Gunner Palace FEB 28
People, myself included, like to lament the lack of media choices in a production environment dominated by large multinational corporations, but the truth is that with a little access and a DV camera, filmmakers are out in the field making revealing and unprecedented movies like Gunners Palace (trailer). GP follows the activities of a US Field Artillery unit (the "Gunners") in Iraq for two months in 2003-2004. No politics. No real point-of-view on the part of the filmmakers. Just a glimpse into what it was like soldiering in Iraq after "major combat operations" had ceased and "minor combat operations" had begun.
This soldiers' perspective is a rare one in popular media and is a valuable contribution to anyone who's interested in a more comprehensive view of the war in Iraq. But the main takeaway from the film for me was not the completing of a puzzle, but of the near impossibility of any sort of comprehensive perspective. From the soldiers' POV, they're just trying to do their jobs, stay alive, and keep some level of sanity in their lives, not too much different than anyone else except, you know, it's literally life and death for them. Their comprehension of the whys and hows of their place in the grand scheme of things is necessarily somewhat limited.
At the same time, you've got people in the US reading the newspaper or watching stuff on TV about the war. Maybe they're even reading soldiers' diaries, exchanging letters with soldiers in Iraq, or watching films like Gunners Palace, but their perspective is still a largely outside one. And then you've got the higher ups in the military and government whose jobs entail keeping the big picture in mind and the realities of troop life sometimes isn't on their radar. The human mind is a wonderfully flexible tool, but it wasn't meant to deal with such a vast array of information on so many different scales. It's a wonder the situation over there isn't more screwed up than it currently is.
Gunner Palace opens in limited release in the US on March 4th.
Crazy photo of a stadium FEB 28
Crazy photo of a stadium. Can anyone tell me what kind of lens this was shot with? Any other examples like this online?
Chipotle and the rise of the "fast casual" restaurant. Waiting ever so patiently for Noodles and Company to come to Manhattan.
Should we be blaming Wal-Mart just because Americans like low prices?. "The problem is, the choices we make in the market don't fully reflect our values as workers or as citizens. I didn't want our community bookstore in Cambridge, Mass., to close (as it did last fall) yet I still bought lots of books from Amazon.com."
As more people get their news online, papers like the WSJ who don't publically offer articles are losing influence. "With [the] habits [of the next generation of readers] being formed now, there is little chance the Journal will become part of their lives, either now or in the future."
Switching to a Mac isn't for everybody. "In general, the best candidates for a switch to the Mac are those who use their computers overwhelmingly for common, mainstream consumer tasks."
Thomas Friedman on the falling US dollar. "When a country lives on borrowed time, borrowed money and borrowed energy, it is just begging the markets to discipline it in their own way at their own time."
HopStop is a transit guide for NYC. Input to and from addresses and it'll tell you which trains or buses will get you there.
Browser stats FEB 27
Just took a quick look at what browsers people are using to hit the site this month:
Everything else: 24%
This is a quick and dirty calculation so the numbers for Mozilla and IE are likely slightly higher than indicated. The breakdown on the Mozilla figure is about 30% Windows and 16% Mac (which includes Safari). Update: As someone pointed out in the comments, Safari's stats should not be lumped into the Mozilla category (Safari uses the KHTML rendering engine). I'll try to get my stupid stats package to sort that out.
This corresponds pretty closely with BoingBoing's stats:
Roughly 37% for IE, 51% for the various Mozillas. Stats for Digital Web indicate even higher penetration for Mozilla and 37 Signals noted that Firefox was making a move for #1 back in October. This compares to mainstream usage (as reported by CNN): IE 90% and Firefox 5%.
How are your numbers looking?
Media appearances and parodies of 40oz malt liquor products. "On an episode of Conan O'Brien, Martha Stewart sipped a 40oz of Olde English!"
Slideshow of tsunami photos recovered from a digital camera whose owners perished. You can see the wave approaching in the photos...that last photo is scary and heartbreaking.
The folks behind World Jump Day are trying to shift the earth into a new orbit. Dunno if the science behind this is kosher, but the idea is that if 600 million people all jump at the same time, their collective landing will shift the earth into a different orbit and solve our warming problem.
The Observer is using the latest in bottom-up web developments, including trackback, blogs, RSS, podcasting, folksonomy, etc.. The goals? Openness, transparency, and engaging their audience.
Some thoughts on the ten must-have titles for GameCube. "The biggest omission to me on the list is Mario Kart Double Dash."
ShuffleArt is selling stickers to skin your iPod shuffle. But you have to contend with the tedious Flash interface.
Guide to using XMLHTTPRequest (with Baby Steps). Hand holds your way through creating an Ajax app.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou DVD is available for preorder at Amazon. It's a two-disc set, out May 10th.
Google Maps works for Safari now. Oh, happy day. Now if I can just get Saft to stop crashing...
Katamari Damacy, 3-D Pac-Man FEB 25
Katamari Damacy is the game du jour among my circle of friends and, well, everywhere it seems like. There are KD handmade knit hats, costumes, reenactments in Playdoh, paper figures,
iPod socks, homemade plush dolls, and lots of photos on Flickr.
I finally got the chance to play it the other day at my friend David's house. The game play is fairly simple. You use the two analog joysticks on the controller -- KD is for PS/2 only -- to steer a sticky ball (the katamari) around the game board (usually a house or a town), picking up objects as you go. As your ball accrues more and more things, it gets bigger and you're able to pick up larger objects. The goal on each board is to get your ball bigger than a certain diameter within the allotted time period. After you get the controls down (it's a bit like operating a backhoe), it's the simplest game in the world to play. Lots of fun too.
As we played, we talked about the game and why it's inspired so much devotion in its fans. My favorite aspect of the game is the crazy storyline. The sarcastic King of All Cosmos, the faux Japenglish translations...the game dialogue is hilarious. Games tend to take themselves too seriously these days; Katamari Damacy doesn't. I also liked the telescoping sense of scale as your katamari grows larger. Smaller objects disappear from view and if you get really big, you dwarf houses, towns, and can eventually start picking up entire islands. Reminded me of Charles and Ray Eames' Powers of Ten film...the scale may change, but the basic structure remains. David said he likes the collecting aspect of the game. He's a compulsive collector of things and the game ties right into that for him.
But as we kept talking and I watched David play for the first time after I got stuck at level 5 or 6, I realized what I didn't like about the game and what keeps it from being really fantastic. Whimsical storyline aside, Katamari Damacy is essentially a 3-D version of Pac-Man and possesses a similar level of complexity (when compared to Grand Theft Auto or a MMORPG). You move around a maze, eating things, and occasionally getting power-ups (i.e. growing larger) so that you can eat things you couldn't eat before.
And like Pac-Man, there are patterns. On repeat plays, the boards are the same, objects always appear in the same spots, and once you learn the correct way to go, it's pretty easy to clear each board in the same general manner you did the last time. In the end, there's very little that's complex or open-ended about the game play, which is going to limit its repeatability for many. It wouldn't be too difficult to add some complexity to the game without making it any more difficult to play at a novice level (making it a bit like chess -- easy to play, tough to play well, and nearly impossible to master). The basic rolling-around game play and the kookiness of the story make Katamari Damacy great fun, but I'm hoping KD 2 ups the ante complexity-wise so it's still as maddening and crack-like at play #200 as it was a play #1.
