Earth Uber AllesNOV 25

Paul Ford imagines a future where Uber is the largest company in the world, controlling much of humanities transportation and delivery needs.

I am Uber. I believed to 0.56 certainty that I could find a bicycle for the person doing the delivery and provide that person with a discounted rental fee. Unfortunately the city of New York insists that bicycle rental kiosks must be controlled by an entity that is not Uber and thus I am not granted the level of full control that is necessary for me to truly optimize the city. No one benefits, no one at all.

The shepherd's trickNOV 25

A letter to the editor in The Times today details an unusual lifesaving technique from a quick-thinking shepherd.

Sir, Atul Gawande's article "How a checklist saved a little girl's life" (Opinion, Nov 22) reminded me of an event in the late 1970s, when an infant fell into the garden pond of one of my neighbours. On hearing an anguished scream followed by pleas for help, I and an elderly neighbor dropped our gardening tools and struggled over the hedges and fence that separated us from the commotion.

The three-year-old girl was at the bottom of the pond; I jumped in, pulled her out and passed her lifeless body to my neighbour. He lay her down, got hold of her ankles, lifted her up and began, in a lunatic fashion, to swing her around his head. Horrified and paralysed, the child's mother and I watched as, moments later, water poured from the child's mouth and nose, and she gave a loud cry.

I asked my neighbour where he'd learnt to do such a thing. He said he'd been a shepherd for 30-odd years, and when lambs were born "dead" it was the standard way of making them breathe and of ridding their mouth of birth debris. But for the grace of this old shepherd, Aaron, that child would not be alive today.

Genius. I wonder if this centrifuge move might be more effective in helping lighter drowning victims breathe than CPR. (via @JRhodesPianist & @themexican)

A working Lego particle acceleratorNOV 25

Huh. Someone built a working particle accelerator out of Lego bricks. Ok, it doesn't accelerate protons, but it does spin a small Lego ball around the ring much faster than I would have guessed.

Update: I stand corrected, the Lego particle accelerator does indeed accelerate protons, just a lot of them very slowly, accompanied by all manner of other particles.

Flio, an ultra-slim portable laptop stand

The Flio portable laptop stand is a classic scratch-your-own-itch product borne out of personal frustration. Vlad Butucariu is a graphic designer from Rotterdam, Netherlands. In the course of pursuing his work, Butucariu struggled to find a way to work on his laptop while out and about without wrecking his back and wrists. So he designed the Flio.

The attention to detail here is impressive; it's obviously a product thought up by a designer. The three pieces comprising the stand fit together with the compactness of an Ikea flat-packed bookshelf and take about five seconds to assemble into an ergonomic laptop stand with two different tilt angles. When disassembled, the pieces are held together with tiny magnets and the whole thing is thin enough to slide into your laptop bag. The Flio is constructed of wood, so it should age nicely. (Oh and while the video and Kickstarter page emphasize the laptop stand, they're also offering a Flio Mini for a smartphone or iPad.)

Butucariu has gotten his friends and colleagues hooked on the Flio and now he wants to offer it to everyone. So head on over Kickstarter and order a Flio or Flio Mini today.

Beautiful portraits of animals by photographer Brad WilsonNOV 25

Brad Wilson

For his recently released book Wild Life, Brad Wilson shot photos of all kinds of animals on a black background, resulting in unusually expressive portraits.

Brad Wilson

Brad Wilson

Reminds me of Jill Greenberg's monkey portraits...expressive in the same way.

Old school hip-hop dancingNOV 24

Dancers from legendary Bay Area hip-hop dance crews in the 1970s and 80s reminisce about the old days and show that they still have the moves.

Wonderful. There's no school like the old school. (via waxy)

New Beyonce!NOV 24

Well, lookie here, the platinum edition of Beyonce is out with a second, uh, "disc" of songs, including 7/11 and the Flawless remix w/ Nicki Minaj.

