From a recent study: "In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies". This seems like a potential chicken/egg issue...is religion the cause of all this or do unhealty societies cause people to find religion?
Whoa, Ziploc makes giant bags now, up to 2ft x 2.7ft. When I told Meg about them, she said, "what do they hold, children?" (???) (via ghckr)
Todd Levin on the busy modern world: "I'm doing so much more, and getting so much less done".
Flowers don't smell as good as they used to and part of the reason is breeding...they're breeding flowers for looks and longevity, not for scent. I believe Michael Pollan discusses this in his excellent The Botany of Desire (tulip chapter).
A complete list of nicknames that George W. Bush has for people. A lot of people think the nicknames thing is stupid, but really it's the only sign of Bush having any sort of personality aside from that of Bad Speech Bot.
Ahhhhhh!!!! Why didn't anyone #$%(#&ing tell me that Boards of Canada is releasing a new album next month? My excitement for this, it could cut glass, it could!
When Teen Talk Barbie came out in 1989 saying things like "math is hard", could you imagine if blogs had existed at the time? The whole internet would have exploded with rage.
Dutch linguists are analyzing the origin of languages using the structure of the languages "such as where verbs appear in clauses".
Bats may be the source of SARS. "Researchers found a virus closely related to the Sars coronavirus in bats from three regions of China".
Google and NASA have announced plans to collaborate on projects like "large-scale data management, massively distributed computing, bio-info-nano convergence, and encouragement of the entrepreneurial space industry". In 6 months, Yahoo will announce a collaboration with the Russian Space Agency to launch original content into space. Microsoft will announce in a year that they've had space travel capabilities built into Office for years now but no one uses it...in two years time, they'll completely reorg around manned missions to Mars.
Awesome awesome awesome alternate trailer for Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (local mirror). Andy calls this "one of the best video clips I've seen all year" and he's not wrong.
This looks like an interesting book from O'Reilly: Practical Development Environments. "This book doesn't tell you how to write faster code, or how to write code with fewer memory leaks, or even how to debug code at all. What it does tell you is how to build your product in better ways, how to keep track of the code that you write, and how to track the bugs in your code. Plus some more things you'll wish you had known before starting a project."
The AIGA has podcasts and presentation materials up for some of the speakers from the Design Conference (my full coverage here). Several of the main stage speeches are up, as well as backstage interviews with some of the participants. In particular, I would recommend:
- Audio of the main stage presentation and interview with Juan Enriquez.
- Audio of the main stage presentation by Bill Strickland on The Design of Leadership.
- Audio of the main stage presentation by Milton Glaser and Nicholas Negroponte.
- Audio of the main stage presentation by Murray Moss, although I'm not sure how well this one would work if you listened to it without the slides.
- The PDF of Stefan Sagmeister's presentation doesn't make too much sense without the audio, but the last 50 or so slides are worth checking out for the design candy.
These aren't just for designers; they're perfectly fine for non-designers as well. Here's the RSS file with all the resources...it should work well with your favorite podcasting software or newsreader. It's great that the AIGA is making these presentations freely available...you're getting a lot of the conference for free here. If I remember correctly, not even O'Reilly offers the presentations or podcasts for download after their events like Etech.
Update: Wrong again! IT Conversations has several podcasts from the last Etech conference. (thx tim)
The Army's Be All You Can Be SEP 29
The Army's Be All You Can Be ads don't really work all that well, despite being the 25th largest advertiser in the US. Recruiting is actually correlated more closely with the economy...the economy goes bad and the number of recruits goes up. Here's a better way to spend that ad money: give it to incoming recruits as bonuses...the same strategy Amazon uses in offering free shipping to customers rather than spending that money on TV ads. (thx garrick)
Teenaged necktie maven Baruch Shemtov. He made his first tie for school and has since turned it into a business, selling his wares in Fifth Avenue shops and online for $100 apiece.
Here's the formula for a New Yorker cartoon: take a person/entity from Column A, and have them interact with a person/entity from Column B in a location from Column C. Voila, comedy jackpot!
Neat visual history of Nikon SLR cameras. It would be neat to make an animation of how the cameras changed through time.
The new $10 bill ain't too attractive. Why can't we have nice things?
Tim O'Reilly op-ed about the Authors Guild's lawsuit against Google regarding their Library Project. "Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors than copyright infringement, or even outright piracy". The op-ed follows Tim's earlier post on the subject.
Hot indie band Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (who I like quite alot) has sold 17,000 copies of their self-released debut. The band sends out the CDs to customers themselves and makes $8/disc (compared to $1/disc for major label groups). Their CD is available here and you can listen to some samples before buying (1, 2, 3).
Book reviews based on a random sentence from each book. On Moby-Dick: "People who enjoy witty banter will love this tale of two unlikely friends, Ahab and Stubb."
An intrepid New York magazine reporter waits for meals at various NYC restaurants and reports back as to whether they were worth the wait or not. Shake Shack? Worth the wait. (via meg)
7 Habits of Highly Successful People. I think this may be one of my favorite McSweeney's lists ever. (Crap, the McSweeney's RSS feed doesn't seem to be working properly...gotta check into that later.)
Richard Dawkins on Gerin oil, a highly addictive drug that's dangerous to society. You may find the Internet Anagram Server useful in understanding what Dawkins is getting at.
Charlie Trotter bails out of his planned restaurant in the Time Warner Center and it seems that Vongerichten's steakhouse might not be far behind. As I can attest from a fantastic birthday gift dinner, Per Se is doing quite well.
If public parks (like NYC's Bryant Park) offer free wifi, why don't expensive hotels? I can't find the link right now, but I remember reading something awhile ago (possibly on Boing Boing) arguing that free wifi was easier and cheaper for businesses to offer than a paid option because you don't need the ecommerce bit (sort of like a free grocery store not needing cashiers, etc.) and the free internet will bring people in.
Update: Here's that Boing Boing post: "Operating a WiFi hotspot that you charge money for costs $30 a day. Operating a free WiFi hotspot costs $6." (thx alex)
The streets of Marin are slick with potatoes au gratin. Terrorist attack? If so, how long before possessing a bag of Yukon Golds wins you a free trip to exotic Guantanamo Bay?
Eliot's stalking of The Donald finally pays off with this shot from Fashion Week of him and his newish bride. (Note to Mr. Trump's lawyers and/or law enforcement: Eliot is not really stalking Donald Trump. Well, at least I don't think he is. I mean, he could be, but probably not. Probably.)
Buried treasure worth $10 billion (!!!) is found on the Robinson Crusoe Island by a robot invented by a Chilean company. The loot is comprised of gold and jewels stolen from the Incans by Spanish conquistadors. The estimated 2004 GDP of Chile is $169.1 billion. (via mm)
Troyis is a game that utilizes chess moves (just the knight/horsey actually). Easy to start, difficult to master.
Birthday hooky SEP 27
Today is my birthday -- I'm 2^5!** -- so I'm taking the day off. No posts or links, aside from this one.
** That's ! as in exclamation point, not ! as in factorial. I'm not 1.33 x 10^36 years old today.
Moreover to be purchased by "much larger multi-national company". I worked at Moreover as a web designer for 10 months back in 2000-1.
An ode to the NYC subway's 7 train. "What is remarkable is the sense of transference that occurs. Manhattan is an international place but it brings all the world into its orbit. Queens reverses that."
Profile of Google's Marissa Mayer, Google's answer to Apple's Jonathan Ive. She grew up about 100 miles from me in northern WI.
