Brian Lebakken is blogging the Minnesota State Fair (here's an article in the Pioneer Press about it). He's planning on going every day and, from the looks of it, eating as much as he can while doing it, as every Fair-goer worth their salt should. (thx alex)
Lance Arthur examines living in San Francisco versus living in NYC and concludes in a highly dubious and hilarious outcome, that San Francisco is by far the better choice.
Katrina assistance AUG 31
A reader inquires:
When the tsunami struck Asia last year, Amazon.com was quick to post a donation link on its front page. Don't you think they should do the same for the victims of Katrina? How about using that platform of yours to apply some leverage to Jeff and the crew to get a link up there?
Amazon's lack of a donation link was noted in our household this morning as well. How about it, Amazon? (thx scott)
In the meantime, you can donate directly to the Red Cross (the site seems a little slow right now, so be patient).
Update: Please stop emailing me about the tsunami/Katrina comparison thing. I don't wish to debate the relative scale of natural disasters or who deserves more attention and aid when bad stuff happens. Individuals and corporations alike need to determine who they wish to aid on their own terms. In the past, Amazon has been a place to go to give aid...it's the first place I thought of going when I heard of the escalating problems in the Gulf states (and I don't think I'm alone here) because if they had a donation mechanism, it would be a fast link and easy for people to donate. That Amazon has chosen to not to set up a donation mechanism in this case is their choice and I certainly don't fault them for it.
Update #2: InternetWeek is reporting that Amazon has decided not to add a donation mechanism to their site. (thx, julio)
Update #3: Amazon now has a donation link on the front page which goes to this donation page. (thx to several who wrote in, including those at Amazon.)
Info-rich presentation by Marc Rettig on designing for experience. Includes a case study on redesigning a library. (via pwtm)
As technology plunges ever forward (or as we perceive it doing so), it's not often that we stop to take a look back at how people thought the future was going to unfold before them. Peter Edidin of the NY Times recently did so, reviewing prognostications about radio, films, and television. It's fun to read the ones where people thought the new technology was going to complete overtake and eliminate an older technology (which does happen, but not as often as people expect). Bruce Bliven on radio in 1922:
There will be only one orchestra left on earth, giving nightly worldwide concerts; when all universities will be combined into one super-institution, conducting courses by radio for students in Zanzibar, Kamchatka and Oskaloose; when, instead of newspapers, trained orators will dictate the news of the world day and night, and the bedtime story will be told every evening from Paris to the sleepy children of a weary world...
D. W. Griffith, the great filmmaker of the early era, had this to say of film in 1915:
The time will come, and in less than 10 years, when the children in the public schools will be taught practically everything by moving pictures. Certainly they will never be obliged to read history again. Imagine a public library of the near future, for instance. There will be long rows of boxes of pillars, properly classified and indexed, of course. At each box a push button and before each box a seat. Suppose you wish to "read up" on a certain episode in Napoleon's life. Instead of consulting all the authorities, wading laboriously through a host of books, and ending bewildered, without a clear idea of exactly what did happen and confused at every point by conflicting opinions about what did happen, you will merely seat yourself at a properly adjusted window, in a scientifically prepared room, press the button, and actually see what happened.
But it's also fun to see when people got it right, more or less. In 1936, J.C. Furnas had this to say of television:
It is my hope, and I see no reason why it should not be realized, to be able to go to an ordinary movie theater when some great national event is taking place across the country and see on the screen the sharp image of the action reproduced - at the same instant it occurs. This waiting for the newsreels to come out is a bit tiresome for the 20th century. Some time later I hope to be able to take my inaugurals, prize fights and football games at home. I expect to do it satisfactorily and cheaply. Only under those conditions can a television get into my house.
Under that set of criteria, it probably took awhile for a TV set to enter the Furnas household, but by the time NBC started broadcasting sporting events in the mid-1940s, they probably had one.
Update: a rebuttal by Greg Allen.
Katrina Check-In is "place to connect people affected by Hurricane Katrina to those their loved ones". If you're out of danger or looking for someone in the affected area, you may want to check-in here.
Shakespeare put coded messages about Catholicism into his plays that, due to the "Protestant, Whig ascendancy", have not been decoded until now.
For my photography nerd friends: testing the accuracy of a SLR camera focusing system.
Short positive review of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus (@ Amazon). Thumbed through it at the bookstore yesterday and it did look good...but I've got too many books in my queue already.
Dan Gillmor on Google's unnecessary arrogance. I believe some of what people call Google's arrogance isn't that at all, but they are still a deeply weird company.
Plastic recently considered the question of perfect albums, those where every song is great and you never want to skip over them. Philip compiled a list of the responses; Radiohead's OK Computer and Miles Davis' Kind of Blue came out on top.
A few days ago, I reviewed March of the Penguins, a well-regarded documentary film that's doing quite well here in the US (despite being a well-regarded documentary film):
Like many sleeper hits, there's something quite unHollywood about it; it wasn't manufactured to push specific demographic buttons or market tested to within an inch of its life. It's handmade, crafted, and full of soul.
Turns out the film is not quite so unmanufactured as I thought. The original film (en français) features voiceovers for each of the main family characters (dad, mom, baby boy) and some French pop songs. The effect is quite cheesy at times, particularly during the singing of the love songs. I wish I had a video clip for you watch...I've seen bits and pieces of the French version and can vouch for Joe Leydon's take on the film:
Once he focuses on the primary couple, however, Jacquet uncorks the schmaltz while employing actors Romance Bohringer and Charles Berling to voice penguins murmuring sweet nothings to each other. It's easy to understand helmer's desire to personalize the birds with anthropomorphic affectation. But it's difficult not to laugh out loud as nuzzling penguins pledge their troth as each other's "soul mate."
After seeing the film at Sundance, an exec at Warner Bros. initated a change in the film to ready it for American viewers:
Warner Bros. president Mark Gill saw the film at Sundance, called writer-director Jordan Roberts and asked if something could be done to make it more appealing to American audiences. Jordan wrote a narration, performed by Morgan Freeman, and hired composer Alex Wurman to create a new score. The final result is showing in close to 2,000 theatres across America.
The narration by Morgan Freeman is not a close translation of the original French voiceovers and I think it's a better film that way (for a US audience, at least). It also explains the odd pacing of Freeman's narration at times. Anyway, as I said above, not quite the clear expression of artistic vision as I'd assumed.
Daniel Dennett on why intelligent design isn't science. "Evolutionary biology certainly hasn't explained everything that perplexes biologists. But intelligent design hasn't yet tried to explain anything."
In addition to books, you can check people out of the Malmo, Sweden library. The library "will let curious visitors check out living people for a 45-minute chat in a project meant to tear down prejudices about different religions, nationalities, or professions".
This NY Times article on the popularity of sudoku puzzles in US newspapers had me confused because it really didn't explain what the heck these puzzles were and I'd never seen one before. Luckily, Wikipedia to the rescue.Ben: a Flickr version of sudoku.
Photo slideshow of where Manhattanites find the beach amongst the skyscrapers and bustling streets of the city.
A review of Weeds, Showtime's new show about a mom selling pot in the suburbs. I've been watching it; it's good but I'm not absolutely loving it yet.
How the presiding monarch of the Minnesota State Fair, Princesss Kay of the Milky Way, is selected...ending with her coronation and her likeness carved into a giant block of butter.
Interesting idea about having specific end dates for online games, instead of them ending when they fail. As Alice notes, time constraints will likely make for some interesting gameplay, especially in the later stages of the game. (via rw)
Fun little quiz on eight grade math...can you pass? I got 9/10 (got tripped up on what I thought was a trick question but wasn't...erroneous! erroneous!).
Robert Cringely: Google may have peaked ("What if search and PageRank and AdSense are Google's corporate apex?") and Microsoft may have more to worry about from Apple if they start distributing older versions of OSX (the Intel version) for free on iPods.
The NY Times takes Google to task for blacklisting Cnet over them publishing some publicly available information about Google CEO Eric Schmidt. I wonder if there's a useful distinction to be made between implicitly available information and explicitly broadcast information?
