The Yakov Smirnoff joke -- In Soviet Russia, television watches you! -- is more formally called the "Russian reversal".
The new OCT 31
A brief history of ten minutes from now, courtesy of ten minutes ago (and Google (Google is the new Yahoo? Google is the new Microsoft? Google is the new Borg? Google is the new Yellow Pages? Google is the new library?)):
Breast-feeding is the new labor
Dumb is the new smart
Cobain is the new Elvis
Fundamentalists are the new avant-garde
Black is the new Jewish
SnowJoggers are the new Uggs
Square watermelons are the new round watermelons
Negative publicity is the new hot hype
Small is the new big
Yellow is the new black
Islamism is the new Nazi-Fascism
Armand De Brignac is the new Cristal
Vertical stripes are the new horizontal stripes
Awake is the new sleep
Cell phones are the new cigarettes
Pale is the new tan
JSON Serialization is the new XML Serialization
Sincerity is the new irony
Black is the new gay
Anti-terrorism is the new terrorism
Non-fiction is the new Fiction
RVs are the new homes
Gay cowboys are the new penguins
Oral is the new second base
Libertarians are the new swing vote
Green is the new Black
Bamboo is the new cotton
Cripples are the new Gay
Searing pretension is the new punk rock
Mannies are the new Mary Poppins
Referrer spam is the new Amway
Videogames are the new graffiti
Eco-apocalypticism is the new religion
Colspan is the new <blink>
Foleygate is the new Watergate
Java is the new Cobol
Muslims are the new Jews
Bo Bice is the New Clay Aiken
Clarendon is the new Helvetica
Coke is the new Nike
Gamma is the new beta
Secrecy is the new black
Spim is the new spam
Nanotubes are the new superconductors
No tagline is the new tagline
Organic is the new kosher
Sliders are the new drop-downs
Because nothing is new ("seen it" is the new creativity), this has been done before: Things that are the new black, This Is The New That, Cliches are the new cliche, In with the new..., and Something is the new something.
If you're curious as to how this particular snowclone (snowclones are the new cliches) came about, Wikipedia (Wikipedia is the new Google) tells us (we are the new network):
The phrase is commonly attributed to Gloria Vanderbilt, who upon visiting India in the 1960s noted the prevalence of pink in the native garb. She declared that "Pink is the new black", meaning that the color pink seemed to be the foundation of the attire there, much like black was the base color of most ensembles in New York.
India is the new pink.
In his book, Urban Sprawl and Public Health, public-health advocate Richard Jackson says that "our car-dependent suburban environment is killing us". "If that poor woman had collapsed from heat stroke, we docs would have written the cause of death as heat stroke and not lack of trees and public transportation, poor urban form, and heat-island effects. If she had been killed by a truck going by, the cause of death would have been 'motor-vehicle trauma,' and not lack of sidewalks and transit, poor urban planning, and failed political leadership."
Woo, NASA finally decides to fix the Hubble, repairs that will keep it working until at least 2013. "Scientists expect an upgraded Hubble to continue to make groundbreaking discoveries."
More on the craptacular "Our Country" Chevrolet commercials. The new ones, not mentioned in this article or on Slate, with images of exclusively white, male, heterosexual truck lovers, are possibly even worse. "This is our country...no chicks, homos, Mexicans, or black people welcome."
Sports fans: "It seems to me if you are willing to stick around and watch your team win you should be willing to stick around and watch your team lose."
A list of 20 works of art you need to see before you die. They want to make a list of 50...suggest your favorites in the comments.
Short review of New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English. "'I like the cut of his jib' resonates a lot differently than 'shizzle my mizzle fizzle dizzle!'"
Alan Smithee is an official pseudonym used for directorial credit when directors don't want their name associated with a movie because "the film had been wrestled from his or her creative control". As you can see from Mr. Smithee's IMDB profile, he's a fairly prolific director.
Transcript of a recent interview of Barack Obama by David Remnick. An 45-minute audio version is also available.
Search, always dead OCT 30
A couple of months ago I had the pleasure of moderating a panel at TIECon on the Search Industry. Peter Norvig, Google's Director of Research, made one comment in particular that stood out in my mind at the time. In response to a question about the prospects for the myriad of search start-ups looking for funding Peter basically said, and I am paraphrasing somewhat, that search start-ups, in the vein of Google, Yahoo Ask, etc. are dead. Not because search isn't a great place to be or because they can't create innovative technologies, but because the investment required to build and operate an Internet-scale, high performance crawling, indexing, and query serving farm were now so great that only the largest Internet companies had a chance of competing.
