too.)

  55. 55
    Roger Moore says:

    @Warren Terra:

    I’m looking forward to the book.

    I have it on pre-order. It’s not the regular comic, though; it’s from his “What If” sideline, where he gives more or less straight answers to generally absurd hypothetical questions.

  56. 56
    Chris T. says:

    @Roger Moore: Well, to be serious (not my usual default), bearer bonds are pretty rare these days.

    I just thought it amusing (in a black-humor fashion) to think about this as if they were traditional ill-gotten gains, vs kleptocrat type gains.

  57. 57
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: We Brits have standards, donchaknow? Acronyms are capitalised (KGB, NKVD, CIA etc.) except in the case where the acronym is usually pronounced as a single word like, for example, Aids or Nafta or Nasa. Participles and such in acronyms are usually lower-case, so DoD or UKoGBaNI. Simple, ne?

  58. 58
    Schlemizel says:

    @Roger Moore: Bearer bonds were outlawed in most of the West back in the 80s because they were used to launder money.

  59. 59
    Steeplejack says:

    @Robert Sneddon:

    Not as simple as just, you know, capitalizing acronyms. People can still pronounce them, and the capitalization provides the additional information that it is an acronym for something. “Nafta” looks like an unsuccessful health-food product.

  60. 60
    Robert Sneddon says:

    @Steeplejack: Do you say “dod” when referring to the Department of Defense or do you say “dee oh dee”? If you spell it out it’s typed in capitals, with the proviso I mentioned in British circles of using lower-case for particles — US usage would be DOD generally (so to speak). Similarly it’s unlikely you would say “en ay ess aye” to refer to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It’s a logical and sensible system, I can understand why Americans don’t use it.

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