The Zipf mystery

This is brilliant. It’s long, it’s complex, and you may not think you’re interested in it in the first few minutes, but stick with it and you’ll learn, among other things, why online social popularity leads to more online social popularity (it’s called “preferential attachment processes”).


I struggled to explain a bit of this a while back when I discussed Flickr’s Explore feature and the possible effects it has on photographers who are concerned with it (social popularity building more social popularity).

I’m not a linguist, a mathematician or a scientist of any kind, but I am interested in patterns of all kinds and this is a behind the scenes look at a collection of patterns and the processes behind them.

I like the various Vsauce videos, produced and hosted by Michael Stevens. Here’s their youTube channel: Vsauce.


Zipf’s law
Zipf–Mandelbrot law
Hapax legomenon

[via Devour]

Work – Mandalay, Myanmar

Work - Mandalay, Myanmar

My flickr contact Maciej Dakowicz posted this great image of (young) workers shoveling gravel in Mandalay, Myanmar. The clothing alone makes it a great image but the entire composition: the patterns on the clothing, the position of the shovel, the gaze of the person standing at left and the person sitting on the pile all make this outstanding.

Ice on Schaghticoke Ridge


Schaghticoke Ridge, Appalachian Trail, Kent, Connecticut. This is one of our favorite hikes in the area, from Bull’s Bridge to Kent on the AT. Near the New York/Connecticut border we crossed a little stream that had some nice ice on it. Had to stop and see if I could capture some patterns.





Ice bubbles

Collectors and collections

I have this “disease” and there’s a very fine line between hoarding lots of stuff looking for patterns and the kind of high end collecting these folks do. Each class of collecting (hooding and high end collecting) has its extremes.

What these folks do that I haven’t done yet is curate their collections; my various collections sit in boxes in the basement and at some point when I’m not looking my wife may dispose of them. The sad part is, I might not notice for a while. Matchbooks, postcards, stamps, cigar boxes, coins, political cartoons, boarding pass stubs, embossed napkins, sea shells, pasta and a lot more. Ugh.

Another form of this is scrapbooking which tends to be about personal history but can be less focused as well. I tend to collect paper ephemera so my collections are probably a hybrid of objects and scrapbooking minus the curation and scrapbook.

In a way, blogging and reblogging is a type of collecting and curating, it’s just not objects that are being curated, it’s ideas or videos about ideas (like collecting and collectors).


Collecting matchbox labels is called phillumeny; its obsessive proponents are phillumenists. One reason there are so many phillumenists is because there are untold matchbox (and matchbook) graphics that can be found in virtually all corners of the globe.

I am a phillumenist; I have thousands of matchboxes and book matches from my 20 years of world travel. I can’t seem to get rid of them and I haven’t gotten around to photographing or scanning them but someday.