Khoi Vinh on the move...he's the new Design Director for NYTimes.com. From the outside, it's one of the best jobs in web design and it's been filled well. (via waxy)
Suck.com is (temporarily? forever?) a porn site. If it's gone for good, it's the end of an era. (thx, owen)
Update: Andy's got more info and is trying to see if an archive exists anywhere.
The world's largest ball of paint is a baseball covered in 19,100 coats of paint, weighs 1700 pounds, and has taken 28 1/2 years to get to this stage.
The Unnatural Natural. "It was supposed to be a simple story about a mysterious senior-softball phenom whose legend was growing in America's heartland. Of course, nothing is simple."
The rest of the best (links) DEC 29
In compiling the Best Links 2005 list, I initially chose over 100 links and then thought, that's too many. These are the links that didn't make that list but that I thought you might like to see anyway because they're still pretty good.
If you can't afford bespoke... Suit options for men.
Paris through a pinhole. Some shots of Paris taken with a pinhole camera.
Why Your Camera Does Not Matter. Maybe your gear matters less than how you use it.
CameraMail. Man sends a camera through the mail with instructions to take photos with it.
Don't fuck with Ovid. Man helps capture thieves who stole his credit card.
Forensic types. Interview with type designers Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones.
A Coder in Courierland. A look at the world of bike couriers.
You Got To Cool It Down. The 30 least hot follow-ups to the 30 hottest things you can say to a naked woman.
Why it is hard to share the wealth. The science behind the super-rich in America.
UPS Store Sign. Irony.
Design Without Reach. Ghetto versions of Design Within Reach merchandise.
Tiger did it. Tiger's amazing golf shot at Augusta.
Explicit Content Only... Editing the non-swears out of an NWA song.
The Omnivore. Jeffrey Steingarten learns to eat everything.
Everything You Thought You Knew About Grilling Is Wrong. How to grill.
Victoria Reynolds Artwork. Beautiful paintings of meat.
It's Fun To Play at the YMCA. Comparing NBA players to those guys at the Y.
I hates Lucas! I hates it forever! Anti-George Lucas rant.
Balls Out. How to throw a no-hitter on acid, and other lessons from the career of baseball legend Dock Ellis.
The Blurb Racket. Exposing misquotes in movie ads.
Age Maps. Two photographs of the same person from different periods of time are spliced together.
Bad to the Last Drop. On bottled water.
Not a Word. About intentional fake words in dictionaries.
Redemption. The NY Yankees and redemption.
My Outsourced Life. A.J. Jacobs outsources his life to India.
Destination Florent. About a landmark NYC restaurant.
Lone Star Statements. One-star Amazon reviews of a list of the 100 best novels.
The Sad Tally. A graph of suicide locations from the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Best Links 2005 DEC 28
Compiling a list of the best links of the year was a little more difficult than last year. I put more effort this year into selecting quality links for kottke.org, so there wasn't a lot of chaff to be found in the archives. I also posted a lot more links this year, over half again as many as in 2004. I'm not sure this year's installment is any better than last year's list, but if you've got a little time to waste at work as 2005 winds down, there's probably something here to keep you occupied.
The Selling of the Last Savage. Adventure travel to view Stone Age tribes in West Papua, Indonesia.
I Ate iPod Shuffle. A poem by Scott David Herman.
McDonald's Bathroom Attendant. Improv Everywhere stations an attendant in the bathroom of the Times Square McDonald's.
Architecture of Density. Michael Wolf photographs the buildings of Hong Kong.
parking garages. Lots of diagrams of parking garages.
Escape from the Universe. How to get out when the Big Crunch comes.
Banksy Hits New York's Most Famous Museums. The installation of unauthorized art into some of the top museums in NYC.
Dot-Con Job. A Seattle Times investigation into InfoSpace, a high-flying dot com that bilked investors out of millions.
13 things that do not make sense. A list of open scientific questions.
Life on the Scales. About the quarter-power scaling laws.
eFile for free! Free version of TurboTax Online.
Stand clear of the closing doors. Lots of links about the London Tube.
Coffee and Workprints: A Workshop With Garry Winogrand. Photography how-to.
Rocky, recreated. Hilarious.
Swim boy, Swim! Man buys fish from Chinese market, sets him free in the river.
The Long Emergency. What's going to happen as we start running out of cheap gas to guzzle?
I was going to link to Elizabeth Kolbert's excellent series on global warming from the New Yorker, but the articles have been removed from the New Yorker site. Kolbert is working on a book maybe?
God is Great, by which I mean, Very Very Large. Calculating the size of Jesus based on the quantities of Communion wine and wafers consumed.
Absolutely, Power Corrupts. Michael Lewis explores how power hitting has changed the game of baseball.
Capturing the Unicorn. Mathematicians help the Met restore a precious tapestry.
The Choirboy. Larry Lessig confronts a childhood abuser.
The Big Fish. Ten years later, the story of Suck.com, the first great website.
Why I Am Not A Christian. By Bertrand Russell.
Open letter of the Kansas School Board. Flying Spaghetti Monsterism.
Devolution. Why intelligent design isn't.
The Candy Man. Why children love Roald Dahl's stories -- and many adults don't.
A Rocket To Nowhere. On NASA and the Shuttle program.
Tipped Off. A call for the abolishment of tipping in restaurants.
One side can be wrong. Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne on intelligent design.
Minimiam. Food photos with little people on them.
Kdunk on pink blanket. Wonderful photography.
Hello, My Name Is... Celebrity signature art project.
Star Wars: Episodes I-VI. The greatest postmodern art film ever.
Coach Leach Goes Deep, Very Deep. Profile of Texas Tech football coach Mike Leach.
Interactive Transit Map. For commuting in NYC.
Mark Foo's Last Ride. The death of a big wave surfer.
PARK(ing). A temporary urban park.