"Floating Island" is a mini version of Central Park being towed around Manhattan by a tugboat (photos here)...it's a conceptual art piece by Robert Smithson. This weekend, a group of folks in a motorboat tried to board the floating park and install a miniature version of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Gates. When the captain of the boat towing the island "looked out across the East River Thursday afternoon and saw another piece of conceptual art gaining on him, he did not view the development kindly".
The co-screenwriter of War of the Worlds on getting credit for said screenwriting (he wrote early drafts which were later rewritten by someone else) and then going to the NYC premiere of the film. (thx stephanie)
Awesome set of food photos with little people on them. They're buried in a Flash interface (grr, Flash), but it's worth the trouble to find them. Skip the intro, click on "minimiam", and then select one of the "galeries" (primeurs, gourmandise, etc.). (via dtb)
Many of these super slow motion movies are quite entertaining, moreso than the standard milk-drop and bullet-through-apple ones. My favorite is the bursting water balloon...the water retains its shape for several moments before giving into gravity. So cool.
Smart toast SEP 26
I had this idea the other day that instead of having to open my laptop or turn on the TV to check the weather report, my toaster could burn that information onto my breakfast toast as a passive information delivery mechanism. I knew that people had wired toasters to print images on them, but I didn't remember that someone had done the weather thing already. That got me thinking about what other information a toaster could print on bread. A graph of the previous day's DJIA activity? Photo of your kids? The Red Sox score from last night?
There are constraints, of course. Bread is not exactly a high resolution medium. A course wheat bread would be difficult to print on while a dense rye might give you a couple dozen ppi to work with. But then you run into a contrast problem...toasted rye bread isn't much darker than untoasted rye bread. Now, if you were to use Pop Tarts, they're a little more high-res, a finer grained paper. You might even be able to print a few lines of text if the heating elements were precise enough...your stocks, meeting schedule for the day, top news stories, shopping list, the 5-day forecast, or a serial short story that you read over a few breakfasts (you could call them Breakfast Serials™!!). Or maybe toasters will be free in the future, with the toaster companies making their money from advertising printed on your morning toast, not unlike the free newspapers they hand out in the NYC subways.
Though what would be even better is wifi-enabled Alpha Bits. Just connect the box to your local network, pour yourself some cereal, and view the five most recent headlines from your RSS reader floating in your milk. Then right click your bowl to open up links on the screen in your refrigerator. That and a rocket-powered hoverbike, please.
If you spend any time in restaurants, you might find May We Tell You About Our Specials This Evening? as hilarious as I did.
Send in a photo showing your profile, and Turn Your Head will produce a wooden pedestal with the outline of your sillouette (the photo on the site makes more sense...).
I had more than a few of SEP 26
I had more than a few of the cards in this worthless baseball card collection. Ah, commons.
Not sure if this is new or SEP 26
Not sure if this is new or not, but Moodgrapher tracks the moods (worried, happy, depressed, sick, etc.) of LiveJournal users in order to determine what the overall mood of the world/internet/blogosphere is. (thx ben)
The Onion: Tiger Woods Signs $15 Million Deal To Endorse Alex Rodriguez. "Now that beloved, recognizable superstar Tiger Woods is the new face of Alex Rodriguez, we hope to see some [endorsement] offers start rolling in."
Paula Scher: "My favorite job is the one I’m going to do tomorrow".
Update on the Million Dollar Homepage...it's actually starting to fill up. He's sold almost $100,000 worth of space so far. This is beginning to look like an absolutely brilliant idea.
Fascinating and disturbing realistic drawings of Mario and Luigi. Some things you can't unsee. (via alice)
Six Apart announces Comet, which at this early stage is hard to define exactly, but seems to be some kind of overall repositioning/refocus of their existing products toward consumer user-friendliness. Or is it an entirely other product/platform? Anyway, I doubt whether it will be the promised "next generation blogging software"...that's been guaranteed many times by many people/companies and has yet to be lived up to. IMO, blog tools are still in the Blogger generation (although I might be the only one who thinks that at this point).
Cory Arcangel has gone INSANE and is offering original signed posters of his work for like $20. The posters feature the haunting landscape of the old school Famicom driving game F1 Racer.
Patrick Pittman makes a good case for Homicide: Life on the Streets being the best TV show ever. I loved Homicide and am convinced it would have found a great audience in this age of TiVo and quick-to-DVD (it was a difficult show to catch on Friday nights). Re: best TV ever, The Simpsons, Seinfeld, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, and M*A*S*H have to be near the top of the list...what are your favorites?
Interview with Sidney Frank, the guy who brought Jagermeister to the US in a big way and sold his Grey Goose vodka brand to Bacardi for more than $2 billion.
Scientists have explained the Cheerio Effect, answering why things like Cheerios floating in milk tend to clump together.
Subway has gotten rid of their Sub Club cards and stamps, citing the greater ease of fraud these days with color printers and such. Before they stopped it, my dad cashed in his entire supply of cards, eating free for about two weeks.
Interview with Edward Castronova, video game economist. Quite an interesting thought from him about using MMORPGs to test economies and social systems. "I think the smart thing for the US state department to do today is build a game about Islam but make it a democracy. And set it up so that every 16-year-old from Morocco to Pakistan can go into that world when they get a computer. Not say anything overt about democracy but have them play -- have them vote, for example." (via bbj)
The science behind shyness, an "affliction" shared by 30% of the population (the lurkers in real life). Reminds of the fantastic Caring for Your Introvert from The Atlantic Monthly a couple of years ago. Sadly, the article has disappeared behind the Atlantic's pay wall, but I posted a short excerpt here.
Update: The complete Caring for Your Introvert article is available on the author's web site. (thx chris and several others)
War of the Worlds SEP 22
I used to be a real stick in the mud when it came to big Hollywood action movies; I had no love for them at all. Since about XXX, I've grown to enjoy them for what they are and add them to my balanced movie-going diet. Come to think of it, the recent Star Wars movies may have contributed to this shift as well...after all, I somehow had to reconcile my childhood love of SW and the not-so-goodness of the prequels (well, minus Episode III, which I flat out loved and will fight anyone who says different to the death).
War of the Worlds, aside from all the tabloid crap that accompanied the film and its (nutball) star and his new store-bought fiance, is pretty damn entertaining to watch once you accept that it's a cheesy Hollywood action movie.
The NY Times Magazine has launched The Funny Pages, their comics+ section. PDFs of the comics are available online...here's the first Chris Ware strip. They're also podcasting and the first episode is an interview with Ware by John Hodgman, assisted by organist and radio-man Jonathan Coulton.
For what seems like the last 2 hours, I've been reading Kevin Smith's blog (Flickr photos here), and I have no idea why. He calls it "Kevin's Boring Ass Life" and that's what it is...a typical entry is not much more than "got up, checked email, dropped off kid at school, lunch, dinner, sex with wife, then watched movies/Simpsons until asleep". Couldn't stop reading though...
What should I read next? is what it says...you enter the title and author of a book you like and the site will suggest something for you to read next.
As discussed previously, there's a whole lot a restauranting going on in Chelsea on 10th Ave these days. If two is a trend, what do you call all of this?
For those who are lazy about their religion, there's the 100-Minute Bible, sort of a Cliff Notes version of the Good Book. "The 100-Minute Bible is primarily intended for people who have an interest in Christianity but not the time (nor tenacity!) to read the whole Bible. As the title indicates most people will only take 100 minutes to read it, making it ideal for an upcoming rail or aeroplane journey."
