I feel like I've pointed to this before, but in case I haven't, here's a list of the 100 best first lines from novels. I'm partial to those of Pride and Prejudice, Lolita, and Anna Karenina.
A big dog on the subway with JAN 31
A big dog on the subway with a fur-coated owner and a brick in its mouth. And I believe it's a "pit bull-type" dog.
The life and times of "broadcast pioneer" Edward R. Murrow. "During the war, Murrow never had to play the role of the dispassionate reporter. He was an important player in the Allied war effort, and, under the circumstances, that did not conflict with his journalistic role."
Mark Rothko's Seagram murals were to hang in the then-new Four Seasons restaurant in NYC. How did they come to hang instead in the Tate Modern in London?
In Meet the Fockers, the sign on a terminal at the O'Hare airport is typeset in Chicago, an old Macintosh system font. Har har. (via mark)
Malcolm Gladwell on different types of generalizations and when it's helpful to generalize (and not). I don't know about all that, but I *hate* "pit bull-type" dogs and I still think they should be banned.
In 2002, Dave Winer of Scripting News and Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times made a Long Bet about the authority of weblogs versus that of NY Times in Google:
In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times' Web site.
I decided to see how well each side is doing by checking the results for the top news stories of 2005. Eight news stories were selected and an appropriate Google keyword search was chosen for each one of them. I went through the search results for each keyword and noted the positions of the top results from 1) "traditional" media, 2) citizen media, 3) blogs, and 4) nytimes.com. Finally, the scores were tallied and an "actual" winner (blogs vs. nytimes.com) and an "in-spirit" winner (any traditional media source vs. any citizen media source) were calculated. (For more on the methodology, definitions, and caveats, read the methodology section below.)
So how did the NY Times fare against blogs? Not very well. For eight top news stories of 2005, blogs were listed in Google search results before the Times six times, the Times only twice. The in-spirit winner was traditional media by a 6-2 score over citizen media. Here the specific results:
1) Hurricane Katrina hits New Orleans.
Search term: "hurricane katrina"
Winner (in spirit): Citizen media
Winner (actual): NY Times
2) Big changes in the US Supreme Court (Rhenquist dies, O'Conner retires, Roberts appointed Chief Justice, Harriet Miers rejected).
Search term: "harriet miers"
Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): NY Times
3) Terrorists bomb London, killing 52.
Search term: "london bombing"
Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs
4) First elections in Iraq after Saddam.
Search term: "iraq election"
Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs
5) Terri Schiavo legal fight and death.
Search term: "terri schiavo"
Winner (in spirit): Citizen media
Winner (actual): Blogs
6) Pope John Paul II dies and Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger appointed Pope Benedict XVI.
Search term: "pope john paul ii death"
Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs
7) The Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
Search term: "gaza withdrawal"
Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs
8) The investigation into the Valerie Plame affair, Judith Miller, Scooter Libby indicted, etc..
Search term: "scooter libby indicted":
Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs
And just for fun here's a search for "judith miller jail" (not included in the final tally):
1. Top media result (Washington Post)
3. Top blog result (Gawker)
3. Top citizen media result (Gawker)
No NY Times article appears in the first 100 results (even though there are several matching articles on the Times site).
Winner (in spirit): Media
Winner (actual): Blogs
Here's the overall results, excluding the Judith Miller search:
Overall winner (in spirit): Media (beating citizen media 6-2).
Overall winner (actual): Blogs (beating the NY Times 6-2).
- My feeling is that Mr. Nisenholtz will likely lose his bet come 2007. Even though the nytimes.com fares very well in getting linked to by the blogosphere, it does very poorly in Google. This isn't exactly surprising given that most NY Times articles disappear behind a paywall after a week and some of their content (TimesSelect) isn't even publicly accessible at all. Also, I didn't look too closely at the HTML markup of the NY Times, but it could also be that it's not as optimized for Google as well as that of some weblogs and other media outlets.
- "www.nytimes.com" has a PageRank of 10/10, higher than that of "www.cnn.com" (9/10), yet stories from CNN consistently appeared higher in the search results than those from the Times. The Times clearly has overall authority according to Google, but when it comes to specific instances, it falls short. In some cases, a NY Times story didn't even appear in the first 100 search results for these keyword searches.
- By 2007, it may be difficult to differentiate a blog from a traditional media source. All of the Gawker and Weblogs, Inc. sites are presented in a blog format and are referred to as blogs but otherwise how are they distinguishable from traditional media? Engadget paid to send 12 people to cover the CES technology conference, probably as many or more than the Times sent. The Sundance film festival was heavily covered by paid writers for both companies as well. In the spirit in which this bet was made, I'd have a hard time counting any of their sites as blogs. (And what about kottke.org? I get paid to write it. Am I still a member of the citizen media or have I crossed over?)
- Choosing appropriate news stories and keywords for those stories was difficult in some cases. Katrina was a no-brainer, but was the Terri Schiavo story really one of the top eight news stories of 2005? Resolving the methodology for this bet in 2007 will be tricky. I wonder how the Long Bets Foundation will handle its determination of the victory.
- Wikipedia does very well in Google results for topical search terms. Overall, traditional media still dominates (in first appearance as well as number of results), but blogs and Wikipedia do very well in some instances.
- What do these results mean? Probably not a whole lot. Nisenholtz asserts that "[news] organizations like the Times can provide that far more consistently than private parties can" while Winer says that "in five years, the publishing world will have changed so thoroughly that informed people will look to amateurs they trust for the information they want". It's difficult to draw any conclusions on this matter based on these results. Contrary to what most people believe, PageRank has a bias, a point of view. That POV is based largely (but not entirely) on what people are linking to. As someone said in the discussion of this bet, this bet is about Google more than influence or reputation, so these results probably tell us more about how Google determines influence on a keyword basis rather than how readers of online informational sources value or rate those sources. Do web users prefer the news coverage of blogs to that of the NY Times? I don't think you can even come close to answering that question based on these results.
The eight news stories were culled from various sources (Lexis-Nexis, Wikipedia, NY Times) and narrowed down to the top stories that would have been prominently covered in both the NY Times and blogs.
The keyword phrase for each of the eight stories was selected by the trial and error discovery of the shortest possible phrase that yielded targeted search results about the subject in question. In some cases, the keyword phrase chosen only returned results for a part of a larger news story. For instance, the phrase "pope john paul" was not specific enough to get targeted results, so "pope john paul ii death" was used, but that didn't give results about the larger story of his death, the conclave to select a new pope, and the selection of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI. In the case of "katrina", that single keyword was enough to produce hundreds of targeted search results for both Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Keyword phrases were not tinkered with to promote or demote particular types of search results (i.e. those for blogs or nytimes.com); they were only adjusted for the relevence of overall results.
The searches were all done on January 27, 2006 with Google's main search engine, not their news specific search.
Since the spirit of the bet deals with the influence of traditional media versus that of citizen-produced media, I tracked the top traditional media (labeled just "media" above) results and the top citizen media results in addition to blog and nytimes.com results. For the purposes of this exercise, relevent results were those that linked to pages that an interested reader would use as a source of information about a news story. For citizen media, this meant pages on Wikipedia, Flickr (in some cases), weblogs, message boards, wikis, etc. were fair game. For traditional media, this meant articles, special news packages, photo essays, videos, etc.
In differentiating between "media" & citizen media and also between relevent and non-relevent results, in only one instance did this matter. Harriet Miers's Blog!!!, a fictional satire written as if the author were Harriet Miers, was the third result for this keyword phrase, but since the blog was not a informational resource, I excluded it. In all other cases, it was pretty clear-cut.
Matt calculates the cost of a la carte television, i.e. ordering TV shows from iTunes. His yearly cable bill is $648 but the cost of watching all hs favorite shows from iTunes would be $800. I bet the networks love this math, especially since it cuts the cable companies out of the loop. But in an a la carte-only world, how would you discover shows in the first place?
The Onion interviews Stephen Colbert. "It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that's not the case anymore. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything."