The International Database of Corporate Commands. "Be cool", "Never stop exploring", "Drive your dreams", "Just do it", etc.
Molly on the Phone is one of FEB 24
Molly on the Phone is one of my new favorite Flickr pools. I don't know why, but speech bubbles are hilarious!
Salon is hosting five Oscar nominated films from the live-action and animated short categories. This is a one-day only thing, so check them out while you can. (Although something tells me they'll be available on waxy.org in a few hours...)
With the latest update, Apple ditched the gold iPod mini. Survival of the fittest. (Unless this was intelligent design at work...was the gold iPod mini created to fail?)
Is Google going to start aggregating calendars?. Yes please. I want "nyc concert" and "nyc readings OR signings" searches.
Wanna blog about The Dukes of Hazzard and drive the General Lee occasionally?. There's $100K per year in it for you.
Michelin is doing one of their famous red guidebooks for NYC. Now taking bets on which NYC restaurants will be the three stars...
Dyson's new vacuum phones home when it needs fixing. "The gizmo alerts the user if it has broken down or needs a replacement part. The owner then dials the number of the Dyson call centre and holds the telephone receiver to the vacuum cleaner. The machine transmits a message telling engineers what's wrong and orders any new part it needs."
Happy birthday, bluishorange FEB 24
Happy birthday, bluishorange. I love that list. Hell, I love lists.
An interview with some idiot who quit his job to run a blog. BTW, Wired totally asked me all of those questions and didn't use any of the answers.
An acquaintance of mine is doing some documentary work for the History Channel. One of the channel's guidelines for their documentaries is that they don't generally allow the use of female narrators...men only. The History Channel's audience is mostly men and they want to continue to target only men. No rationale was given, but I would imagine the reason is that history narrated by men seems more authoritative to other men.
Which makes sense (in a screwy sort of way) but is also infuriating because how can women ever be considered authoritative if *the* channel all about history never gives a woman a shot? I remember watching Frontier House and thinking initially that the woman narrator was not such a good choice (probably due to years of conditioning listening to men describe WWII battles), but after about 30 minutes, I forgot all about it and ended up really enjoying her narration.
Update: I talked to another person who's involved in making documentary films (not specifically for the History Channel) and they said that men are more often used as narrators than women in historical documentaries across the board; it's not just the History Channel. Authority is part of the issue, but in the narrative context, men are perceived as gender neutral, while women are perceived as female. Since the narrator is supposed to be anonymous and not perceived by the audience as a person, the more general neutral the better. So, not the History Channel's fault and probably an issue that requires a gender studies degree to even begin to unpack and something I'm not going to touch with 8 or 9 ten-foot poles.
"Facts" that could be wrong or could be right. Followup on my post about "plausible lies and false truths".
The vernacular of early web design. A discussion of midi files, "mail me" icons, browser buttons, frames, and under construction graphics.
Bacontarian is a weblog devoted entirely to bacon (and also pork). "A great tide of emotion came over me!!! and it rose up and came up thru mine eyes An I gave praise to the LARD! An i took that Leg of HAM home with me. And I ate it."
Craigslist Missed Connections actually worked for one couple. I was wondering if that ever worked the other day.
Trailer for A Scanner Darkly, a new animated film by Richard Linklater. Based on the novel by Phillip K. Dick. Love that animation technique and aesthetic.
The Onion interviews Dave Eggers. "[Fiction feels] like driving a car in a clown suit. You're going somewhere, but you're in costume, and you're not really fooling anybody. You're the guy in costume, and everybody's supposed to forget that and go along with you."
Ben Hammersley likes Google's move into movie reviews and listings. "What for [Rotton Tomatoes] is an entire business is just a happy side effect for Google. You can't compete with people whose manufacturing has already been paid for."
When I got home last night, I picked up my mail and opened the shirt I ordered from Threadless:
It took me all of two seconds to look at Scandinavia and determine that it was impossible to construct using conventional Tetris pieces. Unless some of the little blocks had been disappeared by clearing a row. And the dialogue in my head when I was thinking about all this was spoken in Professor Frink's voice from The Simpsons. Maybe I need to start reading on the subway rather than playing my GameBoy Advance so much.
High mileage travellers get extra special perks as part of their frequent flyer memberships. Free luggage from Delta? That's as lame as most of the bags and backpacks you get at conferences.
Some U.S. appeals court judges are skeptical of the Broadcast Flag. "'It's going to have less content if it's not protected, but Congress didn't direct that you have to maximize content,' Sentelle said. 'You can't regulate washing machines. You can't rule the world.'"
Scientists at Cardiff University have detected a galaxy made almost entirely of dark matter. A galaxy without stars? There's a mindjob for you.
Ken Rockwell, who runs an excellent photography site, explains the dangers of fetishizing your gear. "Your equipment DOES NOT affect the quality of your image. The less time and effort you spend worrying about your equipment the more time and effort you can spend creating great images."
Interview with David Foster Wallace in which he talks about challenging readers. "I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction's job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction's purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves."
How to buy lenses for your Nikon camera. Includes a good section on digital.
A dream of journalism without advertising. From E.W. Scripps' experiment in Chicago to A.J. Liebling's vision of newspapers funded by endowments.
I don't want to completely turn the site into a discussion of the micropatronage initiative (more info) for the next three weeks, but I will be talking about it somewhat. For one thing, contributors have been asking for an update on how it's going. Also, I've been planning this since May of last year but haven't talked about it much on the site, so I've got a few pent-up posts to get out there.
Day one of the "fund drive" (I hate that term for it, more on vocabulary below) went pretty well. In the rough chart I conjured in my head last night, the revenue line and the "I don't need to sell my blood plasma" line are converging nicely and I'm hopeful that my goal will be achieved within the three week period. You'll hear this so many times on the site in the next few weeks that you're going to get tired of it, but a sincere thank you to everyone who has contributed so far. I'm not going to be able to respond individually to each one, but I've read all your emails and PayPal notes and I appreciate you taking the time to write.
And now, the vocabulary part of the post you've all been waiting for! The term I've most commonly heard associated with all this is "donation"; that people are donating to a cause. When I was writing yesterday's announcement post and the supporting materials, I had to make a choice in how I described this to you...otherwise that post would have been at least twice as long as it was. In the end, I opted to explain it in terms of patronage...using words like "support" and "contribute". I specifically did not use the word "donation" because there's a connotation there of someone giving something and receiving nothing tangible in return (and somehow, there's less of that connotation with "contribution", although maybe that's just me). Patrons don't donate in the sense that people donate to the Red Cross...they typically get something directly in return (e.g. a piece of art) for their patronage.
Another way to look at the money that people are giving me is that it's like a subscription fee for a daily magazine. There's a transaction here; you're paying me in return for a (hopefully) interesting, engaging, timely site that's full of information and creative projects and updated on a daily basis. So while I think the micropatronage idea fits the best with what I'm doing, there are also elements of the subscription idea in there as well. It's hard to tell you exactly what I mean (either English is failing me here or I'm failing English), but I hope you get the gist of it.
As far as the rest of the site goes, I'm planning on updating as regularly as I can for the next three weeks. I may be a little slow here and there because of the "fund drive" overhead (the amount of email in and out of my mail client over the past week is staggering)...which is one of the reasons I wanted to limit this to three weeks. You don't have to deal with me bugging you all year about it and I only need to focus on these administrative duties for a short time and can spend the rest of the year doing more creative things for the site.
