posted 4 days ago on metafilter
"Alter Dark is a new project that lets you create your own screensavers out of NES ROMs. It was put together by Rachel Weil, an NES homebrew expert and glitch enthusiast, and recently shown off at NodeConf EU in Dublin. For Weil, it combines two of her favorite things: messing around with NES software and the dated aesthetics of screensavers. The name is also a play on the After Dark software package release in 1989 which consisted of, among other things, a flying toaster screensaver." API files and code at GitHub. Rachel Weil also discusses how screensavers influenced her work, spurring a years-long obsession with putting screensavers where they don't belong. [YouTube]. [via: Kotaku]

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
A really big part of my job is doing telephone interviews, and I need to be able to record them in order to get accurate quotes from them later. My telephone doesn't support call recording (or rather, it only records my end of the conversation, which is useless), but I've had a really successful system of using Skype, with a paid balance to make outgoing calls to telephone numbers and then recording them using the third-party Skype Call Recorder program for Ubuntu. This doesn't work anymore.There was a forced Skype version update last week that has broken the interface with Skype Call Recorder. The Skype Call Recorder devs have said they have no plans to roll out a fix. This is a big problem for me. I've done two interviews today with no recorder and just trying to take real time notes, but I'm not a fast enough typist, nor can I fully keep my train of thought and be a good interviewer while trying to transcribe everything. I have more interviews tomorrow and really need a solution. The ideal solution would be some other way to record the call audio using the new version of Skype, but googling doesn't show any solutions. Alternately, I would have no problem using some other VOIP service that supports call recording so long as it: 1. Works on Ubuntu, and 2. Allows me to call out to telephone lines, not just other users. Do you have any suggestions for me? Please?

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
I've noticed I enjoy listening to talks online. I want to find more good ones.I'm looking for the golden nuggets of lectures and talks. I have some down time coming up and would like to use this time for some self-learning/improvement. I know TEDTalks is the go to for this kind of thing, but I'd like to find more variations. Also accepting links to good university lectures if anyone know of any amazing professors that record their classes for free. Topics can vary from self-helpy things to politics to philosophy to personal stories to whatever else, but I will admit my attention span is not the best and if it gets too dense I will probably zone out. Examples of things I've liked are Brene Brown and Ta-Nehisi Coates videos.

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
Googling this seems to provide conflicting answers. Would like fellow mefites' thoughts on my question. If you believe you can grow/repair/remineralize tooth enamel, links or product names would be appreciated. If it matters--the biting surface of one back molar is sensitive, mostly to acids. Dentist says no cavities, the enamel there on the biting surface is just very thin. He said to rub a little Sensodyne there, but I'm not sure if that is repairing anything or just a bandaid. I would like to avoid a crown if I can repair it. Yes, you are not my dentist, blah blah

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
What should I do for my fortieth birthday at the end of May next year?Turning forty a the end of May next year and looking for ways to really celebrate before I descend into old age and madness. Could be going solo or possibly a ladyfriend, just depends on the mood that strikes when I book it. Would love to travel, but it's not a requirement.