Some of the onscreen special effects on Doctor Who were generated by a home computer called the BBC Micro. "A brief sequence during this program actually showed the BBC Basic and assembler code used to create the console display"
Why do journalists drink so much Tab? Futhermore, if, as conservatives would like us to believe, the political and cultural tempo of the country is being dictated by the pulse of the liberal media and they all guzzle fantastic amounts of Tab, why is Tab not more popular?
Well, Garrison Keillor sure didn't like Bernard-Henri Levy's American Vertigo much. I'm about halfway through...review soon (hopefully).
Scott Nelson produces a "tribute brand" called MIKE that's an homage to Michael Jordan, Nike branding, and shoes. After looking at his products (photos and interviews here and here), I'm amazed Nike hasn't sued him back to the Stone Age. Nelson's site is mike23.com.
The Pixar model of making creative products: "We've made the leap from an idea-centered business to a people-centered business. Instead of developing ideas, we develop people. Instead of investing in ideas, we invest in people. We're trying to create a culture of learning, filled with lifelong learners. It's no trick for talented people to be interesting, but it's a gift to be interested. We want an organization filled with interested people." Pixar University sounds *amazing*.
Judith lost her camera (and most of her pictures) on her trip to Hawaii, so she's using other people's photos from Flickr to produce a trip journal.
Hypothesis: Brad Pitt adapts his appearance to that of whoever he's dating at the time, kind of like how dogs start to look like their owners. Here's some supporting evidence.
Four things JAN 27
Caterina tagged me and it's Friday, so what the hell?
Four jobs I've had:
1. Minimum wage worker, green bean canning factory
2. Tutor, in college physics
3. Web designer, for about 6 different companies
4. Blogger, kottke.org
Four movies I can watch over and over:
1. Ocean's Eleven
2. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
3. The Day After Tomorrow
4. Finding Nemo
Four places I've lived:
2. Rolla, MO
3. New York
4. San Francisco
Four TV shows I love:
1. Six Feet Under
2. Doctor Who (the original series)
3. Family Guy
4. Oh gosh, I dunno
Ten highly regarded and recommended TV shows that I've never watched a single minute of:
3. The Sopranos
4. Any reality TV show
5. Arrested Development
6. Battlestar Galactica
7. My Name is Earl
9. Desperate Housewives
10. The Wire
Four places I've vacationed:
1. Kauai, HI
4. Rapid City, SD
Four of my favorite dishes:
1. Bologna sandwich
2. Soup dumplings
3. Cinnamon ice cream
4. Just about anything on a tasting menu
Four sites I visit daily:
Four places I would rather be right now:
1. In a bathtub
2. On the beach
3. In space
Four bloggers I am tagging (but who won't do it because they're too old school...how's that for a taunt?):
1. Meg Hourihan
2. Matt Haughey
3. Paul Bausch
4. Anil Dash
 I added this question because I was thinking about it the other day. I know, such a bad-ass rule-breaker.
Spanglish JAN 27
Somewhere in Spanglish, there's a damn good movie trying to get out. Not that I didn't like it; Cloris Leachman was hilarious and Adam Sandler's surreal performance simultaneously puzzled and impressed me...he seems to be turning into an actual actor. And the morality angle was solid. But there was something a little bit off about it, and I don't think it was because I thought it was going to be a straight-up comedy.
The issues involved with buying and selling moon dust. Back in 1993, a 200-milligram moon rock was sold for $442,500.
Nice interview with Josh "Shake" Schachter about del.icio.us. "I would not say [that I am an] entrepreneur - the enterprise of the thing was always dragged along by the thing itself."
Blast from the past: influential online game SiSSYFiGHT 2000. I know a married couple that met on SiSSYFiGHT.
A list of films that have the most Star Wars actors in a non-Star Wars film. Flash Gordon and Labyrinth each have 17 Star Wars actors in them. (via cd)
The delicate marketing of Brokeback Mountain. In Manhattan for example, analysis of the city's various social microclimates was used to select the opening theaters to de-emphasize the art-house aspect of the film. (via dj)
SupersizedMeals.com is a blog documenting "foodstuffs of epic proportions". Recently featured were a 100-patty burger, a 29" pizza, and a sandwich made from an entire loaf of bread sliced lengthwise.
The new Pixar overlords at Disney Animation wasted no time in cancelling Toy Story 3. "Sequels should only be made if there is a really great story that demands it, and should be the domain of those who created the original film." Could this be the end of Disney's straight-to-video animated crap-o-ramas?
Out and about JAN 26
Some player names I observed while playing Fastr (a multiplayer game based on guessing tags for a selection of Flickr images) last night for about 15 minutes under my usual online nickname "jkottke":
yes no one likes kottke
For some reason, this reminds me of one of my favorite scenes from Being John Malkovich where he's just popped out of his own head and onto the side of the New Jersey Turnpike and a passenger in a passing car says, "Hey Malkovich, think fast!" and pegs him in the head with a beer can.
Averaging Gradius is a movie of 15 simultaneous games of Gradius layered on top of each other. Robin says: "So what you see, instead of a single ship going at it, is a fuzzy cloud of ships -- bright where strategies overlap, faint where someone does something especially daring (or dumb)." Very cool; reminds me of Jason Salavon's amalgamation of Playboy centerfolds.
James Frey is on Oprah today and Gawker had someone blogging the show while it was being taped earlier today. Oprah hammers Frey pretty hard and he admits that most/all of the Smoking Gun's allegations were true. (thx, hillary and mike)
Email correspondance between members of The New Yorker staff and one of Caitlin Flanagan's sources in writing this story about Mary Poppins' author P.L. Travers. The source, Travers biographer Valerie Lawson, wrote a letter to the editor complaining that Flanagan had not properly attributed items in the story to Lawson. "The exchange offers a glimpse at the sausage-factory aspect of how the magazine handles complaints, and raises interesting questions about what journalists owe, in terms of recognition, to their sources."
Political party members' brains get a rush from "ignoring information that's contrary to their point of view". "None of the circuits involved in conscious reasoning were particularly engaged. Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones."
Winners of the Design Within Reach 2005 Champagne Chair Contest. The salon dryer chair, the high chair, and the school desk chair are pretty neat.
Established TV news stars are moving to NPR. "Network news is increasingly generating prospects for NPR in part because some broadcast journalists think the networks are veering away from serious, in-depth reports."
As France becomes more like the US in eating habits, the famously thin French are getting fatter. "Some of the reasons for the increase in obesity are those that plague the United States and much of Europe: the lure of fast food and prepared foods, the ubiquity of unhealthy snacks and sedentary lives."
NY Times food critic Frank Bruni spends a week "undercover" as a waiter at a Boston restaurant. "People are hungry, and then they're drinking. Two of the worst states that people can be in."
Photos of the Bangladesh shipbreaking yards by Brendan Corr. Strict environmental laws in the Europe and the US make "recycling" these ships there difficult, so US and European companies outsource the salvage to Bangladesh, where laws are looser. Compare with Edward Burtynsky's photos of the same. (thx, malatron)
Cheatsheet for how to get to a human operator on various automated phone systems. When calling Best Buy, "press 1,1,1,#,# and then wait through the 3 prompts asking for your home telephone number". (thx, scott)
iTunes Jukebox is "a cartridge-based physical interface to iTunes". "Electronically enhanced" jewelcases can be arranged in a small tower that interfaces with iTunes to play music off of whatever CD case you put into the tower.
High volume flow JAN 25
David Carr wrote an article for the NY Times about the Washington Post's recent decision to close down comments on their blog when one of their threads turned ugly. As the article points out, the issue of web sites having problems dealing with feedback (particularly published feedback like comments) is not localized to mainstream media publications:
Mickey Kaus of kausfiles.com, which does not carry comments, said that "the world is crying out for the jerk-zapper," although he added that he thought that The Washington Post's Web site overreacted. BoingBoing, a heavily trafficked "directory of wonderful things," shut down its comments section last year. "We took a lot of heat over it," said Xeni Jardin, a founder of the site. "But until we are able to come up with a better comments system - most of what is out there is too crude - it is not worth the trouble.
If you're wondering why the comments on kottke.org aren't on more often, this is the reason. This site is a one-person operation and even though I work on it full-time, I don't have the throughput to manage a lot of threads. Comment gardening (as I call it) is hard work if you want to maintain an appropriate level of discourse. And as Xeni said, the current technological and user experience solutions suck. Approved commenting, sign-in to comment, Slashdot-like comment moderation...they all have their problems.