Last thing...a couple of press mentions of this little experiment:
Some PBS stations are unwilling to air a documentary with profanity in it for fear of getting fined by the FCC. I hope the web remains a wild and woolly place for expression of all kinds, it's content not shaped by the FCC's self-marketing concerns.
How to repel telemarketers FEB 23
How to repel telemarketers. "Caller ID says: MCI. Jonah picks up and says: ATT Wireless, how can I help you?"
The 10 best-selling books of all time. The Bible and Mao's little red book are #1 and #2.
Phallic cookery FEB 23
Phallic cookery. "It would look like the food was creating a progression of ideas where (1) I like the shape of cock and balls, and then (2) I express my happiness about cock and balls by rearranging the meat to look like a smile".
The History of the Universe in 200 Words or Less. And very few of those words are small.
The 2005 Independent Food Festival Awards. Love their categories: "Baking Sugar with the Most Personality" and "Food Worth the Risk of Injury".
Massive, massive spoilers for Star Wars Episode 3. Don't read this if you don't want to know what happens.
If you're looking to upgrade your camera, Dell has a deal going on the Canon 20D dSLR, just $1304. Free shipping and no taxes in a lot of states.
I recently quit my web design gig and -- as of today -- will be working on kottke.org as my full-time job. And I need your help.
I'm asking the regular readers of kottke.org (that's you!) to become micropatrons of kottke.org by contributing a moderate sum of money to help enable me to edit/write/design/code the site for one year on a full-time basis. If you find kottke.org valuable in any way, please consider giving whatever you feel is appropriate.
This will be a one-time "fund drive" lasting 3 weeks, you may make contributions via PayPal, credit card, or check, there will be some great gifts as an incentive for you to give (more details here), and your contributions will be the primary means of support for the site. And yes, I have absolutely no idea if this will work and I'm completely nervous and exhilarated by the challenges ahead.
If you're uncertain as to whether you want to become a kottke.org micropatron, please read on. I'm going to explain what it is I'll actually be doing, why I'm doing it, how the site might change, and what I'll be doing with your hard-earned money.
Why are you doing this?
I've been self-publishing on the web for almost 10 years now, first with a little site on my school's web server, then on various ISP accounts, then 0sil8, and finally kottke.org for the last 7 years (almost). Looking back on it all, this little hobby of mine has been the most rewarding, pleasurable, maddening, challenging thing in my life. I've met so many nice, good people, formed valued relationships with some of them, traveled to distant lands (and New Jersey), procured jobs & other business opportunities, discovered new interests, music, movies & books, and lots of other stuff, all for putting a little bit of me out there for people to see.
And yet, I almost quit last spring. The site was getting out of hand and wasn't fun anymore. It was taking me away from my professional responsibilities, my social life, and my relationship with my girlfriend. There was no room in my life for it anymore. As you can imagine, thinking of quitting what had been the best thing in my life bummed me right the hell out.
After thinking about it for a few weeks, I had a bit of an epiphany. The real problem was the tension between my web design career and my self-publishing efforts; that friction was unbalancing everything else. One of them had to go, and so I decided to switch careers and pursue the editing/writing of this site as a full-time job.
Ok, but why else are you doing this?
- Blogging -- or personal publishing in general (not that they're synonymous) -- as a pursuit has been somewhat marginalized as a hobby or something one does to support other more worthy and/or lucrative pursuits. People leverage their blogs in order to write books, write for magazines or newspapers, pursue art or photography, go work for Gawker, Mediabistro, or Weblogs Inc., get jobs at startups, do freelance design (as I used to), start a software company, or as a vehicle to sell advertising. All worthy pursuits, but I'm interested in editing kottke.org as my primary interest; blogging for blogging's sake, I guess.
In the recent comics issue of McSweeney's, Chris Ware notes that "in the past decade or so, comics appear to have gained some greater measure of respect, due in no small part to the number of cartoonists who have begun to take the medium seriously". This is me taking online personal publishing seriously because I feel it deserves as much.
- With decreasingly few exceptions, media is supported by advertising. Content on the web in particular is heavily ad supported. I'm interested in exploring other avenues with a special interest in discovering sustainable ways for other folks to do things like this as well.
- I'm attempting to revisit the idea of arts patronage in the context of the internet. Patrons of the arts have typically been wealthy individuals, well-heeled foundations, or corporations. As we've seen in many contexts, the net allows individuals from geographically dispersed locations to aggregate themselves for any number of reasons. So, when you've got a group of people who are interested in a particular artist, writer, etc., they should be able to mobilize over the internet and support that person directly instead of waiting around for the MacArthur Foundation or Cosimo de Medici to do it.
- I'm interested in too many things to settle on design or programming or writing or a particular topic. kottke.org indulges my desire to be interested in too many things (as Neal Stephenson put it recently).
- And not to get too mushy here, but this has been a dream of mine for a long time now. Thought it was high time to stop dreaming and start doing.
How will you doing this full-time affect the site?
First, let me tell you what won't change. The content on kottke.org will always be freely available to everyone who visits, regardless of whether you have contributed or not. No special "member" content or services. Think of kottke.org as non-crippled, fully-supported shareware...you only pay if you feel it's worth supporting.
kottke.org will also not become any less personal or any more professional. This is still my personal web site and is not going to mutate into a vertical blog about tech, design, politics, pop culture, or even asbestos. I'm not turning into a journalist. I'm still going to write and post almost exclusively about things I am interested in, whatever those may be at any particular moment. Just so you know, I may occasionally post cat photos, as is my right as the editor of a personal web site.
What might change on the site will be driven mainly by two conditions:
1. kottke.org is now my main professional priority. At long last, focus!
2. I will have available to me, for the first time in years, large uninterrupted chunks of time with which to produce creative works.
The goal is to use the increased level of focus and time to create a (much) better site. More time means there will be more content of a greater variety. Some days, that may mean more posts and more links. I'll be able to go to more (hopefully interesting) events in NYC (& elsewhere) and write about them. I'll have time do the occasional bit of real journalism, collaborate on neat projects like Dropcash, and do larger projects that require longer time scales to finish...dare I hint at a return to more 0sil8-like projects? (I dare.) And there are opportunities that I'm sure will present themselves as I settle into the luxuriant folds of full-timeness.
Why not advertising?
Like I said above, there's got to be a way to support media that doesn't involve advertising. But more than that, I don't want to disrupt the relationship dynamic we've got going here. There are currently two parties involved with kottke.org: me and the collective you. Advertising introduces a third party. In my experience, the third wheel of advertising often works to unbalance the relationship in favor of either the author or the readers (usually in favor of the author). If ads were involved, I might feel the need to change what or how I write to appease advertisers. I might write to increase pageviews and earn more revenue. I could fill pages with ads, earning more revenue but making the content more difficult to read or pushing some content off the page entirely. You could block advertising and deny me needed revenue.
None of that is appealing to me. If I'm writing, you're reading, I'm responding to what you've got to say about my writing, and we're mixin' it up in the comments, why do we need a middleman? Why not keep that dynamic intact if we can?
What's your monetary goal?