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
My bf of a year and a half have had ongoing issues over his dog's aggressive behavior, including snapping at my face and lunging and growling at several people. Multiple requests to get her trained have gone nowhere. BF also shuts down and withdraws any time this comes up, to the point I feel like I have to prepare for a breakup every time I initiate the discussion. No one else seems to have an issue with the dog, so maybe I really am the one in the wrong?Bf and I have been dating for a year and a half. Bf and his roommate have been best friends and roommates for over 10 years. Bf's roommate A bought a 4 month old pitbull puppy from a shelter on a whim 6 years ago. Bf considers her to be his dog too. She was abused by her first owner and has some fear aggression issues. She's snapped at my face and growled at me, she lunged at their other roommate D's girlfriend and tore her clothes, and she lunges and barks at people, dogs, and bikes on walks. She's under-socialized, untrained, and under-exercised, maybe gets walked once a week. I grew up with dogs literally my whole childhood, but I'm scared of this one. In the beginning of the relationship bf wanted her to sleep in his full-sized bed with us a few times when roommate A was gone. Then about a year ago she snapped at my face. That night, I asked bf if she could sleep with their other roommate Z. Bf said, "okay but she's not going to like it." Dog sleeps in one of their beds every night. She doesn't have a dog bed or crate. Anyway, Dog went to Z's room but started barking to be let into bf's room around 6am. Z kicked her out and bf brought her into the bed with us without asking me. I got upset and left in a huff to go home and sleep in my own bed. Bf was hurt by me leaving. This was our first fight. I called him later to explain why I was upset and that I was scared of the dog. I said I wouldn't spend the night anymore if he wanted the dog to sleep in the bed with us. He was angry that I gave an ultimatum about not spending the night and felt deceived that I'd seemed okay around her before and was now saying I was scared. We seemed to reach an understanding that she wouldn't sleep in the bed when I'm staying over anymore, but later that night he didn't say "I love you" when we signed off for the night. We normally say it every night. I called him out on it and ended up apologizing for leaving that morning instead of asking him to kick the dog out of bed. Eventually he acknowledged that it was shitty to withhold his "I love you" and apologized. He said they would look into training for the dog. This hasn't happened. The lack of training has come up 3 more times since our first fight. He keeps saying he'll talk to roommate A about it, and he does, but then nothing happens. This issue just came up again when he told someone he'd get another pitbull if he were to get another dog. I am very opposed to this, especially if we started living together because I have two cats. I realize pitbulls can be very sweet, but I think they're also very stubborn and wilfull, and if they're rescues they can come with a lot of behavioral issues. That's true of any rescue, but I think pits are more likely to have been abused as fighting dogs or otherwise mistreated or untrained by gross people who like the status and image of having an aggressive dog. I think rescue dogs require an experienced, committed, responsible dog owner, and I have not seen bf demonstrate that kind of behavior. I've repeatedly encouraged them just to walk her once a day even, but bf says he's frequently too tired when he gets home from work. I told bf my concerns about this yesterday, and now we're in another fight. He's taking some space right now, I don't know for how long. I feel like I have to psyche myself up for a breakup every time we talk about this because he feels defensive and shuts down or withdraws. I'm wearing out on feeling like the bad guy for wanting him to do something about their failure to train this dog that's been aggressive to me. His withdrawal also leaves me feeling incredibly anxious and insecure about our ability to address conflict together. He is a wonderful boyfriend in many other ways, but this has been an ongoing source of conflict for a year now. The other girl whose clothes were torn is fine with Dog, so I am the only one expressing an issue with Dog's behavior. At this point I can't tell whether I'm in the wrong and overreacting since no one else is complaining, and maybe bf is right to withdraw. One of my friends also thinks I'm overreacting. I also understand that Dog's training is really roommate A's job, but bf keeps saying he sees her as his dog too. I would really appreciate some input on whether I'm being a jerk or not and advice on what to do next.