As an experiment back in October, I opened the comments on all threads on kottke.org for a little over a week. During that time, I kept track of my comment gardening duties, basically everything I did to keep those threads clear of trolling, flaming, off-topic comments, and the like. The only thing I didn't record was how many times per day I checked for activity in all the open threads -- every 15-30 minutes or so while I was awake (~8am to midnight) -- because I would have been too busy recording the checking to actually do the checking. At one point, I had almost 60 simultaneous threads open and was spending half my day keeping up with all of them.
After more than a week, I stopped recording everything...even though most of the threads were still open and the comments, flames, trolls, and spam kept pouring in. But the resulting document will still give you some idea of what's involved with opening comments on kottke.org. I would love better tools to deal with this because I enjoy having comments open on the site and so do my readers. But for now, I think it's a better use of my time to focus on other aspects of the site and open comments when I feel a particular post would benefit from them.
 You can't imagine the reasons I've heard about why comments are off on kottke.org. Most of them are variations on the theme of: "All the big bloggers have their comments turned off because they're too stuck-up and self-important to care what their readers have to say, those arrogant bastards. They can't stand people disagreeing with them." And so on.
Recolored is a software program that helps colorize black & white photos. Just specify some borders and colors and it does the rest.
It's a done deal...Disney is buying Pixar. This bums me out in a lot of different ways. The big winner? Apple Computer.
A brief history of Pixar. "Even with the animation group generating income Pixar was still a money pit. That was about to change. Disney had decided they were willing to give a computer-animated movie a shot."
Quality editorial JAN 24
Two weeks ago, I wrote:
In terms of editorial and quality, I am unconvinced that a voting system like Digg's can produce a quality editorial product.
Everything we do to "edit" the [Guardian Unlimited] site seeks to keep a balance between editorial instinct and the desires of the audience, and that, in doing that, we may be reflecting the "community" more fairly, both mathematically and ethically, than the likes of digg.
So how do you reflect the community more fairly? Paging Mr. Surowiecki:
In order for a crowd to be smart, [Surowiecki] says it needs to satisfy four conditions: 1. Diversity, 2. Independence, 3. Decentralization, and 4. Aggregation.
Much of the online media we're familiar with uses a mix of humans and automated systems to perform the aggregating task. Human editors choose the stories that will run in the newspaper (drawing from a number of sources of information as Lloyd illustrated), blog authors select what links and posts to put on their blog (by reading other blogs & media outlets, listening to reader feedback, and sifting through already aggregated sources like del.icio.us or Digg), and the editors of Slashdot filter through hundreds of reader submissions a day to create Slashdot's front page. Google News uses technology to decide which stories are important, based primarily on what the publishers are publishing. Digg and del.icio.us rely almost entirely on the crowd to submit and determine by a simple vote what stories go on its front page.
Some of these methods work better than others for different tasks. The product of 50,000 diverse, independent, decentralized bloggers is probably more editorially interesting, fair, and complete than that of 50,000 diverse, independent, decentralized Digg users, but the Digg vote & tally approach is less time-intensive for all concerned and the information flows faster. A site like Slashdot sits in the middle...it's a little slower than Digg but offers a more consistent editorial product. A hybrid Digg+Slashdot approach (which is not unlike the one used by individual bloggers) would be for Digg to produce a "Digg digest", a human selected (could use simple voting or let the most highly respected community members choose) collection of the best stories of the day that incorporates what was said in the comments and around the web as well. Actually, I think if you wanted to start a blog that did this, it would do very well.
The 50 most loathsome people in America, 2005. On Paris Hilton: "Somehow, everybody in America knew that this completely pointless person had lost her dog, and we are all diminished by the experience."
TrueHoop has a good roundup of Kobe's 81-point performance the other night. Quoth Henry: "This is the first time I have put something that happened last night straight into the 'basketball history' category of TrueHoop."
Eyebeam's Mike Frumin has released OGLE (OpenGL Extrator), a software package for extracting 3-D data from Windows applications. This means you can do stuff like grab the 3-D likeness of your World of Warcraft character and print it out on a 3-D printer or insert him into a Manhattan landscape (grabbed from Google Earth). Announcement here.
Cool carpenter's level Dashboard widget for Powerbooks and iBooks. I'd never played with my Powerbook's accelerometer before so this had me squealing with delight. (via df)
Aerial photos of cities taken by Olivo Barbieri with a tilt-shift lens look like scale models. I'm familiar with the tilt-shift (Jake noodled around with one awhile back), but didn't imagine you could use it to achieve such a convincing optical illusion. (via bldgblog via waxy)
Short (and a wee bit hostile) inteview with Daniel Dennett. "Nerve cells are very complicated mechanical systems. You take enough of those, and you put them together, and you get a soul."
Hossein Derakhshan is on his way to Israel, which is unusual for a native Iranian. "As a citizen journalist, I'm going to show my 20,000 daily Iranian readers what Israel really looks like and how people live there."
West Wing cancelled after 7 seasons...the show won't survive much past President Bartlet's tenure, which seems fitting.
"Since the summer of 1962, a fire, fueled by rich anthracite coal deposits, has been burning beneath the mining town of Centralia, Pennsylvania." This fire is almost old enough to have remembered where it was when JFK was assassinated. (thx, gerard)
I just found the most niche weblog ever: Hay in Art, which consists of pictures of art that feature hay in them.
Interesting graph comparing the size of new homes and the obesity rate in America (which seem to track quite closely since 1995), prompting the question, are Americans growing to fit their environment? Relatedly, Bernard-Henri Levy on American obesity: "The obesity of the body is a metaphor of another obesity. There is a tendency in America to believe that the bigger the better for everything -- for churches, cities, malls, companies and campaign budgets. There's an idolatry of bigness."
Fire at a fireworks factory = lots of explosions. I went to a fireworks display when I was a kid and about 5 minutes in, the structure they were launching them out of caught on fire and the rest of the display went off in the space of 2-3 minutes. Best fireworks I've ever seen...
Update: Wikipedia has more on this explosion, which occurred in The Netherlands in 2000. (thx to the dozens who sent this in)
The Superficial on Kate Moss and her poor taste in men: "You could stick her in a room with Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and the Kool-Aid Man, and five minutes later all you'd hear would be 'Ohhhhhh Yeah!'"
"At elementary schools, kindergartens, and preschools all across Japan, kids are losing themselves making hikaru dorodango, or balls of mud that shine." I really want to make one of these. (via rodcorp)
How do audiobook producers deal with things like footnotes, photos, interesting punctuation, and the like? "The voice manipulation, for which audiobook producer John Runnette used a 'phone filter' -- a voice-through-the-receiver effect used in radio dramas -- was an attempt to aurally convey Mr. Wallace's discursive, densely footnoted prose." Includes sample audio with examples. (thx, bill)
Giant jellyfish invade Japan STOP Creatures 2 meters wide and 450 pounds STOP Killing fish, fishing industry, and even humans STOP Run for your lives STOP
David Pogue has a great list of tongue-in-cheek rules for trolls when responding to online writing. This list is spot-on...I have a mailbag full of chuckleheaded responses that adhere to many of these points, particularly numbers 1, 2, 6, and 9.
The 3% federal excise tax on your phone bill "was imposed in 1898 to help pay for the Spanish-American War".
The Man Who Said No to Wal-Mart. "He looked into a future of supplying lawn mowers and snow blowers to Wal-Mart and saw a whirlpool of lower prices, collapsing profitability, offshore manufacturing, and the gradual but irresistible corrosion of the very qualities for which Snapper was known. Jim Wier looked into the future and saw a death spiral."
"Inspector Sands is a codeword used by public transport authorities in London...to alert authorities of a potential emergency without causing panic amongst travellers by explicitly mentioning the nature of the emergency." Cool! (via alice)
The beauty of simplicity. "Blame the [lack of simplicity on the] closed feedback loop among engineers and industrial designers, who simply can't conceive of someone so lame that she can't figure out how to download a ringtone; blame a competitive landscape in which piling on new features is the easiest way to differentiate products, even if it makes them harder to use; blame marketers who haven't figured out a way to make 'ease of use' sound hip."