Justin's looking for the largest inbox smoothly handled by Mail.app...the current high is 26,700 messages. Mine only has around 100 because I filter most messages into a variety of folders. Update: he's up to
43,000 283,686! (That's gotta be on a G5 with a ton of RAM...my Powerbook would melt under that kind of weight.)
Totalitarian Institutions That Would Have Been More Fitting for George Orwell's 1984, Considering How That Year Turned Out. "The Ministry of the Beef, and Where It Currently Is".
Today's big story is Hurricane Katrina htting the Gulf Coast of the US around New Orleans and Biloxi. Boing Boing's got some pointers to accounts from that area. Be safe, everyone.
Greg reminded me that today is the 10th anniversary of the launch of Suck. I started reading a few weeks after it launched, but I do remember going back to read the first article that kicked it off. Here's a lengthy and comprehensive look at Suck's history.
To protect against wholesale theft of words (theft of words? I feel silly just writing that...), dictionaries insert fake words in their listings. The article says that the New Oxford American Dictionary's fake word showed up on dictionary.com, but as of today, it's gone.
Density is an important factor in thriving cities. "If not enough people want to shop or eat out, there won't be many good stores or restaurants. If the audience for music, theater, or art is small, these activities will not flourish. If the tax base is scanty, schools and municipal services will be substandard."
Witold Rybczynski on perimeter security around prominent public and government buildings. "The problem is that huge hunks of reinforced concrete in city streets are not only an eyesore and an impediment to movement, they're a blatant and unsightly expression of a siege mentality."
Lengthy examination of what makes people gay by the Boston Globe. "What makes the case of [identical twins] Patrick and Thomas so fascinating is that it calls into question both of the dominant theories in the long-running debate over what makes people gay: nature or nurture, genes or learned behavior."
As some of you may have noticed, I changed the way I do my remaindered links a few weeks ago. Instead of a "headline" with a single link accompanied by some (optional) extra text:
"Does anyone devote as much energy to avoiding simple, sensible solutions as the modern graphic designer?"
Novelty is necessary to foster innovation, but is missing the mark so frequently worth the effort?
I switched to a short paragraph of text with one or more links:
Following the elimination of tipping at Per Se, an op-ed by Steven Shaw says tipping should be abolished in restaurants. (via tmn) Considering the statistics on tipping, perhaps he's right. For a less refined take, here's why Reservoir Dog Mr. Pink doesn't tip.
I'm really happy with the switch so far. Posting each entry takes a little longer (especially if there's more than one link per entry), but the format is a lot more flexible than the headline/link/text way. It allows me to explicitly follow up on previous posts (e.g. Remember this link I posted last week? Well, here's some more info on that...), make connections between what I'm posting and what I've read/seen/heard elsewhere previously, credit where I find links, and is generally more Web-like and weblog-like in style. That and I can still do the headline/link/text thing if I want.
It's a subtle change, but in a lot of ways it's a return for me to an older style of blogging: link-dense, off-the-cuff, linking for subtext and not reference (a practice pioneered by Suck). Not having to limit myself to one link (as with the old style of remaindered link) or feel like I need to write something of substance to justify a post with a title and it's own archive page (as with my main posts...it's kind of amazing how post titles and individual archives have made blog posts seem more like magazine or newspaper articles than, well, blog posts) has been great. There was a missing intermediate baby bear sort of post that was difficult for me to do easily and on a regular basis. With this switch, it's just right.
For those of you who read the remaindered links in a newsreader, you may not have even noticed the change. Depending on how your newsreader works and how you use it, you may not be seeing the extra links. I still have the URL pointing to whatever it is I'm primarily linking to rather than the permalink for the entry. I'm doing it that way now for backward compatibility, but I'm not sure how long that will continue...it makes less sense with this new format. I may even roll the remaindered links into the main RSS file...it would make a lot of sense (although I would still offer a separate RSS file for the r-links).
The bottom line is, if you're reading the remaindered links in a newsreader, you may be missing out. The relative simplicity of RSS/Atom (and the applications that utilize them) is often a strength, but it's not ideal for some methods of content display, which can be frustrating to those of us who revel in the flexibility of HTML in formatting content.
flylittlebird is "an experiment in building collective wisdom from hundreds of undergraduate commencement speeches".
A small ocean microbe called Pelagibacter has the smallest genome of any self-sufficient organism with 1,354 genes. It also doesn't appear to have any extra DNA...no junk or redundant copies of genes.
Flickr set of glitch art created when digital satellite TV goes a little wonky.
News.com ruminates about Google building a collection of tools that serve as a replacement OS. Where have we heard that recently? You're welcome for the story idea and thanks for the non-link, guys...tech journalism at its finest. I hereby institute a policy of not linking to you for a year.
Michael via email: "please tell me you were kidding". Well, mostly yes, particularly about the no link policy thing (it's actually going to be two years).
Art experts choose 10 of the worst paintings hanging in Britain.
Interview with Frans de Waal about his work with primate behavior and politics. "I call the human species the most bipolar ape, meaning that we go beyond chimps in our violence, which is systematic and often results in thousands of dead, and we go beyond the bonobo in our empathy and love for others, so that human altruism is truly remarkable."
Short article about Pixar on the 10th anniversary of Toy Story. Their work process takes a cue from improv comedy by opening up possibilities with "yes, and..." rather than "no, but..." Gladwell talks about this aspect of improv at length in Blink.
The Morning News interviews James Kunstler about our energy-scarce future. I think Robert could have just asked him one question and let him roll. Also fun...a Google ad at the bottom says "the myth of peak oil, read the truth!" Heh.
Pharyngula rips Deepak Chopra a new one regarding his skepticism of evolution. Skepticism is fantastic, but Chopra seems to be deeply engaged in an impressive display of uninformed hand-waving. Deep, put down your cup of invigorating tea and at least read a little about what evolution is so that next time, you actually sound like you know what you're being skeptical about.
Interview with Steven Heller, art director of the NY Times Book Review, among many other things. On the question of how he decides that design is good, he says, "if I like it, it's good."
Here's a fun Flickr set: objects that look like faces.
In reaction to some ads of questionable value being placed on some of O'Reilly's sites (response from Tim O'Reilly), Greg Yardley has written a thoughtful piece on selling PageRank called I am not responsible for making Google better:
Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and the other big search engine companies aren't public utilities - they're money-making, for-profit enterprises. It's time to stop thinking of search engines as a common resource to be nurtured, and start thinking of them as just another business to compete with or cooperate with as best suits your individual needs.
I love the idea that after more than 10 years of serious corporate interest in the Web that it's still up to all of us and our individual decisions. The search engines in particular are based on our collective action; they watch and record the trails left as we scatter the Web with our thoughts, commerce, conversations, and connections.
Me? I tend to think I need Google to be as good a search engine as it can be and if I can help in some small way, I'm going to. As corny as it sounds, I tend to think of the sites I frequent as my neighborhood. If the barista at Starbucks is sick for a day, I'm not going to jump behind the counter and start making lattes, but if there's a bit of litter on the stoop of the restaurant on the corner, I might stop to pick it up. Or if I see some punk slipping a candy bar into his pocket at the deli, I may alert the owner because, well, why should I be paying for that guy's free candy bar every time I stop in for a soda?
Sure those small actions help those particular businesses, but they also benefit the neighborhood as a whole and, more importantly, the neighborhood residents. If I were the owner of a business like O'Reilly Media, I'd be concerned about making Google or Yahoo less useful because that would make it harder for my employees and customers to find what they're looking for (including, perhaps, O'Reilly products and services). As Greg said, the Web is still largely what we make of it, so why not make it a good Web?
This is odd...you need a mobile phone to sign up for Gmail (or get an invite from a current user). Well, I guess that's not a whole lot more strange than needing an email address to sign up for an email account.
A US antropologist says that weaker toes found in human skeletons from 26,000-40,000 years ago indicates when humans started wearing sturdy shoes.