Quitting my job to run kottke.org full-time is possibly the dumbest economic decision I've ever made in my life. This undertaking so isn't about the money. (I'm gonna link to Ludicorp's about page here because their corporate philosophy matches well with my philosophy in approaching this.) At best, my goal is to make about 1/3 to 1/2 of my former yearly salary to support my efforts here for a year. I have no idea whether this goal is even remotely achievable...only the hope that it is and the desire to make it happen. Like I said, dumb economic decision.
As with anyone starting a new business, I've tightened things up in order to give myself the best chance of success. I've moved to a (way) cheaper apartment in Brooklyn, cut way back on eating out (I'm learning how to cook properly instead...hey, if I can learn to cook, you can pony up a couple of bucks), will be using my cache of frequent flier miles when I need to travel, and am curtailing my spending in general. It feels a lot like right after I got out of college...without the ramen noodles.
Are you excited?
If by that you mean "do you feel like you're going to throw up?" then yes.
Ok, that's about all I've got for now. That's definitely the most difficult thing I've ever had to write; I hope it came out OK. Thanks for reading and I hope you'll consider supporting the site. If you've got any questions, send me some email or find me on AIM (I may be a little slow on the IM uptake...I'm anticipating a busy day or two). I'll probably end up compiling questions I get into a later FAQ post of some sort (or making corrections/clarifications to this one).
Again, thanks for reading.
(Oh, and I should be on the webcam most of the day today. I guess you should be able to tell roughly how the above is going by how much I'm smiling. If instead you see me rocking catatonically in my chair clutching an empty pill container, call 911.)
Update: Hi there. Not a lot of time (today has been crazy! have you ever gotten IMed by 300 people in one day?) but things seem to be going pretty well. If you've emailed to ask to be put on the micropatrons list and don't see your name up there, don't despair...I've got a bit of a backlog. I'll get the names up there as soon as I can. And more later..but for now, thank you to everyone who contributed, you're too kind. Off to dinner before I starve.....
Drunkenblog has a great collection of responses to one of the Apple lawsuits, including one from Steve Wozniak. The suit specifies 28 people who leaked builds of OS X 10.4 onto the web...Woz says: "I wish that Apple could find some way to drop the matter" and "I will personally donate $1,000 to the Canadian student's defense".
A Field Guide to Sprawl documents 51 different kinds of urban sprawl. Snout house: "[a house] where the garage is the dominant projecting feature".
Opentable redesigned their site. Haven't used it enough to compare to the old site, but it's still pretty slow.
The life of an autistic savant, from his own perspective. "Since his epileptic fit, he has been able to see numbers as shapes, colours and textures. The number two, for instance, is a motion, and five is a clap of thunder."
How to achieve, grow, and maintain a powerful position. Not sure if this is tongue-in-cheek, but I still wanted to take a shower after reading it.
Vimeo is a new site for "organizing and sharing your video clips". A bit like Flickr for video clips.
"Purseuing is a blog obsessively covering purses, bags, totes, clutches, and just about anything else you can carry on your shoulder". "I would pick up [a purse] and think 'cute' and put in on my shoulder then pick up another and do the same. Pretty soon you could hardly see my torso, just legs with a head on top and hands sticking out to the sides."
Anticipation FEB 21
I've been busy. For as long as I can remember now. There was a point in my not-so-distant past when I wasn't so busy, but I'll be damned if I can remember what that feels like. Lately though, I've been a different kind of busy...I'm enjoying the nonstop rush of tasks, meetings, projects, emails, IMs, etc. for the first time in a long, long while. If I were feeling cynical, I might chalk it up to the giddy infatuation of starting something new, but I don't think that's it. I hope not, anyway.
I've been listening to a lot of music lately as well, and it's been taking me back into different periods of my life. I don't know how it is with you, but my life definitely has a soundtrack, songs and albums that remind me of people, places, and experiences. The soundtrack for the past few weeks includes Daft Punk, Bloc Party, The Pixies, Joy Division, The Life Aquatic soundtrack, The Arcade Fire, Scissor Sisters, Death Cab for Cutie, and a couple of mixes given to me by friends.
This is going to sound crazy to you, but both Joy Division and The Pixies are recent "discoveries" of mine. I'd heard of both before, but had never really listened to any of the music (I missed most of the 80s musically). I found Joy Division through the excellent 24 Hour Party People and first time I really heard anything by The Pixies was at one of their recent reunion tour concerts. What's amazing about both groups is how fresh their music sounds to me as a new listener, especially Joy Division. I imagine some of it is the lack of genuinely new sounds in rock these days, but these two groups both have well-deserved reputions as innovators and produced music that was ahead of its time. Glad I'm finally getting around to enjoying it. :)
Oh, and stay tuned for an announcement tomorrow (hopefully).
The characters in Jane's virtual Animal Crossing world remember her ex-boyfriend. "My neighbors rhapsodize about his letter-writing skills or the fact that they used to play and play and play all day"
Memory Alpha is a Star Trek wiki with 8200+ articles. This is pretty much what wikis are for.
Soon you may be able to buy FEB 20
Soon you may be able to buy from eBay via your Tivo. Establishing the trustworthiness of particular auctions might be tough to do with just a remote tho...an Amazon store on TiVo would work much better.
Economist Steven Levitt strikes again: real estate agents sell their houses for more than their clients' homes. The more homes an agent can sell within a given time period, the more they make, so holding out a few more days for a small commission doesn't make economic sense for them.
Unintelligent design: if there is a "someone" responsible for designing the universe, they must have not been very smart. "Nature appears to be an avid abortionist, which ought to trouble Christians who believe in both original sin and the doctrine that a human being equipped with a soul comes into existence at conception."
The worst reviewed movies on Metacritic. Bio-Dome gets a 1 out of 100.
"Astronomers estimate about half the planetary systems so far discovered in our galaxy could contain Earth-like worlds". And space telescopes will be good enough to check in about 15 years.
Cooking Under Fire is a "12-part PBS documentary-style look at a national cooking competition". Starts April 27th and features Ming Tsai, Tood English, and Michael Ruhlman as judges.
Michelin three-star restaurants. "Infuriatingly, there is no index to the Guide Michelin, and nothing that might tell you what all the 3 star places are, or anything useful like that.Â Hence I have drawn up the table below, to save you trawling through the book."
Exploding star 50,000 light years from earth was briefly brighter than the moon in the night sky. "If the explosion had been within just 10 light-years, Earth could have suffered a mass extinction".
While wandering around the Natural History Museum in London, I came up with a little game** that I'd like to try out on you all. The challenge is to come up with a statement that's difficult to tell whether it's true or false, but is definitely one or the other. So, we're looking for really plausible lies or truths that seem false. Here's an example (from the Museum):
Due to the Coriolis Effect, the spirals in sea shells from the northern hemisphere grow counter-clockwise while shells that grew in the southern hemisphere spiral clockwise.
Sounds plausible enough, but is it true? Do you have any facts that seem false or lies that seem true?
** This can't be a novel idea...anyone seen this kind of thing somewhere before?
Economists, many of whom believe in the self-interest model, are more likely to act in a selfish manner than non-economists. "Repeated exposure to the self-interest model makes selfish behavior more likely".
Great McDonald's prank; they put a tuxedoed attendant in the bathroom of the Times Square McDonald's. "Many folks were kind enough to tip throughout the day. Agent Simmons made a total of $6.92."
John Gruber on the characteristics of good Apple applications. Good documentation, scriptable and extensible, and tabs.