When I posted about a cold of mine back in December that completely killed my sense of smell and taste (they're both back now, thanks), I asked:
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?
In response to that post (but not that specific question), I got a nice email from a reader inquiring about my recent preoccupation with smell (I've posted a couple other things about smell in the past months) and identified herself as having thought about smell recently as well. I wrote her back and recommended a favorite book of mine, A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman, specifically the chapters on smell (my favorite part).
I first read this book back in college for a class and it's one of the few books I keep going back to every few years to reread. After I sent that email, I went to find my dog-eared copy and started reading it. On page 40, in the section about anosmia, I found the answer to my above query. After a year-long fit of sneezing, Judith Birnberg lost her sense of smell and taste, which returned sporadically thereafter:
The anosmia began without warning... During the past three years there have been brief periods -- minutes, even hours -- when I suddenly became aware of odors and knew that this meant that I could also taste. What to eat first? A bite of banana once made me cry. On a few occasions a remission came at dinner time, and my husband and I would dash to our favorite restaurant. On two or three occasions I savored every miraculous mouthful through an entire meal. But most times my taste would be gone by the time we parked the car.
I knew I'd read that somewhere!
 Other books I've read more than once in adulthood:
1984 I've probably read 9 or 10 times since I was 10. With the exception of A People's History (I think I got the gist the first two times around), I'll probably continue to reread those books indefinitely. Books I hope to reread soon: Lolita, Infinite Jest.
 I reread so many books as a kid, including the Roald Dahl books alluded to above, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.
The world's best short inspirational quotes including "no great thing is created suddenly" and "well done is better than well said".
David Galbraith notes that several of the top sites on the web don't validate: Yahoo, Ebay, Amazon, Google, and even "Web 2.0" newcomers Flickr, Digg, and Del.icio.us. "Are all these companies wrong, or is there something wrong with current accessibility standards?"
Haven't tried it out yet, but SeamlessWeb At Home seems like a good site for ordering Manhattan delivery (i.e. lunch/dinner) online. Plus, you get 20% off your order from some places.
The Baseball Visualization Tool was designed to help managers answer the question: should the pitcher be pulled from the game? Handy charts and pie graphs give managers an at-a-glance view of how much trouble the current pitcher is in. I wonder what TBVT would have told Grady Little about Pedro at the end of Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS?
Iron Age metrosexuals JAN 18
Recently discovered human remains suggest that metrosexuals lived in Iron Age Ireland. One man's fingernails were manicured and his hands indicated he'd never done manual labor while the other wore hair gel imported from France and Spain. No word on if they wore their shirts tucked or untucked.
Very high on the list of things that don't need to be advertised is Tetris. Chances are you remember this Tetris commercial from the 80s anyway. "Use your thumbs, use your eyes, find yourself Tetrisized!"
Some PT Anderson news: A Prairie Home Companion is out this summer; Anderson seems to have co-directed this with Robert Altman, but no one seems to know just who did what. And There Will Be Blood is Anderson's newest solo project starring Daniel Day-Lewis and based on Oil! by Upton Sinclair.
Last 100 posts, part 6 JAN 18
[This is a semi-regular feature following up on stuff I've posted here recently.]
The Digg link happened late Saturday night in the US and the Slashdot link occurred midday on Sunday. Traffic to sites like Slashdot and Digg are typically lower during the weekend than during the weekday and also less late at night. So, Digg might be at somewhat of a disadvantage here and this is perhaps not an apples to apples comparison.
Several folks complained about this, some saying that it invalided the whole thing. The Digging of the DvS piece gives us another look at the Digg effect, from right in the middle of a weekday. Digg #2 was dugg 1441 times, got 98 comments, and sent around 10,200 people to kottke.org. By contrast, Digg #1 was dugg 1387 times, garnered 65 comments, and sent ~20,000 people to kottke.org. Digg #1 was actually more successful in driving traffic to kottke.org on a Saturday night than Digg #2 on a Thursday afternoon. Here's a graph that compares the three events:
It's hard to see the exact effect of Digg #2 on this graph (I forgot to grab a screenshot of the bandwidth graph when it happened, so all I have is the historical wide view), but it doesn't stand out that much from what happened the previous day (each one of those "bumps" is a day) and didn't have much of an effect beyond the initial spike. However, judging from the traffic that the individual Digg pages drove to kottke.org (Digg #1: 4525 people; Digg #2: 2668 people), it looks like the iPod feature was more interesting to the Digg audience than the Digg v. Slashdot post (which makes sense). So, still not exactly a fair comparison and raises more questions than provides answers.
The James Frey thread ended up with almost 950 comments before I shut it down because of redundancy and a lot of nastiness on the part of a few participants. The kottke.org record for most comments on a post is nearly 1800 on this post about The Matrix Reloaded (continued here)....that conversation, while nerdy, was a lot more civil.
After reading some of those comments and other things written about the controversy (but without having read the book), my take on Frey is that memories are subjective and readers need to cut authors some slack on that when writing memoirs. However, Frey stepped over the line in manufacturing situations that didn't happen and deserves the backlashing he's now receiving. My favorite observation on this whole deal was made by Stephen on a mailing list we're both on. In a 2003 interview for The Observer, Frey said:
I don't give a fuck what Jonathan Safran whatever-his-name or what David Foster Wallace does. I don't give a fuck what any of those people do. I don't hang out with them, I'm not friends with them, I'm not part of the literati...A book [Eggers' AHBWOSG] that I thought was mediocre was being hailed as the best book written by the best writer of my generation. Fuck that. And fuck him and fuck anybody who says that. I don't give a fuck what they think about me.
To Oprah on Larry King last week, Frey had this to say:
I admire you tremendously and thank you very much for your support. And, you know, it's -- I'm still incredibly honored to be associated with you, and I will for the rest of my life. Thank you.
The man knows who buttered his bread, that's for sure. Oh, and The Onion's take is good too. "Accounts of assault with a deadly weapon, narcotics possession, and incitement of riot actually happened during 2002 Grand Theft Auto session."
Many didn't realize that my letter to Apple Support was a joke. Sure, I had post-MacWorld gadget lust, but my new Powerbook is great, does everything I want, and I don't really want the new one. Besides, everyone knows you don't buy the first version of new Apple hardware...I'm waiting until they work all the kinks out. Here's a not-so-positive review of the MacBook Pro announcement at Unsanity.
Update on the teams and players involved in The Play. The Play = that college game with all the laterals and he was down and the band streams onto the field and the guy runs over the trombone player in the end zone. You know, The Play. (thx, david)
Scientists say there may be two different forms of laughter -- authentic laughter and that associated with humor -- and that the two developed millions of years apart during the course of human evolution.
NewsFire is now a Universal Binary. I believe it's the first newsreader to make the switch.
For one year, Maria Dahvana Headley "[responded] positively to all flirting and saying yes to literally anyone who asked her out. The ensuing 150 dates included a homeless man, several non-English speakers, 10 taxi drivers, two lesbians and a mime." And she got a husband out of the deal.
Interview with Annie Proulx about writing Brokeback Mountain. Just read the short story yesterday afternoon and it was wonderful. (via pb)
Mesmerizing movie of Paris Hilton's unchanging facial expression. I can't stop watching this. I especially like that her hair looks like it's chasing itself around the top of her head.
Update: The Lindsey Lohan one is pretty good as well. (thx, patrick)
A recently unveiled Chinese map -- a reproduction of a 1418 map -- may show that the Chinese discovered the Americas more than 70 years before Columbus. There is, however, some question about the map's authenticity.
Fascinating article about how people are selected for reality TV shows and the effects of the shows on the contestants. "The producers are looking for that authenticity because they believe it's impossible to fake who you are on camera during the course of a shoot, and they want to know exactly what they're getting before they let you on their show."
kottke.org favorites Andrew Zolli and Marissa Meyer (from a little company called Google) are going to be speaking at Core77's panel on Design 2.0 in NYC at the end of February. Looks pretty interesting.