This is most insane travel deal I've ever seen...Caribbean cruise during the winter for as low as $5/person/night. Those low fares are probably difficult to find and are also all sold out by now, but still. The company behind the cruises also does easyJet and the newly opened easyHotels in London and Switzerland (rooms from 15 euros a night).
Merlin's excellent advice for writing sensible email messages. This one is excellent advice for email and blog comments: "Emails to a thread are like comments at a meeting; think of both like your time possessing the basketball. Don't just chuck at the net every chance you get. Hang back and watch for how you can be most useful. Minimize noise."
Interesting rumination on the possibility of flash memory-based computers. "In two years I have a feeling that Jobs will announce an Intel-flash iBook that will be the thinest laptop ever made boasting the best battery life of any current machine".
Nobody's talking about the anal sex portion of a recently released survey on American sexual habits. "Evidently anal sex is too icky to mention in print. But not too icky to have been tried by 35 percent of young women and 40 to 44 percent of young men -- or to have killed some of them."
Kurzweil's new book on the singularity is out at the end of the month. It's a sequel to the excellent The Age of Spiritual Machines. "By 2045, we'll get to a point where technical progress will be so fast that unenhanced human intelligence will be unable to follow it".
Neat article on Charlie Ayers, Google's former chef, and his future plans to open his own eco-aware restaurant.
How to make X-wing fighters (from Star Wars) out of Paris Metro tickets. I gotta try this...I've got about a zillion of these laying around because they make great bookmarks.
Profile of Robert Trivers who "came up with the first Darwinian explanations for human cooperation, jealousy and our sense of justice that made genetic sense, and he showed how these arose from the same forces as act on all animals, from the pigeons outside his window to the fish of coral reefs".
Scientists are having a bit of fun wondering about the genetics of wizardry in Harry Potter. "This suggests that wizarding ability is inherited in a mendelian fashion, with the wizard allele (W) being recessive to the muggle allele (M). According to this hypothesis, all wizards and witches therefore have two copies of the wizard allele (WW)."
The MacArthur Foundation has announced their 2005 Fellows...the so-called genius grant. Fellows "will be given $500,000 in 'no strings attached' support over the next five years".
Suroweicki on gas prices and Katrina: "Americans are happy with the free market when it allows them to buy cheap T-shirts and twenty-nine-dollar DVD players, but they tend to like it less when they have to pay fifty dollars to fill up their gas tanks."
Two new airlines are about to start offering all-business class service to/from NYC and London starting at prices more than half than those offered by existing carriers like AA and BA.
Kenneth LeVay has invented a new type of screw (designed using computer modeling) which works even in concrete or plastic.
The citizens of World of Warcraft are being infected by a disease that got out of hand, just like in the real world. "Blizzard recently added the Zul'Gurub instance to the game, where Hakkar, the god of blood, uses a devastating disease attack on anyone who dares fight him. Seeing as how it's a disease and most diseases are contagious, it shouldn't be shocking when some players come back and haven't been cured." (via waxy)
Here's a sampling of the rest of the AIGA Design Conference, stuff that I haven't covered yet and didn't belong in a post of it's own:
- Juan Enriquez gave what was probably my favorite talk about what's going on in the world of genetics right now. I've heard him give a variation of this talk before (at PopTech, I think). He started off talking about coding systems and how when they get more efficient (in the way that the Romance languages are more efficient than Chinese languages), the more powerful they become in human hands. Binary is very powerful because you can encode text, images, video, etc. using just two symbols, 1 and 0. Segue to DNA, a four symbol language to make living organisms...obviously quite powerful in human hands.
- Enriquez: All life is imperfectly transmitted code. That's what evolution is, and without the imperfections, there would be no life. The little differences over long periods of time are what's important.
- Enriquez again: The mosquito is a flying hypodermic needle. That's how it delivers malaria to humans. We could use that same capability for vaccinating cows against disease.
- Along with his list of 20 courses he didn't take in design school, Michael Bierut offered some advice to young designers:
1. Design is the easy part.
2. Learn from your clients, bosses, collaborators, and colleagues.
3. Content is king.
4. Read. Read. Read.
5. Think first, then design.
6. Never forget how lucky you are. Enjoy yourself.
- Nicholas Negroponte: If programmers got paid to remove code from sofware instead of writing new code, software would be a whole lot better.
- Negroponte also shared a story about outfitting the kids in a school in Cambodia with laptops; the kids' first English word was "Google", and from what Negroponte said, that was followed closely by "Skype". He also said the children's parents loved the laptops because at night, it was the brightest light in the house.
- Christi recorded Milton Glaser's mother's spaghetti recipe. "Cook until basically all of the water is evaporated. Mix in bottle of ketchup; HEINZ ketchup."
- Ben Karlin and Paula Scher on the challenges of making America, The Book: Books are more daunting than doing TV because print allows for a much greater density of jokes. In trying to shoot the cover image, they found that bald eagles cannot be used live for marketing or advertising purposes. The solution? A golden eagle and Photoshop. And for a spread depicting all the Supreme Court Justices in the buff, they struggled -- even with the Web -- to find nude photos of older people until they found a Vermont nudist colony willing to send them photos because they were big fans of The Daily Show.
- Bill Strickland blew the doors off the conference with his account of the work he's doing in "curing cancer" -- his term for revitalizing violent and crime-ridden neighborhoods -- in Pittsburgh. I can't do justice to his talk, so two short anecdotes. Strickland said he realized that "poor people never have a nice day" so when he built his buildings in these poor black neighbohoods, he put nice fountains out front so that people coming into the building know that they're entering a space where it's possible to have a good day. Another time, a bigwig of some sort was visiting the center and asked Strickland about the flowers he saw everywhere. Flowers in the hood? How'd these get here? Strickland told him "you don't need a task force or study group to buy flowers" and that he'd just got in his car, bought some flowers, brought them back, and set them around the place. His point in all this was creating a place where people feel less dissimilar to each other...black, white, rich, poor, everybody has a right to flowers and an education and to be treated with respect and to have a nice day. You start treating people like that, and surprise!, they thrive. Strickland's inner city programs have produced Fulbright Scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, and tons of college graduates.
- I caught 30 minutes of David Peters' presentation of Typecast: The Art of the Typographic Film Title and realized I should have gotten there in time to see the whole thing. I could sit and watch cool movie titles all day long. Among the titles he showed were Bullit, Panic Room, Dr. Strangelove, Barbarella, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Superman. The title sequence for Napoleon Dynamite (which was discussed on Design Observer last year) was shown later in the main hall.
- At the closing party at the Museum of Science, we checked out the cool Mathematica exhibit that was designed by Charles and Ray Eames, two designers who were also pretty big science/math nerds.
- And some final thoughts from others at the conference. Peter Merholz says that "form-makers", which make up the vast majority of the AIGA audience, "are being passed by those who are attempting to use design to serve more strategic ends". (That's an interesting thought...) A pair of reviews from Speak Up: Bryony was a bit disappointed with the opening Design Gala but left, like everyone else, in love with emcee John Hockenberry while Armin noted that the preservation of digital files is a big concern for museums in building a collection of graphic design pieces...in 35 years, how are you going load that Quark file or run that Flash movie?