For Norvig to say what he did seems a little crazy, given the company he works for. The first time that search died was back in 1998. Yahoo, Altavista, Hotbot, Webcrawler, and other sites had the search game all sewn up. They were all about the same in terms of quality and people found what they were looking for much of the time. No one needed another search engine, and starting a search company in such a mature market seemed like folly. Around that time, Google became a company and eventually the world figured out it really did need another search engine.
Turtle with a wheel! A turtle with one missing back leg has been fitted with a wheel to help get around...a turtle/RC car mashup.
Michael Lewis profile of Cowboys coach Bill Parcells. I don't know if this is a typical situation, but the Cowboys seem like a pretty dysfunctional organization.
Suroweicki explans why ever-rising housing prices may be deceiving. "If you control for inflation and quality...real home prices barely budged between the eighteen-nineties and the nineteen-nineties. The idea that housing prices have nowhere to go but up is, in other words, a statistical illusion."
Love it or hate it movies OCT 27
Netflix, the online DVD rental company, recently released a bunch of their ratings data with the offer of a $1 million prize to anyone who could use that data to make a better movie recommendation system. On the forum for the prize, someone noted that the top 5 most frequently rated movies on Netflix were not particularly popular or critically acclaimed (via fakeisthenewreal):
1. Miss Congeniality
2. Independence Day
3. The Patriot
4. The Day After Tomorrow
5. Pirates of the Caribbean
That led another forum participant to analyze the data and he found some interesting things. The most intriguing result is a list of the movies that Netflix users either really love or really hate:
1. The Royal Tenenbaums
2. Lost in Translation
3. Pearl Harbor
4. Miss Congeniality
5. Napoleon Dynamite
6. Fahrenheit 9/11
7. The Patriot
8. The Day After Tomorrow
9. Sister Act
11. Kill Bill: Vol. 1
12. Independence Day
13. Sweet Home Alabama
15. Gone in 60 Seconds
17. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
18. Con Air
19. The Fast and the Furious
20. Dirty Dancing
22. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
23. The Passion of the Christ
24. How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
25. Pretty Woman
So what makes these movies so contentious? Generalizing slightly (*cough*), the list is populated with three basic kinds of movies:
Misunderstood masterpieces / cult favorites (Royal Tenenbaums, Kill Bill, Eternal Sunshine)
Action movies (Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, Fast and the Furious)
Chick flicks (Sister Act, Sweet Home Alabama, Miss Congeniality)
The thing that all those kinds of movies have in common is that if you're outside of the intended audience for a particular movie, you probably won't get it. That means that if you hear about a movie that's highly recommended within a certain group and you're not in that group, you're likely to hate it. In some ways, these are movies intended for a narrow audience, were highly regarded within that audience, tried to cross over into wider appeal, and really didn't make it.
Titanic is really the only outlier on the list...massively popular among several different groups of people and critically well-regarded as well. But I know quite a few people who absolutely hate this movie -- the usual complaints are a) chick flick, b) James Cameron's heavy-handedness, and c) reaction to the huge success of what is perceived to be a marginally entertaining, middling quality film.
BTW, here are the movies on that list that fit into my "love it" category:
The Royal Tenenbaums
Lost in Translation
The Day After Tomorrow
Kill Bill: Vol. 1
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
By subjecting ordinary water to extremely high pressure and bombarding it with x-rays, scientists at Los Alamos have formed a new hydrogen-oxygen alloy. "Given high enough pressures, even hydrogen will behave as a metal. All the other heavier elements in hydrogen's group of the periodic table are metals."
A confession: I just spent a little while watching NHL '94 highlight videos on YouTube and consider it time well spent. After all, it is one of the greatest video games ever made. I noticed quite a few of the featured goals in this video were what my little cadre of gamers in college referred to as "cheater" goals where you go across the goal and slapshot hard to the far side. We outlawed them because it was a guaranteed goal and made playing a whole lot less fun. The goal I didn't notice so much of was the "rock the cradle" goal, a beautiful goal and my bread and butter as an NHL '94 player. It happens on the break where you dribble the puck very quickly back and forth from left to right and, when it works, juke the goalie completely. The best part is that after much practice, you can do it with even the slowest players in the game against the best goalies.
Update: Some crazy souls have made a multiplayer version of NHL '94 that works over the internet. You just login to a server, find an opponent, and away you go. There are even leagues!