Steven Johnson reports on Dodgeball for Discover magazine and proceeds to riff on cities, Jane Jacobs, and the Long Tail. When considering the effects of the Long Tail, there's a different between being able to d/l music by an obscure band when you live in a rural area and having the opportunity of seeing that band in person with other likeminded folks. (via dens)
As if Metafilter wasn't blue enough, Matt Haughey officially joins the liberal media conspiracy with his first piece in the NY Times. Matt, why do you and your gadgets hate freedom?
Fun speculation on why golf is so popular with men: they evolved an attraction to hunting in natural environments that are a lot like golf courses.
When dealing with information sent to them on mobile devices like the Blackberry, people tend to not read anything that closely and seem to take the information less seriously. Like Matt and Foe, I've noticed this...but with blogs and (especially) newsreaders. Having 1000s of unread items to deal with per day would tend to diminish the value of individual blog posts, n'est pas? I wonder if this is partially what Gladwell is getting at with his upcoming NYer festival talk, The American Obsession with Precociousness, Learning quickly versus learning well...
Chris Anderson argues that media companies, unable to push the piracy rate to 0%, should live with the benefits of "just enough piracy". I've heard that in the (distant) past, Adobe turned a blind eye to piracy of Photoshop because it was getting their product out into the market. Tim O'Reilly's related essay entitled Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution is worth a read as well.
Season four of Six Feet Under is now available on DVD. Watch as Nate and George and David and, well, everyone really, goes nuts.
The competitive Scrabble world is starting to see some top-notch players for whom English is not their native language. At he highest level of competition, "Scrabble's secret is that it's a math game: board geometry, strategic decision making, probability and chance." And sometimes it's better not knowing English so the player can focus solely on the memorization of patterns and gameplay. Interesting stuff.
Fun speculation that the purpose of Google's big stock sale is to grease the skids for their entrance into the S&P 500. Lots of new people buy the stock of a company just added to the index and the stock sale would make that inventory available. (Or do they need money to buy Skype? Or are Google execs getting jittery about being in a bubble and want to cash in?)
Only three inches of eyebrow hair gets you a world record? I think most of my dad's eyebrow hair is at least that long and I could probably beat the record given a little growing time. And unibrow Josh Hartnett probably has a few long ones in that sucker as well.
An interesting bike rental scheme from Lyon, France: you pay by the hour with a credit card and the rack automatically checks your bike in and out (using sensors and whatnot) and rides under 30 minutes long are free. More information is available on the Velo Grand Lyon site.
If you love color palettes and people who love color palettes, you'll love COLOURlovers. Love love color colour love color love.
Astronomers have determined the precise location and time that Ansel Adams took a famous photograph of the moon in Yosemite National Park and are going to attempt to recreate the shot in September. The same forensic team has previously determined when Van Gogh painted "White House at Night".
This list of ten steps to building a successful Web 2.0 company is really quite insightful. #3 is a favorite: "Launch. Now. Tomorrow. Everyday."
Excellent little piece by Steven Johnson on the end of Six Feet Under: "I had a genuine feeling last night watching the finale that I was going to miss these people, which I can honestly say I've never had with a television show before." I'm still thinking about that last episode, three days later.
Long thoughtful response from Tim O'Reilly about the questionable advertising on some of O'Reilly Media's sites. Is selling your site's Page Rank to someone more or less legitimate than selling them your customers' attention? (via waxy)
Back in April 2004, John Rhodes predicted that Google would do an IM client using Jabber. Tada!
Here's how to connect to Google's IM network with iChat or Adium. The audio works with iChat as well. Not as good as a Google Talk client for OS X, but I guess it'll have to do.
Download Squad has screenshots and a quick review of Google Talk, Google's new IM/VoIP app. Doesn't look Web-based, which is surprising to me. Looks Windows-only as well, which is lame, lame, lame. Update: the Google Talk site appears to be live and letting people d/l the app.
Before we get going, here are some alternate titles for this post, just to give you an idea of what I'm trying to get at before I actually, you know, get at it:
- You're probably wondering why Yahoo bought Konfabulator
- An update on Google Browser, GooOS and Google Desktop
- A platform that everyone can stand on and why Apple, Microsoft, and, yes, even Google will have to change their ways to be a part of it
- The next killer app: desktop Web servers
- Does the Mozilla Foundation have the vision to make Firefox the most important piece of software of this decade?
- Web 3.0
- Finally, the end of Microsoft's operating system dominance
Now that your hyperbole meter has pegged a few times, hopefully the rest of this will seem tame in comparison. (And apologies for the length...I got rolling and, oops, 2500 words. But many of them are small so...)
Way back in October 2004, this idea of how the Web as a platform might play out popped into my head, and I've been trying to motivate myself into writing it down ever since. Two recent events, Yahoo's purchase of Konfabulator and Google's release of a new beta version of Google Desktop have finally spurred me into action. But back to October. At the Web 2.0 conference, Stewart pulled me aside and said something like, "I think I know what Google is doing with Google Browser." From a subsequent post on his site:
I've had this post about Adam Bosworth, Alchemy and the Google browser sitting around for months now and it is driving me crazy, because I want all the credit for guessing this before it happens. So, for the record, if Google is making a browser, and if it is going to be successful, it will be because there is a sophisticated local caching framework included, and Google will provide the reference apps (replying to emails on Gmail or posting messages to Google groups while on the plane).
At the time, Adam Bosworth had been recently hired by Google for purposes unknown. In a blog post several months before he was hired, Bosworth mused about a "new browser":
A couple weeks later, Google introduced the first iteration of their Desktop Search. To me, the least interesting thing about GDS was the search mechanism. Google finally had an application that installed on the desktop and, even better, it was a little Web server that could insert data from your local machine into pages you were browsing on google.com. That was a new experience: using a plain old Web browser to run applications locally and on the Web at the same time.
So this is my best guess as to how an "operating system" based on the Web (which I will refer to as "WebOS") will work. There are three main parts to the system:
- The Web browser (along with other browser-ish applications like Konfabulator) becomes the primary application interface through which the user views content, performs services, and manages data on their local machine and on the Web, often without even knowing the difference. Something like Firefox, Safari, or IE...ideally browser agnostic.
- Web applications of the sort we're all familiar with: Gmail, Flickr, and Bloglines, as well as other applications that are making the Web an ever richer environment for getting stuff done. (And ideally all Ajaxed up to provide an experience closer to that of traditional desktop apps.)
- A local Web server to handle the data delivery and content display from the local machine to the browser. This local server will likely be highly optimized for its task, but would be capable of running locally installed Web applications (e.g. a local copy of Gmail and all its associated data).
That's it. Aside from the browser and the Web server, applications will be written for the WebOS and won't be specific to Windows, OS X, or Linux. This is also completely feasible, I think, for organizations like Google, Yahoo, Apple, Microsoft, or the Mozilla Foundation to make happen (more on this below).
Compared to "standalone" Web apps and desktop apps, applications developed for this hypothetical platform have some powerful advantages. Because they run in a Web browser, these applications are cross platform (assuming that whoever develops such a system develops the local Web server part of it for Windows, OS X, Linux, your mobile phone, etc.), just like Web apps such as Gmail, Basecamp, and Salesforce.com. You don't need to be on a specific machine with a specific OS...you just need a browser + local Web server to access your favorite data and apps.
You also get the advantages of locally run applications. You can use them when you're not connected to the Internet. There could be an icon in the Dock that fires up Gmail in your favorite browser. For applications using larger files like images, video, and audio, those files could be stored and manipulated locally instead of waiting for transfer over the Internet.
One thing that might deter you from writing Web-based applications is the lameness of Web pages as a UI. That is a problem, I admit. There were a few things we would have really liked to add to HTML and HTTP. What matters, though, is that Web pages are just good enough.
Web pages weren't designed to be a UI for applications, but they're just good enough. And for a significant number of users, software that you can use from any browser will be enough of a win in itself to outweigh any awkwardness in the UI. Maybe you can't write the best-looking spreadsheet using HTML, but you can write a spreadsheet that several people can use simultaneously from different locations without special client software, or that can incorporate live data feeds, or that can page you when certain conditions are triggered. More importantly, you can write new kinds of applications that don't even have names yet.