Neal Stephenson's Past, Present, and Future. An interview with the author.
The Food Detective. Interview with Michael Pollan.
The Moral-Hazard Myth. About the US healthcare system.
A list of what restaurant professionals want to see more and less of in 2006. Anthony Bourdain wants less "Truffle oil. 'Fusion.' Water sommeliers. Overdesigned dining rooms. Mayonnaise on sushi. 'Concept' restaurants. Novelty martinis." (via eater)
Chronological list of outrageous firsts in television history. Leave It to Beaver featured the first toilet on television in 1957. (thx, malatron)
Glee Gum sells "make your own chewing gum" kits for $10. "It's really easy: Soften the chicle gum base, either in the microwave or on the stove. Then you add the sugar, corn syrup, and the flavor packets, knead it a little, and WOW! You've made your own gum!"
Looks like the popularity of poker might be fading. "It may be reducing down to the niche market, which would be people in their 20s, macho-man type of people"
Matt's first impressions of and experiences with the Web sound a lot like mine (visiting those first few sites with Mosaic was a transformative experience for me, like falling in love), except I did quit grad school.
Alright, alright, that Chronic of Narnia SNL rap thing is as funny as you think it is because you've already seen it, so stop reading and watch it again, would you?
The Onion provides a list of new guidelines from the Transportation Security Administration. "Vermont and New York cheddars can be brought on board, but not Wisconsin cheddar -- by far the sharpest cheese in the cheddar family".
The story of P.L. Travers -- DEC 27
The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster available for preorder at Amazon. It comes out on March 14, 2006.
New York City is in danger of losing its creative class as the high cost of living drives people to other cities.
More and more, shoppers are judging books by their covers. "Studies show that a book on a three-for-two table has about one and a half seconds to catch a reader's eye."
In-progress ideas for New Yorker cartoons. "Or some other recent culture reference. Or something involving wine, or Europe."
Adam from Slice documented all of the pizzerias on his 8.2 mile walk to work this morning (more). (thx, janelle)
Chris Anderson has one of the best descriptions I've read of collective knowledge systems like Google, Wikipedia, and blogs: they're probabilistic systems "which sacrifice perfection at the microscale for optimization at the macroscale".
Popular toys of the last 100 years. Candy Land was the most popular toy sold from 1940-1949.
USASODA.com has tons of images of old soda cans. They're a little hard to find, but there's good stuff if you dig around a little bit.
Gothamist interview with my friend Lisa Whiteman about her photography. Lisa is one of the most thoughtful people I know and it shows in this interview.
Gregg Easterbrook on hard-line Darwinist, Richard Dawkins. "If Dawkins's professional goal is 'public understanding of science,' he is a flop, seemingly trying his best to make worse what he is supposed to fix."
Ebert's best movies of 2005. Crash tops the list, which was probably my favorite from 2005 as well.
Update: I fucked up on this post and you should reread it if you've read it before. After reading this post by Niall Kennedy, I checked and found that I have mentioned or linked to the site for Freakonomics 5 times (1 2 3 4 5), not 13. The other 8 times, I either linked to a post on the Freakonomics blog that was unrelated to the book, had the entry tagged with "freakonomics" (tags are not yet exposed on my site and can't be crawled by search engines), or I used the word "Freakonomists", not "Freakonomics". Bottom line: the NY Times listing is still incorrect, Google and Yahoo picked up all the posts where I actually mentioned "Freakonomics" in the text of the post but missed the 2 links to freakonomics.com, Google Blog Search got 2/3 (& missed the 2 links), Technorati got 1/3 (& missed the 2 links), and IceRocket, Yahoo Blog Search, BlogPulse, & Bloglines whiffed entirely. Steven Levitt would be very disappointed in my statistical fact-checking skills right now. :(
I wish Niall had emailed me about this instead of posting it on his site, but I guess that's how weblogs work, airing dirty laundry instead of trying to get it clean. Fair enough...I've publicly complained about the company he works for (Technorati) instead of emailing someone at the company about my concerns, so maybe he had a right to hit back. Perhaps a little juvenile on both our parts, I'd say. (Oh, and I turned off the MT search thing that Niall used to check my work. I'm not upset he used it, but I'm irritated that it seems to be on by default in MT...I never intended for that search interface to be public.)
The NY Times recently released their list of the most blogged about books of 2005. Their methodology in compiling the list:
This list links to a selection of Web posts that discuss some of the books most frequently mentioned by bloggers in 2005. The books were selected by conducting an automated survey of 5,000 of the most-trafficked blogs.
Unsurprisingly, the top spot on the list went to Freakonomics. I remembered mentioning the book several times on my site (including this interview with author Steven Levitt around the release of the book), so I checked out the citations they had listed for it. According to the Times, Freakonomics was cited by 125 blogs, but not once by kottke.org, a site that by any measure is one of the most-visited blogs out there. A quick search in my installation of Movable Type yielded
13 5 mentions of the book on kottke.org in the last 9 months. I had also mentioned Blink, Harry Potter, Getting Things Done, Collapse, The Wisdom of Crowds, The Singularity is Near, and State of Fear, all of which appear in the top 20 of the Times' list and none of which are cited by the Times as having been mentioned on kottke.org in 2005. I chalked this up to a simple error of omission, but then I started checking around some more. Google's main index returned only three distinct mentions of Freakonomics on kottke.org. Google Blog Search returned two results. Yahoo: 3 results (0 results on Yahoo's blog search). Technorati only found one result (I'm not surprised). Many of the blog search services don't even let you search by site, so IceRocket, BlogPulse, and Bloglines were of no help. (See above for corrections.) I don't know where the Times got their book statistics from, but it was probably from one of these sites (or a similar service).