There's a new Scrabble world record: 830 points, including a play of quixotry on a triple-triple for a record score of 365. "Looking at the game as a whole, it's clear that a lack of expertise created the conditions for the record."
An organization called Scholarships Around the US is offering a $5000 scholarship to a college student who blogs. It's free to apply...all you need to do is write a 300-word essay (and meet a few requirements).
Fascinating story of an amateur cyclist who starts taking various performancing enhancing drugs to see how they affect his performance. "I had a life once, and now I'm standing in the Easton WaWa in the middle of the night, looking like a cyborg, with thousands of dollars of drugs coursing through my veins. I started looking forward to the moment when the whole thing would be over."
The cheapness and small footprint of flat panel TVs has made it much easier for restaurants and bars to just hang them up any old where...and spurred on by the recent World Cup festivities, that's exactly what's happened in NYC.
Line Rider OCT 26
Line Rider is not quite a game but not quite a toy or drawing tool either. But judging by the 6,000,000 views its gotten since it was posted a month ago, Line Rider certainly is compelling. I don't even like playing it all that much, but I spent a solid hour a few weeks ago watching videos of other people's tracks on YouTube; it's just so fascinating to see how much can be done with simple lines and rules. Here's one of the better tracks I've seen (c/o clusterflock). This little non-game has even shown up in Time magazine. Go, little Line Rider, go.
Update: A new version of Line Rider is to be released soon. New features will include an eraser, new types of lines, line snapping, etc.
If you're looking to record your Line Rider creation and post it to YouTube, you can use CamStudio (Win), Super Screen Recorder (Win), oRipa Screen Recorder (Win), Screen Movie Recorder (Mac), iShowU (Mac), Snapz Pro (Mac), and ScreenRecord (Mac).
For information on how to play Line Rider more effectively, check out the Line Rider Forums.
Richard Dawkins is keeping a journal while he tours around in support of The God Delusion. "This Washington signing was remarkable for the number who bought not just one copy of The God Delusion but up to half a dozen. 'Christmas presents?' I inquired of one man. 'Winter solstice', he instantly corrected me."
Video of a Steven Levitt talk on the economics of gangs and why gangbanger is not such a good vocation (for one thing, the job pays less than McDonald's). The board of directors stuff made me think of the co-op on The Wire.
The Royal Institution of London has named Primo Levi's The Periodic Table the best science book ever written. Other authors in the running: Oliver Sacks, Steven Pinker, and Richard Dawkins.
Gary Wolf talks to three prominent atheists (Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett) and concludes that "the irony of the New Atheism -- this prophetic attack on prophecy, this extremism in opposition to extremism -- is too much for me".
It's sad that the Silicon Valley tech scene and press is so fixated on building companies to flip that people need to write about sustainable companies as "a new and better model for Internet startups". Good luck, Ev and company, in finding success on your own terms.
Now that you've installed the new version of Firefox, here's all the tweaks you need to make it work right.
The story of Tetris OCT 25
The following is a great 2004 BBC documentary about Tetris, the man who created it, and the lengths that several companies went to in order to procure the rights to distribute it. Tetris - From Russia With Love:
Alexey Pazhitnov, a computer programmer from Moscow, created Tetris in 1985 but as the Soviet Union was Communist and all, the state owned the game and any rights to it. Who procured the rights from whom on the other side of the Iron Curtain became the basis of legal wranglings and lawsuits; the Atari/Nintendo battle over Tetris wasn't settled until 1993. There's an abbreviated version of the story, but the documentary is a lot more fun. A rare copy of the Tengen version of Tetris, which was pulled from the shelves due to legal troubles, is available on eBay for around $50.
A new book called They Never Said That debunks some famous phrases that were never actually said by those that supposedly coined them. "Hundreds of pithy remarks from 'Let them eat cake' to 'Elementary, my dear Watson', turn out to be adaptations of comments that were more clumsy or more boring -- or which were never said by those thought to have coined them."
Story of a dog that was addicted to licking toads for the hallucinogenic effect. Listen to the audio version if you can. "Winter was going to come and we were going to have a dog without toad." (via bb)
Five great movie monologues. #1 is Merkin Muffley talking to Dmitri on the phone in Dr. Strangelove...one of my favorite scenes of any movie ever.
Following the lead of the Six Word Story group on Flickr and Caterina's prompt, Wired asked some prominent writers to pen their own six word stories. "Hemingway once wrote a story in just six words ('For sale: baby shoes, never worn.') and is said to have called it his best work." Got any good ones?