Rubik's Cube world record broken International Rubik's Cube Competition: 11.13 seconds. But the competition was best of three and the record-holder was beaten by 15 yo from Pasedena with an average lower time.
Thousands of young Japanese (men mostly) shut themselves in their rooms and don't come out, sometimes for years on end. Hikikomori, as ths phenomenon is referred to, has many potential causes, including that "Japanese parents tell their children to fly while holding firmly to their ankles". Reminds me of some of the themes from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.
This blog cites a Target store advertising on Google Maps (by painting their logo on the roof), but it's more likely that the bullseye is there for the benefit of airline passengers landing at nearby O'Hare (as this slightly wider view shows). (via bb)
Knickers, the lingerie weblog, has compiled a lingerie shopping guide for Valentine's Day with breakdowns by size and style (from virgin to vixen). Possibly NSFW.
Starbucks center of gravity JAN 17
Cory has calculated the center of gravity of Starbucks in Manhattan...that is, the geographic point where all of them are pulling equally on you. It's right around 40th St and 5th Ave.
Michael Bierut on the "slow design" of the New Yorker. "In contrast, one senses that each of the changes in The New Yorker was arrived at almost grudgingly. Designers are used to lecturing timid clients that change requires bravery. But after a certain point -- 80 years? -- not changing begins to seem like the bravest thing of all."
In 1998, six newspapers profiled the streets named after Martin Luther King in their respective cities. Along Martin Luther King is a collection of essays and photographs documenting life along the nearly 500 streets named for MLK. In 2003, Rob Walker took some photos along MLK Blvd in New Orleans).
3quarksdaily has the full-text of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech given on August 28, 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial in Wash. DC. Audio of the speech available here. (Also, King's I've Been to the Mountaintop and declaration against the Vietnam War.)
The evolution of Allen Iverson from misunderstood troublemaker to one of the NBA's "most transcendental stars". Says Iverson, "just trying to approach it in a John Stockton-type of way, to where you don't play so much with your physical ability all the time. You have to think the game out a lot more. That's where I'm a lot better"
"no sampling, please", a photoset depicting binge-sampling of nearly everything in sight, contrary to posted signage.
Consumer Reports on when buying organic makes sense and when it doesn't. You should buy organic apples, poultry, and baby food, but not seafood or cosmetics.
Hilarious real-world version of Million Dollar Homepage: Fill My Room. For each donation of a dollar, a block gets added to this person's room until it fills up. (via cyn-c)
On the copyright of recipes. Recipes are covered by US copyright law but not very well and very few suits get brought against those who republish them without permission. For the most part, it sounds like food folks recognize the essential remix culture of cooking. (via
More than you'd ever want to know about Tecmo Super Bowl. Still one of my all-time favorite video games...I play it on my Gameboy and still have a Sega Genesis in the closet.
The NY Times spends some time at home with Paula Scher. The gallery displaying her work is right around the corner from Eyebeam....I think I'll head over there today.
I was wondering much the same thing as Michael re: iTunes phoning home with your listening history. Isn't that what we want? Our software watching and making recommendations for us...isn't that helpful? Providing better, more targetted advertising (if we have to have advertising, it should be useful)? There are privacy concerns and companies should be clearer about what's going on, but I don't mind if the software I use is a little smarter.
There's been lots of talk on the web lately about Digg being the new Slashdot. Two months ago, a Digg reader noted that according to Alexa, Digg's traffic was catching up to that of Slashdot, even though Slashdot has been around for several years and Digg is just over a year old. The brash newcomer vs. the reigning champ, an intriguing matchup.
Last weekend, a piece on kottke.org (50 Fun Things to Do With Your iPod) was featured on Digg and Slashdot and the experience left behind some data that presents a interesting comparison to the Alexa data.
On 1/7 at around 11:00pm ET (a Saturday night), the 50 Things/iPod link appeared on Digg's front page. It's unclear exactly what time the link fell off the front page, but from the traffic pattern on my server, it looks like it lasted until around 2am Sunday night (about 3 hours). As of 10pm ET on 1/11, the story had been "dugg" 1387 times, garnered 65 comments, and had sent ~20,000 people to kottke.org.
On 1/8 at around 5pm ET (a Sunday afternoon), the 50 Things/iPod link appeared on Slashdot's front page and was up there for around 24 hours. As of 10pm ET on 1/11, the story has elicited 254 comments and sent ~84,100 people to kottke.org.
Here's a graph of my server's traffic (technically, it's a graph of the bandwidth out in megabits/second) during the Digg and Slashdot events. I've overlaid the Digg trend on the Slashdot one so you can directly compare them:
That's roughly 18 hours of data...and the scales of the two trends are the same. Here's a graph that shows the two events together on the same trend, along with a "baseline" traffic graph of what the bandwidth approximately would have been had neither site linked to kottke.org:
That's about 4.5 days of data. Each "bump" on the baseline curve is a day.
The two events are separated by just enough time that it's possible to consider them more or less separately and make some interesting observations. Along with some caveats, here's what the data might be telling us:
- The bandwidth graphs represent everything that was happening on the kottke.org server during the time period in question. That means that bandwidth from all other outgoing traffic is on there, mixed in with that caused just by the Digg and Slashdot traffic. According to my stats, no other significant events happened during the period shown that would cause unusual amounts of bandwidth to be consumed. Including the baseline traffic (from mid-December actually) on the second graph is an attempt to give you an idea of what it looks like normally and so you can see what effect the two sites had on the traffic.
- The Digg link happened late Saturday night in the US and the Slashdot link occurred midday on Sunday. Traffic to sites like Slashdot and Digg are typically lower during the weekend than during the weekday and also less late at night. So, Digg might be at somewhat of a disadvantage here and this is perhaps not an apples to apples comparison.
- I'm pretty sure that the person who submitted this link to Slashdot got it from Digg or at least from a site that got it from Digg. Bottom line: if the iPod thing, which is several months old, hadn't been Dugg, it would not have appeared on Slashdot the next day.
- If you look at the first 16-18 hours of the link being both sites (first graph), you'll see that the traffic from Slashdot was initially larger and stayed large longer than that from Digg. Stories appear to stay on the front page of Slashdot for about a day, but the churn is much faster on Digg...it only lasted three hours and that was late on a Saturday night.
- Slashdot sent roughly 4 times the traffic to kottke.org than Digg did since Saturday.
- If you look at the second graph, Slashdot appears to have a significant "aftershock" effect on the traffic to kottke.org. The traffic went up and stayed up for days. In contrast, the traffic from Digg fell off when the link dropped off the front page and increased traffic a little the next day (compared to the baseline) before Slashdot came and blew the doors off at 4pm. Some of this difference is due to the late hour at which the link was Dugg and how much longer the link remained on the Slashdot front page. But that doesn't account for the size and duration of the aftershock from Slashdot, which is going on three days now.
- The traffic from the Slashdot link obscures any secondary Digg effect beyond 16-18 hours. But the bump in traffic (if any) from Digg on Sunday afternoon pre-Slashdot was not that large and was declining as the afternoon wore on, so any possible Digg aftershock that's obscured by the Slashdot link is minimal and short-lived.
- I'm guessing the Slashdot aftershock is due to 1) traffic from links to kottke.org from other blogs that got it from Slashdot (from blogs that got it from those blogs, etc.), 2) people passing the link around via email, etc. after getting it from Slashdot, 3) Slashdot visitors returning to kottke.org to check out other content, and 4) an embedded Digg mini-aftershock of linkers, emailers, and repeat visitors. The del.icio.us page for the 50 ways/iPod link shows that before 1/8, only a few del.icio.us users per day were bookmarking it, but after that it was dozens per day.
In terms of comparing this with the Alexa data, it's not a direct comparison because they're measuring visitors to Digg and Slashdot, and I'm measuring (roughly) visitors from each of those sites. From the kottke.org data, you can infer how many people visit each site by how many people visited from each site initially...the bandwidth burst from Slashdot was roughly about 1.8 times as large as Digg's. That's actually almost exactly what Alexa shows (~1.8x).