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
Where are all the brick-and-mortar stores that sell stickers? Difficulty level: UK, not Paperchase. Minor snowflake flurry inside.I have a bullet journal, a diary, and a small pile of notebooks in regular use, and I like decorating them. This (to me) means washi tape and stickers. I've got a small pile of washi tape rolls, I've got a subscription to Pipsticks and the beginnings of a sticker collection. The problem is, I don't like sticker shopping online. What I want is the instant gratification of just popping into a store, browsing their selection of stickers, and picking one or two sheets I like. But I've no idea where to find such a shop. I was in Berlin recently with a friend, and we went shopping in the Mall of Berlin for lack of anything better to do, and there were not one but two general craft / creativity stores with a variety of stickers and washi tape that I would consider sufficient (lots and lots of varieties of stickers - I would estimate 50+ although I didn't count, there was a whole section of racks - and 10-20+ varieties of washi tape), plus a ton of other crafting supplies that would likely tickle my fancy every now and then. Surely that kind of store exists in the UK, too. But I can't find one. I've tried Paperchase, and that was a no go. They have a bunch of stickers, but the vast majority of them is of the puffy variety, which I would never really use since I hate the resulting bumpiness. Other stores (Tiger, C&H, even Primark) will occasionally have some sheets of stickers, or washi tape rolls, or both, but not regularly enough for my liking (if I want to vent some stress or reward myself by buying a set of stickers and I can't find any, it's not helping). If you can point me to a store that is local to me (Brighton), I will love you forever. But I go to London often enough that I'll take something in London, too, as long as it's relatively central. Bonus points: - Also carries washi tape - Also carries other crafting supplies (paper, beads, clay, art supplies, general creativity stuff) - Also carries sticker rolls in addition to prepackaged sticker sheets (purely for nostalgia's sake, I was a teenager in the '90s and poking through the sticker rolls at my local paper goods store is something I dearly miss) Help?

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
Last weekend, I made Metafilter's favorite Mark Bittman no-knead bread and it turned out delicious, but a little denser than optimal. I've identified a few possible issues – can some of the master bakers out there weigh in?Possible issue #1 - wrong flour? I used Gold Medal unbleached all-purpose Possible issue #2 - not enough yeast? I added ingredients according to weight Possible issue #3 - not enough time? I gave it 18+ hours as per directions Possible issue #4 - it's supposed to be dense, deal with it . Thanks in advance.

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
I've become more active in my local teachers association recently, and I find myself wanting to read up on the history of the labor movement in the United States.I have some general background knowledge of the origin of the concept of "unions" (thanks U.S. History class), but I haven't retained any sort of timeline or understanding of important turning points or events. I'm looking for a general history/reference book to start, but am open to reading up on the development of teachers'/educators' unions specifically as well. Of course I am interested in unions today and the direction we're heading (for example, the Janus case, which is on my radar), but that's a topic for a whole 'nother AskMe. Thanks in advance for any help you can give me.

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
Sending a Christmas package with snacks/sweets that my friend in the UK can't get over there. I don't want to ask her favorites because I want it to be a surprise. Suggestions? Lighter weight is better, as postage has gotten ridiculous. I saw this thread but it's been three years and maybe more stuff is available over there now.

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
I buy gifts for a local kiddo every holiday season. This year the nine-year-old girl I was assigned asked for craft supplies. I want to put together a kit of amazing, fun stuff for her to get creative with! But I am at a loss, and all the "craft buckets" seem lacking and sad and full of only pom poms and googley eyes (which are great but kind of have limited creative range)! Assuming a $50 budget for craft supplies, help me put together an AMAZING group of gifts to make my very own craft bucket for her.I don't know if she has siblings, but think she probably does, so I want to make sure I don't get too many tiny things that can be swallowed. I also want to steer clear of stuff that can be super messy, and I do not really want to go with "girly" stuff or pre-fab kits. I want her to have a set of stuff she can really go to town with using her imagination. I was thinking that good quality construction paper and some scissors with fun edges could be a good start, but... what else does she need? I've also been tasked with getting her books, and that's covered--I've got a nice list of good graphic novels for her. So maybe another thing to consider for crafts is a good "how to draw your own graphic novels" book or something? But I don't want to get too prescriptivist with the craft part of the gift.

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
An Interactive Map of Every Record Shop in the World. (You're welcome.)