Interview with Cory Arcangel about his new show at Team Gallery. "I made the conscious decision that the viewer shouldn't have to understand it; it should stand on its own and be beautiful. Anyone can have an art moment with my work, regardless of their technical knowledge."
Nike hightops for sale. Price: $8500. Sneakers are the new wine.
I know it's only 8am, but this is the best link of the day. Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert, lost his voice 18 months ago due to a strange condition called spasmodic dysphonia. He wasn't ever supposed to get it back, but he did what any good nerd would do: he figured out how to hack his brain to route around the problem and, voila, his voice returned. Awesome. (thx, eric)
Update: In November 2004, Adams also lost the ability to draw because of a condition called focal dystonia. As with his voice problems, he routed around the problem by learning to draw in a different way. (thx, martin)
Update: Wired has an update on Adams' condition. Apparently a few days after he wrote the blog post above, Adams had a relapse and waited almost two more years for a surgical procedure that helped him.
As part of a World Series promotion, Taco Bell will give away a free taco to everyone in the United States if someone hits a home run over the left field wall in tonight's game 3. This is a big offer for a big company so of course their lawyers want to make darn sure that we know precisely what "Taco Bell" means when they say "home run", "left field", and "free taco" with an extensive list of terms and conditions. Surely the first legal document containing the phrase "a completely outside the bun idea", the T&C is a fun read, but my favorite is the first condition that you agree to if you take advantage of the offer:
...to release, Major League Baseball Properties, Inc., Major League Baseball Enterprises, Inc., MLB Advanced Media, L.P., MLB Media Holdings, Inc., MLB Media Holdings, L.P., MLB Online Services, Inc., the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball, and the Major League Baseball Clubs, and each of their respective shareholders, employees, parents, directors, officers, affiliates, representatives, agents, successors, and assigns (hereinafter, "MLB Entities") and Sponsor and their affiliates, subsidiaries, retailers, sales representatives, distributors and franchisees, and each of their officers, directors, employees and agents ("Promotional Parties"), from any and all liability, loss or damage incurred with respect to participation in this contest and/or the awarding, receipt, possession, and/or use or misuse of any Free Taco
Man, I really hope someone hits a left field home run tonight. I'm dying to see some creative misuse of free tacos.
Profile of John Hodgman, "archly amusing nerd".
Update: The photos weren't taken from the ISS but from a chase plane. (thx, greg)
First draft of Rafe's Law: "An Internet service cannot be considered truly successful until it has attracted spammers."
The Moleskine City Notebooks, the cool make-your-own travel books, are being released in the US on Nov 1 and moleskinerie has information on where to find them.
outside.in is a hyperlocal blog/newspaper/information aggregator that Steven Johnson is heading up. Here's his announcement post on his blog. "Type in a zip code or address, and you'll instantly see the conversations that the natives are having about their community."
Time's White House photographers have a daily photoblog. A good look at the stuff that doesn't make it into the newspapers or magazines. (thx, pablo)
Artist Liz Cohen fixes up old cars and then photographs herself with them as a bikini model. Here's a recent article on Cohen's work in the Phoenix New Times and an older article from Wired. (via art fag city)
Portfolio site of graphic designer Si Scott. The navigation is ridiculous and inscrutable, but the work within is worth seeing.
Richard Dawkins: Why there almost certainly is no God. "We cannot, of course, disprove God, just as we can't disprove Thor, fairies, leprechauns and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But, like those other fantasies that we can't disprove, we can say that God is very very improbable."
A collection of excuses for not blogging more. "I haven't had the internet and I have been drunk or busy alot."
Happy birthday, universe OCT 23
According to the Ussher-Lightfoot Calendar, today is the 6,009th birthday of the universe. Based on James Ussher's interpretation of the Bible, God created "the heaven and the earth" on October 23, 4004 BC. Happy birthday, everything!
Note: I'm doing Mr. Ussher's precise chronology a disservice by fudging the Julian calendar date that he derived with the Gregorian calendar we now use. For that, I apologize.
PopTech, day 3 wrap-up OCT 23
Notes from day 3 at PopTech:
Chris Anderson talked about, ba ba baba!, not the long tail. Well, not explicitly. Chris charted how the availability of a surplus in transistors (processors are cheap), storage (hard drives are cheap), and surplus in bandwidth (DSL is cheap) has resulted in so much opportunity for innovation and new technology. His thoughts reminded me of how surplus space in Silicon Valley (in the form of garages) allowed startup entrepreneurs to pursue new ideas without having to procure expensive commercial office space.