Granted this is just one weblog, which I only checked into because I'm the author, but it's not like kottke.org is hard to find or crawl. The markup is pretty good , fairly semantic, and hasn't changed too much for the past two years. The subject in question is not off-topic...I post about books all the time. And it's one of the more visible weblogs out there...lots of links in to the front page and specific posts and a Google PR of 8. So, my point here is not "how dare the Times ignore my popular and important site!!!" but is that the continuing overall suckiness of searching blogs is kind of amazing and embarrassing given the seemingly monumental resources being applied to the task. It's forgivable that the Times would not have it exactly right (especially if they're doing the crawling themselves), but when companies like Technorati and Google are setting themselves up as authorities on how large the blogosphere is, what books and movies people are reading/watching, and what the hot topics online are but can't properly catalogue the most obvious information out there, you've got to wonder a) how good their data really is, and b) if what they are telling us is actually true.
 Full disclosure: I am the author of kottke.org.
 This is an important point...these observations are obviously a starting point for more research about this. But this one hole is pretty gaping and fits well with what I've observed over the past several months trying to find information on blogs using search engines.
 I say only pretty good because it's not validating right now because of entity and illegal character errors, which I obviously need to wrestle with MT to correct at some point. But the underlying markup is solid.
Crap-looking trailer for Mel Gibson's new film, Apocalypto. The Mel Gibson-ness of this clip is overwhelming.
A seemingly exhaustive list of the best music of 2005. I think I strained my scrolling muscle.
John Lasseter at MoMA DEC 21
MoMA just opened their show about Pixar last week and on Friday, we went to a presentation by John Lasseter, head creative guy at the company. Interesting talk, although I'd heard some of it in various places before, most notably in this interview with him on WNYC. Two quick highlights:
- Lasseter showed colorscripts from Pixar's films (which can be viewed in the exhibition). A colorscript is a storyboarding technique that Pixar developed to "visually describe the emotional content of an entire story through color and lighting". They are compact enough that the entire story fits on a single sheet and if you're familar enough with the films, you can follow along with the story pretty well. But mostly it's just for illustrating the mood of the film. Very cool technique (that could certainly be adopted for web design and branding projects).
- Near the end of the talk he showed a 2-3 minute clip of Cars, prefacing it with an announcement that it had never before been shown outside of Pixar. Some of the CGI wasn't completely finished, but it was certainly enough to get the gist. When the first preview trailer for Cars was released, I was skeptical; it just didn't look like it was going to be that good. Based on the clip Lasseter showed and some of his other comments, I'm happy to report that I was wrong to be so skeptical and am very much looking forward to its release in 2006.
At 15 minutes long, the Q&A session at the end of his talk was too short. The MoMA audience is sufficiently interesting and Lasseter was so quick on his feet and willing to share his views that 30 to 40 minutes of Q&A would have been great.
 For you Pixar completists and AICN folks out there, the clip showed Lightning McQueen leaving a race track on the back of a flat-bed truck, bound for a big race in California. As the truck drives across the US, you see the criss-crossing expressways of the city stretch out into the long straight freeways of the American west, the roads literally cutting into the beautiful scenery. A cover of Tom Cochran's Life is a Highway plays as the truck drives. The world of the movie features only cars, no humans...the cars are driving themselves.
Wow, Johnny Damon goes from the Red Sox to the Yankees. It's looking like that Boston championship was a one-shot deal.
Pepsi's market cap surpassed Coca-Cola's last week for the first time ever. The secret to their success? Diversifying into other snacks (Frito-Lay) and beverages (Tropicana and Gatorade).
The Dover, PA evolution vs. intelligent design ends with the judge ruling against the teaching of ID in the classroom because it violated the "constitutional ban on teaching religion in public schools". "We find that the secular purposes claimed by the board amount to a pretext for the board's real purpose, which was to promote religion."
Forty percent capacity DEC 20
So, it's day five of my cold. Last night, I was down to only two out of my five senses. My sense of taste and smell left the scene sometime on Saturday. On Sunday, I had salad and fruit for lunch because I figured if I can't taste anything, I might as well eat healthy. Trying to smell or taste strongly aromatic substances like wine or scented shower gel produces a sensation not unlike that of tasting or smelling something, except there's no smell or taste. It's the weirdest thing...I don't even know how to properly describe it. It's like there's a ghost of a taste and when I think too hard about trying to really taste it, it's gone. It'll be a relief when I finally decongest and can enjoy food again.
And then yesterday while driving, we went from sea level up to around 600 ft of elevation, which caused the pressure to build up in my head enough to affect my hearing. By 4pm, everything was kind muffled and I was asking Meg speak up repeatedly. I could just barely hear the hum of the highway under the car. Last night at dinner, I couldn't taste anything, smell anything, hear anything, and my voice was so gravelly from my cold (and probably way too loud from overcompensating for the hearing loss) that listening to me was probably not very pleasant. My ears finally popped somewhat this morning and I can hear ok again, but smell and taste are still missing. Come back, guys, I miss you!
 After a bit of research this AM, I've determined that what I have is a cold and not the flu.
 I remember reading a book or article once that mentioned a person who lost their sense of taste and when it would briefly return, that person would drop whatever they were doing and go eat a great meal. Anyone know where that story is from?
Update: This list covers only wines from CA, WA, OR, and ID, not from the whole US or world. (thx, rich)
Crunks '05: The Year in Media Errors and Corrections (and plagiarists). My favorite: "Norma Adams-Wade's June 15 column incorrectly called Mary Ann Thompson-Frenk a socialist. She is a socialite."
Just Van Gogh! DEC 20
A quick note about the Van Gogh show at the Met that's closing at the end of the month: if you're in NYC, go see it. Admittedly, I'm a fan of Van Gogh, but I thought this was one of the best museum exhibitions I've ever seen. The exhibition features drawings (as well as a few paintings) from his short 10-year career as an artist, and you can really see how much he progressed during that time and how much his drawings and paintings were related. I can't wait to go back over to the MoMA and look at Starry Night and The Postman and view them not as paintings, but more as drawings done with paint.
