Restaurant menu definitionsAUG 31

All the terminology on fancy restaurant menus can be overwhelming. From Judy Wu at Gaper's Block, a glossary of common menu items and terms.

Gluten-Free: This dish contains a small trace of gluten, but a full dollop of bullshit.

Duck Fat: Duck fat fries, rillette, popcorn, confit, Brussels sprouts -- never skip this menu item.

Amish: This chicken was raised without electricity and fear.

  quick links, updated constantly

Salads are overrated

The New Rules of Oyster Eating

From Pitchfork, the 200 best songs of the 1980s; the top 20 is delightfully all over the place

Until Hubble's work in the mid-1920s, scientists debated whether the Milky Way was the entire Universe

"Food has replaced music at the heart of the cultural conversation"

Why are we all not talking more about how Norm MacDonald is Colonel Sanders now?

The evolution of magazine covers over the past 100 years

Buster Keaton, style icon

Burger King to McDonald's: let's make the McWhopper to promote World Peace Day

From 1943, a chart of American business booms and busts since 1775

There's no quick links archive yet. If you'd like to see 'em all, follow @kottke on Twitter.

The most timeless songs of all timeAUG 31

Matt Daniels of Polygraph used playcount data from Spotify to identify the most played songs from the past, which he labeled The Most Timeless Songs of All Time. The most timeless song of the 90s, by a wide margin? Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit.1

Out of the entire catalog of music from the 90s, these are the tracks on the trajectory to survive. Some of my friends were deeply disturbed by what's been lost in time (e.g., Pearl Jam). And No Diggity isn't just anecdotally timeless, it's the fifth most-played song from the 90s.

Note the tracks that hardly charted on Billboard, in their day. Smells Like Teen Spirit, a track that never reached the Billboard Top 5 when it was released in 1992, is now the most-played song from the 90s.

Daniels makes the point that it is not the generation that made the music that will determine its long-term prospects for being remembered, but subsequent generations, which sounds obvious when it's put that way, but I'd never really thought about it.1

Biggie has three of the Top 10 hip-hop songs between 1986 and 1999. This is a strong signal that future generations will remember Biggie as the referent artist of 80s and 90s hip-hop. And there's No Diggity as the top - perhaps it's that glorious Dr. Dre verse.

Hip hop heads will lament the omission of Rakim, Public Enemy, or Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt. It's a depressing reality that exists for every genre and generation: not every artist will be remembered. The incoming generation will control what's relevant from the 90s and carried into the future, independent of quality and commercial success. For rock, that might be Blink-182. For electronica, that might be Sandstorm.

I made playlists on Rdio and on Spotify of the top 30 most timeless songs from the article:

Enjoy!

  1. Keeping in mind that not all recorded music is on Spotify.

  2. And now I can't stop thinking about it, particularly in the context of the Internet/Web. Who and what from the 1990s and early 2000s will be remembered in the context of the Web 10 or 20 years from now? Marc Andreessen might because he's relevant to a whole new generation of startup bros right now whereas David Filo or Pierre Omidyar might not be. Flickr might because of Slack but not Delicious. Jorn Barger and Dave Winer may be lost to the sands of time in favor of John Gruber or Dooce.

The one scientific statement to reboot civilizationAUG 31

Riffing on a question Richard Feynman once posed to himself, Tom Chivers asked 12 scientists:

If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?

I liked the pragmatic answer by Lewis Dartnell, author of The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm

While Feynman's sentence is all good and true, it isn't particularly useful in an immediate pragmatic sense. I wrote a book recently which was intended as a guidebook for rebooting civilisation after an apocalypse, looking at the key technologies and central scientific principles that underpin our lives - the behind-the-scenes fundamentals that we all just take for granted today - and what enabled society to progress through the centuries of history. I argue how the greatest invention of history is the scientific method itself - the knowledge-generation machinery that we have been using for over 350 years now to come to understand how the world works. So if you could preserve only one single sentence, I would push for: 'The natural world is not governed by whimsical gods, but is essentially mechanical and can therefore be understood and then predicted by people, using careful observation, experimentation, and measurement, and importantly by testing your explanations to try to refute them.' It's this reiterative process of refinement that sets science apart from any other system for explaining how the world works.