And how about these new kinds of applications? Here's how I would envision a few apps working on the WebOS:
- Gmail. While online, you read your mail at gmail.com, but it also caches your mail locally so when you disconnect, you can still read it. Then when you connect again, it sends any replies you wrote offline, just like Mail.app or Outlook does. Many people already use Gmail (or Yahoo Mail) as their only email client...imagine if it worked offline as well.
- A Web version of iTunes. Just like the desktop version of iTunes, except in the browser. Manages/plays audio files stored locally, with an option to back them up on the server (using .Mac or similar) as well. iTunes already utilizes information from the Internet so well (Web radio, podcasting iTMS, CDDB, etc.) that it's easy to imagine it as a Web app. (And why stop at audio...video would work equally as well.)
- Newsreader. Read sites while offline (I bet this is #1 on any Bloglines user's wish list). Access your reading list from any computer with a browser (I bet this is #1 on any standalone newsreader user's wish list).
- File backup. A little WebOS app that helps you back up your files to Apple's .Mac service, your ISP, or someone like Google. You'll specify what you want backed up and when through the browser and the backup program will take care of the rest.
I'm looking at the rest of the most commonly used apps on my Powerbook and there's not too many of them that absolutely need to be standalone desktop applications. Text editor, IM, Word, Excel, FTP, iCal, address book...I could imagine versions of these running in a browser.
- Google. If Google is not thinking in terms of the above, I will eat danah's furriest hat. They've already shifted the focus of Google Desktop with the addition of Sidebar and changing the name of the application (it used to be called Google Desktop Search...and the tagline changed from "Search your own computer" to the more general "Info when you want it, right on your desktop"). To do it properly, I think they need their own browser (with bundled Web server, of course) and they need to start writing their applications to work on OS X and Linux (Google is still a Windows company). Many of the moves they've made in the last two years have been to outflank Microsoft, and if they don't use Google Desktop's "insert local code into remote sites" trick to make whatever OS comes with people's computers increasingly irrelevant, they're stupid, stupid, stupid. Baby step: make Gmail readable offline.
- Yahoo. I'm pretty sure Yahoo is thinking in these terms as well. That's why they bought Konfabulator: desktop presence. And Yahoo has tons of content and apps that that would like to offer on a WebOS-like platform: mail, IM, news, Yahoo360, etc. Challenge for Yahoo: widgets aren't enough...many of these applications are going to need to run in Web browsers. Advantages: Yahoo seems to be more aggressive in opening up APIs than Google...chances are if Yahoo develops a WebOS platform, we'll all get to play.
- Microsoft. They're going to build a WebOS right into their operating system...it's likely that with Vista, you sometimes won't be able to tell when you're using desktop applications or when you're at msn.com. They'll never develop anything for OS X or for Linux (or for browsers other than IE), so its impact will be limited. (Well, limited to most of the personal computers in the world, but still.)
- Apple. Apple has all the makings of a WebOS system right now. They've got the browser, a Web server that's installed on every machine with OS X, Dashboard, iTMS, .Mac, Spotlight, etc. All they're missing is the applications (aside from the Dashboard widgets). But like Microsoft, it's unlikely that they'll write anything for Windows or Linux, although if OS X is going to run on cheapo Intel boxes, their market share may be heading in a positive direction soon.
So yeah, that's the idea of the WebOS (as I see it developing) in a gigantic nutshell. The reality of it will probably be a lot messier and take a lot longer than most would like. If someone ends up doing it, it will probably not be as open as it could be and there will likely be competing Web platforms just as there are now competing search engines, portals, widget applications (Konfabulator, Dashboard, Google Desktop Sidebar), etc., but hopefully not. There's lots more to discuss, but I'm going to stop here before this post gets even more ridiculously long. My thanks if you even made this far.
 Actually, the biggest potential problems with all this are the massive security concerns (a Web browser that has access to data on your local hard drive?!!!??) and managing user expectations (desktop/web app hybrids will likely be very confusing for a lot of users). Significant worries to be sure, but I believe the advantages will motivate the folks developing the platform and the applications to work through these concerns.
 For more discussion of Web applications, check out Adam Rifkin's post on Weblications.
 Rumor has it that Google is releasing an IM client soon (more here). I'll be pretty surprised if it's not significantly Web-based. As Hotmail proved for email, there's no reason that IM has to happen in a desktop app (although the alerting is problematic).
 Maybe Google thinks they can't compete with Apple's current offerings (Spotlight, Dashboard, Safari, iPhoto) on their own platform, but that's not a good way of thinking about it. Support as many people as you can on as many different architectures as you can, that's the advantage of a Web-based OS. Microsoft certainly hasn't thought of Apple as a serious competitor in the OS space for a long time...until Web applications started coming of age recently, Microsoft's sole competitor has been Microsoft.
Amazon has very quietly added sex supplies (lubricants, vibrators, condoms, etc.) to their massive inventory.
As near as I can tell, Super AUG 23
As near as I can tell, Super Mario Bros will be 20 years old on 9/13/05. Happy! Mario 20th.
It's sad to see O'Reilly selling PageRank to all these mortgage and hotel sites that have thoroughly polluted Google with their bad results. Much of the onus is on Google to clean that stuff out, but as Rogers notes in the thread, "if you're going to sell sponsored links, you should take the time to make sure they are advertisers you'd want to be associated with". O'Reilly is the kind of company that people believe in (a rare thing in today's world), but this makes me believe in them a little less.
xThink Calculator is a math calculation program that recognizes handwritten input from a Tablet PC (check out the screenshots). Pretty darn nifty and reminiscent of Denim, a tool for UI design. (thx nick)
Klingon fairy tales, including "The Hare Foolishly Lowers His Guard and Is Devastated by the Tortoise, Whose Prowess in Battle Attracts Many Desirable Mates" and "Mary Had a Little Lamb. It Was Delicious". These are best when you think of them as spoken by Worf from ST:TNG.
This is how we roll in the AUG 22
This is how we roll in the West Village: you may disturb the neighborhood with your Sex and the City tours but you're gonna pay for the privilege.
One of San Francisco's steepest streets will be closed later this month...for ski jumping. They're hauling in 200 tons of snow and a bunch of skiers. I'm sure this will be a much Flickred event.
Evolution shocker! AUG 22
Evolution shocker! The discovery of a dinosaur footprint on the wall of a contemporary Brooklyn school proves that the earth is less than 6000 years old (and, perhaps, that dinosaurs could walk vertically). No word on the Flying Spaghetti Monster's involvement.
Google introduces a new (beta) version of Google Desktop featuring Sidebar, their answer to Dashboard and Konfabulator. Here's more on Google's move from the Times, which also includes speculation on the possible release of an IM client this week.
The folks at Work magazine cooked up an Excel spreadsheet that will allow you to search for jobs at Indeed.com, thus fooling the boss into thinking you're working. Just another way in which kottke.org makes you less productive at work.
Six Feet Under finale AUG 21
Just finished watching the final episode of Six Feet Under. Don't worry, there's no spoilers here in case you've got it TiVoed for later viewing. The show ended in a good way, I think, a sad happy ending true to the show's focus. Poignant, I think they call it. SFU always did poignancy rather well in a medium possessing little patience for it. Many people will probably disagree that it ended well, that it wasn't Six Feet Under enough for them, but it's difficult to do a "normal" show as a finale; that approach would have failed in a different way.
But what do I know? I've seen every single episode of the show, many of them twice, and at this point I'm not sure how much objectivity I have in talking about it. Somewhere along the way, Six Feet Under became a soap opera for me. In many ways, this is the viewer's goal in seeking out entertainment, to stop the analysis of everything and just let go and enjoy the experience. To relax. As some have argued, the show may have gone downhill after the first two seasons, but I don't regret not noticing those flaws and just enjoying the ride.
So long, Technorati AUG 19
That's it. I've had it. No more Technorati. I've used the site for, what, a couple of years now to keep track of what people were saying about posts on kottke.org and searching blogs for keywords or current events. During that time, it's been down at least a quarter of the time (although it's been better recently), results are often unavailable for queries with large result sets (i.e. this is only going to become a bigger problem as time goes on), and most of the rest of the time it's slow as molasses.