The list of the 100 greatest theorems in mathematics is topped by The Irrationality of the Square Root of 2 from that nutball Pythagoras. Jesus, who does Godel have to sleep with to get higher on this list...I mean, all the man did was destroy math! (I know, I know, oversimplification, please don't send me any email....) (via cyn-c)
Planned Parenthood in Southeastern Pennsylvania is running a unique pledge drive. The idea is that you pledge an amount of money for each anti-abortion protestor that shows up outside of the PP health center. "We will place a sign outside the health center that tracks pledges and makes protesters fully aware that their actions are benefiting PPSP". That's genius. (via freak)
Marginal Revolution recently experimented with opening up comments on their posts and here are their results. I've noticed the same pattern on kottke.org, especially "the more that comments are regularly available, the more rapidly the quality of comments falls".
Hillman Curtis has added some new (to me) videos to his series of interviews with designers, including interviews with the folks at Pentagram and David Carson.
Cymothoa exigua is a crustacean parasite that eats the tongue of the host fish and then attaches itself to the mouth of the fish and functions as the tongue would have, sharing in the food that the fish brings in.
Local man uses Google Maps to find the undiscovered remains of a Roman villa near his town in Italy.
Stefan Sagmeister SEP 19
I quite enjoyed Sagmeister's presentation on happiness...where else but a design conference would you find a talk on that topic? Early in, he suggested that visualizing happiness with design is easy (photos of someone laughing or a smiley face will do it) but that creating design that provokes happiness in the viewer is something else entirely. He then shared three designs that have made him happy recently:
- Emma Gasson made a day-planner with room for 82 years, the current life expectancy of a British citizen. It looked to be about a foot thick.
- Omnivisu. Richard The and Willy Sengewald constructed a kiosk in Berlin with video cameras inside. When you look into the kiosk through the viewfinder (very much like peering into a pair of binoculars), the cameras record your eyes and beam the video to a nearby location where the images are projected onto a building which rather looks like it's got a head. When you blink into the kiosk, the building's head blinks also.
- Ji Lee pastes empty speech bubbles over advertisements on the streets of Manhattan, people often fill them in, and Lee returns to photograph the results.
Sagmeister wrapped up his talk with a list of things he has learned and how he's used that list in a recent series of projects:
- "everything i do always comes back to me"
- "trying to look good limits my life"
- "everybody thinks they are right"
- "money does not make me happy"
- "thinking life will be better in the future is stupid. i have to live now"
- "complaining is silly. act or forget."
- "having guts always works out for me"
"Complaining is silly..." is my favorite, both as advice and his implementation of the design. A few of these are in this video shot by Hillman Curtis.
 Ok, maybe at a clown conference, but still.
PopTech announced their speakers and program recently, but it looks like they've sold out already.
Conference sketches SEP 18
At the beginning of the conference, sketchbooks were distributed to every attendee. We were urged to sketch our thoughts during the sessions & panels in our books and then tape the results onto the Sketch Wall in the Design Fair. As I was too busy typing into my virtual sketchbook (plus, I can't draw), I left the drawing to others, but I did head down to the Design Fair to see what other attendees had done. Here's a couple I found interesting:
In addition to the sketches, the wall was also being utilized more generally for graffiti, both written (with marker and paint) and created with the tape used to fasten the sketches to the wall. Here's a favorite bit of tape graffiti (tapeffiti?):
That would make a great tshirt.
Coming soon to the MoMa: Safe: Design Takes on Risk "presents more than 300 contemporary products and prototypes designed to protect body and mind from dangerous or stressful circumstances, respond to emergencies, ensure clarity of information, and provide a sense of comfort and security".
A couple of guys calculated the average color of the universe to be turquiose. Then it turned out they had made an error and the actual color of the universe is beige.
As part of my ongoing series of thoughts about conference badge and program design (Poptech 2004, Web 2.0 2004, PopTech 2003), here's a quick review of the AIGA conference badges and programs. The badges are pretty good. Both first and last names are printed in large type for easy glancing and the schedule fits in the badge holder.
The badge lanyards are not the usual string/cloth, but a simple length of thin hollow plastic tube that's looped together with a small piece of plastic that fits inside the tube like so:
If the lanyard is too long (as they often are at these things) and your badge is hanging down to your belt buckle, just grab a scissors, cut a bit off one end of the tube, and stick it back together. The program is a small thick book which I've left in my hotel room the entire time, preferring to rely on the Web site for event descriptions and the smaller schedule that fits in the badge holder for times, room numbers, etc. The schedule is actually not a booklet, but a series of folding pieces, one for each day of the conference, so when Friday is over, you can take the Friday schedule out of your badge holder and leave it behind, which is kind of handy.
Nicholas Negroponte spoke this morning about the MIT Media Lab's $100 laptop initiative. "One does not think of community pencils--kids have their own. They are tools to think with, sufficiently inexpensive to be used for work and play, drawing, writing, and mathematics. A computer can be the same, but far more powerful." More info at BBC News and Technology Review.
I must be living in a cave SEP 17
Going all city is graffiti slang for putting your graffiti on trains in all five boroughs of NYC.
"I/O Brush is a new drawing SEP 17
"I/O Brush is a new drawing tool to explore colors, textures, and movements found in everyday materials by 'picking up' and drawing with them. I/O Brush looks like a regular physical paintbrush but has a small video camera with lights and touch sensors embedded inside."
Friday round-up SEP 16
Some miscellaneous bits I haven't had a chance to post yet about the conference:
- Congressman Barney Frank didn't talk at all about "Design and Civic Leadership", but he did say he was in favor of limiting free speech in one small way: he would ban the use of metaphors in the discussion of public policy.
- Dj Spooky on the standarization (i.e. Gapization, Starbucksification, etc.) of American retail (paraphrased): If you think about it, the US is almost more totalitarian than the Soviet Union was; we buy our own uniforms.
- Peter Merholz on the death of user experience: What people not call "user experience" used to be called "design" (by the Eames generation). The term "user experience" was necessary because "design" had become associated almost exclusively with the way something looked. The pretty, the aesthetic. Who did Peter blame? Professional organizations (including the AIGA) and designers themselves. Peter notes that design is making a comeback, particularly in the business press, something I noted in earlier in the week.
- From the Three Minds blog, a summary of a presentation by Murray Moss of 10 things that he likes right now. Well, not so much things as ideas or trends. Or commerce...all of the items he showed are on sale in his Soho store/gallery.
- More blog action from the conference: Peterme has some quick thoughts, David Panarelli has several posts from Friday (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) and UnBeige tells us about Ellen Lupton, Dj Spooky, a David Carson sighting (I totally didn't know he was here...seeing his work for the first time made me want to be a designer, so I may have to accost him and gush a little), and then promptly goes off to nap. Nap!? That's allowed??
More tomorrow, already the last full day of the conference.
OPENSTUDIO was announced at the conference today by John Maeda. Keith sez about the project: "described as an experiment in creativity, collaboration, and capitalism, Open Studio is designed to simplify tools for the creative process and provide a pseudo-currency model for tool use and sharing." Gotta go check this one out in the Media Lab space here.
Something to look forward to: podcasts from the AIGA Design Conference. I've been told they'll be up in a week or two and that they will include many of the presentations as well as a lot of interviews with speakers. I'll point to them when they're available.
The Designing for User eXperience conference "[gathers] together researchers and practitioners of all the design disciplines and related fields to share their stories and experiences on how the needs and goals of both users and businesses are met through design". Looks like the blog has yet to get going.
Need your help SEP 16
Are you at the AIGA conference? Are you taking notes? Are those notes on a computer or posted to a blog? There are several sessions going on at a time now and I'm trying to get to as many as I can without, you know, going insane. If you've got notes (especially from sessions I didn't get to) and you don't mind sharing them, send them along and I'll put them up on the site. If you're blogging, send your links or post them in the comments below. Thanks!
ps. Did anyone go to the yoga at 6:30am this morning? What percentage of the participants were hung over? Was everyone in black?