Advice for game magazine publishers. Gamers are getting older and more mainstream, but the gamer magazines aren't keeping up.
Coldplay's new album may be delayed, but they're pretty enthusiastic about it. "We've got some fucking good songs. That's one thing we are sure of. I don't think we'll top this."
George Clooney to redo another Rat Pack movie. He, Brad Pitt, and Matt Damon are set to remake Robin and the 7 Hoods.
NY Times buys about.com for $410 million. I'll let kottke.org go for a *lot* less than that.
Which celebrities make the best wine?. Francis Ford Coppola, Ernie Els, Gerard Depardieu, or Elvis?
Typographica lists their favorite fonts of 2004. Currently coveting Whitney. Mmmm...
Trailer for The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie. Doesn't look too bad, actually.
Cocoa has led to a rise in FEB 17
Cocoa has led to a rise in small independent developers for OS X producing neat software. Transmit, NetNewsWire, OmniGraffle, Delicious Monster, etc.
The return of the webcam FEB 17
Through a series of miracles yesterday, I stumbled across something I've been searching for forever: an OS X driver (plus a fix for OS X 10.3) for my old USB QuickCam. (I also found an add-on that lets me use said USB cam with iChat AV. Whee!) I then downloaded a program called EvoCam, and just like that, the webcam is back up (view in popup). (No guarantees as to how long it will stay up.)
How's that for a bit of nostalgia? Back in the early days of weblogs, a lot of folks had webcams...it was part of the package. Posts, a list of links to your friends' sites, a webcam, link to your Amazon wishlist, maybe a link to your Epinions page, an about page, a guestbook or little chat widget in the sidebar, etc. It was a social space to move around in. Now that everyone is reading everything in RSS readers, a lot of that sort of thing has been lost. RSS readers are not that social, even with so-called "next gen" newsreaders that recommend sites based on what you already read. It's mostly just information in, information out...little time or opportunity for play. Thank God for sites like Flickr, LiveJournal, and Fark, where people can still go to hang out and play around with the web and their friends a bit.
NASA has found "strong evidence" that life currently exists on Mars. Fluctuating methane levels and the presence of sulfate jarosite may indicate that life is present.
Entire NHL hockey season cancelled. Can the sport recover from this?
Stay Free! pans Gladwell's Blink. "His writing follows a simple formula: put forth a counterintuitive argument, then cleverly select points that advance this claim while ignoring and obscuring those that don't."
Good article on what's wrong with the NBA. "Isiah Thomas has ordered players to wear suits and ties to the arenas. But during games, a team functionary goes around knotting the ties so that when a player gets dressed afterward, all he has to do is slip the tie over his head and tighten it rather than actually having to make the knot himself."
The making of a child molestor. "'It's far more difficult to be candid about sexual urges,'" she said, and so it's far more difficult for those on the edge of offending -- those for whom cultural taboos, legal prohibitions and empathy for the child aren't powerful enough to keep desire deeply submerged or to choke it off if it rises to the surface -- to find a way to stop themselves."
Daria is "an autonomous software system making a living as an artist". You may commission Daria to make a piece of art for you by donating via PayPal.
Christie's is auctioning off a library of writings on computing, networking, and telecom. Includes writing from Pascal, Babbage, Claude Shannon, and Ada Lovelace.
Vint Cerf and Bob Kahn, two Internet pioneers, are receiving the Turing Prize this year. "The 2004 A. M. Turing Award [is] widely considered to be the computing field's equivalent of the Nobel Prize."
Even those that like their jobs spend Sundays dreading Monday morning. One woman recommends eating melted cheese (??) to take your mind off of Monday.
Have scientists invented a machine that can predict the future?. It seems to have "predicted" the tsunami and 9/11, but most remain skeptical.
Damn, damn, hell, crap, damn. Surowiecki's going to be at Etech and me? Not.. Or perhaps I'll be better off for not being as connected.
Why do they call it the loo? FEB 16
(It's going to be hard to write this one without resorting to all sorts of unclever puns, but I'm going to do my best.)
When I was in London a couple of weeks ago, a group of us was sitting around in a pub on Saturday afternoon (what a cliché!) and someone mentioned that the reason that the English "loo" is so named because the toilet was commonly located in room 100 of buildings and the two ("loo" and "100") look very much the same. (You can see that I jotted that tidbit down on my analog Palm Pilot (upper right quadrant) for later reference.) Turns out that pub chat aside, the jury is somewhat out on the etymology of "loo" (
unless the OED, which I don't have access to, says otherwise tons of people wrote in with the OED entry for loo, summarized below).
One popular theory comes from this timeline of toilets:
When people flung their potty waste out of the window, they would shout "Gardez l'eau" [gar-day low]. That's French for "watch out for the water". We probably get the word "loo" from this expression, although some people think it comes from "Room 100" which is what European people used to call the bathroom.
Wikipedia backs this version as well (don't miss the list of euphemisms for toilet there, including poop-house (wtf?), dunny, and necessary).
Michael Quinion offers a few more theories. The word appears to originate no earlier than James Joyce's usage in Ulysses in 1922 -- "O yes, mon loup. How much cost? Waterloo. water closet." -- perhaps Joyce came up with it. Or it could be "a British mispronunciation of the French le lieu, "the place", a euphemism." Maybe loo is short for bordalou, "a portable commode carried by eighteenth century ladies in their muffs" (!!). Quinion also notes that "a rather more plausible [theory] has it that it comes from the French lieux d'aisances, literally 'places of ease' (the French term is usually plural), once also an English euphemism, which could have been picked up by British servicemen in World War One" but that there's no real conclusive evidence to support any of these theories over the others.
Cecil Adams of Straight Dope offers many of the same theories as well as this additional one:
It's short for "Lady Louisa," Louisa being the unpopular wife of a 19th-century earl of Lichfield. In 1867 while the couple was visiting friends, two young wiseacres took the namecard off her bedroom door and stuck it on the door of the bathroom. The other guests thereafter began jocularly speaking of "going to Lady Louisa." In shortened form this eventually spread to the masses.
But Adams has no definitive answer either and so the question of the etymology of loo will continue to be debated on the Internet and in pubs around the world.
Update: the OED notes Joyce's usage as the earliest, but is also at a loss to explain things:
A. S. C. Ross's examination of possible sources in Blackw. Mag. (1974) Oct. 309-16 is inconclusive: he favours derivation, in some manner that cannot be demonstrated, from Waterloo.
Five fast email productivity tips. I've been using these tips for years and highly recommend them.
Fark buys the right to rename Boston's Fleet Center for one day. The wisdom of crowds?
Boeing unveils new version of 777. It has a range of 11,000 miles and a flying time of almost 19 hours without refueling.
After years of saying that IE was dead as a standalone browser, betas of IE7 will be released this summer. This is probably a move to stop the bleeding, but might have the opposite effect. As long as folks are looking at an upgrade, why not evaluate the alternatives?
Didn't take long for some vandalism to show up on The Gates. Or is that just valid and appropriately situated criticism?
Bowled a personal best of 137 last night. Not bad for someone who bowls every year or so whether he wants to or not.
Folks are working on RSS 1.1, an update to RSS 1.0. BTW, the heck ever happened to Atom?
Rivalry is making a comeback in our culture. "I'm not entirely sure that competition is good for art. There is the danger that it can create a uniformity of thought and aim."