When it does return results in a timely fashion for links to kottke.org, the results often include old links that I've seen before in the results set, sometimes from months ago. And that's to say nothing of the links Technorati doesn't even display. The "kottke.org" smart list in my newsreader picks up stuff that Technorati never seems to get, and that's only pulling results from the ~200 blogs I read, most of which are not what you'd call obscure. What good is keeping track of 14 million blogs if you're missing 200 well-known ones? (And trackbacks perform even better...this post got 159 trackbacks but only 93 sites linking to it on Technorati.)
Over the past few months, I've been comparing the results from PubSub to those of Technorati and PS is kicking ass. Technorati currently says that 19 sites have linked to me in the past 6 days (and at least four of those are old and/or repeats...one is from last September, fer chrissakes) while PubSub has returned 38 fresh, unrepeated results during that same time. (Not that PubSub is all roses and sunshine either...the overlap between the result sets is surprisingly small.)
While their search of the live web (the site's primary goal) has been desperately in need of a serious overhaul, Technorati has branched out into all sorts of PR-getting endeavors, including soundbiting the DNC on CNN, tags (careful, don't burn yourself on the hot buzzword), and all sorts of XML-ish stuff for developers. Which is all great, but get the fricking search working first! As Jason Fried says, better to build half a product than a half-assed product. I know it's a terrifically hard problem, but Figure. It. Out.
As for the acquisition rumors, I don't know who'd buy such a mess, but if someone does, I look forward to them improving it to a usable level. Pretty much everyone I talk to in the industry thinks the site sucks and we've just been waiting for it to get better because, well, it would have to at some point, wouldn't it? Well, I'm tired of waiting. Goodbye, Technorati...your url will darken the door of my browser no longer.
Inspired by Kent Hovind's $250,000 prize for evidence of evolution, Boing Boing is offering a $250,000 prize to anyone providing "empirical evidence which proves that Jesus is not the son of the Flying Spaghetti Monster". I'll throw another $250,000 into the pot.
Using your favorite Flickr photo, you can use this handy widget to make your very own magazine cover. I knocked up an issue of Hello, Cowboy! magazine featuring Tom Coates wearing a gigantic hat. Magazines have never been so much fun.
I'm in luck because it would take more than 260 cans of Pepsi to ingest enough caffeine to kill me. How much of your favorite beverage can you drink before suffering death by caffeine?
The Vendy Awards are being given out to the top street vendors in NYC. They're currently accepting nominations on the site.
History of the hamburger AUG 19
Great interview with Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, a boutique hotel group based in SF. "All of our employees get to stay in our hotels for free. Anyone who is a salaried employee gets one month paid sabbatical every three years. And we didn't walk away from it during the downturn." (via peterme)
On reading (or not). "Since when did a regular quota of suitably serious reading matter become obligatory?"
Paul tries to figure out why people review products at Amazon that have already been reviewed by several people. "What motivates someone to submit the 1,282nd review of The Poisonwood Bible to Amazon.com?"
March of the Penguins AUG 19
This French film is one of those movies that comes along once or twice a year and has Hollywood scratching its head as to why it's so popular and where the hell did it come from any anyway? Then there's a scramble to duplicate the success, usually predicated on the idea that the particular subject matter somehow touched a nerve with people, and 9-12 months later, you start seeing things like The Poughkeepsie Witch Project advertised in the Entertainment section of your local newspaper.
March of the Penguins -- along with Wedding Crashers, I guess -- is the surprise hit of the summer. Like many sleeper hits, there's something quite unHollywood about it; it wasn't manufactured to push specific demographic buttons or market tested to within an inch of its life. It's handmade, crafted, and full of soul. Which isn't to say that it's perfect; I thought a little more narration would have filled in some of the gaps...those penguins were so damn interesting, I wanted to hear so much more about them.
 MotP just passed Amelie (a better film, IMO) to become the second highest grossing French film in the US. The Fifth Element is still #1.
PBS has put up a companion web site to the Nova program on Einstein airing in October. Features include audio clips of several physicists describing e=mc^2 to non-physicists.
Color Code is a "color portrait of the English language". It's a treemap visualization created by assigning over 33,000 words its own color (colors are determined by averaging the colors of images found for each word on the web). If it's running a little slow on your machine, check out the gallery for some neat examples. By Martin Wattenberg, creator of the grandaddy treemap app, Map of the Market.
Radiohead has a weblog, although it just got going and Thom's the only person who's posted to it so far.
Ten ways in which MMORPGs will change the future. "For now let's just say it's the most instantly gripping, involving and demanding entertainment technology ever invented. The addiction rate appears to be about twice that of crack Cocaine."
The Firefly is a cell phone for kids. It doesn't have a keypad, but it's got dedicated buttons for calling mom and dad and accessing the parentally controlled address book.
A table of gas prices from around the world. A gallon of gas in Amsterdam is $6.48 while it's only $0.12 in Venezuela. It's always so weird to see these types of lists where the US has more in common with Third World and non-democratic countries than with Europe, Japan, etc. (via rw)
Laurie sends along an account of the week she spent in a psych ward. She says she's "trying to publicize it in order to remove some of the stigma of mental illness". Reminds me of Heather's accounts of her psych ward stay last year.
Biologists are beginning to simulate living things by computer, molecule by molecule. They're starting with E. coli, but they've still got a long way to go.
You can now post from Microsoft Word to your Blogger blog. More interesting to me is how former Pyra folks remember this old idea. Matt says it was "something we talked about building back when the blogger api was brand new" and that Anil Dash, then a Blogger enthusiast, knocked up a working prototype (which I also remember). Ev says it's "a product that I first thought about five years ago". Both accounts are no doubt accurate, but how they're remembered is interesting.
Trailer for Shopgirl, based on a book by Steve Martin and starring, tada, Steve Martin (and Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman). "I can either hurt now or hurt later..."
Tags and kottke.org AUG 17
A few months ago, I began tagging my remaindered links with keywords toward some still-unspecified goal. For instance, this recent post about an interview with Ruth Reichl got tagged with "nyc food restaurants ruthreichl books interviews". As I said, I haven't figured out what to do with them yet, but the other day I whipped up a little PHP script to see how the kottke.org tagspace was shaping up. Here are a few results:
# of entries tagged: 933
total # of tags: 3960
# of distinct tags: 1376
tags per entry: 4.244
Most popular tags (#):
That's a fairly accurate description of both what the site is about and what I am interested in. Two of my favorite tags are "lists" and "bestof". Here's a sampling from each of those tags:
100 people who are qualified to carry the "Bad Mothafucka" wallet besides Pulp Fiction's Jules Winfield
Photo essay of the Hubble Telescope's top ten discoveries
50 Things to Do with Your iPod
Twelve ways to think differently
Pickup Lines Used by Mario [of Mario Bros. fame]
20 things gamers want from the next generation of game consoles
Money Magazine on the 50 smartest things you can do with your money
40 things that only happen in the movies
24 different ways to lace your shoes
Is Shaq the greatest NBA player of all time?
Spin names Radiohead's OK Computer the best album from the last 20 years
BusinessWeek Design Award winners for 2005
BBC Radio 4 poll results for Greatest Philosopher Ever!!
New bookmark: interesting Flickr photos from the last 24 hours, automagically determined
The dream is to go back and tag every single entry on the site -- currently ~8700 -- but it would take me approximately forever and I'm not sure it's worth the time and debilitating injuries to my wrists and fingers from all the typing. I've thought about a few alternative approaches (and their associated downsides):
- Feed all my URLs into del.icio.us via the API and scrape out the tags most commonly associated with those links and posts. I literally haven't looked at the API, so I don't know if this is even possible. Also, I'm not sure I want to trust the del.icio.us community to collaboratively tag my posts and links...there would probably be a significant amount of correction and addition of tags by hand.
- Use Yahoo's Term Extraction service to build a list of keywords based on an analysis of my posts and the content of the pages I point to within a post or remaindered links. I have no idea how well this would work in practice, especially in returning terms that make good tags. Probably a lot of hand-correction here too.