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
Looking for reading material to help support/educate me on matters I care about!Ever since that pivotal night a little over a year ago, I've become much more interested in/vocal about politics and the important cultural/societal issues at stake than I ever used to be. I feel like for better or worse we are in an incredible time of transition, and I don't want to put my head in the sand and not be actively engaged in it. But the more I read discussions on Twitter (I know) or in friend's posts or even in Metafilter posts, the more I realize that I don't feel equipped to contribute to the discussion. I have opinions, but don't always feel like I can solidly support/defend/articulate how I feel about them in discussion so I end up not saying anything at all. This is not to say that I want to go out and argue with people online all the time, but I'd like to have a deeper understanding of the history and workings--even the actual definitions/historical meaning-- of certain issues that I believe in. For ex. Intersectionality. I know it sounds dumb on my part but it's a term used quite a bit these days in discussions I read. But I don't know the history of the term and its usage until I just googled it right now. And even then the quick web description is just a superficial reading of the concept. I would like to understand the concept and the context surrounding its development more deeply so as to properly apply it in discussion. To that end, what are some vital reading materials/important works regarding such current "hot-button" issues: - intersectional feminism - gender politics/ disparity/pay gap - racism in modern times - abortion/reproductive rights - lgbtq history - economic issues that have helped contribute to our current state of affairs politically I know I'm asking for pretty broad stuff, but honestly any standout work that relates in any way to these issues would be of interest to me. Is there a piece of writing or audio that really help you more deeply understand these things? These don't have to be textbooks--novels, articles, tweet threads, podcasts, comments, even fiction welcome. Any modern young writer whose work I should not miss. Just anything that would help me expand my knowledge base about these issues. Thanks! :)

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
The Punisher, Marvel's avatar of gun violence and toxic masculinity, is hitting TV screens at possibly the worst ever time (just like every other time), to mixed reviews. With the shows focus on angry male white men the characters popularity with law enforcement officers and the military may be more troubling than ever. </>

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
Would someone mind breaking this into down into to understandable terms, please? My friend has asked her district appointed agent who advised her to move her savings from a 403b to a Voya account several times and yet she still have no idea why these rider fees are more than the interest accrued, or even what they are (and why are they in parenthesis)? She is retiring soon from a district position. She and I would like to know exactly what is going on here. (Details below) Thanks in advance!Beginning accumulation value 42,400.00 Interest/credits 396.18 Rider charges (416.15) rate of return 7.02% Beginning cash surrender value 35,037.16 Ending cash surrender value 35,350.00 Rate of return is a measure of performance over the most recent contract year. This calculation accounts for any credits and deductions during this time period, including applicable premium bonus, charges, and market value adjustment. The Rate of Return may not be equivalent to the average of the percentages credited to each strategy.

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
For the last month, I've been looking at the DSA as a political organization. I was impressed by their multi-tendency nature and their willingness to work within other parties (mostly the Democratic Party) in order to achieve goals. After their sudden surge in the Nov 7 election, I decided to check them out in person. I just went to a small local meeting in my area (about ten people) and saw what at least the locals are about. Now, I want to know, should I start paying dues and join them?Considerations: I am a military vet and currently work for the US government? In certain circles, my participation might not be welcomed. In addition, could this hurt me in my employment? How is the DSA seen by the military/government? I had a flirtation with the Green Party around 2010, but nothing came of it. I was unimpressed by their lack of practicality and the amount of kooks in the party. In addition, it seems they were more willing to attack Dems/liberals than conservatives. I'm interested in being effective first and foremost. I don't have a defined political outlook, but I'm leaning democratic socialism, though having a social democracy wouldn't be the worst thing (and I believe one can be a pit stop for the other). I'm certainly not doctrinaire type of person. I don't read Jacobin. So, what have the experiences been here? What do you know? Who has been a member? Do they actually get things done? Do I belong there?