Cool video by the British group Hexstatic for a song called Distorted Minds. It's almost audiovisual hypertext.
Helvetica vs. Arial. Two of the world's most popular typefaces battle it out for supremacy.
Design for Democracy is utilizing the skillset of designers to improve the election process in America, including ballot redesigns and polling place signage.
Contemporary Performance Art
The Changing Global Financial Marketplace
Early Childhood Development
Economics of Commerical Aviation
Biography as History
Introduction to Horticulture
Sports Marketing in Modern Media
The 1960s: Culture and Conflict
20th Century American Theater
Philanthropy and Social Progress
Studies in Popular Culture
Building Systems Engineering
Geopolitics, Military Conflict, and the Cultural Divide
Political Science: Electoral Politics and the Crisis of Democracy
His point was that design is just one part of the job. In order to do great work, you need to know what your client does. How do you design for new moms if you don't know anything about raising children? Not very well, that's how. When I was a designer, my approach was to treat the client's knowledge of their business as my biggest asset...the more I could get them to tell me about what their product or service did and the people it served (and then talk to those people, etc.), the better it was for the finished product. Clients who didn't have time to talk, weren't genuinely engaged in their company's business, or who I couldn't get to open up usually didn't get my best work.
Bierut's other main point is, wow, look at all this cool stuff you get to learn about as a designer. If you're a curious person, you could do worse than to choose design as a profession.
A list of twenty-eight design aphorisms to consider before attending the AIGA conference.
Lonely in a packed room SEP 15
I'm sitting in a huge room filled with ~2,000 people at the opening remarks of the AIGA Design Conference and there's no single other person on Bonjour (formerly Rendezvous) in iChat:
I may be the only person in the entire room with his laptop open. Instead, everyone is listening to the speakers. Like Jeff, I'm torn: is this lack of a back channel a good thing or does the presence of an online component of a conference make the experience more rewarding?
Nikolaus Hafermaas made an interesting observation about visual design. If you've a visual designer, you're working with a rapidly depleting finite resource: people's personal attention.
Timeline of the AIGA Design Conference. Nicely done little Flash movie.
Publish looks at Microsoft's newly announced interactive design application, Sparkle, comparing it with Flash. More on Sparkle.
Todd Radom designs sports logos, including ones for the Super Bowl, Fenway Park's 90th anniversary, and the new Cleveland Browns. Read about his design for the Washington Nationals logo in Fast Company.
Dressed to the Nines is an interactive look at the design of baseball uniforms. "Whether we are looking at someone in a uniform or we are trying it on ourselves, it is the feeling of the fabric, the design on the cap and jersey, the colors, cut, and history of the outfit, that all lend meaning to our relationship with the game."
A look at Jefferson Burdick's baseball card collection which he donated the Met Museum in NYC. One downside to the collection: most of the cards are pasted into albums and so are in poor condition.
Design and Fenway Park SEP 15
One of the pre-conference events was a talk at Fenway Park followed by a tour of the ballpark. Janet Marie Smith, VP of planning and development for the Sox, kicked things off with how the team (especially the new management) works really hard to preserve the essential character of Fenway while at the same time trying to upgrade the park (and keep it from getting torn down). She talked about the advertisements added to the Green Monster, which was actually not a purely commercial move but a throwback to a time when the Monster was actually covered with ads.
Lots of talk and awareness of experience design...the Red Sox folks in particular kept referring to the "experience" of the park. One of the speakers (can't recall who, might have been Jim Dow) talked about how other ballparks are becoming places where only people who can afford $100 tickets can go to the games and what that does to the team's fan base. With Fenway, they're trying to maintain a variety of ticket prices to keep the diversity level high...greater diversity makes for a better crowd and a better fan base and is quite appropriate for Boston (and New England in general), which has always been an area with vibrant blue collar and blue blood classes.
Janet also referred to the "accidental" design of the park. Like many other urban ballparks built in the late 19th/early 20th centuries, the placement of the streets constrained the design of Fenway and made it rather an odd shape....these days larger plots are selected where those types of restraints are removed. And over time, the game has changed, the needs of the fans have changed, and the fire codes have changed and the park has changed with the times. In the dead ball era, the walls of the stadium weren't for hitting home runs over; their sole function was to keep people on the street for catching the game for free, so the Fenway outfield ran over 500 feet in right field -- practically all the way to the street -- where there's now 30 rows of seats. Jim Holt observed that American butts have gotten bigger so bigger seats are called for. Fire codes helped that change along as well...wooden seats, bleachers, and overcrowding are no longer a large part of the Fenway experience (save for the wooden seats under the canopy).
The design talk continued on the tour of the park. Our guide detailed how ballparks are built around specific ballplayers. Yankee Stadium was the house that Ruth built but it was also seemingly (but not literally) built for him with a short trip for his home run balls to the right field wall. Boston added a bullpen to make the right field shorter for Ted Williams. Barry Bonds does very well at PacBell/SBC/WhateverItsCalledTheseDays Park. And more than that, the design of Fenway also dictated for a long time the type of team that they could field, which had some bearing on how they did generally. Players who played well in Fenway (i.e. could hit fly balls off of the Monster in left) often didn't do so well in other parks and the team's away record suffered accordingly.
Perfect for those long Security Council meetings when your Secretary of State won't let you go potty.
Odd story of one astronomer possibly "stealing" another astronomer's discovery of a large trans-Neptunian object. The original discoverer alleges that the usurper looked at a couple of Web sites that detailed the discovery and where the discover's telescopes were pointed...the astronomy equivalent of stealing signs.
Heading out to CMJ this week in NYC? Coolfer has some thoughts on which groups might make a big splash among the glut of live music that CMJ brings to the already-oversupplied city.
Five things I'd ask every Supreme Court nominee if I sat on the Senate Judiciary Committee: "If you knew to an absolute moral certainty that you could capture and consume a live infant without being caught, how many do you suppose you could eat in a weekend?"
Animal Reviews is (duh) a site that reviews animals, including giving them a rating. The dolphin gets 0.8/10 while the duck-billed platypus gets a 6.3.
You've got to love an article called The Ten Stupidest Utopias. In regard to the Internet, he says "utopia is never more than what we are; the people in them will always be just like us".
Paragraph looks like a neat idea. It's a writer's workspace located near Union Square here in NYC. It's like a gym, except for writers. You pay a membership fee and then you can show up and use the facilities (desks, kitchen, your own locker for your stuff, wifi, etc.). More on Paragraph at designer Khoi Vinh's site.
In case you ever need it, a SEP 14
In case you ever need it, a long, long piece about how to vanish in America without a trace.
Papalotzin is a project to follow the migration of the monarch butterfly from Canada to Mexico in an ultralight airplane (they call it their big butterfly). They've made it as far as NYC so far and are blogging and taking pictures as they go. (via gurgly)
Sigur Ros at the Beacon SEP 14
Sigur Ros played New York's Beacon Theatre last night, and it was one of the oddest rock and roll shows I've been to. Not that I've been to a lot of shows, but still. It was like going to the symphony...everyone sat quietly in their seats, clapped politely at the conclusion of songs, and since the music was so quiet at times, people were shushed for talking too loudly (after awhile, most of the audience got clued in that you couldn't just yak during the whole thing like at normal concerts). And then there was the 30 seconds of complete silence when the band paused in the middle of a song -- not a peep from the audience -- and then kept right on playing. Great show though...the visuals for the last two songs (final song + encore) were especially impressive. Makes me remember how much I like Sigur Ros. Even though I've heard their older albums a thousand times, I don't get sick of them. I'm looking forward to listening to the new album on the train ride to Boston today.