The EFF is asking a California Superior Court to protect online journalists' confidential sources from Apple. "The writers for PowerPage and Apple Insider are journalists just like the writers for traditional newspapers and magazines".
Lia is looking for a few NYC FEB 14
Satellite photo of The Gates in Central Park. Art so massive you can see it from space.
My analog Palm Pilot FEB 14
Here's what your back pocket will do to a piece of paper after 6 days hard walking in London:
When I travel, I usually write everything that's super important to me down on a 8.5x11 piece of paper, fold it twice, and stick it in my pocket. That way, when I need to look up a phone number or jot down an address, I don't have to get out a notebook, my computer, or hunt around for a piece of scrap paper. And it won't ever get stolen like a cell phone or handheld might.
Anil to bloggers: "you're just like the media you hate". Blogs have become known for attacking and tearing down, not for understanding and building up. Sad.
Network analysis of the Flickr population. "Globally speaking there are four clusters: one including the staff and several 'old timers', a very large cluster including most of the network, a third cluster including mostly people from UAE, and a fourth small cluster, mostly linked with the staff and old-timers, that I don't really understand."
Transatlantic relations between Europe and the US have changed since the Cold War days. "It is European leaders, not American ones, who are loosening transatlantic ties, and as much as this saddens Americans, there is little they can do about it."
Reinventing Physics: the Search for the Real Frontier. "I am carbon, but I need not have been. I have a meaning transcending the atoms from which I am made."
The costs of operating a car in NYC have risen 15% since 2001. And car ownership is decreasing as a result.
Greg Allen does The Math on The Gates and comes up about $15 million short. "Don't get me wrong; I'm just as giddy as the next schoolgirl [sic] about The Gates, I just can't see how they cost $20 million."
Here are your options if you can't afford a bespoke (i.e. custom) suit. You can get off-the-rack, made-to-measure, and hand made off-the-rack.
The cynic in me feels like money had to have changed hands in order for this to have happened (maybe Google is an investor in GuruNet, maybe GuruNet paid for that placement), but the optimist in me says that Google is still a weird little company where the members of project teams can stumble across a better resource that will make their users happier and more productive and implement it on the live site quickly, even if the company that provides that resource could be considered a competitor.
Marissa Meyer, Product Manager for Google, was kind enough to respond to my query about it:
This decision was driven off of concern for our user experience. We are not paying answers.com for this service nor are they paying us. They were willing to work with us and design a website that we felt represented an improvement for our users over what was offered on dictionary.com (no pop-ups, dense information presentation).
That a $50 billion American company is so focused on the experience presented to its users, well, it's pretty impressive.
Counterpoint to the earlier God Gene post. "It is reasonable to ask, as Hamer does, whether certain genes play a significant role in faith. But he is a long way from providing an answer."
Humans may have evolved to believe in God. Well, not believe in God exactly, but to be spiritual.
A look at Roger Ebert's home FEB 13
A look at Roger Ebert's home. He plays fast and loose with his rice cooker. Also, Roger, if you're reading, have me over for a movie some time.
Flip Saunders fired as Timberwolves coach, McHale to coach rest of season. Following the Wolves this season has been painful.
More on Ray Kurzweil's plan to live forever. "Ray Kurzweil doesn't tailgate. A man who plans to live forever doesn't take chances with his health on the highway, or anywhere else."
New State Names Resulting From the Coming Wave of Mergers and Acquisitions. Including "Wisconnecticut".
There's an "extra leaf" variation of the new Wisconsin quarter. "Individual coins with the markings were selling for $500 to $600, depending on condition".
Photo of Zissou by his brother, Jacques Henri Lartigue. Zissou? And looking very much like a young Max Fischer in a scene from Rushmore? Paging Wes Anderson...
Disney's Eisner describes Pixar's computerized human characters as "pretty pathetic". Steve Jobs retorts sarcastically: "Our films don't stack up to 'Atlantis,' 'Emperor's New Groove' or 'Treasure Planet.'"
The Chandra X-ray Observatory and the case of the missing baryons. Intergalactic gas clouds could contain the unaccounted-for 50% of the universe's total baryons.
The Gates in Central Park FEB 12
I dragged my ass out of bed at 6:45 this morning so that I could be in Central Park when they unfurled The Gates, the 16-day public art project by Christo and Jeanne-Claude. I was not disappointed. The whole art question notwithstanding, The Gates are an amazing and moving spectacle, and it was great seeing so many people in the park this morning, sharing the experience. Here are some photos I took:
There's so much in the news these days about our differences, conflict, and fear...The Gates are a perfect antidote for all that and for New Yorkers, a chance to come together and celebrate the city without terrorism or a power loss being involved. If you're in New York anytime before February 27th, I urge you to head to Central Park to check it out.
The Gates Project opens tomorrow in Central Park. The project will run from February 12 to February 27. It will probably be the most photographed event ever.
A look at what happens after Mario rescues the Princess. This gets a little wakka-chikka wakka-chikka, so it's probably not safe for work.
When I first watched the cool new VW Golf GTI commercial featuring an updated Gene Kelly poppin' and lockin', I guess I wasn't paying that much attention to it.
Then the other day a friend IMed me and asked, "hey have you seen this Golf GTI commercial with that guy from the crazy Kollaboration video?"
"It's the same guy? I know that guy!" I watched the video again and sure enough, Gene Kelly was dancing with the unmistakable style of Elsewhere, aka David Bernal. After a quick search, I found a message board post from Elsewhere himself that it was indeed him in the commerical:
yup that was me along with Crumbs and another popper named Jay Walker.
I emailed David to ask him about the experience and he graciously took the time to answer a few questions.
Jason: How did you get the Golf GTI gig? Audition or had someone seen your stuff and specifically wanted you for it?
David: They specifically wanted to use me for it. I had done a Heineken Commercial several months prior and the special effects people for that commercial were going to do the effects for this VW commercial. I got an email asking me if I could dance in the rain with a prosthetic mask on and several weeks later I was in London doing just that.
jkottke: That scene from Singin' in the Rain is one of the most famous in film, and certainly the most famous dance number in film. What was it like to be a part of an attempt to recreate and update it?
David: It was an honor and a privilege being one of the dancers in this commercial. Gene Kelly was a great dancer, singer and actor which is a lot more than I have to offer. It's extremely flattering having a commercial that essentially implies that my moves are an updated version of Gene's dance skills.
jkottke: Some folks have complained about the crassness of using a dead guy's likeness to sell automobiles. As one of the actors playing the deceased, do you have any thoughts on that?
David: Yeah it's kind of weird, but imo it kind of comes with the territory when you're a legend. I don't know if Gene would be too hot about the whole thing but obviously the Gene Kelly Estate approved it, so it's apparently not that crass to them.
jkottke: I've read that you often freestyle when you dance, making it up as you go along, but that you also have little micro-routines that you rely on as you do. In shooting the commercial, how much of the choreography was scripted and how much did you get to ad lib? How much did you need to change your style much based on specific shots from the original film or Gene's style?
David:It was different for each shot. For example with the close-ups they would say just do a bunch of wavy stuff, so I would simply freestyle with some waves. Most of the full body shots were more routine based. They would specifically want me to do a list of moves, but to connect everything I would naturally freestyle.