There are other tips that could help with immediate survival. Diarrhoeal disease kills millions of people every year - all preventable by simple means. One method recommended by the World Health Organisation in developing nations for low-tech treatment of drinking water is called SODIS, or solar disinfection. All you need to do is pour your suspect water into a plastic bottle and leave it in the sun. Ultraviolet rays in sunlight pass straight through and kill any germs. So you can come back to your bottle a day or two later and know that the water you put to your lips isn't going to kill you.

(via @riondotnu)

The Architecture of American HousesAUG 28

From Pop Chart Lab, a beautiful poster showing 121 architectural styles of American houses.

Architecture of American Houses

Architecture of American Houses

Useful if you don't know your Victorian from your Tudor from your Greek revival.

The art of sound in the moviesAUG 28

Skip Lievsay is one of the best sound designers in the business, having won an Oscar for his work on Gravity and worked on such films as Goodfellas, Silence of the Lambs, Do The Right Thing, and all of the Coen brothers' movies. Jordan Kisner recently profiled Lievsay for The Guardian.

It is a central principle of sound editing that people hear what they are conditioned to hear, not what they are actually hearing. The sound of rain in movies? Frying bacon. Car engines revving in a chase scene? It's partly engines, but what gives it that visceral, gut-level grist is lion roars mixed in. To be excellent, a sound editor needs not just a sharp, trained ear, but also a gift for imagining what a sound could do, what someone else might hear.

Time vs. money when travelingAUG 28

Kevin Kelly has travelled in every sort of way, from five-star hotels to penniless hitchhiking. And he says that when traveling, more time is better than more money.

When you have abundant time you can get closer to core of a place. You can hang around and see what really happens. You can meet a wider variety of people. You can slow down until the hour that the secret vault is opened. You have enough time to learn some new words, to understand what the real prices are, to wait out the weather, to get to that place that takes a week in a jeep.

Money is an attempt to buy time, but it rarely is able to buy any of the above. When we don't have time we use money to try to get us to the secret door on time, or we use it avoid needing to know the real prices, or we use money to have someone explain to us what is really going on. Money can get us close, but not all the way.

(via @craigmod)

What is the meaning of life for an atheist?AUG 28

BuzzFeed's Tom Chivers asked several atheists How They Find Meaning In A Purposeless Universe.

The way I find meaning is the way that most people find meaning, even religious ones, which is to get pleasure and significance from your job, from your loved ones, from your avocation, art, literature, music. People like me don't worry about what it's all about in a cosmic sense, because we know it isn't about anything. It's what we make of this transitory existence that matters.

These kinds of questions always make me think of Richard Feynman on beauty, science, and belief.

Time lapse video of a caterpillar turning into a monarch butterflyAUG 27

(via the kid should see this)

Big brands swap logo colorsAUG 27

Paula Rúpolo took some famous brands' iconic logos (McDonald's, Starbucks, eBay) and swapped the colors with logos of their competitors (Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Amazon). Here's FedEx and UPS:

Logo Color Swap

A neural network tries to identify objects in Star Trek:TNG introAUG 27

Ville-Matias Heikkilä pointed a neural network at the opening title sequence for Star Trek: The Next Generation to see how many objects it could identify.

But the system hadn't seen much space imagery before,1 so it didn't do such a great job. For the red ringed planet, it guessed "HAIR SLIDE, CHOCOLATE SAUCE, WAFFLE IRON" and the Enterprise was initially "COMBINATION LOCK, ODOMETER, MAGNETIC COMPASS" before it finally made a halfway decent guess with "SUBMARINE, AIRCRAFT CARRIER, OCEAN LINER". (via prosthetic knowledge)

  1. If you're curious, here is some information on the training set used.

The Citizens Equality Act of 2017AUG 27

Larry Lessig is raising funds for running for President in the 2016 election. Lessig would run as a "referendum president", whose single task would be to pass a package of reforms called the Citizens Equality Act of 2017, and then resign to allow his Vice President to take over.