Here's some Flickr photos of the show...probably a mixture of stuff from last night's show and the previous night's.
Google finally launches a blog search service. The default search is by relevance, which I'm not sure is correct, and it's pretty bare bones so far, but I'm sure that many other people will be saying so long, Technorati. Also available in Blogger flavor. (via waxy)
Dear The Onion, please stop paginating your stories. I know you're trying to increase your ad real estate, but it's annoying to have to click to read more, especially on shorter stories. From now on, when I link to stuff like this excellent Errol Morris interview, it's going to be to the handy one-page print version with zero ads. NY Times, Salon, WaPo, Wired News, that goes double for you.
TiVo's new OS adds content "protection", which means if the copyright holder of Seinfeld wants your TiVo to delete the show after a week whether you've watched it or not, that's what it's going to do. I love my TiVo and I'm currently suffering from outrage fatigue, but if the company wants to side with the entertainment industry over its customers and cripple useful features, then it's the last one I'm ever going to own. (via the wax)
The writer of this blog hates the New Yorker, especially the David Denby part of it. From reading the site a bit, it seems to me that they actually like the NYer, but wish it were better, a feeling which I've had for several things in my life.
March of the Penguins has become a favorite for conservative moviegoers, who cite it as making a good case for monogomy, intelligent design, and a pro-life stance on abortion. I wonder if liberals watch the film and come out advocating universal health care...all those dead penguin babies could have been saved with proper medical care.
Top 10 cheap marketing ploys to increase sales of comic books, but as noted in the comments, a sufficiently generalized version of this list would work in many instances.
AIGA conference prep SEP 13
In preparation for the AIGA design conference, I'm looking over the session descriptions and speaker list. The theme for this year is "Design", which seems a little broad but somehow appropriate given how much design has been taken up by the press (especially the business and tech press) recently as something Important and the design profession may be in need of a little wagon circling to figure out how to effectively explain design to someone who is all fired up about incorporating it into their business process because they read a blurb in Fast Company about Jonathan Ive and the iPod.
My knowledge of and involvement with the AIGA up to this point has been fairly minimal, which either makes me the ideal person (fresh eyes!) or a horrible choice (head up ass!) to cover their design conference. I'm particularly interested in learning how they've incorporated the fast-changing disciplines of Web and digital design into the mix. When I was working in Minneapolis as a Web designer in the late 90s, my company got me an AIGA membership, but I never used it because although they were trying to be more relevant to those of us working on the Web, my perception is that the AIGA was still largely a graphic design organization and I was finding more of what I was looking for on Web design sites like A List Apart. Now that the Web design profession has matured (and Web design practitioners along with it), it seems to fit better with where the AIGA is going (and vice versa). After all, design is design, no matter what word you stick in front of it.
So, back to the speakers list, I'm looking forward to hearing from Michael Bierut, Lella and Massimo Vignelli, Steven Heller, Matthew Carter, John Maeda, Peter Merholz and Jesse James Garrett from Adaptive Path, Ze Frank, Stefan Sagmeister, Steff Geissbuhler, Caterina Fake, and Milton Glaser (but no Malcolm Gladwell or Errol Morris, both of whom I swear were on earlier speaker lists), some of whom you may recognize from past mentions on kottke.org. They've also added some sessions in response to Hurricane Katrina on design, safety, risk, and disaster management, which is an excellent use of the opportunity of having a bunch of designers in the same place.
If you want to follow along with the complete conference coverage here on kottke.org, here's the AIGA 2005 page. As I mentioned previously, I'll be opening up comments on most posts (incl. this one), but will be active in gardening off-topic and trolling comments.
 I just realized all these URLs are going to break when the next conference rolls around in two years or so, which is disappointing. Would be nice to have something like http://designconference.aiga.org/2005 that would permanently point to this year's festivities. Bloggers like permanent links (well, this one does anyway).
How the iPod nano came to be. Lots of Jobs and Apple haters out there, but you have to admire the shooting from the hip that's going on here...too many American companies minimize their risk so much that the possible reward dries up almost completely.
Elizabeth Kolbert (who wrote three articles for the NYer on global warming earlier in the year) discusses global warming as a possible cause for Hurricane Katrina. Like the climate scientists on RealClimate contend, Kolbert notes that no particular storm can be caused by global warming, but that the long-term patterns don't look good...increased greenhouse gases = warmer oceans = more destructive hurricanes. Paul Recer downplays the connection as well and cautions environmental groups who want to make political hay with scientific evidence that doesn't support their claims.
Oddly, chef Thomas Keller (not the poker player) has never tasted "Oysters and Pearls", one of his signature dishes. "In the ten years it's been on his menu, he's never once tasted it, and now is too superstitious to even think about it."
Frustrated with his morning personal grooming routine, man creates an all-in-one solution that speeds his morning along. Convergence is here, my friends.
Here's the front page of the new Guardian. They've completely revamped the paper...it's smaller and has a new font, among other changes. They changed the format to Berliner because "unambiguous research [showed] that readers increasingly find broadsheet newspapers difficult to handle in many everyday situations, including commuting to work".
Profile of designer/illustrator/photographer Michael Elins and how he uses Macs to get his work done. "It's hard for someone like me to talk about technology, because the Mac has gotten to the point where it's a nonissue. It’s so good and so fluid, so fast and so freaking reliable that it becomes something I really take for granted."
Story of how Kodak developed the first digital camera in 1975 and then sat on the technology for years and years until they finally entered the market and, luckily for them, were able to grab the top stop from Sony and Canon.
We ran across the nerdiest board game today called c-jump, the computer programming game. More info: "Skiers and snowboarders line up at the start location and race along the ski trails. Spaces on the board show statements of programming language. First player to move all skiers past the finish line is the winner."
Update: here's the game's web site. "This game eliminates intimidation of many kids and their parents, bored by the mention of 'computer programming', often associated with visions of geeky guys glued to their computers."
A sequel to Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time: A Briefer History of Time. "More Accessible. More Concise."
The popcorn hacks post seems to have struck the wrong note with the humorless but elsewhere people have gotten into the spirit, contributing their own useless household hacks (I added the "personal locomotion" hack)...although the name hack ("Google Image Search exotic names to determine if they are male or female") is actually pretty clever.
This guy is selling 1,000,000 pixels on his site for $1 apiece. Minimum purchase is a 100 pixel block on which you can put a tiny banner and a link to your Web site or whatever. (via cyn-c)
The iTunes 5 Announcement From the Perspective of an Anthropomorphized Brushed Metal User Interface Theme. If you're a Mac nerd, you'll love this because it's pretty damn funny and if you're not, you probably won't get it.
Stephen Baker at Business Week is reporting that Huffington Post has a backlog of 15,000 comments that need to be approved for display on the site. Crazy. (I just found BW's Blogspotting blog today...they've got some interesting coverage, including whether or not Technorati is paying for ping data priority.)
From September 15-18, I will be attending the AIGA Design Conference in Boston. As an experiment (for both the AIGA and me), I will be covering the event at their request on kottke.org. I'll be covering the conference as a blogger, but the easiest way to think about it in terms of a conference is that I'm a speaker...a sort of roving speaker with the readers of kottke.org as the audience and my topic is the conference itself.