I didn't have to change my dancing stylistically at all. They wanted me to dance the way that I dance. In fact they had us watch the original Singing in the Rain scene so many times that I started unconsciously moving a bit like Gene Kelly. The director at one point even told me that I was moving too much like Gene and I needed to move more like me.
If anything the parameters and conditions of the shoot inadvertently changed my style. The sound stage was cold and we had to dance under artificial rain for hours. To avoid freezing we wore wet suits under our already thick, tight costumes. This restricted my movement a lot. My shoes were quite uncomfortable and fake flooring we danced on was soft and spongy. I had to keep my head up and smile constantly which was very unnatural for me. Yet the biggest difficulty for me was the rigid time restraints. Since it was a commercial we had to do a lot within a small amount of time. This forced me to speed up my style more than I usually do.
jkottke: Thanks, David.
A new version of the English Talmud is about to be released. Also, "for 14 years, there has been a daily [Talmud] class on the 7:51 a.m. train from Far Rockaway to Penn Station, with 15 to 20 commuters - accountants, lawyers, diamond dealers - taking over a section of the rear car". Neat.
With a whole world of enticements available on the web, how does anyone ever get any work done anymore?. "When he hears the chiming alert of new e-mail, he forces himself to continue working for 30 seconds before looking at it. Thirty seconds, mind you, not 30 minutes."
"A traumatic breakup, the death of a loved one or even the shock of a surprise party can unleash a flood of stress hormones that can stun the heart, causing sudden, life-threatening heart spasms in otherwise healthy people". "The phenomenon can trigger what seems like a classic heart attack and can put victims at risk for potentially severe complications and even death, the researchers found."
Neal Stephenson interview FEB 10
Mike Godwin recently interviewed The Baroque Cycle author Neal Stephenson for Reason magazine. Stephenson had this to say about the role of science and technology in the US:
It is quite obvious to me that the U.S. is turning away from [science and technology]. It has been the case for quite a while that the cultural left distrusted geeks and their works; the depiction of technical sorts in popular culture has been overwhelmingly negative for at least a generation now. More recently, the cultural right has apparently decided that it doesn't care for some of what scientists have to say. So the technical class is caught in a pincer between these two wings of the so-called culture war. Of course the broad mass of people don't belong to one wing or the other. But science is all about diligence, hard sustained work over long stretches of time, sweating the details, and abstract thinking, none of which is really being fostered by mainstream culture.
I've haven't read any of Stephenson's novels, but I've become a fan of his through reading interviews like this one. I can see why he's both beloved amongst geeks and starting to become more widely read. The Baroque Cycle trilogy sounds fascinating and right up my alley, but 2700 pages seems a little daunting, especially when I feel like I should read Cryptonomicon (928 pages) first. Then again, I was pondering reading Infinite Jest (1088 pages) again, so maybe I should just dive in.
Steven Heller on blogs, magazines, and critical design writing. "Today, however, although print may not be totally obsolete, critical design writing is fast migrating onto the Internet and to blogs in particular."
David Talbot, founder of Salon, is stepping down as editor-in-chief. OMG! Is this in response to 43ThingsAmazonGate? Let speculation run wild!
43 Things Amazon conspiracy FEB 10
There's a doozy of an "exposé" about the company behind 43 Things, Robot Co-op, in Salon. The article's author asserts that because 1) Amazon.com is an investor, 2) they didn't want anyone to know about it at the present time, and 3) the company's employees were a bit "oh shit, how did you know that?" panicky when asked about the deal, that Robot Co-op is nothing but a thin cover for some nefarious activity on the part of Amazon to mine the web's hopes and dreams.
If you take your tin foil hat off for a few minutes, you might realize that it's probably not as bad as all that.
1) If Amazon wanted to keep this quiet, why the company web site with a weblog on the front page detailing what the company is up to? Post after post of intentional misdirection? (Oop, hang on....hey honey, where's my razor?)
2) The front page of the site links to the personal web sites of all the employees that have them. Again, pretty open for such a supposedly stealthy undertaking. (Unless all those employees and their sites are fake!)
3) Did I mention that Amazon is doing a horrible job keeping this whole thing quiet? You'd think that Erik, Josh, and Amazon's PR department would have been a little more prepared and in sync in the event that someone found out about their little secret. "Nobody's supposed to know that" is obviously not what you say when a reporter calls you about a company's investor unless you're truly unprepared.
4) What company ever wants their business details to go public before they are ready to make an announcement? Answer: no company whatsoever. Since when is waiting to announce an investment an attempt to cover something up?
5) Does funding a company mean that the funder gets access to all the fundee's data? Until we know the terms of the deal, it's just idle speculation.
6) The article says, "The people posting their hopes, dreams and aspirations to 43 Things probably don't realize that they're effectively whispering them in the ear of the Web's biggest retailer, a multibillion-dollar, publicly traded company." Perhaps Salon doesn't realize that the people posting their hopes and dreams to 43 Things are effectively whispering them to the whole world because -- if you'll forgive me channeling Dooce here -- ALL OF THAT INFORMATION IS PUBLICALLY AVAILABLE ON THEIR WEB SITE. Thousands of hopes and dreams, free for the taking.
I agree that it's important to ask questions about how closely Amazon is involved with 43 Things, their data sharing policy, and future plans between the two companies (I could see Amazon acquiring 43 Things, even before news of the investment came out...I mean, those guys all worked at Amazon and are working on stuff that Amazon would be interested it), but it just doesn't make sense at this point to assume that Amazon is orchestrating 43 Things from their corporate HQ.
- A less alarmist article on news.com
- Robot Co-op's announcement of the Amazon investment
- Robot Co-op on how the company came about (good stuff in the comments)
Dooce was on ABC World News tonight. I missed it...did anyone record it with an eye toward digitizing it and throwing it online?
The Travel and Leisure (magazine) Design Awards. Best museums, restaurants, luggage, public spaces, etc.
David Denby wrote a negative piece about Ben Stiller in a recent NYer and Owen Wilson wrote in to defend his pal. I've gotta side with Denby on this one...I can't watch Stiller in any more movies.
The denizens of Wikipedia are discussing whether or not to delete the entry for "Jason Kottke". As the entry stands now, I'd vote for deletion too.
Photos from London FEB 09
Here are the rest of my photos from London:
I kept a (paper) notebook while I was in London, and there's some stuff in there that I'll be probably posting here at some point in the (hopefully) not too distant future.
A blog dedicated to The Gates in Central Park. Almost here! Can't wait!
The Simple English Wikipedia looks like an interesting idea. "Here at this place, we only use very simple English words and simple writing structures [so] pages will be easier to read by people who do not speak English well."
The Repent America splash page has two buttons: "Christians enter here" and "All others enter here". It should work like the USDA's classic Hay Net page: "Need God" and "Have God".
I Ate iPod Shuffle, a poem FEB 08
I Ate iPod Shuffle, a poem. "The iPod shuffle's not a snack! Don't make me go get Wozniak!"
The pirating of the 2005 Oscar DVD screeners. "The results? Out of 30 movies, all but five screener copies were leaked online by pirate groups."
A mastochistic dining experience at ultra-expensive Masa. "The headwaiter then greeted us by slapping me in the face and telling Babette that she looked heavy, also in Japanese."
Great interview with Stewart about Flickr. "Capturing the creative energy of the hive can be scary. It requires giving up some control, and eliminating lock-in as a strategy."