Ferran Adria of El Bulli has written the world's most expensive cookbook; it retails for $350.
I missed this while in Asia last month, but AT&T has a new logo, which is pretty much the same as the old one.
Speaking of the Mona Lisa, scientists have discovered through the use of emotion-recognition software that she was indeed happy.
If Mike Wallace could question GW Bush, he would ask him: "What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel .... Why do you think they nominated you?"
King Kong gets a slow start at the box office. This is kind of amazing to me...except for the length, Kong is almost a perfect movie for audiences to go see in the theater.
Shipping upgrades DEC 19
This may just be the Nyquil hangover talking, but I've an idea. UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL should offer in-transit upgrades for package shipping. I'm having something shipped and I realize that I would like it to arrive sooner than it is scheduled for. With computerized systems, they know exactly where that package is in their shipping system...it seems simple in theory to pluck it from its current route and get it going faster. The upgrade would probably come at premium price and not be a true upgrade in some cases, but it would be a useful (and potentially lucrative) feature.
 It's possible that this is already possible. In the grand tradition of weblogs, no real research has been done.
 If you're two days into waiting for a 5-7 day ground shipment from UPS and want it the next day, it may take a bit to get it from a semi in the middle of Montana onto a plane to Miami, i.e. not truly next-day.
Surowiecki on the sorry state of the US patent system. "Since the [USPTO] is funded by patent fees, as opposed to getting its budget from Washington, it has a financial incentive to process applications as quickly, rather than as diligently, as possible."
Top 10 nitpicked movies of all time. Titanic and Jurassic Park top the list.
Winter cold DEC 16
The cold weather and my schedule over the past two weeks has finally taken its toll and I've gotten myself sick. Don't know how much I'll be posting today...maybe a few links later in the day. For now, more orange juice and a warm blankie.
Subways and buses are still running in NYC, but the Transport Workers Union has called for a partial strike that will start on private bus lines and if no agreement has been reached, will spread elsewhere.
The Dayton Daily "News" has a full-page advertisement for King Kong right on the front page of the paper. That's why they call it a journalism business, I guess.
Interview with Richard Dawkins about religion, evolution, and intelligent design. "If it's true that [evolution and natural selection] causes people to feel despair, that's tough. It's still the truth. The universe doesn't owe us condolence or consolation; it doesn't owe us a nice warm feeling inside. If it's true, it’s true, and you'd better live with it."
Ken Auletta explores the recent troubles at the NY Times in the New Yorker (interview with Auletta). As much as people complain about the liberal media, it's hard to imagine a conservative magazine running a similar story about, say, Fox News.
King Kong DEC 15
[Warning: there's some spoilers in here.]
I don't really know what to make of Peter Jackson's King Kong. On the one hand, it's a fantastic movie, a huge blockbuster, chock full of amazing special effects. And not just that but an engaging plot, good acting, and a meaning beyond what's happening on the screen. But Kong is also very cheesy, like Michael Bay-grade cheesy. Cheesy but not schlocky, which leads me to believe it's intentional on Jackson's part, an homage to the original Kong and other 30s swashbuckler romance adventure pics. In that respect, Kong is like Star Wars, a corny film that works because it's supposed to be a space opera, not a serious dramatic film.
The other thing I was thinking of while watching the film was how easy it is to be cynical about this film. At its core, Kong is a love story between an ape and a woman...how can you not make fun of that? Some of the special effects sequences are probably over-long and implausible. The 30s-style moviemaking is ripe for snark. But judging from the reaction of the NYC audience I saw it with, Jackson made it work. Just before Kong runs amok at the end of the film, a character remarks that Carl Denham (Jack Black) destroys the things he loves. There are many possible lessons contained in that statement, but perhaps the one Peter Jackson had most in mind was its application to the cynicsm of Hollywood filmmaking. His last four films have been hugely merchandised, expensive to make, and made him rich, but when you watch them it's clear that Jackson really really loves 30s movies, fantasy, filmmaking, Tolkien's books, and King Kong...and he celebrates the things he loves. As long as Jackson stays true to what he loves, I'm willing to cut him some slack and resist the contemporary urge to be cynical about everything and let him entertain me.
 The 30s New York scenery was awesome but a little disctacting for me...I was often too busy trying spot local landmarks to follow the human/ape action onscreen. And the Empire State Building; it's amazing how much taller it was than all the other buildings in Midtown at the time.
 With a couple of exceptions. When the pond slugs (or whatever they were) and the giant insects were descending on our heros after a solid 1/2 hour of being chased by several other kinds of animals, I (and some others in the audience) just had to laugh...it was just so absurd.
New Swiss banknotes, the result of a design competition, feature an embryo, the AIDS virus, and a skull. "Considering the history of Swiss banking, one cannot help but make the connection between the gold bar on the 1000-Franc bill (the gold of African dictators hidden in Swiss vaults) and the skull on the same bill (that of their victims)."
Author Michael Pollan is coming out with a new book next year called The Omnivore's Dilemma, based in part (or excerpted from?) on his 2004 article in the NY Times Magazine, Our National Eating Disorder.
Update: observe my three work modes.
Video of a building super catching a baby tossed from the 3rd story of a burning building. I've never seen such shameless maneuvering for a Christmas tip in all my life!
The top movie robots of all time, including #5 and the Iron Giant.
** Nottke = not Kottke, coinage by John Gruber.
How Seed magazine's web site was built using Movable Type. It's not just for blogs anymore. (via airbag)
The researchers found that while straight men are only aroused by females of the human variety, straight women are equally aroused by all human sexual activity, including lesbian, heterosexual and homosexual male sex, and at least somewhat aroused by nonhuman sex.