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
Do you have ideas for making roast turkey that is slightly more interesting than my family's very simple and delicious recipe? I want to see about changing it up but not enough to ruin timing or leftovers.My mom is incredible at Thanksgiving and has it down to a perfect science, but for the past decade or so I've helped cook a lot of things and we often mix it up on the vegetable side dishes. One part I don't help with is the turkey. Mom's turkey is always lauded as shockingly moist and delicious, and it makes perfect leftovers because it's so simple and can be used as a base for many different flavors. I'll be doing turkey day with my mom and dad and older brother and unless you include the dog that's it. Our typical menu is turkey, mashed potatoes, tons of gravy, cranberry sauce, simple stuffing with bread and aromatics, roasted root vegetables, and a green veg like green beans and almonds or brussels sprouts or peas with fresh mint, and a plate of crudite. The big deal is the pies, we do apple, pumpkin, and fudge pecan pies and often blueberry pie as well. It's gotten silly with four people and four pies but we can't bring ourselves to sacrifice any one flavor. Anyway, Mom's turkey recipe is dead simple. All we do is rub the inside and outside with butter, salt, garlic powder and paprika, roast it fairly slow, add some white wine to the pan half an hour before it's done, and sometimes we flip it an hour into the cooking. Mom's got the timing down perfectly for roasting and resting while we do other cooking throughout the day and so we have the oven for other things when we need it. The pan drippings are vitally important for making lots of gravy - we make stock from the neck and giblets and some extra turkey pieces but the pan drippings are key for making it delicious at the end. All told it's yummy but boring. I would like to bring some variation to the holiday table's protein because while we've brought some interesting flavors in with the sides, the turkey is still the plainest of plain and that seems like a shame. What can we add or change without compromising the method of cooking, the quality of the pan drippings (so nothing sugary because that'll burn too easily), and how it pairs with all the other dishes on the table?

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
For the first time in my life I'm in a relationship that features a significant(!!!) income disparity. I have questions.The relationship is only a few months old but is quickly becoming serious. It has completely blown apart any ideas I ever had about how good the connection between two people could be; we have similar values, priorities and tastes; we're at similar stages in our lives; the sex is ridiculous. Everything in the garden is lovely - except that I don't know how to gracefully handle being broke while he is wealthy-heading-toward-REALLY-wealthy. So far we've tried to make sure we each "contribute" to dating in ways that that are within our respective means, and that works okay. But I am very sensitive to being perceived by his family and friends as a gold digger (they've only been lovely to me - but I can't imagine the thought hasn't crossed their minds ) and my own weirdness around feeling like a grifter when he takes me somewhere I could never afford on my own or gives me something lovely "just because". To be clear, he's simple and transparent and graceful about all this - the discomfort is all on my side. What do I need to do or read or tell myself to be more okay with this, receive generosity in the spirit it was meant without feeling weird, and not obsess over what is just reality? What do I need to be prepared for if we move in together, get married, have kids? We have similar scrappy-then-upper-middle-class immigrant family backgrounds and education levels; his wealth is entirely self-made so it's less about deeper class divisions and more about my heretofore-unknown hangups and touchy pride - but I think it's probably true that while my current poverty is hopefully temporary while I try to grow a business, if I'm ever not-poor again i certainly will never amass the kind of assets he has or have an income that approaches his. If you've been in this situation, what did you do/not do to make it work/not work? (And Christmas! How am I supposed to handle gift-giving?! Sheesh.)