Quick thought re: the long tail...if the power law arises from scarcity as Matt Webb says, then it would make sense that the surplus that Anderson refers to would be flattening that curve out a bit.
Roger Brent crammed a 60 minute talk into 20 minutes. It was about genetic engineering and completely baffling...almost a series of non sequiturs. "Centripital glue engine" was my favorite phrase of the talk, but I've got no idea what Brent meant by it.
Homaro Cantu gave a puzzling presentation of a typical meal at his Chicago restaurant, Moto. I've seen this presentation twice before and eaten at Moto; all three experiences were clear and focused on the food. This time around, Cantu didn't explain the food as well or why some of the inventions were so cool. His polymer box that cooks on the table is a genuinely fantastic idea, but I got the feeling that the rest of the audience didn't understand what it was. Cantu also reiterated his position on copyrighting and patenting his food and inventions. Meg caught him saying that he was trying to solve the famine problem with his edible paper, which statement revealed two problems: a) famines are generally caused by political issues and therefore not solvable by new kinds of food, printed or otherwise, and b) he could do more good if he open sourced his inventions and let anyone produce food or improve the techniques in those famine cases where food would be useful.
Richard Dawkins gave part of his PopTech talk (the "queerer than we can suppose" part of it) at TED in 2005 (video).
Bob Metcalfe's wrap-up of the conference was a lot less contentious than in past years; hardly any shouting and only one person stormed angrily out of the room. In reference to Hasan Elahi's situation, Bob said that there's a tension present in our privacy desires: "I want my privacy, but I need you to be transparent." Not a bad way of putting it.
Serena Koenig spoke about her work in Haiti with Partners in Health. Koening spoke of a guideline that PIH follows in providing healthcare: act as though each patient is a member of your own family. That sentiment was echoed by Zinhle Thabethe, who talked about her experience as an HIV+ woman living in South Africa, an area with substandard HIV/AIDS-related healthcare. Thabethe's powerful message: we need to treat everyone with HIV/AIDS the same, with great care. Sounds like the beginning of a new Golden Rule of Healthcare.
Invention + art OCT 22
Photographer Clifford Ross shared his list of the necessary ingredients for invention and art at PopTech:
3. ready to embrace the unexpected
4. ability and willingness to collaborate
PopTech day 2 wrap-up OCT 21
Some notes from day 2 at PopTech, with a little backtracking into day 1 as well. In no particular order:
The upshot of Thomas Barnett's entertaining and provacative talk (or one of the the upshots, anyway): China is the new world power and needs a sidekick to help globalize the world. And like when the US was the rising power in the world and took the outgoing power, England, along for the ride so that, as Barnett put it, "England could fight above its weight", China could take the outgoing power (the US) along for the globalization ride. The US would provide the military force to strike initial blows and the Chinese would provide peacekeeping; Barnett argued that both capabilities are essential in a post-Cold War world.
Juan Enriquez talked about boundries...specifically if there will be more or less of them in the United States in the future. 45 states? 65 states? One thing that the US has to deal with is how we treat immigrants. Echoing William Gibson, Enriquez said "the words you use today will resonate through history for a long time". That is, if you don't let the Mexican immigrants in the US speak their own language, don't welcome their contributions to our society, and just generally make people feel unwelcome in the place where they live, it will come back to bite you in the ass (like, say, when southern California decides it would rather be a part of Mexico or its own nation).
Enriquez again, regarding our current income tax proclivities: "if we pay more and our children don't owe less, that's not taxes...it's just a long-term, high-interest loan".
Number of times ordained minister Martin Marty said "hell" during his presentation: 2. Number of times Marty said "goddamn": 1. Number of times uber-heathen Richard Dawkins said "hell", "goddamn", or any other blasphemous swear: 0.
Dawkins told the story of Kurt Wise, who took a scissors to the Bible and cut out every passage which was in discord with the theory of evolution, eventually ending up with a fragmented mess. Confronted with this crisis of faith and science, Wise renounced evolution and became a geologist who believes that the earth is only 6000 years old.