On Christmas, "the holiday season", and the oppression of Christians. May be NSFC (not safe for Christians). (via 6f6)
Scientists have created photo prints from bacteria. "The results are not only much sharper than what can be produced with a photo printer, but also point the way to a new industry -- building useful objects from living organisms."
Top 10 (somehow expressed in 11 items) revolutionary special effects movies of all time. Twister? Where's Titanic?
Wow, an interactive transit map for NYC. I haven't kept up with all the Google/Yahoo Maps subway mashups, but this one is pretty impressive. Click start and end points and it tells you which subway to board and how long the trip will take, including walking time.
Trailer for Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette, complete with indie rock soundtrack. Juxapositionally delicious!
Jim Holt ponders the US population's ignorance of (and hostility toward) science "at a moment when three of the nation's most contentious political issues - global warming, stem-cell research and the teaching of intelligent design - are scientific in character".
You can't lie in a kitchen -- that's what I like most about it. You're either ready or you're not, you're either clean or you're a mess. You're either good or you're bad. You can't lie. If you lie, it's obvious. If your food's not ready, then it's not ready. If you're in the weeds, its clear to everybody -- you can't say that you aren't. So I love that aspect of it. I love the immediacy of it, the vitality of it.
I've worked in a number of different places over the years and the ones I ended up liking the least were the places that allowed people (myself included) to hide. Some companies just have way too many people for the amount of available work. Other times, particular employees have a certain status within the organization that allows them to determine their own schedules and projects. Deadlines are often malleable, meaning that work can pushed off. Inexperienced or nontechnical managers might not have a clue how long a task should take a programmer...budgeting 2 weeks for a six-hour task that seems hard buys one a lot of blog-surfing time. Companies with coasting employees are everything a kitchen isn't; they just feel slow, wasteful, lifeless, and eventually they suck the life out of you too.
Review of David Foster Wallace's Consider the Lobster compares him to Mark Twain, which I'd never heard before but seems apt.
Khoi Vinh reports on computer technology in Vietnam. They're wired for broadband and Windows still dominates.
If you want to sell your web DEC 13
If you want to sell your web startup, don't take that much money from VCs or bootstrap the whole thing yourself. Too much money invested means that no one wants to buy your company for what your VCs require you to sell it for...especially if your business has limited prospects to begin with.
Safe: Design Takes On Risk DEC 13
At the risk (ha!) of missing it, I waited until this late in the game to check out Safe: Design Takes On Risk at the MoMA. Great show. Two of my favorite items:
- Safe Bedside Table by James McAdam. If the need should arise in the middle of the night, the top of the table separates from the leg and can be worn on the arm as a shield while you use the leg to beat the crap out of a surprised burglar.
- Suited for Subversion by Ralph Borland. Don this highly visable suit before heading out for a day of protesting. It's padded to protect against police brutality, an optional wireless camera acts as a witness to the day's events, and a speaker amplifies the wearer's heatbeat, letting those around him know that's he's scared, anxious, exhilarated, or simply human.
For you armchair museum goers, what looks to be the entire exhibition is available online.
Also, the MoMA around holiday time, not so crowded. (Well, relatively so. There were still a fair number of people there, just not so many as in the Build-A-Bear store on 5th Avenue.)
Two experts on street-level NYC go sightseeing in True Crime: New York City, a video game that has attempted to recreate the city down to its last manhole cover.
Stephanie Hendrick has tracked down the identity of an anonymous blogger (she matched them to a non-anonymous blog) using linguistic identity markers. See also secret sites. (via j/t)
Table of the odds of dying from various injuries. Looking at statistics like these, I'm always amazed at how worried people are about things that don't often result in death (fireworks, sharks) and how relatively dangerous automobiles are (see, for example, this list of people on MySpace who have died...many of the deaths on the first two pages involve cars).
Plurals DEC 12
Me: Yeah, it's like the plural of attorney general is attorneys general.
J: Attorneys general? I thought there was only one attorney general.
Me: Well, one for each state, and if they all go to a meeting or something...
M: Like, "all the attorneys general get together for the annual attorney general-a-thon."
Me: Shouldn't that be attorney-a-thon general?
Related: Engadget checked with Apple PR to see if it's iPod shuffles or iPods shuffle. They said the former...I think it should be the latter.
AIGA Voice has an interview with Peter Morville about his new book, Ambient Findability. A question from the interview that everyone responsible for a web site should be asking themselves (emphasis mine): "Can [people] find your content, products and services despite your website?" Love that.
Profile of architect Renzo Piano. "People are starting to understand that the real challenge of the next 30 years is to turn peripheries [i.e. suburbs] into cities. The peripheries are the cities that will be. Or not. Or will never be."
Good review of Philip Tetlock's new book about expert predicitons, Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know? "Human beings who spend their lives studying the state of the world, in other words, are poorer forecasters than dart-throwing monkeys, who would have distributed their picks evenly over the three choices." Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen calls Tetlock's book "one of the (few) must-read social science books of 2005".
Under the digital mattress DEC 12
One of the most interesting things to come out of the secret sites discussion is that people are keeping their private journals on the web instead of in a paper journal under their mattress or in a Word document on their computer. This sounds surprising, but there's a couple of good reasons for it:
- The tools for writing, organizing, and searching an online journal written with Typepad or LiveJournal are superior to those for writing a paper journal or an electronic diary (in Word or text format) stored locally. Hyperlinks, entries organized by date, mood, category, if you're used to using these things writing a public site, you might have trouble going back to just text in a Word document for your important innermost thoughts.
- Your diary may actually be more private and secure on the web. A password protected online journal is more difficult for a parent, significant other, or parole officer to stumble upon and read than a document sitting on a hard drive of a shared computer or hidden on the top shelf of a closet, especially if you're careful with your cookies, browser history, choose a good password, and are more computer savvy than said parent/S.O./P.O.
I bet few would have predicted keeping personal diaries secret as a use of the public internet several years ago.