But over a period of about 4 days, Slashdot has sent more than 4 times the number of visitors to kottke.org than Digg -- despite a 18-hour headstart for Digg -- and the aftershock for Slashdot is much larger and prolonged. It's been four days since the Slashdotting and kottke.org is still getting 15,000 more visitors a day than usual. This indicates that although Digg may rapidly be catching up to Slashdot traffic-wise, it has a way to go in terms of influence.
Slashdot is far from dying...the site still wields an enormous amount of influence. That's because it's been around so long, it's been big, visible, and influential for so long, and their purpose is provide their audience with 20-25 relevant links/stories each day. The "word-of-mouth" network that Slashdot has built over the years is broad and deep. When a link is posted to Slashdot, not only do their readers see it, it's posted to other blogs (and from there to other blogs, etc.), forwarded around, etc. And those are well-established pathways.
In contrast, Digg's network is not quite so broad and certainly less deep...they just haven't been around as long. Plus Digg has so much flow (links/day) that what influence they do have is spread out over many more links, imparting less to each individual link. (There are quite a few analogies you can use somewhat successfully here...the mafia don who outsmarts a would-be usurper because of his connections and wisdom or the aging rock group that may currently be less popular than the flavor of the month but has collectively had a bigger influence on pop music. But I'll leave making those analogies as an exercise to the reader.)
What all this suggests is that if you're really interested in how influence works on the web, just looking at traffic or links doesn't tell you the whole story and can sometimes be quite misleading. Things like longevity, what the social & linking networks look like, and how sites are designed are also important. The Alexa data suggests that Digg has half the traffic of Slashdot, but that results in 4x the number of visitors from Slashdot and a much larger influence afterwards. The data aside, the Digg link was fun and all but ultimately insignificant. The Slashdot link brought significantly more readers to the site, spurred many other sites to link to it, and appears to have left me with a sizable chunk of new readers. As an online publisher, having those new long-term readers is a wonderful thing.
Anyway, lots of interesting stuff here just from this little bit of data...more questions than conclusions probably. And I didn't even get into the question of quality that Gene brings up here or the possible effect of RSS. It would be neat to be a researcher at someplace like Google or Yahoo! and be able to look more deeply into traffic flows, link propagation, different network topologies, etc. etc. etc.
 The way I discovered the Digging and Slashdotting was that I started getting all sorts of really stupid email, calling me names and swearing. One Slashdot reader called me a "fag" and asked me to stop talking about "gay ipod shit". The
wisdom of the crowds tragedy of the commons indeed.
 On Digg, a "digg" is a like a thumbs-up. You dig?
 That's the normal traffic pattern for kottke.org and probably most similar sites...a nearly bell-shaped curve of traffic that is low in the early morning, builds from 8am to the highest point around noon, and declines in the afternoon until it's low again at night (although not as low as in the morning).
 The clever reader will note here that Slashdot got the link from Digg, so who's influencing who here? All this aftershock business...the Slashdotting is part of the Digg aftershock. To stick with the earthquake analogy though, no one cares about the 5.4 quake if it's followed up by a 7.2 later in the day.
 Ok, twist my arm. Both Digg and Slashbot use the wisdom of crowds to offer content to their readers. Slashdot's human editors post 25 stories a day suggested by individual readers while Digg might feature dozens of stories on the front page per day, collectively voted there by their readers. In terms of editorial and quality, I am unconvinced that a voting system like Digg's can produce a quality editorial product...it's too much of an informational firehose. Bloggers and Slashdot story submitters might like drinking from that hose, but there's just too much flow (and not enough editing) to make it an everyday, long-term source of information. (You might say that, duh, Digg doesn't want to be a publication like Slashdot and you'd probably be right, in which case, why are people comparing the two sites in the first place? But still, in terms of influence, editing matters and if Digg wants to keep expanding its influence, it's gotta deal with that.)
 Digg might be more "bursty" than Slashdot because a higher percentage of its audience reads the site via RSS (because they're younger, grew up with newsreaders in their cribs, etc.). Brighter initial burn but less influence over time.
American innovation? JAN 12
The USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) has released a list of the top 10 companies receiving the most US patents for 2005. In announcing the list, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property Jon Dudas had this to say (emphasis mine):
America's technological and economic strength is the result of its tremendous ingenuity. The USPTO has taken and will continue to take aggressive steps that will enhance quality and improve productivity to ensure that U.S. intellectual property protection remains the best in the world, protecting American innovation and sustaining economic growth.
The only problem is, 6 out of the 10 companies on the list are non-US companies: Canon, Matsushita, Samsung, Hitachi, Toshiba, and Fujitsu. Just whose innovation is the USPTO protecting here? Mr. Dudas? (thx, cathy)
James Frey was on Larry King last night but didn't seem to address specific concerns about his book (transcript). Oprah called in to support him. I love the paragraph of disclaimer in the article: "The [Smoking Gun] Web site is owned by Court TV, which is half owned by Time-Warner, CNN's parent company. The movie rights have been purchased by Warner Brothers, also part of Time Warner." Meanwhile, the vigorous discussion continues in the thread...361 comments and counting.
Related to the stories about binding books with human skin from earlier in the week, apparently architect Le Corbusier bound one of his favorite books (Don Quixote) with the hide from one of his favorite dogs (Pinceau). The result looks like that textbook in Harry Potter that you needed to stroke the spine to get it to open without biting you.
Best new trend (if one is a JAN 12
Random House, the publisher of James Frey's A Million Little Pieces, is offering refunds to folks who bought the book. Wow, this situation is getting out of hand in a hurry for Mr. Frey. And speaking of out of control, the kottke.org thread about Frey is going fast, furious, hot, and heated. Not sure where all the participants came from, but they sure are energetic.
The year in cities JAN 11
Following Hanna's example, here's my 2005 in cities:
New York, NY*
Los Angeles, CA
Las Vegas, NV
One or more nights spent in each place. Those cities marked with an * were visited multiple times on non-consecutive days. Somehow, I did a lot more and a lot less traveling last year than I had anticipated. And just for fun, let's make this a meme! Blog your list of cities and get your friends to do the same. It'll be fun.
A list of a favorite movie moments from 2005. I need to get out to way more movies this year.
Edward Jay Epstein examines where it all went wrong for Blockbuster Video. Blockbuster had an opportunity to have rental pricing for DVDs like they did with video, but they turned the deal down and the studios priced DVDs for retail instead and have been minting money with that scheme ever since.
Slate's The Year in Culture for 2005. "As infuriating and crippling as the [NYC transit] strike was for so many, I selfishly appreciated having a city that was uninviting and briefly in turmoil."
A world map of cultural prejudices, compiled by asking Google what different cultures "are known for". (via waxy, who is known for good links)
Dark horse "originally alluded to an unknown horse winning a race and was so used in a novel by Benjamin Disraeli (The Young Duke, 1831)". An answer to a "where on earth did that expression come from" discussion I had the other day.
A Selection From George W. Bush's Eavesdropping Tapes: Matthew Barney and Bjork Place an Ikea Phone Order. "Ask if they have an aluminum igloo."
Letter to Apple Support JAN 10
Subject: Powerbook support
Date: January 10, 2006 4:55:31 PM ET
To: Apple Tech Support
I purchased a new Powerbook three weeks ago. It was working fine until a few hours ago when you announced the new Intel-powered MacBook Pro at MacWorld and I started to cry. "Four to fives times faster," I sobbed, "a built-in iSight, and a brighter, wider screen."
My display, while not as bright or large as the new MacBook Pro display, illuminated my wet cheeks and red, swollen eyes as my tears rained down on the backlit keyboard. An acrid smell rose up from inside the smooth metal machine as my salty tears joined with the electronics, joyfully releasing the electrons from their assigned silicon pathways to freely arc into forbidden areas of the computer and elsewhere, including, somewhat painfully, my hands.
Is this covered under my warranty and if so, can you send me a new MacBook Pro as a replacement, please? Thank you for your time,
Kodak has themselves a new logo and gosh it looks plain and boring and undistinctive. Who are the folks convincing companies like Intel and Kodak that these logo/brand overhauls are going to revitalize their companies? Revitalization is a hard business...a new coat of paint isn't going to cut it.
Update: More on Kodak's new logo at Speak Up.