- Getting my readers (that's you!) to tag them for me using the list of tags I've already used as a guideline. Unfortunately, you should never trust anyone over 30 or anyone who has access to a HTML textarea into which they can type anything they want. Given enough time, I could probably come up with a system that minimizes the damage a particular malcontent could do, but as with the other two options, I'm still left with a fair amount of correction by hand. A bigger problem I have with this option is there's a lot in it for me (and the site), but I'm not sure there's any real incentive for any of you to spend 20 minutes tagging kottke.org posts (I believe this chore would be the first entry in the dictionary under "mindless busywork"), so I'd feel weird about asking.
- Some combination of the above approaches.
So yeah, that's where I am with the tagging.
How did a site dealing with digital video codecs become the place for lonely people to go on the web? Moviecodec.com is still the second result for the "i am lonely" search on Google; here's the thread in question.
I thought this was going to be some sort of Flickr/del.icio.us taggy tag mashup, but Flickrlicio.us is a bunch of hot babes found on Flickr. An anonymous reader: other Flickr + hot chicks sites include FlickrBooty, chicksnbreasts, and flickrchicks. NSFW. And where are the Flickr beefcake sites?
Trailer for 10 mph, the Segway across America movie.
According to a cocktail waitress, how tipping works in NYC bars is a little different than in restaurants. Tourists, particularly foreign ones, tip poorly, if at all, causing some wait staff to pad bar bills to get their tip that way. Another data point in the "is tipping good/bad?" debate, but I could have done without the sense of entitlement on the part of the author. (via tmn)
Tips on how small bookstores can compete with larger booksellers like Amazon or Barnes and Noble.
flickrTagFight pits tag against tag in a folksonomic battle to the death. fTF has already started a conflict in my household...results of the kottke(145)/megnut(34) tag smackdown are being hotly disputed.
A timeline of splash screen graphics for Adobe Photoshop. I didn't know that Photoshop was developed outside of Adobe and then licensed later. (thx mark)
Positive review of Flock, a new Mozilla-based browser with drag and drop blogging and Flickring built in.
Andrew Hearst dreams up some magazines covers done in the style of George Lois, who created several memorable covers for Esquire magazine in the 60s and 70s.
Ten precepts from The Art of War that never made it past Sun Tzu's editor. Ex: "When you sally forth to meet the enemy, show your contempt for him by the haughtiness of your prance".
When Terry Gilliam checked out of a NYC hotel a few minutes late, they charged him for a whole extra day. To get back at the hotel and do a good deed, he tried to find a homeless person to stay in his stead but couldn't locate one. (via gf)
Jeff Ma, who was a key member of the infamous MIT blackjack team, notes the turn around of the Oakland A's and the reversal of criticism directed toward GM Billy Beane. Even Steven Levitt, who thinks not too highly of Moneyball, has conceded that maybe Beane and the A's are onto something.
Spirals on nanoparticles show order, specifically our friend the Fibonacci sequence, which can be seen in places like seashells and plants. In the case of the nanoparticles, the Fibonacci pattern results from minimizing the stress energy in the system.
Can we out-collaborate a pandemic? Alex Steffen challenges the blogosphere to sound the alarm about the avian flu. The WHO says: "never before [has] any avian influenza virus caused such extremely high fatality in humans".
More on the question of tipping in restaurants: Danny Meyer cautions Thomas Keller against abolishing tipping while stats show that neither customers nor waiters want the practice to end.
Odd size comparison of Yahoo and Google indices. I think their assumption (that a "series of random searches to both search engines should return more than twice as many results from Yahoo! than Google") is pretty flawed. The number of returned results could vary because of the sites' different optimizations for dictionary words, for searches with small result sets, and differences in how their search algorithms include or exclude relevant results. Put it this way: if I'm looking for a frying pan in my apartment, I'm gonna refine my search to the kitchen and not worry about the rest of the house, no matter how large it is. (via /.)
When bent, why does dry spaghetti break into three or more pieces instead of two? This was one of the simple problems Richard Feynman amused himself with but never solved. Someone's come up with the answer: when the first breakage occurs, it causes a local increase in the curvature of the two pieces, resulting in more breakage. (thx dj)
Sometime in the last 6-9 months (it's been that long since I last looked at my account), Amazon changed their policy on placing an upper limit on the amount an associate can earn on big ticket items:
Only personal computers (both desktops and laptops) have referral fees capped at $25. No other product lines have their referral fees capped.
Previously, the most you could earn if a referral was $10, even if the item cost $3000 and the referral rate was 5%. Sometime in the last month and a half, someone used my associates code to purchase a printer for close to $600 and gave me $28 for "selling" that printer for them. I don't link to Amazon as much as I used to (my referrals and revenue have been flat several quarters despite increasing site traffic), but the associates must be pretty happy with this change, particularly those that can move big ticket items on a regular basis. For the right blog or site, the revenue generated by putting up Amazon ads featuring more expensive items might compare favorably to using AdSense or the like.
Barcode tattoos + mobile phones with cameras = business card (or, say, a list of your sexual preferences) on your arm.
Modelling nuclear decay in atoms may tell us something about dating and relationships. One of the findings: people who date often are beneficial to the dating ecosystem "because they break up weak couples, forcing their victims to find better relationships".
Among Roger Ebert's most hated films are Catwoman, Baby Geniuses, Battlefield Earth, and The Usual Suspects(?!?). About North, he says: "I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie."
Today's helpful feature: how to tell if you didn't get invited to the exclusive Foo Camp soiree. One method: see it referenced in a blog post and realize that it's in 4 days and there's no way your invite is still forthcoming.
...we were trying to understand how to better leverage all the great, individual thinking being done on blogs because what Kottke hosted wasn't a conversation at all. It was nearly 80 people carrying on their own conversations with themselves while others watched. That's not a conversation -- that's philosophical voyeurism spiced with a hint of insanity.
I think choice of topic, the way in which the question is posed, and the pace of the commenting has a lot to do with it. Despite the large number of comments, there are some threads on kottke.org which have been more conversational in nature and from what I hear, there's still the occasional MetaFilter thread that's worth reading for the conversation. But as Jeremy notes, there's still a ton of chaff out there obscuring the wheat.
 Sometimes I'll get 30 responses to a post in the first hour...that's one every two minutes. That can be a velocity and volume not conducive to conversation.
The August 22nd issue of the New Yorker (which comes out on, duh, August 15th) will contain ads from only one advertiser, Target.
Science and drugs AUG 12
Scientists who have tried drugs have included Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, and Stephen Jay Gould. Like Sigmund Freud, fictional detective Sherlock Holmes was a fan of cocaine. (via cyc-c)
When I saw these Star Trek business cards the other day, I knew that Star Wars ones had to exist. Novelty business cards must have been a popular thing back in the day. Anyone up for making Matrix and LOTR cards?
Steven Shaw, founder of the excellent food site eGullet, has a new book out called Turning the Tables, an outsider's inside perspective on food and restaurants. Here's an excerpt and a review from Wine Spectator.
Seyed Alavi's carpet for a Sacramento airport walkway features an aerial view of the Sacramento River. "It is truly amazing what is possible to print images on these days. Of course, for home use the cost is still somewhat prohibitive, but that is slowly changing as well." (thx dunstan)
Remember that the Dukes of Hazzard movie was in danger of not being released because the TV show was originally based on a movie? Well, the movie was released but the holder of the rights to the original movie got a settlement of $17.5 million, way more than the original film probably made.
Movie title sequences designed by Saul Bass. Be sure to click through to the image galleries.
Slate ruminates on Danny Way's giant skateboard ramp. Videos of people actually using this beautiful monstrosity are available on Way's site. Oh, and he jumped The Great Wall of China on a skateboard earlier this year.
Joshua Ellis on the "Grim Meathook Future" of much of the world: "nobody really wants to talk about that future, because it's depressing and not fun and doesn't have Fischerspooner doing the soundtrack". (via bbj)
How vanilla came to be associated with blandness in America. My favorite flavor of ice cream is vanilla and I always get shit for it. But have you ever tasted ice cream with real vanilla in it? Yum.