The story of Micah Garen's capture by Iraqi militants and Marie-Helene Carlton's efforts to get her boyfriend back home safely illustrates the power of the connected world. Marie-Helene and Micah's family used emails, mobile phones, and sat phones to reach out through their global social network, eventually reaching people in Iraq whom Micah's captors might listen to. A woman in the audience stood during the Q&A and related her story of her boyfriend being on a hijacked plane out of Athens in 1985 and how powerless she was to do anything in the age before mobiles, email, and sat phones. Today, Stanley Milgram might say, an Ayatollah is never more than 4 or 5 people away.
Lexicographer Erin McKean told us several interesting things about dictionaries, including that "lexicographer" can be found in even the smallest of dictionaries because, duh, look who's responsible for compiling the words in a dictionary. She called dictionaries the vodka of literature: a distillation of really meaty mixture of substances into something that odorless, tasteless, colorless, and yet very powerful. Here an interview with her and a video of a lecture she gave at Google.
Voting for the future OCT 20
Juan Enriquez had a nice idea for rebalancing the priorities in the voting booth: proxy votes for parents of children under 18. That is, if my wife and I have two kids, the family gets four votes, not two. Juan's rationale for this plan is that the voting public is currently made up of a lot of baby boomers, who are going to begin to vote for things that benefit their age group, which can be thought of as an investment in the past. By voting on behalf of the 0-18 year-olds, the parents might support issues that benefit that age group (education, etc.) and invest in the future instead. Here's a quote from Juan in CIO Magazine:
Why not give parents of kids under 18 one proxy vote per child? Only then will there be a strong voting block to counter growing gray power. It is also time to quit spending more than we earn. And above all, it is time to realize just how fragile countries can be.
If you missed his talk on PopTech Live, the CIO article covers some of what he talked about.
Twisty Table OCT 20
One of the coolest little gadgets at PopTech is Onomy Labs' Twisty Table. This one is round and it's got a satellite map of the world projected on it. When you spin the table, the map zooms in and out and tilting the table scrolls it. Here's a photo of the table in action at Foo Camp.
Rodrigo y Gabriela OCT 20
A couple from Ireland (by way of Mexico), Rodrigo and Gabriela totally blew the audience away here at PopTech with their thrash metal-influenced Latin percussive acoustic guitar. I know that's not much to go on, but trust me on this one. Check out some of their stuff on YouTube and then buy their new CD. (Best part of their set: they threw in a little Enter Sandman by Metallica, which went over the head of everyone in the audience over 35, i.e. almost everyone.)
Hasan Elahi ran into some trouble with the FBI in 2002 (they thought he was a terrorist) and ever since, he's been voluntarily tracking his movements and putting the whole thing online: photos of meals, photos of toilets used, airports flown out of, credit card receipts, etc. His goal is to flood the market with information, so it devalues the information that the authorities have on him.
PopTech, day 1 wrap-up OCT 20
Since my internet access has been somewhat spotty at the conference (I'm trying to pay attention and power is hard to come by here so the laptop is closed most of the time), I'm going to do rolling wrap-ups as I go, skipping around and filling in the blanks when I can. Here we go, soundbite-style:
Alex Steffen: Cars equipped with displays that show gas mileage, when compared to cars without the mileage display, get better gas mileage. That little bit of knowledge helps the driver drive more economically. More visible energy meter displays in the home have a similar effect...people use less energy when they're often reminded of how much energy they use. (Perhaps Personal Kyoto could help here as well.) At dinner, we discussed parallels between that and eating. Weighing yourself daily or keep track of everything you eat, and you'll find yourself eating less. In the same way, using a program like Quicken to track your finances might compel you to spend less, at least in areas of your life where you may be spending too much.
Bruce Sterling is the Jesse Jackson of technology. He has this cadence that he gets into, neologism after neologism, stopping just short of suggesting a new word for neologism. Wonderful to experience in person. Perhaps not as upbeat as the Reverend, though.
Bruce also related a story told to him by an engineering professor friend of his. The prof split his class into two groups. The first group, the John Henrys, had to study and learn exclusively from materials available at the library...no internet allowed. The second group, the Baby Hueys, could use only the internet for research and learning...no primary source lookups at the library. After a few weeks, he had to stop this experiment because the John Henrys were lagging so far behind the Baby Hueys that it is was unfair to continue.
Kevin Kelly noted that the web currently has 1 trillion links, 1 quintillion transistors, and 20 exabytes of memory. A single human brain has 1 trillion synapses (links), 1 quintillion neurons (transistors of sorts), and 20 exabytes of memory.