The Burtynsky exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art sounds good. I hope to get over there before it closes on January 15. Here's his site with lots of photographs. "He often will shoot an image on three or four different brands of film, then print each image on three or four different brands of paper...then chooses the combination that produces the richest and most vivid look."
Stylus Magazine's top 50 (music) singles of 2005, including the top 20 lists of each of the contributors. If you can't find something catchy to listen to here, you've given up. (thx, marco)
The New Yorker has posted online Brokeback Mountain, the 1997 short story by Annie Proulx on which the Jake Gyllenylnllynyyllhaal / Heath Ledger / Ang Lee film is based.
Yahoo! buys del.icio.us...muxway is all growed up. There's an interesting story in here somewhere about how Yahoo! is hiring/buying the "alpha geeks" (hackers, tinkerers, accidental entrepreneurs) and Google seemingly isn't (Ph.Ds, computer scientists) and what effect that could have on each company's development.
The Economist asks "will computer-animated humans ever look realistic on screen?" but with nary a mention of the uncanny valley.
Update: Turns out these are scans from The Book of Bunny Suicides. In exchange for viewing the pirated copy on the web, how about picking up one for a twisted friend for the holidays?
Consider the Lobster DEC 09
If I remember correctly, Tense Present (published in the April 2001 issue of Harper's) was the first bit of writing I ever read by David Foster Wallace. I didn't fall for him immediately. I liked the article fine, but as I thought more about it in the following weeks -- particularly in light of other nonfiction I was reading in magazines and newspapers -- the more I liked it. A quick search on the Web revealed that not only had this Wallace written more nonfiction for magazines, he'd written entire books and was considered by some to be the best young author writing in America. A few months later I read Infinite Jest and it was love.
Tense Present is one of the essays included in Consider the Lobster, a collection of nonfiction by Wallace due out on December 13th. It's included under a new name (Authority and American Usage) and is, like many of the other pieces in the book, the "director's cut" of the original, but re-reading it brought back good memories about, well, how good it was to discover Wallace's writing.
Several of essays in CtL I'd read before, including the title essay from the Aug 2004 issue of Gourmet (which according to Gourmet EIC Ruth Reichl almost didn't make it into the magazine at all). I read The View From Mrs. Thompson's in Rolling Stone shortly after 9/11 and remember thinking that it was the best reaction to 9/11 that I'd seen, but reading it again 4 years later, the impact wasn't quite the same...until the last 2-3 paragraphs when you remember that he spends the whole essay setting the table so he can hit you with the whole meal in one mouthful and you then spend several hours attempting to digest what you've just read.
The View... and Up, Simba, a piece on John McCain's 2000 bid for President that also ran in Rolling Stone (at half the length under the title The Weasel, Twelve Monkeys, and the Shrub), were my favorites, but they're all so good (if you enjoy reading nonfiction in Wallace's signature style, which I very much do). A common complaint of Wallace's writing is that it's not very straightforward, even though clarity seems to be his purpose. I don't mind the challenge the writing provides; I read Wallace for a similar reason Paul is reading surrealist poetry, to make my brain work a little bit for its reward. In The End of Print, David Carson outlined his design philosophy in relation to its ultimate goal, communication. Carson used design to make people work to decipher the message with the idea that by doing that work, they would be more likely to remember the message. I'd like to think that Wallace approaches his writing similarly.
The social networks of the rap music world "differ from all other human networks". By and large, successful rap artists don't collaborate/hang out with one another, as usually happens in other human social groups. (via cd)
iTunes Signature Maker analyzes your iTunes collection (in the browser via a Java applet) and creates a short sound collage of the music that you listen to most frequently or have rated highly. Here's the signatute it created for me. (thx, paul)
How to make your best-of-the-year music list as hip as it can be. "Make sure to include an album that just came out. This will lead people to believe that you got an advanced copy months ago and had plenty of time to get into it."
Three economists share a cab, getting off at three different destinations. How do they split the fare? For answers, you might look to John Nash or the Talmud.
How It Should Have Ended, alternate endings to some movies, including Star Wars, Seven, and Saving Private Ryan.
Interview with "incompetent design" theorist Don Wise. "The only reason you stand erect is because of this incredible sharp bend at the base of your spine, which is either evolution's way of modifying something or else it's just a design that would flunk a first-year engineering student."
Cory Arcangel is committing Friendster Suicide tonight at The Believer Dec/Jan issue launch party at PS1. You can also follow along at home: "Friendster me sometime before [the performance], and around 8:40 EST on Thursday(ish), I assume if you keep reloading your browser window on Friendster, I think I will simply disappear from your friend list." Antisocial networking.
There's nothing good about the shooting of airline passenger Rigoberto Alpizar by air marshals. Guns on airplanes -- I don't care who's wielding them under what authority -- is a bad idea; some alternative thinking is needed.
A "song quilt" for Boards of Canada's The Campfire Headphase album. "Listening to the recording, I ignored song titles; creating images that represent the intangible connection between what I was hearing and what I was 'seeing' in my head". There was a design site that did something like this several years ago...one of the Swanky sites, I think. Ring a bell?
Author Jeremy Mercer picks his top 10 bookstores in the world. Any personal favorites that you'd add to the list?
Watch the kids get into a good old fashioned font fight in the comments about fake signs on the NYC subway. Don't miss your chance to read "it's Helvetica, bitches" in a context where it makes complete sense. (thx, j guns)
GameSpot has an ongoing series of articles about the greatest video games of all time. Lode Runner, Tetris, Quake, Oregon Trail, Defender, and Metroid all make the list.
Hong Kong photos DEC 07
A small selection of photos from Hong Kong. Photos from Bangkok and Saigon coming soon.
Seven key principles that Google uses to make their employees more effective. "At Google, the role of the manager is that of an aggregator of viewpoints, not the dictator of decisions."