Pareidolia: "The erroneous or fanciful perception of a pattern or meaning in something that is actually ambiguous or random." Here are hundreds of examples on Flickr...light sockets that look like faces, etc.
Jobs at MacWorld JAN 10
Going to try doing an live update of what Jobs is announcing at MacWorld. If you'd like to drink right from the firehose, here's the MacRumors feed. (Note, I'm not at MacWorld, so I have no idea why I'm doing this except it's kinda fun and old school in a way.)
- 32 million iPods sold in 2005
- Selling at the rate of a billion songs a year on iTunes Music Store
- Offering SNL skits through iTunes, all your old favorites
- Remote control for iPod with an FM tuner in it...listen to FM radio with the iPod
- 40% of the cars sold in the US in 2006 will have iPod integration
- Announced some new Dashboard widgets, including one for snow conditions for skiing
- Update to iLife....iLife '06
- New iPhoto will handle 250,000 photos (!!!), full-screen editing, more printing options (postcards calendars)
- Photocasting - podcasting for photos (Flickr competitor?), uploads photos to .Mac to iPhoto, people can subscribe, anyone can view photos via RSS
- Create video podcasts with iMovie, dump video to iPod
- iDVD creates widescreen DVDs, something called Magic iDVD that makes it super easy to create DVDs...drag and drop and push a couple buttons
- use iChat to record audio interviews with GarageBand (I think....), ah, ok, GarageBand has a Podcast Studio in it, use it to produce podcasts
- Announcing iWeb. Share photo albums, publish blogs, podcasting, Apple-designed templates. One-click publishing to .Mac. RSS, of course (lots of RSS stuff in iLife). A bit hard to see what this is exactly when you're not watching these demos in person. Also includes some sort of online media browser w/AJAX...works in any browser. "integrated with your music library", whatever that means.
- iWork '06.... (nothing really new here)
- Talking about new hardware. Intel update...looks like OS X on Intel is ready. New Mac today with Intel chip. It's the iMac. Ahead of schedule (Apple originally said mid-year).
- Intel iMac is 2 to 3 times faster than the G5, Tiger (10.4.4) is native on the Intel processor, all of Apple's apps are too.
- Microsoft will make new versions of office for the Mac for a minimum of 5 years
- New Intel iMacs shipping today. They will be doing Intel versions of all their hardware this calendar year.
- Famous Jobs' "one more thing"....MacBook Pro, Powerbook with Intel chip, 4-5 times faster than the G4 Powerbook, magnetic power adapter
Erik Spiekermann explains how Nokia's corporate typeface came to be. Looks like it was based on one of Nokia's onscreen bitmap fonts. I've always wanted to create a "real" version of Silkscreen like that.
I can't remember where I first ran across Edward Burtynsky's photography, but I've been developing into a full-fledged fan of work over the past few months. From a Washington Post article on Burtynsky:
Burtynsky calls his images "a second look at the scale of what we call progress," and hopes that at minimum, the images acquaint viewers with the ramifications -- he avoids the word price -- of our lifestyle. But what if viewers just see, you know, some dudes and a ship?
"Another photographer might focus on the loss of life or pollution," acknowledges Kennel of the National Gallery. "He uses beauty as a way to draw attention to something. It's a very particular strategy."
The Brooklyn Museum of Art is displaying an exhibition of Burtynsky's photos until January 15. Well worth the effort to try and check it out. The scale of modernity, particularly in his recent photos of China, is astounding. In Three Gorges Dam Project, Dam #4, this huge dam seems to stretch on forever and you don't know whether to goggle in wonder or shrink in horror from looking at it.
Spike Jonze's film adaptation of Where the Wild Things Are had been shelved, but Warner Bros has revived it. Jonze wrote the screenplay with Dave Eggers. (via rw)
In 2005, 34 poker players earned $1 million playing tournaments, compared to 78 golfers earning the same playing their sport.
In addition to the James Frey thing, we've got people digging into the identity of the secretive writer JT LeRoy (a denial). And True Hoop's Henry Abbott is trying to figure out who William Wesley is...a powerful NBA figure who came out of nowhere and appears to not have a job or any direct influence on anyone or anything but goes to fights with Michael Jordan and has LeBron James on speed dial.
Affirmations Google Should Consider Putting on Its Search Button Other Than "I'm Feeling Lucky." Not a great list, but "I Deserve to Google and Be Googled" should be put on a tshirt.
The New York Times sure has a boner for Ana Marie Cox and her new book, Dog Days. They've reviewed it one, two, three times in the last five days...and that's not counting Ms. Cox's nicely timed op-ed about Jack Abramoff from last Thursday.
Adobe has released the beta version of a program called Lightroom (OS X only), a competitor to Apple's Aperture. Both are pro-level apps for manipulating and organizing digital photos. Here's the story of Lightroom's development from one of its developers. (via df)
The Smoking Gun just published a long article (via 3qd) alleging that James Frey's memoir, A Million Little Pieces, is not as non-fictional as he's claimed on Oprah and in countless other interviews. From A Million Little Lies:
Police reports, court records, interviews with law enforcement personnel, and other sources have put the lie to many key sections of Frey's book. The 36-year-old author, these documents and interviews show, wholly fabricated or wildly embellished details of his purported criminal career, jail terms, and status as an outlaw "wanted in three states."
In additon to these rap sheet creations, Frey also invented a role for himself in a deadly train accident that cost the lives of two female high school students. In what may be his book's most crass flight from reality, Frey remarkably appropriates and manipulates details of the incident so he can falsely portray himself as the tragedy's third victim. It's a cynical and offensive ploy that has left one of the victims' parents bewildered. "As far as I know, he had nothing to do with the accident," said the mother of one of the dead girls. "I figured he was taking license...he's a writer, you know, they don't tell everything that's factual and true."
TSG became interested in Frey when they attempted to locate his mug shot after his Oprah appearance, had difficulty locating it, and started to dig a little deeper. Along the way, they uncovered several instances in Frey's book that appear fictionalized or significantly embellished. When contacted for the story by TSG, Frey hired a lawyer and published some of his confidential correspondance with TSG on his blog, at the same time commenting:
So let the haters hate, let the doubters doubt, I stand by my book, and my life, and I wonï¿½t dignify this bullshit with any sort of further response.
TSG alleges that he also admitted in those conversations that parts of his book were untrue.
The Smoking Gun has a pretty good reputation with these sorts of things, so I expect this to be taken pretty seriously by the media and probably Frey's publisher and fans. A James Frey message board is already buzzing about the piece. If it holds up, TSG should get some recognition for it...this piece is as good as any investigative piece I've seen in a newspaper or magazine. I haven't gotten around to reading either of Frey's books...has anyone out there read them? What's your impression of the books and TSG's allegations?
The top 10 weirdest USB drives, including drives that look like fried shrimp, a human thumb, and Barbie (her head pops off to reveal the plug).
"Fans are fascinated by the drugs-and-drink-fuelled excesses of rock stars such as Pete Doherty - but they don't see the heavy personal toll it takes, writes Caroline Butler, who spent years with an alcoholic star". (via tmn)
The story of the Hindenburg disaster. Amazingly, 2/3 of the zeppelin's passengers survived the crash. Here's an audio recording of the famous Herbert Morrison radio broadcast ("oh, the humanity") of the disaster.
Update: This article appears to have dropped behind Nerve's paywall. Sorry about that.
The Del Monte Note is a $20 bill with a Del Monte banana sticker that was affixed to it during the printing process so that the serial number and Treasury seal are partially printed on the sticker. "In the summer of 2004 a college student in Ohio received it as part of an ATM withdrawal and shortly there after posted it on eBay where it sold to the highest of 12 bids."
Skiing at Mad River JAN 06
Over the holidays, Meg and I went up to Vermont skiing. I skied quite a bit when I was in middle/high school (on the small hills of northwestern WI and east central MN), but I'd only strapped on the boards a couple times since graduating from college. Meg's family has skied at Mad River Glen for years, so that's where we went. After three straight days of hitting the slopes, my back got a little wonky, so on the 4th day I brought the camera along to document a run down the mountain:
There are a few photos of Waitsfield (the town closest to Mad River) and the surrouding area at the beginning of the set, but most are from the mountain, including some of the best winter views I've ever witnessed. The snow covering the trees, the fog at the top of the hill...it looked almost magical. At one point, I was alone on the mountain with my camera, engulfed in fog, no one within 200 yards. With no wind and all the snow & fog muffling the sound, when I stopped breathing, I couldn't hear anything at all.