NYC Craigslist computer services offered: "Will read and comment (semi-intelligently) on your blog for $2". There's a five comment minimum with future comments for free (!!) if your site is entertaining enough. (via lia (rhymes!)) Update: doh, the page has expired. It was pretty funny though, sorry you missed it.
Tim (via email): Jon Stewart interviewed Goldberg on The Daily Show.
Emergence AUG 11
I recently reread Steven Johnson's Emergence and was struck by how familar it all seemed, even for a reread. Flipping through the bibliography at the end, I realized why: much of my reading list over the past four years has come directly from those few pages in the back of the book:
The Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil
A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History by Manual De Landa
Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
The Pattern on the Stone by Danny Hillis
How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand
The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
Nonzero by Robert Wright
Since reading the book, I've also heard talks or read articles by other folks mentioned in the bibliography, like Franz De Waal, Eric Bonabeau, Kevin Kelly, James Howard Kunstler, Marvin Minsky, etc. I'd read a few things on the topic before Emergence, but it was really a catalyst for a area of study I didn't quite know I was focusing on until much later.
David Galbraith has "a new theory - Unintelligent Design, which is the same as Intelligent Design, except that the creator is either a moron or Satan". Hee.
I love that Davenetics still shows up in these graphs of the top blogs on Technorati. I read Davenetics daily but the only reason it is on the list is because it's linked in a default Blogger template. If T'rati actually looked at their "statistics" instead of just using them to market to us, this sort of thing is pretty easy to spot (if the ratio of the # of links vs. the # of sites linking is close to 1.0, the site may not belong on the list). (Oh, and Binary Bonsai is suspect as well...its high rank is at least partially due to a default link on a popular Wordpress template.)
A company called Enologix uses spectroscopy and chromotography to predict wine scores with a high level of accuracy. Critic Robert Parker introduced wine scoring (here's his perfect score list) but some say that his dominance is not such a good thing.
Making sense of the appendix, the one in your body, not the one in books. "Perhaps the appendix lifted the odds that our ancestors could resist childhood diseases and live to childbearing years."
Custom chrome emblems for your car, Segway, motorbike, or laptop computer.
Suggestions for the name of our solar system's tenth planet from New Scientist readers. Neither Matt Webb's suggestion (Daes) nor this suggestion on LJ (America) are on the list.
Following the elimination of tipping at Per Se, an op-ed by Steven Shaw says tipping should be abolished in restaurants. (via tmn) Considering the statistics on tipping, perhaps he's right. For a less refined take, here's why Reservoir Dog Mr. Pink doesn't tip.
Newly discovered example of convergent evolution: frogs in Madagascar and South America who independently developed poisonous defense systems.
Salon profile of 37signals and "the next web revolution". Also noted (for the first time in public, I think): Adaptive Path's secret web app is "a tool to help bloggers measure traffic and other stats on their site [and] will be out by the end of the year".
The Onion: Police Search of Backpack Reveals Explosive Bestseller. "The Union Square bestseller is the latest in a series of dramatic items discovered in New York since random subway bag searches began. On July 27, a hip-hop CD containing over 75 F-bombs led to the suspension of train service for 18 hours."
The Amateur Gourmet celebrates a year of eating in NYC with a list of his restaurant reviews. Judging by the length of the list, an upgrade from amateur status might be in order.
Sushi is doing well in many cultures outside Japan and the US, showing up in places like Brazil and Moscow.
The present future AUG 09
Perhaps this is impossible or unfair, but can we have a discussion about where technology and user experience on the web are headed without using any of the following words or concepts:
Ajax, web services, weblogs, Google, del.icio.us, Flickr, folksonomy, tags, hacks, podcasting, wikis, bottom-up, RSS, citizen journalism, mobile, TiVo, the Long Tail, and convergence.
That all seems like the present and past, not the future, no? "Web 2.0" arrived a year or two ago at least and we're still talking about it like it's just around the corner. What else is out there? Anything? (Note: This is not an attempt to bring the current "is it really Web 2.0?" discussion (I could care less) here. I'm genuinely interesting in what's out there, if anything.)
Fantasy Fashion League is fashion's answer to fantasy football and rotisserie baseball. Pick your favorite designers and earn points when their fashions show up in magazines. (via E&N) Related: NY Times ombudsman Daniel Okrent helped invent rotisserie baseball?
Space Shuttle Discovery lands safely, thank goodness.
The Christian paradox in the US: "America is simultaneously the most professedly Christian of the developed nations and the least Christian in its behavior."
Thomas Keller's Per Se is getting rid of tipping, opting for a 20% flat rate for service to be split between the entire staff.
Some lesser-known prequels to popular movies, including There Are Plenty of Mohicans and Triassic Park.
The Aristocrats AUG 08
For a movie about a joke, The Aristocrats didn't have me laughing as hard as I thought it would. The problem lies with the joke itself...I didn't think it was funny and every time someone said the punchline, I felt I was supposed to laugh but never did. Made me uncomfortable. Like when you're in a room with a bunch of Simpsons/Monty Python/South Park geeks and you're the only one not laughing at the all of the references being thrown around. Highlights were Kevin Pollack's telling as Christopher Walken and Sarah Silverman's version, but at no time did I pee my pants laughing.
See, prefectly dry. Note: Not my actual pants. (Or hands.)
Fantastic must-read article slamming NASA with regard to the Space Shuttle program. I've been following Maciej's del.icio.us links about the Shuttle for weeks now and was wondering if he'd get around to writing it up. Worth the wait.
Playstation 3 to support OS X?. "The operating system has also yet to be clarified. The integrated Cell processor will be able to support a variety of operating systems (such as Linux or Apple's Tiger)."
So, you wanna go into the wine business.... Well, listen up kid, here's some good advice from someone who's been there.
Results from the Digital Information Design Camp run by MIT Media Lab and the AIGA. They should have worked on their interface/information design a little more...you wouldn't know that there's a ton of student work to view by looking at the front page.
"The hairy ball theorem of algebraic topology states that, in layman's terms, 'one cannot comb the hair on a ball in a smooth manner'". Heh. Looks like Wikipedia has some new measures in placeto deal with spam/trolls: "This page has been protected from editing to deal with vandalism."
Why do people buy a smaller size of Coke when going through the McDonald's drive-thru than when they order from the counter?. No answer is given, but it's not the small size of the cupholders. Any ideas?
"Al-Qaida is now an idea, not an organisation". "The terrorist attacks organised directly by al-Qaida, most of which took place between 1998 and 2002, had two aims. One was wounding the enemy, America and its allies, but another, equally important, was to use carefully choreographed acts to impress, amaze and inspire those in the Islamic world who had yet to heed the call to arms."
Advice from Dr. Michio Kaku on formulating a proposal for the Unified Field Theory. I can just imagine all the crackpot theories that prompted this list.
Aside from William Shatner playing himself in Free Enterprise, Neil Patrick Harris's small part in this movie is probably the greatest celebrity cameo in the history of film. I also enjoyed this bit of Lawrance Bernabo's review of the movie on Amazon: "This film is in the great tradition of 'Dude, Where's My Car?' and 'The Lord of the Rings'". That is indeed a fine tradition. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to plan my trip to White Castle for lunch today.
Gallery of work by guerilla artist Banksy from the West Bank barrier in the Palestinian territories. "An old Palestinian man said his painting made the wall look beautiful. Banksy thanked him, only to be told: 'We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home.'"
A craigslist missed connection for any of the hot women who were in the audience for Edward Tufte's lecture. Not too picky, this guy, he'll take any beautiful woman who was there. Quick, someone snap him up before he makes another sparklines pun.
Life lessons from blackjack AUG 05
Life lessons from blackjack. You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em...
Counterfeiters print Excel function on jeans by accident. "The counterfeiters are using Excel or Access to store all the logos for their counterfeit jeans and then print them out onto leather. This is what happens when there is a bug in their software."
Visualization of email archives as a mountain with layers. "Each layer in the Mountain represents a different person. Layers are ordered by time, with the first people in the email archive at the bottom and the most recent people in the archive at the top right portion of the mountain."
Using information from the USPTO to track how logo design in the US has changed over time. "Using this database, innovations and trends in the design of trademarks can be tracked and dissected. For example, the rise of the swoosh element, concentrated among internet and telecommunications firms in particular, can be seen developing in the mid-1990s."