Kelly also said that technology has its own agenda and went on to list what it is that technology might want. One of the things was clean water. You need clean water for industrial manufacturing...so water cleanliness is going to be a big deal in China. In a later talk, Thomas Friedman said, "China needs to go green."
Hasan Elahi, during his ordeal being mistaken for -- what's the term these days? -- an enemy combatant, learned that language translates easier than culture. That is, you can learn how to speak a language fluently way easier than to have the cultural fluency necessary to convince someone you're a native. In his interrogations, Hasan liberally sprinkled pop culture references in his answers to questions posed by the FBI to help convince them that he was a native. Workers at call centers in India for American companies are not only taught to speak English with an American accent, they also receive training in American geography, history, and pop culture so as to better fool/serve American callers.
"The best laid plans of mice and men turn into a nonlinear system." -- Will Wright, with apologies to Robert Burns.
Speaking of Wright, a couple of Spore trivia bits. The data for a creature in Spore takes up just 3K of memory. And entire world: just 80K. And these worlds are amazingly complex.
Brian Eno: With large groups of people, the sense of shame and the sense of honor that keeps the members of small groups from misbehaving breaks down. The challenge for larger groups is to find ways of making honor and shame matter in a similar respect.
Stewart Brand: "We are terraforming the earth anyway, we might as well do it right." Stewart also noted that cities are very effective population sinks. When people move to cities, the birthrate drops to the replacement rate (2.1 children per family) and keeps on dropping. Combine that with the fact that by early next year, more people in the world will live in cities than in rural areas, and at some point in the next hundred years, the earth's population will start to fall.
Keeping secrets OCT 19
It is becoming unprecedentedly difficult for anyone, anyone at all, to keep a secret. In the age of the leak and the blog, of evidence extraction and link discovery, truths will either out or be outed, later if not sooner. This is something I would bring to the attention of every diplomat, politician and corporate leader: the future, eventually, will find you out. The future, wielding unimaginable tools of transparency, will have its way with you. In the end, you will be seen to have done that which you did.
Taken from Alex Steffen's talk at PopTech.
Not like the 70s OCT 19
Some notes on a presentation by Thomas Friedman, who I've somehow managed to unconsciously steer clear of. (Doesn't help that his stuff is behind the NY Times paywall. If he really wanted to make the impact on this green stuff, he'd get the Times to move that stuff out in the open so us proles can link to it and discuss it.) Here are Friedman's five reasons why "this is not your father's energy crisis" (ie the 1970s):
1. With our energy consumption in the US, we're funding both sides in the "war on terror". Our oil consumption pays for terrorists and our taxes pay for the armed forces, etc.
2. The world is flat, globalization, opportunities to consume at first world levels are available to China, India, Russia, etc. And they're seizing the day.
3. Clean power and green energy is the #1 growth industry of the 21st century.
4. What Tom referred to as the First Law of Petropolitics: the price of oil has an inverse relationship with the pace of freedom. Oil prices fall, freedom goes up; oil prices rise and Iran starts talking about the myth of The Holocaust.
5. The new economy companies (Friedman namechecked Google and Yahoo specifically) are going to drive clean power and green energy because every time you do a search on the web, it costs them a little bit of power and they are going to want to drive that price down.
He finished by saying that green has been marginalized as being sissy, liberal, and Unamerican, but Friedman says "green is the new red, white, and blue".
It's all in your head OCT 19
The Brian Eno/Will Wright session kicked things off quite well at PopTech. Lots of interesting stuff to say about this one, but I quickly wanted to highlight two things that Eno and Wright said independently in their presentations. Eno:
Art is created by artists so that the viewer has the opportunity to create something.
Later, Wright said in relation to games:
The real game is constructed in the player's head.
Eno started his presentation by wondering about a overall system for describing culture, from high to low. He and Wright may be onto something here in that respect.
77 Million Paintings, a generative artwork by Brian Eno. "Work that continues to create itself in your absence."
Netlag: infovisualization of the world made of exterior web cams over time. So as the day goes on, you can see Europe light up, then the eastern seaboard of the US, then the western US, and so on.
Onstage at PopTech just now, Brian Eno said that a musical piece by Steven Reich had a huge influence on how he thought about art. He said that Reich's piece showed him that:
1. You don't need much.
2. The composer's role is to set up a system and then let it go.
3. The true composer is actually in the listener's brain.
I'd never heard of Reich, but the name sounded familiar when Eno mentioned it. I realized I'd seen it yesterday when reading about Cory Arcangel's show at Team Gallery in reference to his piece, Sweet 16:
Cory applied American avant-garde composer Steven Reich's concept of phasing to the guitar intro of Guns and Roses' track Sweet Child O'Mine. Rather than use instruments, Cory took the same two clips from the song's music video and shortened one clip by a single note. As the videos loop, the two intros grow farther apart until they are back in sync.