Great profile by Michael Lewis of Mike Leach, Texas Tech's football coach. Leach "believes that both failure and success slow players down, unless they will themselves not to slow down." 'When they fail, they become frustrated. When they have success, they want to become the thinking-man's football team.'" Must-read article if you're even a casual football fan. Here's another article on Leach from the SJ Merc.
An investigation into the properties of number spirals (and prime numbers).
Who doesn't love advertising CMYK jokes? "A Clockwork C:0 M:60 Y:90 K:0"
Scientists have found a probable carrier for the ebola virus: fruit bats. According to the WHO, ebola causes death in "50-90% of all clinically ill cases".
Secret sites DEC 06
The decompression from my trip to Asia continues. I have read through ~8000 items in my newsreader and discarded almost all of them (despite much interest in solving the problem, no one has built a machine that has any idea about what content needles I want out of the media haystack).
However, one item caught my interest (although I can't remember where I saw it): someone asked their readers how many secret sites/blogs they maintained. That is, sites that no one knows you're the author of (written anonymously or with a nom de plume) or sites to which the general public does not have access. If I remember correctly, a large number of the respondents not only maintained a secret site, but had several. I have one secret blog, published under my own name, that only a small group of friends can read. I just started it recently (after learning that several friends have been doing this for awhile) and don't update it very often. How about you...any secret sites? Why keep them on the down-low?
Zach Klein: "Then, just now, I remembered that I live in the future." (Related but unrelated, now that we're living in the future, what do we expect to happen in the actual future? This is actually a serious question...society has a collective vision of the future and now that we're there -- ubiquitous huge flat panel tvs, real-time recording/documenting of everything, Segways, personally targetted advertising, etc. -- what's our new collective vision of the future like?)
Adobe is planning on combining Flash Player and Acrobat Reader? As Todd says, "I don't know about you, but I just got an acrid taste in my mouth".
Update: John Dowdell notes that Adobe has clarified their position re: the above combination: "we will continue delivering the Flash Player as a small, efficient runtime for content and applications on the web". (thx, neil)
With the release of Xbox 360, game designers are bumping up against the uncanny valley problem, where in-game avatars are looking a bit too real for comfort. "When it first lurched out of the mysterious tropical cave and fixed its cadaverous eyes on me, I could barely look at the monstrosity. I'm speaking, of course, of Naomi Watts."
Update: Wikipedia requires registration to create new entries...anyone can still edit an existing entry. (thx, marco)
Thumbnails of images that look like porn but aren't really porn. May be NSFW, but not really.
Having not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the US is now refusing to work on its successor. Says Elizabeth Kolbert, "Without the participation of the United States, no meaningful agreement can be drafted for the post-2012 period, and the world will have missed what may well be its last opportunity to alter course."
43 songs about the blogosphere (full-size). There's "Checking My Stats On An Hourly Basis", "I'M THIRTEEN AND EVERYTHING SUCKS", "You've Never Heard Of This Band I Love", and sentimental favorite "Don't Read Kottke (But I Steal His Links)".
There's a new indoor skiing area in Dubai the size of 3 football (soccer) fields. Photos here and official site here. Dubai is the new Las Vegas.
Keeping up with all of the extras they include these days on DVDs is exhausting, to say nothing of watching all the movies themselves. But I made a point of listening to the director's commentary for Primer and was not disappointed. If there's a Shane Carruth fan club, sign me up. Case in point: for the single special effect in the film, he filmed a scene with a DV camera, uploaded the footage onto his computer, added the effect digitally, dumped the modified video onto tape, filmed the video playing on a camcorder screen with the film camera, and made the whole thing look like it was supposed to be done that way because he didn't have the money to do it any other way. It's all about constraints...which ties into the main message of the movie as well.
Also, Carruth confirmed my feeling that Primer really isn't a sci-fi film...what's happening with the characters emotionally is the focus of the film.
Photoshop contest results: unretouched celebrity photos. Love the Botox-less Madonna.
Is Taipei 101, the world's tallest building, causing earthquakes? "The considerable stress might be transferred into the upper crust due to the extremely soft sedimentary rocks beneath the Taipei basin. Deeper down this may have reopened an old earthquake fault". (thx, malatron)
Steven Johnson on the ride into Hong Kong from the airport. "The approach into Hong Kong is as breathtaking as any I've ever experienced." I agree completely.
Cl1ff N0t3s for the DEC 05
Cl1ff N0t3s for the millennials: mobile service will condense books into short text messages. "For example, Hamlet's famous line: 'To be or not to be, that is the question' becomes '2b? Nt2b? ???'".
Cool letter boxy stacking thing. (Oh, just go and type something.)
Six Apart's response to several weeks of server slugishness was fantastic...they asked each customer how they wanted to be compensated based on how much the server downtime affected them and their site. You don't see the honor system much in business these days.
McLibel DEC 05
McLibel is the story of two Londoners fighting a libel lawsuit that the McDonald's hamburger people brought against them in English court. Without access to legal aid and being fairly broke, they defended themselves against McDonald's phalanx of lawyers for two and a half years before the judge delivered a verdict that they had libelled McDonald's, but also that McDonald's had done some pretty bad things as well. Worth a watch as a companion to Super Size Me or Fast Food Nation. More information on the case is available here and here.
I think I have a new favorite liquid: ferrofluid. Apply a magnetic field to it and you get some pretty and pretty weird patterns. Watch the videos...the formation of a rotating "H" mongram in the first linked movie is mesmerizing (almost literally). (thx, alex)
The Scientific American 50, the 2005 "research, business and policy leaders of technology". The flu, nanotech, stem cells, and climatology are among the hot topics this year.
Fun with threaded comments...the denizens of Kuro5hin recite the lyrics of the monorail song (from The Simpsons) as a series of threaded comments.
For The Life Aquatic soundtrack, Seu Jorge covered a few David Bowie songs in Portuguese. Now he's released an entire album of them.
