I don’t have a Facebook account, and as much as people try to convince me to get one, I invariably refuse for a number of reasons. Among those reasons, there is one that stands out. Yes, privacy is a concern, but this reason is even deeper, more fundamental, than that.

You won't find me on Facebook

Image credit: FSF

I always say that getting a Facebook account would compromise my principles, but nobody asks how. Let’s start with a superficial reason for not getting an account: I don’t want to provide my real personal info. This, of course, stems from the privacy concern mentioned earlier. “Alright,” you might say, “but lots of people create accounts with fake names. What’s the issue?”

Everyone doing something doesn’t make it right. Everyone lies, but lying isn’t right.

If you actually take the time to read Facebook’s Terms of Service, you will encounter Section 4:

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People sometimes wonder why I go through explaning the “why” to them when all they want to know is the “how”. I do it because they’ll be better off for it; they’ll more easily learn to adapt what they learn to similar issues. Ben Orlin describes the method that I use (more or less) to teach people tech, among other things.

Math with Bad Drawings

This is my second century. I was 13 when it began—young enough to be almost fluent, but old enough that my technological skills retain a quaint 20th-century accent. (For example, I still use email.)


My parents’ generation, on the other hand, didn’t encounter the 21st century until they were full-grown adults. They’d settled into their habits when this digital tide began rising around them: Facebook, Twitter, viral videos, actual computer viruses, Android, Snapchat, gifs, Reddit…


And so was born that tragicomedy of 21st-century life: young people trying to explain technology to their parents. It’s frustrating both for the kids (“Why are you so incompetent?!”) and for the parents (“Why do I need this stupid device anyway?!”).

“This is so easy. Why can’t you do it?” vs. “This is so hard. What’s the point?” Now, why does that sound so familiar…?

Oh, that’s right! Because I’m…

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Dactylonomy: “the use of one’s fingers to express numbers.” (Wiktionary). We have all encountered finger-counting at some point; most of us have even been able to count to 10 since we were very young. Counting to 10 on one’s fingers is likely even the origin of the base 10 system. However, only being able to count to 10 is not very useful when you want to express numbers greater than 10, of which there are infinitely many. Has it ever occurred to you that you’re not limited to counting to 10?

A hand counting to 5

How Americans count to 5 on one hand. Europeans start with the thumb and move towards the little finger instead.

Learn how →

Surely you’ve seen a crane at least once in your life, especially if you’re near an urban area with lots of construction. If you don’t know what a crane is, it’s a tall machine used to lift heavy objects to high places using a system of pulleys. They’re amazing machines if you think about it.

Tower crane

Tower crane in Vancouver, Canada. Photo by Nebrot.

The thing is, there’s no crane when you leave for work, and when you come back, there is, leaving us all puzzled. How did the construction workers get the crane up so fast?

I have a proposition:


Yup. That sounds about right.

No, but seriously… →

Would you believe me if I told you the following code is completely valid in C?

??=define lksjdafoaidsufoisdfu int main(void)
??=include <stdio.h>

// a multiline ??/
   comment? Ha!

* completely valid! *??/


  // ??/
  printf("don't output??/n");


  return 0;

Now, granted, it doesn’t actually, do much. All it does is print this to stdout:


It doesn’t look anything like typical C code, so how could it possibly be valid?

Find out→