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
Timbuktu has long been Africa's El Dorado. Located on the southern edge of the Sahara and north of the Niger river (Google maps), what was initially a small river-side settlement bloomed as a trading hub for salt, gold, slaves, ivory and later, books. While its academic prominence has never returned to its peak of centuries past, it is still a treasure trove of ancient manuscripts from western Africa, maintained and protected through the years by families who have kept these works safe from numerous regime changes. These are the lost (and found) libraries of Timbuktu (hour long documentary on Vimeo from documentary producer; more info from BBC Four and stream if you're in the UK). The early history of this region is still being actively investigated and explored, which has expanded the understanding of pre-Islamic developments along the Niger river (thesis excerpt), identifying a major settlement 9 km southeast of modern Timbuktu, identified as what is now called the Tombouze Urban Complex (research abstract). The size of this pre-Islamic development rivaled that of other communities in early Mesopotamia, but the civilization, which appears to have been quite peaceful, disappeared for reasons that are currently unclear. [Doug Park, one of the people recently researching in the area, posited in the BBC Four documentary that they might have depleted the native hard wood trees in the region, but UNESCO's short report The Iron Roads to Africa (PDF in black and white; French PDF in color; summary/press release web page) provides an explanation for how the acacia tree is used for making charcoal for iron smelting. I'll stop there, because iron metallurgy in Africa is a tangent too far for this post.] The next empire of the region was the Ghana Empire, which lasted from the 6th to the 13th century CE, ruled by the Soninke people. The region prospered as a hub for trade, between gold, kola nuts, and ivory from the coast and the south, in exchange for salt from the north east, brought in by nomadic, camel-riding Berbers. In fact, Carthage's wealth as a Mediterranean trading city was likely built on centuries of Berber travel and trade (Google books), dating back as far as 500 BCE. Widely dispersed gold, mined or collected from the Ghana region, was taken north by the nomadic Berbers who traded Western Africa gold in Mediterranean markets for salt from north Africa, as well as European goods, later including paper. When Ghana declined due to drought, changing trade routes, and possibly invasion by Almoravid Muslims (brief overviews of ancient Ghana; much more extensive history of Ghana on Wikipedia), the Mali Empire became the dominant power in the region, particularly in regards to gold production, founded by Sundiata Keita, the Lion King of Mali. With this transition in regional power, Timbukto (Tombouctou) increased in prominence on the Saharan trade routes, and was annexed into Mali under the 10th Mansa or sultan of Mali, Musa Keita I, the grand nephew of Sundiata Keita, on his way back from his 1324 pilgrimage to Mecca, when his generosity ruined Egypt's economy. Mansa Musa brought back scholars and architects whom he had convinced to help him build a well educated Islamic empire. His efforts expanded the existing prominence of Sankore Madrasah, an iconic structure, one of two universities in Timbuktu, which was founded in 989 CE. The Djinguereber mosque is another notable learning institution in Timbuktu, and its creation is credited to Musa. Retired headmaster and local historian Salem Ould Elhadje says no one knows where Kankou Moussa – the "king of kings" as he is known in Mali – established his capital, or even if he had one. But the trading centre Timbuktu – and in particular Djinguereber mosque – were certainly his pride and joy: "He established administrative buildings here, centres of scholarship and universities. He brought an Andalucian architect from Cairo to build Djinguereber. The protruding beams are a reminder of European buttresses. The conical minaret recalls the Egyptian pyramids." The University prospered and became a very significant seat of learning in the Muslim world, especially under the reign of Mansa Musa (1307-1332) and the Askiya Dynasty (1493-1591). By the 12th century, Timbuktu became a celebrated center of Islamic learning and a commercial establishment. Timbuktu had a university with three main renown departments and 180 Quranic schools. These are the department of Sankore, the department of Jingaray Ber and the department of Sidi Yahya. This was the golden age of Africa. Books were not only written in Timbuktu, but they were also imported and copied there. There was an advanced local book copying industry in the city. The universities and private libraries contained unparalleled scholarly works. The famous scholar of Timbuktu Ahmad Baba who was among those deported to Morocco said that his library of 1600 books had been plundered, and his library, according to him, was one of the smaller in the city. After the reign of Mansa Musa, Timbuktu was sacked