Video of a Ferrari driving through the streets of Paris at up to 140 MPH, running stop lights, going the wrong way up one-way streets, and generally being insane.
A just-concluded eGullet conversation with Ruth Reichl, currently editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine and former food critic for The New York Times.
Forthcoming books in the increasingly mature Harry Potter series. "Harry Potter and Some Seriously Bad Acid".
Once again, Rex has bravely volunteered to keep track of all the "best of" lists for 2005. Slim pickins so far, but as the lists start rolling in, this will swell to hundreds of items.
Bruce Schneier on the sorry state of airport security. "Exactly two things have made airline travel safer since 9/11: reinforcement of cockpit doors, and passengers who now know that they may have to fight back. Everything else...is security theater."
The top 40 bands in America (in 2005) according to a small group of music bloggers. Indie rock-heavy, if you like that sort of thing. Off to check out The National.
Nikon has issued a recall for certain batteries used in the D100, D70, and D50...the battery has a flaw that may cause it to overheat and melt. Check the site for your battery's lot number to see if you're affected.
Paul Ford has some fun at Business 2.0's expense and invents Blogverthacking[TM] in the process.
Starting on Monday, Dec 5th, Ricky Gervais (of The Office and Extras fame) will doing a 12-episode series of podcasts for The Guardian. (thx nicholas)
For the nerd in your life: a DEC 02
For the nerd in your life: a hand-crocheted scrollbar scarf, with repositional scroller.
Update: Oops, looks like that link has some NSFW ads on it. Sorry about that and thanks to everyone who wrote in. I totally didn't see the ads when I looked at the photos before...my ad blindness is now complete if I'm missing pr0n.
You can watch the entire program of Frontline's The Last Abortion Clinic online. "With states across the US passing regulations limiting access to abortion, does Roe v. Wade still matter?"
Richard Dawkins' letter to his daughter Juliet on good and bad reasons for believing. "Is this the kind of thing that people probably know because of evidence? Or is it the kind of thing that people only believe because of tradition, authority, or revelation?"
A business book on teamwork called The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (excerpt) has gained a following among pro football coaches and players.
There's a Charles Darwin exhibition at the Natural History Museum in NYC through May 2006. A tidbit not reported in the US press: the exhibition failed to attract corporate sponsorship because "American companies are anxious not to take sides in the heated debate between scientists and fundamentalist Christians over the theory of evolution". Pussies.
Update: This letter sent into TMN throws some doubt on the whole lack of corporate sponsorship angle. (thx, chris)
German researchers are studying the mysterious phenomenon of people waking up shortly before their alarm goes off. I've been getting better and better at doing this. A friend of mine (can't recall who exactly) doesn't use an alarm clock but gets up on time by setting his/her internal alarm clock. Also, this sounds like something Feynman would have been into.
Vietnam wrap-up DEC 01
We're back in the US, but here's one more post about our time in Vietnam.
1. On our way out to the Mekong Delta, we went through an industrial area, with machine shops, brick-making facilities, and the like. As we drove, we passed a three-wheeled bicycle that you see all over in Vietnam, with a cart in the front over two wheels and the driver over the rear wheel in the back. Lashed to the cart were several steel beams, probably 8-10 of them, each about 2 inches tall and 10 feet long, weight of the whole thing unknown, probably several hundred pounds on three bicycle wheels and a non-existant suspension system. And if that's not odd enough to imagine, the whole thing was moving at around 30 mph, pushed along by a motorcycle whose driver had his left foot on the bolt of the right front wheel, while the respective drivers of the combined conveyance chatted away with little attention to their Rube Goldberg machine. Wish I'd have gotten a photo of it...it's one of the craziest things I've ever seen.
2. Even though the streets of Saigon were packed with motorbikes, you saw very few people wearing helmets, and when they did, they tended to be construction helmets that weren't even strapped to their heads.
3. I got an email from a reader a few days ago wondering why I was referring to Saigon as Saigon rather than its official name of Ho Chi Minh City, the name given to the city 24 hours after it fell to the North Vietnamese. Most of the city's inhabitants still call it Saigon, so I was following suit. It's also quicker to say and to type.
4. Cao Dai is a homegrown Vietnamese religion (established in the 1920s) that is an amalgamation of several other religions. On our trip to the Mekong Delta, we visited a Cao Dai temple, which looked like it was designed by Liberace's interior decorator. Over the altar was a sculpture depicting Buddha, Confucious, Jesus, and Victor Hugo (!!), and I think they were all holding hands or something.
5. On one of the entry forms you need to fill out before arriving in Vietnam, it lists some things that are illegal to import into the country, including:
weapons, ammunition, explosives, military equipment and tools, narcotics, drugs, toxic chemicals, pornographic and subversive materials, firecrackers, children's toys that have "negative effects on personality development, social order and security," or cigarettes in excess of the stipulated allowance.
Children's toys? Negative effects on personality development, social order and security? Bwa?
6. I can't find too much about it online, but one of the more interesting things we saw in Saigon was the photography exhibit at The War Remnants Museum. The exhibit consists of hundreds of photographs of the Vietnam War (the Vietnamese call it the American War) taken by some of the best photojournalists who were working at the time, including Larry Burrows, Henri Huet, Horst Faas, Huynh Thanh My, Robert Capa, and Kyochi Sawada. A powerful and moving record of a tumultuous period in history.
7. Speaking of The War Remnants Museum (which was formerly called The War Crimes Museum and was a little more one-sided in the past), it wasn't until a couple days after I'd gone that I realized that remnants referred to all of the stuff that the US had left in Vietnam after the long conflict, literally the leftovers of war. Tanks, planes, cars, helicopters, guns, photography, children deformed from the effects of Agent Orange, a population depleted of young men, horrific memories, and, finally, a united Vietnam.