MMORPG and the Dunbar number AUG 04
MMORPG and the Dunbar number. "Overall, these statistics still support my original hypothesis in my Dunbar Number post that mean group sizes will be smaller than 150 for non-survival oriented groups."
Obscenities uttered by Jesus Christ. "Holy Mom, mother of me."
Goin' Dot Com! - The Musical AUG 04
Goin' Dot Com! - The Musical. Back in the day, some friends of mine and I used to joke about doing "Dot Com, the Musical". I believe someone even wrote a song.
Maybe we've got it all wrong about this whole capitialism thing. "In every substantive sense, employees of a company carry more risks than do the shareholders. Also, their contributions of knowledge, skills and entrepreneurship are typically more important than the contributions of capital by shareholders, a pure commodity that is perhaps in excess supply."
A history and examination of paint by number. "It invited people who had never before held a paintbrush to enter a world of art and creativity."
Great list of seven internet companies that should have been big or bigger, but screwed up somehow. I've got the comments open, so add your own thoughts. My pick: Moreover. They were into RSS before almost anyone, wanted to get into blog search in early 2001 but instead veered into the safe waters of enterprise software.
Hollywood losses AUG 04
When estimating losses due to piracy in the media, movie studios are fond of using the full purchase price of the pirated DVD or movie ticket. So if I download a copy of Bewitched off of the internet, Sony (and associated companies, the theater, distributors, etc.) feels like they've lost $10.50, even if I had no plans to ever see the movie in the theatre.
So why is it when Sony defrauds their customers by fabricating movie reviews to promote the theatrical releases of some of their films, they're only refunding $5 of the total ticket price for those that actually saw those films? Why not the full price? Or better yet, how about a refund for transportation costs, the price of any concessions purchased, estimated loss of wages for time spent watching the film, and compensation for any emotional trauma suffered as a result of thinking the movie was going to be great when it in fact sucked? That sounds about fair.
 Well, $10.50 if you live in Manhattan. If you live in rural Wisconsin, you're only cheating Sony out of $8.00 or so. Well, until the movie comes out on pay-per-view and it costs $3.95. But then when the DVD comes out, Sony's loss will shoot back to $26.99. Twelve months after the DVD release, when Bewitched is available in a value two-pack with Anchorman, Sony will only be losing $6. Whew, must be hard to keep all those losses straight.
Garrison Keillor's ruminations on radio: what he likes and where he sees it going. "Clear Channel's brand of robotics is not the future of broadcasting. With a whole generation turning to iPod and another generation discovering satellite radio and internet radio, the robotic formatted-music station looks like a very marginal operation indeed."
Design critique of the alphabet. "Puhleez! The capital I without the crossbars top and bottom is either the laziest piece of design in history, or an elegant stroke of modernism. With the crossbars it's just clunky, boring and awkward. The lowercase i is kind of cute with that little dot, I suppose, but I'm not really buying it. This one should have never made it out of the comp stage."
Drawings of war from children caught up in the Sudanese cleansing in Darfur. "Without any instruction or guidance, the children drew scenes from their experiences of the war in Darfur: the attacks by the Janjaweed, the bombings by Sudanese government forces, the shootings, the burning of entire villages, and the flight to Chad."
The decline of the baseball card industry. I collected in the late 80s, early 90s. It became a lot less fun when the companies started releasing special editions in limited quantities just to drive up value and demand artificially.
Ishmael AUG 03
When I posted a link to Jared Diamond's Discover magazine piece on agriculture being "the worst mistake in the history of the world", two people wrote in suggesting that I read Daniel Quinn's Ishmael. As I was between books, I did just that. Ishmael, nutshelled:
Ishmael's paradigm of history is startlingly different from the one wired into our cultural consciousness. For Ishmael, our agricultural revolution was not a technological event but a moral one, a rebellion against an ethical structure inherent in the community of life since its foundation four billion years ago. Having escaped the restraints of this ethical structure, humankind made itself a global tyrant, wielding deadly force over all other species while lacking the wisdom to make its tyranny a beneficial one or even a sustainable one.
That tyranny is now hurtling us toward a planetary disaster of pollution and overpopulation. If we want to avoid that catastrophe, we need to work our way back to some fundamental truths: that we weren't born a menace to the world and that no irresistible fate compels us to go on being a menace to the world.
It's a work of philosophy, centering on technology, culture, religion, and ecology. The Platonic-dialogue-with-a-gorilla format seemed forced to me (Quinn wrote the novelized version of this story to win a $500,000 book prize)...I guess I would have preferred the shorter essay version. But Quinn's main thesis is an interesting one and worth considering.
Our Global Food-Service Enterprise Is Totally Down For Your Awesome Subculture. "In fact, the crazy, unique, cutting-edge stuff you're into now? The entire management team here in the North American headquarters was totally into that sh*t a couple months ago! No lie, dawgs."
The super amazing brain and abilities of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il. "Kim pilots jet fighters, pens operas, produces movies and accomplished a feat unmatched in the annals of professional golf by shooting 11 holes-in-one on the first round he ever played."
The club-winged manakin sings by playing its feathers like a washboard. Crickets do this, but the manakin is the first vertebrate observed to do it.
Just what the heck is the difference between all the different kinds of Diet Coke?. Diet Coke is actually sugar-free New Coke? Neat.
Chanel and Karl Lagerfeld AUG 02
The Chanel exhibition at the Met showcases the fashion designs of Coco Chanel as well as the more recent fashions of Karl Lagerfeld's design. The exhibition attempts to draw parallels between the older Chanel fashions and Lagerfeld's newer work (words like "interpretation" and "reinvention" sprinkled the exhibition walls), but I had a hard time seeing Coco's influence in much of his work. Seems more like Lagerfeld is out on his own, which is in keeping with his thoughts in this 2001 interview with Paper magazine. Initially he says he hates "nothing more than people who only look in one direction, which means only in their direction" but then that he finds it hard to collaborate with others (except with himself). Then:
When I do my own things, I'm not really too interested in other people telling me what to do.
Lagerfeld is a fascinating figure and may have captured the cultural zeitgeist of the 80s and 90s in Chanel's fashions, but I don't know if I buy any of this reinvention business. If you'd like the check out the exhibit for yourself, you'd better hurry...it's only on for a few more days.
Andy Baio dug up this circa-1995 version of BobaWorld, one of my earliest favorite pages on the web. Boy, that square imagemap at the bottom of the page takes me back.
Tom Standage says bottled water is "bad to the last drop". It's more expensive than gasoline, doesn't taste any better, and isn't any safer.
Big exhibition of Lee Friedlander's photography at the MoMA until the end of August. It's interesting to see the influence Friedlander's work has had on some of the photobloggers I follow.
Cory Doctorow to Apple Computer: put Trusted Computing in your kernel and I'm done as your customer. This doesn't look promising. You've got a good thing going here, Apple...don't fuck it up.
Wedding Crashers AUG 02
The comedic quintet of Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, and Ben Stiller may have finally found their optimum configuration in Wedding Crashers. I can't really watch anything with Stiller in it anymore, Will Ferrell is growing tiresome, and Luke is more of a straight man than funny on his own, but Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson are great in this movie, especially Vaughn. Judging from its box office trend, Crashers could be one of those rare summer flicks that lasts more than 4-5 weeks at the theater. The only thing I didn't like: at 119 minutes, it was about 20 minutes too long (they should have lost that cameo).
Ice Cream Factory smackdown in Chinatown. Same owners or will an ice cream war consume Chinatown?
How the DVD is changing Hollywood and the movie business. "Most important, the new DVD audience is so diverse that companies can target niche markets and still sell millions of disks. Because specialized markets are more predictable, the risk of failure is much lower, and so small-to-mid-budget movies can be very profitable indeed."
Cezanne and Pissarro at the MoMA. "Working in tandem or with each other in mind, Cezanne and Pissarro formulated a distinctly modern art, simultaneously self-confident and self-critical."
New bookmark: interesting Flickr photos from the last 24 hours, automagically determined. PageRank for photos, sorta.