As usual, I have no solid plan as to how this is going to work exactly, but I'm looking forward to seeing how the conference goes and adapting accordingly. I'm hoping to provide a moving snapshot of the event so that readers of kottke.org can follow along fairly well without being at the conference. I'll probably have comments open on most posts so hopefully those reading along at home and those reading along at the conference can have some dialogue, with each little world spilling over into the other a bit.
One other quick thing...if you're going to be at the conference and plan to blog it, let me know...I'll definitely be linking to other people's stuff. I'm sure Design Observer and Speak Up will be covering things pretty well. I'll also be watching Flickr and del.icio.us for links and photos...I'd suggest tagging relevent entries with aigadc2005 for easy aggregation.
More next week as the conference draws near.
 Disclaimer: Kottke.org's budget for covering out-of-town conferences with costly entry fees is limited, so I'm exploring other ways of gaining access to be able to bring you some interesting content that you might not get otherwise. The AIGA is a curious organization and they're looking at various ways of using weblogs, so they asked me to come and blog the conference as an experiment. To make it economically feasible for me to be there, they are paying me a small speaker's honorarium and putting me up in a hotel.
In talking with the AIGA about this, they've made it exceedingly clear that I'm to consider myself independent and write whatever I want about the conference, which is pretty much what I intend to do. If I thought the hotel room and honorarium would be a problem w/r/t my objectivity in covering the event, I would have declined them both. The bottom line is that if money were no object (if the conference were free and took place entirely within walking distance of my apartment), I'd want to go and write about it anyway.
 Although I will also be appearing on a related panel about blogs, journalism, and design with Steve Heller, Michael Bierut, Armin Vit, and Jen Bekman.
Update: I've changed the first paragraph slightly, from "covering the conference as a blogger/journalist" to "covering the conference as a blogger", which under the circumstances is more accurate. I am not a journalist in this instance or any other.
The existence and behavior of dark matter is puzzling indeed, but some UK astrophysicists speculate that adding three more spacial dimensions to the universe explains the gravitational behavior of dark matter. If they exist, these extra dimensions would be about a nanometer across. A baby step toward string theory?
A list of cliches in advertising, including "tortilla chips are the most exciting experience any group of young people can experience". The list is UK-centric, but still pretty good.
"One summer day in France in 1826, Joseph Niepce took the world's first photograph. It's a photo of some farm buildings and the sky. It took an exposure time of 8 hours. Voila! It had to feel pretty incredible, like magic."
Update: Lots more info about this photo here. (thx Paul)
An interview with David Greiner of Campaign Monitor. Some good stuff in here about starting a small business on the Web.
The MoMA has acquired The Plum Blossoms by Henri Matisse (picture), the whereabouts of which have been unknown for 30 years.
Fun little read on how a guy SEP 08
Fun little read on how a guy named Michael Larsen hacked the Press Your Luck game show: "In November of 1983, he recorded every episode of Press Your Luck over the course of several weeks. He studied these videotapes, slowed them down, and froze the images to examine randomized tile sequences frame by frame. If you haven't already guessed, Michael Larsen discovered that the Big Board on Press Your Luck was not a randomized display, but an iterative, sequential pattern which gave itself away once you knew what to look for." (via cyn-c)
The lofty world of food reviewing gets some much needed profanity and street-sensibility in this article, Food Critic Tears Radish Canapes With Salmon Mousse A New Asshole (The Onion, of course).
The letter-pairs analysis application reads in some text and displays a graphical representation of distribution of letter pairs used in the text. Love the aesthetics of the information display.
Mobile usage SEP 08
Quite a few folks are pointing to the results of this survey (graph here) about what features people want on their most frequently used mobile devices. The results are interesting but also probably misleading in about 1000 different ways (text messaging didn't even make the list). But it got me thinking about how I use my most frequently used digital device, my mobile phone. In order of a combination of most usage and importance, here's what I use my phone for:
- Clock. I don't wear a watch, so I look at my phone all the time to check the time.
- Taking pictures + sending them to Flickr.
- Voice. I dislike talking on the phone, but when you gotta, you gotta.
- Text messaging. Texting is preferable to voice in many instances and many friends text more often than they call nowadays.
- Taking pictures. I think of this as distinct from the photo + Flickr usage above. The camera on my phone just isn't that important to me without the ability to easily publish them to the Web.
Stuff I don't want on my phone:
- Music. I am unconvinced of the wisdom of cramming a music player into a phone. The user experience needs to be solved first.
- Email. I still use client-side spam filtering so reading my mail on a phone would be a painful exercise. And I can send email from my phone and that's enough...I can handle not reading my email for hours on end.
- Web browsing. I love the Web, but my preferred portable device for accessing it is my laptop. Not worth the extra expense of adding it to my service plan.
What's your most-used portable device and what do you use it for? Feel free to comment here or link to a post on your site.
And as long as we're on the SEP 08
And as long as we're on the subject (you didn't think we were even on a subject, did you?), I'm a fan of how Maciej is displaying his oil paintings. For each of his newer paintings (like this one of a West Village scene), he's documenting the progress of the work as it goes along so you can see how the painting becomes a painting.
Use the Technorati Accelerator to "search on any URL and get the same response you would have to wait thirty seconds for on their site". Zing!
Scientists in Singapore have developed a battery powered by urine. Urine is rich in ions and ions are what make electricity go whoosh. (thx jeff)
Advice on surviving an unplanned free fall. "By tilting forward and putting your hands at your side, you can modify your pitch and make progress not just vertically but horizontally as well. As you go down 15,000 feet, you can also go sideways two-thirds of that distance -- that's two miles! "
A couple of recent OS X interface ruminations: rethinking the Finder and Spotlight revisited. Some good ideas in both of these, particularly the Spotlight one (I find Spotlight disorienting at times).
Among laparoscopic surgeons, those who have played video games in the past are significantly faster and less error-prone in a surgical training exercise than those who have never gamed. Even better were those who are current gamers...they realized 30% gains in speed and accuracy over their non-gaming counterparts.
For my photography nerd friends who own Nikon D70 cameras, here's the Nikon D70 focus test chart. Looking closely at some photos I shot yesterday, I may have to try this out.
Both the NY Times and New York magazine have fall restaurant previews. The southwestern part of Chelsea (+ the Meatpacking) seems to be really jumping these days...lots of stuff happening on 10th Ave (i.e. my walk to Eyebeam most days): Batali, Morimoto, Cookshop, Colicchio, etc. Maybe with all the action over there, maybe the High Line park will work...
New feature in the NY Times magazine: comics! First up, a six-month-long strip by Chris Ware, on whom I have a non-sexual crush.
There's a book coming out in December based on PostSecret, a web site that displays postcards with secrets written on them sent in by readers. I heard something long ago about the site not actually using reader submissions, at least in the beginning before it got popular enough to get the quality of entries that they post...did anyone actually verify or debunk that rumor?
Apple introduces the iPod nano, which, wow, it's like a baby iPod. So cute.
Is PowerPoint responsible for the woes of the Space Shuttle? Well, no, but it's not helping any. "The deeper problem with the PowerPointing of America -- the PowerPointing of the planet, actually -- is that the program tends to flatten the most complex, subtle, even beautiful, ideas into tedious, bullet-pointed bureaucratese."
Physicist Stephen Hawking has been reduced to blinking to control his helper computer.
Adriana: "I thought you might be interested in a post I wrote a while back about a former editor of Elle who communicated for the last year of his life via blinks".