three times: by the Mossi, Sunni, and Pasha Mahumd b. Zarqun (Gbp). Mali lost control of Timbuktu in 1433, and the Songhay empire seized Timbuktu in 1468. The city declined sharply during the reign of Sonni Ali Ber, both as a place of learning and trade. Subsequent rulers of the Askiya dynasty adopted a gentler approach, and again the city flourished. Askiya Daud (r. 1549–82), the fifth ruler of the Askiya dynasty, established public libraries and employed calligraphers to copy books for him, some of which were then given as gifts to scholars. The book-copying industry was well structured and extensive. At the end of each book was stated the title, the author, the date of the manuscript copy and the names of the scribes who copied it. Some books also named the proofreaders and the vocalisers (i.e. scholars who added vowels to Arabic), and often they mentioned for whom the manuscript had been copied, the monies involved, who provided the blank paper, and the dates of the beginning and ending of the copying of each volume. Ahmad al-Mansur was Sultan of the Saadi dynasty from 1578 to his death in 1603, the sixth and most famous of all rulers of the Saadis, which ruled Morocco from 1549 to 1659. Ahmad al-Mansur was an important figure in both Europe and Africa in the sixteenth century; his powerful army and strategic location made him an important power player in the late Renaissance period. He has been described as "a man of profound Islamic learning, a lover of books, calligraphy and mathematics, as well as a connoisseur of mystical texts and a lover of scholarly discussions." Yet he also had great ambitions, including rule of the Muslim community in Africa. Though his campaign against the Songhai Empire was successful, and his small army, armed with gunpowder weapons, bested a larger force with inferior weaponry and a thousand head of cattle, which were either to be used as shields against gunfire or create sufficient dust and confusion to gain the upper hand. Except cattle don't like cannon fire, so the plan backfired, and the Moroccan forces ransacked the Songhay capitol of Gao, and the trading centers of Timbuktu and Djenné. This was the end of the Songhay empire, and in the end, controlling the territory was too difficult and the invasion swallowed up both the conqueror and the conquered (abstract). While the once great city declined under Moroccan rule (Google books preview), its value as a trading hub was further diminished with the growth of trans-Atlantic trade routes, and has continued to decline. Still, Timbuktu was a mythical location for Europeans, documented in the lavish Catalan Atlas from 1375 (BIG map with ability to zoom in [Big Map Blog, previously] and translated legends) that identified "Tenbuch" next to Mansa Musa with a large gold coin, then later thanks to writings by Leo Africanus that were originally published in 1600 and Shabeni via James Grey Jackson in 1820, as well as Mungo Park in 1799. Park was a Scottish explorer, and the first westerner known to have traveled along the Niger River, and is a relative of Doug Park, mentioned above. Since these writings, Timbuktu has been shorthand for a far-away, exotic land, symbolizing the blank spaces of our imagination, and a source of great wealth -- hard to reach but worth the journey, if you can make it. Part of the difficulty in reaching the city was due to people of the region protecting their trade route from outsiders, which is why René Caillié disguised himself as an Arab traveler to get inside the city. Unlike other early western explorers, including Mungo Park (whose disappearance Caillié's original reason for heading into west Africa), René was the first to return to Europe to claim the prize of 10,000 francs offered by the Geographical Society of Paris for the first European who reached the fabled city of Timbuktu and lived to describe it. Unlike prior praise for the wealthy city, described Timbuktu as a small, poor, and unimportant town. (If you're looking for a relatively recent writing, you might enjoy Timbuctoo the mysterious [1896; Archive.org], by Félix Dubois) The ancient city of gold is (still) slowly turning to dust (previously), with the desert encroaching, water supplies disappearing, and decades of regional instability. Timbuktu was again in the news in 2013 when it was reported that fleeing Islamist insurgents burnt two libraries with ancient manuscripts and books. Luckily, Abdel Kader Haidara and others had been saving ancient texts for months (previously). He and his fellow conservators and activists moved 350,000 manuscripts from 45 different libraries in and around the historic city and hid them in Bamako, more than 400 miles from the AQIM-controlled north, as described in Timbuktu's 'Badass Librarians': Checking Out Books Under Al-Qaida's Nose. (The Circle and Region of Tombouctou were designated as a World Heritage Site in 1988, particularly the three great mosques, Djingareyber, Sankore and Sidi Yahia, which "recall Timbuktu's golden age. Although continuously restored, these monuments are today under threat from desertification.")