This is no game. "One day we'll just sit by the fire, chew some tobacky, toast some marshmackies, and maybe strum a tune on the ole guitacky."
Hello, TiVo. Hurry the hell up and release your HD-compatible Series 3 machine already. Are you trying to make me angry?
Stabilized version of the Zapruder film of the Kennedy Assassination. Stabilized means the camera movement has been digitally edited out...the video is super-clear now.
A small collection of animated GIF mashups (which are created by using DHTML to layer a bunch of animated GIF over each other).
The Mile Wall is an interesting variation on the Million Dollar Homepage...you buy space (by the inch) on a web page that will horizontally stretch a mile. Right now, the page is 1.7 feet wide...lots of good real estate available.
Saigon photos JAN 05
A selection of photos from our week in Saigon:
A collection of pre-Katrina obituaries from New Orleans of people with distinctive nicknames. "New Orleans in the pre-Katrina world was full of characters that you'd sooner expect to read about in a Flannery O'conner short story than meet in real life. " (thx, sara)
Neat information design on the menu for Alinea. The size, positions, and darkness of the circles on the menu represent the sweetness/tartness, size, and flavor intensity of each course.
Update: Better photo of the menu here.
Satugo is a fun little camera that you can throw in the air or bounce to get some unusual photos. Love the pull-string for the quick but steady shots.
Looks like Sony has finally made a version of the Librie (an electronic ink portable media reader) for the US market. It says that "Random House, HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin-Putnam, Simon & Schuster and Time Warner Book Group are all on board with titles", which may mean that the thing is all DRMed up. Still coveting though. (via rw)
White Noises JAN 04
I was 15 minutes into White Noise (starring Michael Keaton) before I stopped, Googled it, and realized that it wasn't the White Noise based on the Don DeLillo novel, which novel I've never read and which movie isn't even out yet. The Michael Keaton-ness of it should have tipped me off sooner, but a man communicating with his dead wife through the TV...that sounds like DeLillo could have written it, doesn't it?
This Day in Apple History offers a daily story about what happened on a given day in Apple's history.
What business are movie theaters in? The fast-food business, the advertising business, or the movie exhibition business? All three, but they take the movie exhibition business the least seriously.
Transcript from the final moments of Asheron's Call 2, an online game that got turned off on Dec 30 because it wasn't making any money. "This world will be shutting down in 2 minutes. Please log out." (via wonderland)
Bangkok photos JAN 04
Where does the time go? It's been more than a month since we got back from Asia, but I haven't posted my photos from Bangkok or Saigon yet. Time for amends, so with my apologies, here are a collection of photos I took in Bangkok.
Asian migration JAN 04
A long list of business buzz words compiled from a short time on the job for a big-box retailer. If we don't boil the ocean, concentrate on the big rocks, and avoid getting thrown under the bus, our surge to streamline is a whole other type of animal and at the end of the day, we'll all be on the same page.
Backronym is "a type of acronym that is constructed to match the letters of a actual word appropriate in some fashion to the topic at hand".
New York magazine enters the NYC dining fray with a listing of the best 101 restaurants in the city. Only two got their highest (5 star) rating: Masa and Le Bernardin.
Typographica's favorite fonts of 2005, part 1. Arrival and Vista look nice.
According to some recent analysis, Antonin Scalia is the funniest Supreme Court Justice. Justice Thomas, on the other hand, generates no laughs whatsoever.
BBC Magazine has compiled a list of "100 things we didn't know this time last year", including this copyright tidbit: "musical instrument shops must pay an annual royalty to cover shoppers who perform a recognisable riff before they buy, thereby making a 'public performance'". Here's last year's list.
In an era when players are so much bigger, stronger, faster, and richer than the rest of us, it's getting harder for fans to really connect with pro sports teams.
Waiter Rant on how to order wine without looking like an asshole. "When I see someone [smell the cork] I know I'm dealing with a complete amateur. Guess what you're gonna smell? Cork!"
The Edge's annual question of the year for 2006 is "what is your dangerous idea?" Last year's question (what do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?) prompted some conversation on kottke.org.
Retrievr is a simple, amazing use of the Flickr API. You draw a little drawing and Retrievr fetches similar photos from Flickr. Photodisc, the stock photo site, used to have a feature like this back in 1997-98, but then they discontinued it (I have no idea why...it was insanely useful). One feature request...instead of a drawing, let me pick a starting Flickr photo and find me similar ones. (via mh)
2005 favorites JAN 03
If you're like me, you're waiting patiently for that day in early January when you can go more than 10 minutes without seeing a reference to some best of 2005 list. If you're also like me, you love lists so much that you can't get enough of them. So, with apologies to that first part of me, here's a final 2005 lists from me: a few movies, weblogs, books, and musical selections that I enjoyed this past year (in no particular order).
Music (not necessarily released in 2005)
Ladytron, Witching Hour. This one grew on me a lot.
Kelly Clarkson, Since U Been Gone.
Bloc Party, Silent Alarm.
Royksopp, The Understanding.
Diplo, Megatroid Mix. (download)
Boards of Canada, Campfire Headphase.
Mark Mothersbaugh (and others), The Life Aquatic soundtrack.
Stars, Set Yourself on Fire.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.
Kanye West, Gold Digger.
Sigur Ros, Takk.
BBC Philharmonic, Beethoven's Symphonies.
Two disappointments: Franz Ferdinand, You Could Have It So Much Better and Broken Social Scene by the band of the same name. I enjoyed Franz's debut album and You Forgot It in People so much, but the follow-ups fell flat for me. Still trying though...
Movies (not necessarily released in 2005)
Didn't see a lot of movies this year, unfortunately.
Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami.
The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen.
Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson.
Consider the Lobster, David Foster Wallace.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susanna Clarke.
The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan.
Pieces for the Left Hand, J. Robert Lennon.
Freakonomics, Steven Levitt, Stephen Dubner.
I read a ton of non-fiction but always enjoy the small amount of fiction I do read more.
Favorite weblogs. Compare with last year's list.
Waxy. Despite a year-end Yahoo! slowdown/hangover, still one of the absolute best.
Collision Detection. Enthusiasm about technology without the irrational exuberance or Web 2.0ness of other tech/tech culture blogs.
del.icio.us inbox. Not technically a blog, but I love this ever-fresh flow of my friends' favorites.
Robotwisdom. The original weblog was back this year after a 1.5 year hiatus. Jorn still has it.
The Morning News. Also not technically a blog, but TMN has been delivering high quality content on a daily basis for a long time now.
Flickr friends. Still the most fun on the web.
Cynical-C. Can't remember where or when I found this one, but almost every single thing on there is something I'm interested in.
Scripting News. I skim most of his opinion stuff, disagree with 90% of the rest of what I do read, but Dave has his finger on the pulse of the part of the web I care most about. He gets links so quickly sometimes that I think he's actually part RSS aggregator. "He's more machine than man now." "No, there is still good in him..."
Boing Boing. There's stuff I don't care about here, but the best of BB is really good.
3 Quarks Daily. The most accessible smart weblog out there.
Marginal Revolution. Quirky economics. Interesting everyday.
Goldenfiddle. I dislike celebrity gossip, but gf makes it seem interesting somehow. Damn you!
Youngna. Rationally exuberant.
You may notice that there are few "pro" blogs on this list. The best stuff out there is still being generated by interested, enthusiastic amateurs. When you're producing media for a profit, there's a certain vitality that's lost, I think...a loss I've been struggling with on kottke.org for the past few months. kottke.org was on last year's list but doesn't appear this year...here's hoping for a better year for the site in 2006.
Cory is leaving the EFF (at least on a full-time basis; he'll still be an EFF Fellow) to be a full-time writer (Boing Boing, novels, short stories, etc.). Good luck!