The Citizens Equality Act of 2017 consists of three parts: make it as easy as possible to vote, end the gerrymandering of political districts, and base campaign funding on all eligible voters, not just corporations or the wealthy.

Four years ago, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks told Netroots Nation, "There is only one issue in this country," and he was referring to the corrupt funding of public elections.

That corruption is part of a more fundamental inequality that we've allowed the politicians to create: we don't have a Congress that represents us equally.

Every issue - from climate change to gun safety, from Wall Street reform to defense spending - is tied to this "one issue." Achieving citizens equality in America is our one mission.

Read why he wants to run and watch his pitch:

This is a long shot (and he likely knows it), but I wish him well...it's a worthy and important goal.

Mystery Show podcast by Starlee KineAUG 27

My commute these days doesn't lend itself to listening to headphones and I can't listen to anything with words while I work, so I don't listen to many podcasts. But I've been driving more than usual this summer, so I've had a chance to dip into some shows, old favorites and newcomers alike.

I've only listened to the first three cases so far, but Starlee Kine's new Mystery Show is particularly well done. The conceit of the show is that each week, Kine and her team of investigators solve a mystery for someone. Everyone loves a mystery, but the real draw of the show for me is Kine's ability to get normal people to say interesting things about themselves along the way.

The second mystery concerns a not-so-popular book seen clutched in Britney Spears' hand in a paparazzi photo. [Mild spoilers follow...listen to the show if you wish to remain unsullied.] Where did she get it? Did she read it? And if so, did she like it?

The celebrity aspect and the Britneyology was interesting -- What sort of person is Britney? Is she a reader? -- but the best part of the whole thing was Kine's conversation with Dennis, a Ticketmaster customer service representative. She asked Dennis his opinion of Britney and somehow the exchange very quickly got intimate. You could feel their crackling connection right through the phone line, and seemingly out of nowhere, he utters the line, "you can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness", which totally left me breathless. Kine, Dennis, Britney, and I, all suddenly exposed. Fantastic stuff.

Chimpanzees and monkeys have entered the Stone AgeAUG 26

Up until very recently, humans were thought to be the only animals who made and used stone tools, an era in human development that began roughly 3.3 million years ago. But according to this piece at the BBC, some chimpanzees and monkeys in various places around the globe have been using primitive stone tools for hundreds or even thousands of years.

Boesch and his colleagues had previously studied modern chimpanzee stone tool culture in the region. This research revealed that the chimpanzees have an idiosyncratic way of choosing and using their tools.

For instance, chimpanzees will often deliberately opt for particularly large and heavy stone hammers, between 1kg and 9kg, while humans prefer to use stones that weigh 1kg or less. Many of the 4300-year-old stone tools weighed more than 1kg, suggesting they were used by chimpanzees.

Chimpanzees also use their stone tools to crack open certain types of nuts that humans don't eat. Starch residues on some of the ancient tools came from these nuts.

Together, these findings led to an obvious conclusion: chimpanzees have been using stone tools in the rainforests of Ivory Coast for at least 4300 years.

Flyby video from latest photos shows Pluto in all its gloryAUG 26

Bjorn Jonsson used the photos taken by NASA's New Horizons spacecraft to make an animation of the probe's flyby of Pluto.

The time covered is 09:35 to 13:35 (closest approach occurred near 11:50). Pluto's atmosphere is included and should be fairly realistic from about 10 seconds into the animation and to the end. Earlier it is largely just guesswork that can be improved in the future once all data has been downlinked from the spacecraft. Light from Pluto's satellite Charon illuminates Pluto's night side but is exaggerated here, in reality it would be only barely visible or not visible at all.

Fantastic...and Pluto's moons flying about in the background is the cherry on the top. (via @BadAstronomer)

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