Popcorn hacks SEP 07
If you've got a bag of Orville Redenbacher's Butter microwave popcorn on hand but no microwave, there's no need to panic. Just tear open the bag and pour the kernels into a large pot. Put over medium heat. The kernels will be in a big clump of congealed butter-like substance...break them apart with a wooden spoon as the pot heats up and the "butter" starts to melt.
When the "butter" is melted, stir the kernels around with the spoon so they don't burn. At this point, you may want to don some protective eyewear so that when the first kernels pop, you don't get hot butter-like liquid in your eye; I just put on my sunglasses. When the first kernels pop, cover the pot and shake it across the burner so the kernels don't burn. Stop periodically to listen for pops and to exclaim, "I can't believe this is actually working!" When popping stops, quickly remove from the heat, and get it out of that hot pot into a bowl. Eat. As good as microwaved.
Pairing wine with fast food. How about a 2003 Pinot with your Kentucky Fried Chicken or a nice Cabernet to go with your Taco Bell Burrito Supreme? Need more pairings for fast food? Try here, here, or here.
Fans of Six Feet Under will want to get their hands (and arms) on a Narm! tshirt. Narm. Narm!
Health care in America SEP 06
Sorry for the extensive quote, but this paragraph (along with the following one) in Malcolm Gladwell's article about health care in America does a fine job in laying out why it's failing:
The U. S. health-care system, according to "Uninsured in America," has created a group of people who increasingly look different from others and suffer in ways that others do not. The leading cause of personal bankruptcy in the United States is unpaid medical bills. Half of the uninsured owe money to hospitals, and a third are being pursued by collection agencies. Children without health insurance are less likely to receive medical attention for serious injuries, for recurrent ear infections, or for asthma. Lung-cancer patients without insurance are less likely to receive surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation treatment. Heart-attack victims without health insurance are less likely to receive angioplasty. People with pneumonia who don't have health insurance are less likely to receive X rays or consultations. The death rate in any given year for someone without health insurance is twenty-five per cent higher than for someone with insurance. Because the uninsured are sicker than the rest of us, they can't get better jobs, and because they can't get better jobs they can't afford health insurance, and because they can't afford health insurance they get even sicker. John, the manager of a bar in Idaho, tells Sered and Fernandopulle that as a result of various workplace injuries over the years he takes eight ibuprofen, waits two hours, then takes eight more--and tries to cadge as much prescription pain medication as he can from friends. "There are times when I should've gone to the doctor, but I couldn't afford to go because I don't have insurance," he says. "Like when my back messed up, I should've gone. If I had insurance, I would've went, because I know I could get treatment, but when you can't afford it you don't go. Because the harder the hole you get into in terms of bills, then you'll never get out. So you just say, 'I can deal with the pain.'"
You can point fingers at what's wrong or who's responsible all day long, but the facts remain, America's health care system sucks...well, unless you're rich, in which case nothing really sucks. The BBC put it well earlier this week in writing about the crisis in New Orleans:
The uneasy paradox which so many live with in this country - of being first-and-foremost rugged individuals, out to plunder what they can and paying as little tax as they can get away with, while at the same time believing that America is a robust, model society - has reached a crisis point this week.
According to paleontologist Gareth Dyke, "fossil evidence that [predatory] dinosaurs were feathered is now 'irrefutable'". Digitally remastered Jurassic Park can't be too far down the road.
Dingle's name change from its English name to the now-official Gaelic one (An Daingean) is messing with the Dingle brand...opponents to the change say that the tourists, upon which Dingle depends, are gonna get confused.
Malcolm Gladwell on why focus groups suck. Focus groups are an attempt by management to reduce risk (and with it, potential reward)...Gladwell says that management should instead trust their creatives, be patient, and tolerate uncertainty.
If you're a Flickr user, you can now get a book of your photos printed up for display on your coffee table or to put in your bathroom bookshelf. I've got one of these and it's neater than I expected.
In case you've never looked into it, here's an overview of what the scientific method is; it explains what hypotheses, theories, and laws are in the context of science. As this article states, "a theory in science is not a guess, speculation, or suggestion, which is the popular definition of the word 'theory.' A scientific theory is a unifying and self-consistent explanation of fundamental natural processes or phenomena that is totally constructed of corroborated hypotheses."
Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne on intelligent design: "You cannot have it both ways. Either ID belongs in the science classroom, in which case it must submit to the discipline required of a scientific hypothesis. Or it does not, in which case get it out of the science classroom and send it back into the church, where it belongs."
Bullshit parallels SEP 06
In Jim Holt's review of three recent books about bullshit, he writes:
The essence of bullshit, Frankfurt decides, is that it is produced without any concern for the truth. Bullshit needn't be false: "The bullshitter is faking things. But this does not mean that he necessarily gets them wrong." The bullshitter's fakery consists not in misrepresenting a state of affairs but in concealing his own indifference to the truth of what he says. The liar, by contrast, is concerned with the truth, in a perverse sort of fashion: he wants to lead us away from it. As Frankfurt sees it, the liar and the truthteller are playing on opposite sides of the same game, a game defined by the authority of truth. The bullshitter opts out of this game altogether. Unlike the liar and the truthteller, he is not guided in what he says by his beliefs about the way things are. And that, Frankfurt says, is what makes bullshit so dangerous: it unfits a person for telling the truth.
In thinking about Judeo-Christian religion, atheism is a bit like bullshitting in this respect. If you believe in God, you also necessarily believe in the existence of Satan. So too for Satanists...like the liar, they are concerned with the counterpart to their main interest (i.e. God) as something to defend against. But atheists opt out and don't believe in the existence of either.
Update: There's been a bit of confusion as to what I'm actually trying to say here. My fault. I'm definitely not trying to say that atheists are bullshitters. Or that Satanists are liars. Or that Christians believe in Satan (as opposed to believing in the existence of Satan). What I'm saying that as both truth-tellers and liars are concerned with the true and false, so too are Christians and Satanists both concerned with God and Satan. But the bullshitter cares little for the true or false, just as an atheist is little concerned with God or Satan.
Also, someone pointed out that Satanists often don't worship Satan. Sez the Wikipedia entry on Satanism:
Many Satanists do not worship a deity called Satan or any other deity. Unlike many religions and philosophies, Satanism generally focuses upon the spiritual advancement of the self, rather than upon submission to a deity or a set of moral codes.
So my whole point is shot anyway. (thx, kevin)
PayPal has changed their fee structure to allow easier micropayments. For payments less than $2, the fees with be "at a rate of 5 percent plus 5 cents per transaction" compared with "1.9 to 2.9 percent, plus 30 cents per transaction" on their regular transactions. Smart move by PayPal to harness the Long Tail of ecommerce. (via rw)
According to this chart, the price of a gallon of gasoline in NYC rose about 70 cents in the 5 days after Katrina...that's one of the steepest increases I could find.
Nikon is releasing a pair of digital cameras with built-in wifi. The cameras will only send photos via wifi to a designated Nikon application, but I wonder how long it will be before someone hacks the firmware to send those photos anywhere...like to Flickr on the fly.
Taking a little break SEP 01
I'm taking a few days off from the site, publicly anyway. I'm still going to be working on some upcoming posts and such, but there won't be any posts or links to the site. I was going to write about why, but it got to be too long and I just scrapped the whole thing. Something about the crappiness of online communication and the faceless, nameless, hugless, merciless place the blogosphere can be sometimes...along with my desire to not post much more about Katrina or to post much of anything else that seems trivial in comparison.
So yeah, back after the long weekend.