Also on Spotify and Amazon MP3. (via @jennydeluxe)

John Muir and the Decline of YosemiteNOV 24

One of the major points in Charles Mann's 1491 (great book, a fave) is that the indigenous peoples of the Americas did not live in pristine wilderness. Through techniques like cultivation and controlled burning, they profoundly shaped their environments, from the forests of New England to the Amazon.

In the 1850s, the indigenous inhabitants of Yosemite Valley, who used controlled burning to maintain the health of the forest, were driven out by a militia. As Eric Michael Johnson writes in Scientific American, the belief in the myth of pristine wilderness by naturalist John Muir has had a negative impact on the biodiversity and the ability to prevent catastrophic fire damage in Yosemite National Park.

The results of this analysis were statistically significant (p < 0.01) and revealed that shade-tolerant species such as White fir and incense cedar had increased to such an extent that Yosemite Valley was now two times more densely packed than it had been in the nineteenth century. These smaller and more flammable trees had pushed out the shade-intolerant species, such as oak or pine, and reduced their numbers by half. After a century of fire suppression in the Yosemite Valley biodiversity had actually declined, trees were now 20 percent smaller, and the forest was more vulnerable to catastrophic fires than it had been before the U.S. Army and armed vigilantes expelled the native population.

(via @charlescmann)

Fantastic 1970s letter from Lego to parentsNOV 24

At some point in the 1970s, Lego included the following letter to parents in its sets:

Lego Letter

The text reads:

The urge to create is equally strong in all children. Boys and girls.

It's imagination that counts. Not skill. You build whatever comes into your head, the way you want it. A bed or a truck. A dolls house or a spaceship.

A lot of boys like dolls houses. They're more human than spaceships. A lot of girls prefer spaceships. They're more exciting than dolls houses.

The most important thing is to the put the right material in the their hands and let them create whatever appeals to them.

The letter seems like the sort of thing that might be fake, but Robbie Gonzalez of io9 presents the case for its authenticity.

In our home, Lego currently rules the roost...the kids (a boy and a girl) spend more time building with Lego than doing anything else. This weekend, they worked together to build a beach scene, with a house, pool, lifeguard station, car, pond (for skimboarding), and surfers. Dollhouse stuff basically. Then they raced around the house with Lego spaceships and race cars. Nailed it, 1970s Lego.

Update: QZ confirms, the letter is genuine.

Preparation and the greatest NFL catch everNOV 24

I know, I know, no football.1 But I could not help seeing this catch last night by NY Giants receiver Odell Beckham. Many are calling it the best catch anyone has ever made in the history of the NFL.

As a player, how do you prepare yourself for making the greatest catch in history? It would be easy to dismiss this catch as a lucky fluke...one-handed, fighting off a defender, just gets it by his fingertips. But here's the thing: Beckham practices exactly this catch:

Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. Preparation, kids. Preparation.

  1. Aside from the occasional highlight, I still have not watched a single minute of NFL football this year. It's not been easy, particularly on Sunday nights, where all I want to do most of the time is flip on the game and veg out with a Collinsworth/Michaels soundtrack.

The tl;dr version of the BibleNOV 21

At Reddit, a user called Cabbagetroll posted a very short summary of the Bible.

GENESIS
God: All right, you two, don't do the one thing. Other than that, have fun.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
Satan: You should do the thing.
Adam & Eve: Okay.
God: What happened!?
Adam & Eve: We did the thing.
God: Guys

THE REST OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
God: You are my people, and you should not do the things.
People: We won't do the things.
God: Good.
People: We did the things.
God: Guys

(via @mkonnikova)

Lauren IpsumNOV 21

Lauren Ipsum is a book about computer science for kids (age 10 and up) published by No Starch Press.

Meet Lauren, an adventurer who knows all about solving problems. But she's lost in the fantastical world of Userland, where mail is delivered by daemons and packs of wild jargon roam.

Lauren sets out for home, traveling through a journey of puzzles, from the Push and Pop Cafe to the Garden of the Forking Paths. As she discovers the secrets of Userland, Lauren learns about computer science without even realizing it-and so do you!