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
How do you make video conference meetings with remote workers as useful as face to face meetings? How do you minimize setup time and efficiency and improve quality?At my company, we must use BlueJeans for video conferencing with our remote teams. Some members are in the US, some in Asia, some in Europe (we have about 12 total attending these meetings with most sitting in a central conference room in the US). We typically end up spending 5-10 minutes prior to starting these meetings fiddling around to get a whole room camera in the central conference room so remote users can view the rest of the team sitting around a conference table, and then we have the usual "can you hear/see me?" back and forth. Central users don't want to use their computer camera like the remote users. Sometimes we use the conference phone in the middle, with video from the camera. People appear tiny on the screen. How do you manage this with your team? Do you have a good process established that makes this seamless so you can jump right into your meeting with minimal setup? What hardware are you using?

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
I need help figuring out how one goes about getting loans for graduate school, and I don't have a lot of time to figure it out. I'm a full-time employee making a comfortable salary, and I have been taking courses one-at-a-time at a local university (through a certificate program in the same department) since 2015. I now want to go full-time and finish a master's, but the kicker is that I want to make this change by January 2018, and I have no idea how to pay for it.I have reached the point where (1) I am highly dissatisfied with my current job, and (2) I want to be more immersed in my graduate program and (3) I want to finish faster, so I can get a job in the new career sooner. The current pace (taking one class at a time in the evenings) is too slow for me, and I am missing out on key opportunities that full-time program students are able to participate in, like internships and assistantships. I have several offers from faculty members to do (unpaid, I think) research for them as soon as I have the time, but I know I will never have the time as long as I am working at a 9-5. I recently looked into the possibility of trying to get a new full-time job in my chosen field, but the minimum requirement almost always is a masters degree. I'm basically competing with recently graduated members of my program, who now have the masters as well as the internship experience (and I don't). I can transfer most of the credits from my certificate program into the masters program, which means I would be able to graduate in just two semesters (spring + summer, or summer + fall). I've been getting tuition reimbursement from my employer until now (equivalent to one class a semester), so I have not yet had to deal with the student aid/student loan process. I'd love to be able to quit my job before the New Year, and start full time masters coursework in January. I can't figure out if I have missed crucial deadlines for getting loans in time for January 2018. I sincerely doubt I am eligible for any need-based aid due to my current salary. I am hoping for a loan to cover tuition (in-state) and cost of living expenses for the next two semesters. Where do I begin? What things should I keep in mind? Is this even do-able?

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
I get HBO streamed via Amazon Prime. Any idea why the Real Time with Bill Maher, which airs Friday nights, isn't available till at least Monday or Tuesday? Other shows (John Oliver) are usually available within hours of broadcast.Do other streaming services (HBO-Go) offer more immediate availability?

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
I've been getting a generic medication from the same CVS for a couple years, but just moved to NYC. When I picked up the prescription from my new CVS, the copay was about $30 more than usual. I got home and realized that this generic looked totally different and was by a different manufacturer than my old one; I'm assuming this is why it cost more. How do I switch back to the old generic?More specifically: The medication is lamotrigine XR, and my old generic didn't list any kind of manufacturer and came in a normal orange pill bottle. The new one is in a special bottle from a manufacturer called Dr. Reddy's. Can I bring in my old bottle with the description of the previous generic written on it and request that my CVS order that one for me, or are they locked into only ordering one kind? Are what manufacturers the pharmacy orders from decided on a store-by-store basis, city-by-city basis, etc.? Do I need to shop around at other pharmacies and ask which generic they stock? Has anyone experienced this before or am I totally off in assuming that the different manufacturer might have changed the cost and it's probably a coincidence that the two things changed at the same time? I can swallow the extra expense if necessary, but I'd really rather not if at all possible.

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
Jalopnik excerpts Elon Musk's Rolling Stone profile. (full profile)

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posted 4 days ago on metafilter
Alex Salmond is the ex-leader of the Scottish National Party who lost his Westminster seat at the last election. He has recently launched The Alex Salmond Show on RT. This has been criticized by many other politicians and journalists (many of whom have actually appeared on the channel) but is seen by others as a voice against a pro-nationalist mainstream media. His first main guest was deposed Catalan president, Carlos Puigdemont, You can watch the episode on youtube.

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