Interview with Roger Black FEB 07
Interview with Roger Black. He's working on a redesign of Nintendo Power: "You can't put big, babe-alicious, head-smashing stuff in there. You have to figure out something that doesn't look either too juvenile or too grown up."
The Vatican has official exorcists?. And how is Catholicism not a wacky cult? (Cue angry reader email...)
An oldie but goodie: alternate lyrics to Alanis Morrisette's Ironic. I'd forgotten all about this until a friend reminded me of it today.
They've got answers FEB 07
Just noticed the other day that Google switched their "definition" link from dictionary.com to answers.com. When I first saw it, I was irritated about the switch, but after I realized that answers.com is a better resource, my irritation lasted about two seconds. On one page, they list not only the definition of a word, but also the thesaurus entry, the Wikipedia entry (if applicable), translations into more than 10 languages (including Greek, Arabic, Chinese, and Hebrew), and some related topics. They've even got pages for terms that dictionary.com doesn't have, like "snoop dogg". And for a word like "reaganomics", answers.com brings in info from Investopedia, a useful-looking financial information site.
Walter Mossberg recently profiled answers.com in the WSJ. I wonder if the folks from Google read this (or had seen answers.com previously...more likely) and thought, hey, we should be linking to these guys instead of dictionary.com. The cynic in me feels like money had to have changed hands in order for this to have happened (maybe Google is an investor in GuruNet, maybe GuruNet paid for that placement), but the optimist in me says that Google is still a weird little company where the members of project teams can stumble across a better resource that will make their users happier and more productive and implement it on the live site quickly, even if the company that provides that resource could be considered a competitor. Would love to know which it is.
Update: it's the user experience, by a landslide.
Wow! Finally, after all these years, I'm the #1 Jason on Google. The JASON Foundation owned it forever, but I think the front page redirect they've got going now is killing them. Update: crap, that didn't last long...I'm back down to #2.
Fantastically creative chef makes dishes of flavored edible photographs. "He also prepares edible photographs flavored to fit a theme: an image of a cow, for example, might taste like filet mignon."
The sculptures in Chicago's Millennium Park are copyrighted which means you can't photograph them. "The copyrights for the enhancements in Millennium Park are owned by the artist who created them. As such, anyone reproducing the works, especially for commercial purposes, needs the permission of that artist." Absurd!
Google funded The Stanford CityBlock Project, which seems to predate the A9 YP use. Plus, they're doing some neat things with panoramas. Can Google's implementation of something like this be far behind?
First Contact tours take people into the West Papua jungle to meet tribes that have never seen outsiders before. "There are a handful of places in West Papua that are untouched -- still Stone Age tribes, still cannibals. It's just that a lot of people are too scared to go look for them."
Checked out Barcade in Williamsburg last night. I maintained my composure and socialized for a couple of hours, but Dig Dug eventually got the better of me (must get watermelon...). I'd still be there if I hadn't run out of quarters.
Brain analysis of a blind man expert at draw raises questions about what vision is. "But when he drew, his visual cortex lit up as though he was seeing."
How to get good quality sound out of your iPod. Short answer: throw money at the problem.
How not to choke FEB 04
In this interview on ESPN.com, Malcolm Gladwell offers his view on the upcoming Super Bowl and how the lessons of his most recent book, Blink, might apply. My favorite suggestion relates to training quarterbacks to deal with stressful situations:
I'd run them through a live-fire exercise at Quantico. I'd have them spend the offseason working with a trauma team in south-central L.A. It is only through repeated exposures to genuine stress that our body learns how to function effectively under that kind of pressure. I think its time we realized that a quarterback needs the same kind of exhaustive preparation for combat that we give bodyguards and soldiers.
Field goal kickers could benefit from this as well. And poor 4th quarter free throw shooters.
Earlier in the interview, Gladwell supposes that "Joe Montana's heart rate barely got above 100 in any of his fourth-quarter comebacks." I remember reading about a study where researchers hooked heart monitors up to various NASCAR drivers while they took practice laps around the track. The drivers' heart rates were slow and steady in the straightaways and increased markedly in the turns due to stress. All except for Jeff Gordon...his heart rate remained slow and steady all the way around the track.
Thanks to Jorge for the link.
How not to get your bike stolen in NYC. "Locking your bike next to a badly locked up bike is a good idea."
Faces of London FEB 04
Without intending to, I ended up taking photos of a bunch of faces while I was in London. Here are some of them:
It's been awhile since I've seriously picked up a camera (not that I was ever that serious about it) and I'm a little rusty. I'm hoping to get in lots more practice in the coming months, so the quality should hopefully improve.
The Holy Grail of celebrity photography has been achieved. Everyone, meet Britney's nipple. Update: false alarm...it's a fake.
Saft, a plugin for Safari FEB 03
I've been using the Saft plugin for Safari for a week now. I've barely scratched the surface of what it can do, but I'm finding it indispensable so far. At any one time, I typically have about four browser windows open with 10-15 tabs in each, so the auto-save and restore tabs feature is a life-saver and worth the $12 cost. Check out the site for more features.
Now, someone make something like this for Mail.app...just a few small features here and there would really make it a whole lot better.
Eric Etheridge compares Ed Ruscha's 1966 book Every Building on the Sunset Strip with A9's block view yellow pages feature. "Four decades ago, Ruscha mounted a motor-driven 35mm camera on a car and drove up and down Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles".
Rio thero is back FEB 03
Rio thero is back. Congratulations to the ten people who actually know what I'm talking about here.
R.W. Apple on Danny Meyer and his new restaurants at the MoMA. Huh, I didn't know "hospitalitarian" was a word...
Give that someone special a "I Choo-Choo-Choose You" card. It's from that Simpsons episode where Lisa gives said card to Ralph.
New Daft Punk album (Human After All) out in stores on March 25. Been listening to it the last few days and it's quite good.
Dan says wine can enhance one's web design work. The real question is which wine goes with what technology. A nice merlot might work with HTML 4.0 but not with XHTML 1.1...
Flores man may have made tools by accident rather than by design. Cheese should be used in more instances to explain scientific concepts. "So the cheese gets heavier as you approach the speed of light?"
Howto backup your Mac with rsync. In response to the emails I got about my rsyncing...this should get you going.
Back from London FEB 03
Back from London and up at the ungodly hour of 7:00 AM ET after getting to bed at 1:30 AM ET, which was the minute I got home from the airport. Still, six hours of sleep is better than none hours. I'm going to use the time to get some stuff done...lots of exciting and dread-inspiring things to do in the next couple of weeks. Trip pictures are forthcoming; luckily my camera battery lasted the whole time despite the charger being thousands of miles away and I took lots of photos.
But quickly, I learned a few additional travel tips on this trip (to add to the list):
- Never purchase a US to UK power outlet converter at a Canadian/Australian ex-pat shop. It will fail to work after a day or so. I practically had to splash water on it to get a good connection.
- When going through security at the airport, don't wear a shirt that depicts a little girl blowing her head off with a gun, even though her splattered brains turn into butterflies.
- You know that bottle of unopened soda in the bag bouncing on your hip for the last 1/2 hour? Yeah, that's going to spray everywhere when you open it, dummy. When I got home, my coat was so sticky that I just kinda pressed it to the wall to hang it up, no hook needed.
Oh, and I ate kangaroo! Not half bad, but I probably wouldn't go out of my way to order it again.