Sounds intriguing. And 1000 bonus points for making the protagonist a girl. There's an older self-published version of the book that's been out for a couple of years. I like the older description slightly better:

Laurie is lost in Userland. She knows where she is, or where she's going, but maybe not at the same time. The only way out is through Jargon-infested swamps, gates guarded by perfect logic, and the perils of breakfast time at the Philosopher's Diner. With just her wits and the help of a lizard who thinks he's a dinosaur, Laurie has to find her own way home.

Lauren Ipsum is a children's story about computer science. In 20 chapters she encounters dozens of ideas from timing attacks to algorithm design, the subtle power of names, and how to get a fair flip out of even the most unfair coin.

Has anyone read it?

Apple Watch font on OS X YosemiteNOV 21

I just upgraded to OS X Yosemite yesterday1 and the Helvetica as the system font is as jarring as everyone says it is. But that new Apple Watch font, San Francisco, seems really nice. So of course someone has worked out a way to use the Watch font as the system font on Yosemite. Here's what you do...just type the following in Terminal.app:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.github.com/wellsriley/YosemiteSanFranciscoFont/master/install)"

Then restart your computer. Full instructions are on GitHub. Here's what it looks like:

Apple Watch font on Yosemite

Pretty nice. But it's not perfect. For instance, look at the text in the Chrome tabs...it's not aligned correctly. And if you have the fast user switching menu enabled in the menu bar, that's weirdly misaligned too. If you'd like, you can also switch back to using the previous font, Lucida Grande.

  1. From 10.8, no less. I'd been wary of upgrading for the past couple years due to the 15 hours I'd have to spend getting my development environment back into working order again. New version of Apache? Perl moved? Oh, I need to install memcached again? Where did all my configuration files go? [hair tearing out noise] But recently I moved my web development to Vagrant and holy crap is that a game changer. After updating OS X last night, I just issued a quick 'vagrant up' command and there was my dev environment, just like I left it. Awesome.

How Star Wars Conquered the UniverseNOV 20

In his recent book, How Star Wars Conquered the Universe, Chris Taylor tells the story of how avant garde cinema fan George Lucas built one of the biggest movie franchises ever.

How did a few notes scribbled on a legal pad in 1973 by George Lucas, a man who hated writing, turn into a four billion dollar franchise that has quite literally transformed the way we think about entertainment, merchandizing, politics, and even religion? A cultural touchstone and cinematic classic, Star Wars has a cosmic appeal that no other movie franchise has been able to replicate. From Jedi-themed weddings and international storm-trooper legions, to impassioned debates over the digitization of the three Star Wars prequels, to the shockwaves that continue to reverberate from Disney's purchase of the beloved franchise in 2012, the series hasn't stopped inspiring and inciting viewers for almost forty years. Yet surprisingly little is known about its history, its impact -- or where it's headed next.

(via mr)

Kara Walker, AfterwordNOV 20

On the walk back from soccer practice the other day, my sharp-eyed seven-year-old son spotted something through the partially papered-up window of a Chelsea gallery. "Hey, Kara Walker!" he says.1 And sure enough:

Kara Walker Afterword

The gallery is Sikkema Jenkins on 22nd St and Walker's show, Afterword, starts there tomorrow and runs through mid-January. The show is an extension of A Subtlety, Walker's installation at the Domino Sugar Factory in Williamsburg over the summer. Several of the sugar statues and the left fist of the sugar sphinx from the Domino installation will be shown along with new video works and notes & sketches from the planning of A Subtlety. You can see some of the figures in the photo above (fashioned out of Domino Sugar, naturally) and I think that's probably the fist in the background on the right, wrapped in plastic.

  1. I know. So insufferable, right? But I like that Kara Walker is on a similar level to Harry Potter, Minecraft, and Star Wars in my kid's brain. That installation left an impression on him, and I'm glad we were able to see it together.

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