He's veered away from video games, but Cory's new work is looking really interesting these days.
Some mobile phones come with water damage stickers that change color when they get wet, thereby voiding the warranty on your phone if it stops working, no matter if the color change and the breakage is related. "As a designer, I would much prefer to look at the problem as 'How can we improve the sealing of phones so that water ingress is no longer a major problem?' than 'How can we design something to cover our backs and shift all the blame onto the user for our design fault?'"
Paul Graham on the 18 mistakes that kill startups. Some interesting stuff here, but heavily technology-biased (#6 Hiring Bad Progammers...what, everyone else on the team can be bad and you'll still succeed?).
Malcolm Gladwell writes about a group of people trying to predict movie hits. As Andy notes, "the problem with their technique is coming up with every possible meaningful variable".
This is one of the most disturbing movies I've ever seen. If I had kids, I'd rather take them to see Scarface or Requiem for a Dream. Better: Lazy Sunday, aka The Chronic of Narnia.
The 12 best movie pitches ever. "Idea #3: Two childhood friends who are in love with each other but don't know it (also, they're a man and a woman) have a contest over twenty years to see who can have the biggest divorce, but end up falling in love with a husband and wife divorce lawyer team" ...so far so good... "and the divorce laywer team's daughter has invisible powers and can see fat guys naked and the guy (not the divorce lawyer) has a pet pug and the pug drives a little motorcycle." (via waxy)
An evolutionary theorist has predicted that humans may split into two sub-species: "the genetic upper class would be tall, slim, healthy, attractive, intelligent, and creative and a far cry from the 'underclass' humans who would have evolved into dim-witted, ugly, squat goblin-like creatures."
Great SF Chronicle series on sex trafficking: Diary of a Sex Slave. The story centers around a young Korean woman who accrues massive credit card debt and then is sold into prostitution to pay it off.
Praise be! The New Yorker seems to have reversed their position on splitting their articles up into multiple pages...the articles from this week's issue all seem to be one-pagers (for example). Nice work.
Update: I spoke too soon...they are still doing multi-page articles. What I observed seemed to be a technological hiccup. Booo!!!
PopTech 2006 OCT 17
Postings around here may get a little sporadic because I'm heading up to attend the PopTech conference in Maine. PopTech is near the top of the heap of all the conferences I've attended and I'm really looking forward to this year's event, especially since I didn't get to go last year. Speakers include Thomas Barnett, Richard Dawkins, Homaro Cantu, Juan Enriquez, Stewart Brand, Thomas Friedman, Will Wright, and Ze Frank, as well as the sleepers that I've never heard of that inevitably knock everyone's socks off.
If you didn't get yourself in gear to make it to PopTech this year, no need for despair. For the first time, they're broadcasting the whole thing, live and for free. I will also be doing some blogging from the audience (as will others, I imagine), so stay tuned for that as well.
The economic case against philanthropy: charity is selfish. "Those organizing fund-raising drives for the United Way tend to be disproportionately real estate agents, insurance brokers, car dealers, and other people with something to sell."
Cory posted a nice review of Julian Dibbell's Play Money. I loved the book as well and Cory's review captures what's so compelling about it. It's a shame that it didn't gain a wider readership (and a less unfortunate cover as well)...it's not just some nerdy book about g@m3rz.
Photographer Philippe Halsman took portraits of people while jumping (the people, not Halsman), as a way to loosen up. Subjects include Marilyn Monroe, Richard Nixon, and the Dule and Duchess of Windsor. (viabb)
Just how much women's underwear can be stashed in one person's closet? "Next I discovered two loose pairs of women's underwear. Next I discovered a Pokemon lunchbox containing 20 pairs of women's underwear, and next I discovered a blue hardened briefcase containing 73 pairs of women's underwear."
Headline of the week: "Horniest male beetles have the tiniest testicles". Bravo!
Dori Smith had her personalized license plate ("WEB GEEK") stolen and she wants it back, no questions asked. "I know a lot of people in the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area. I know a lot of Web geeks. The chances are good that whoever ends up with my plate knows someone who knows someone who knows me."
Wally Wallington demonstrates how to move anything by yourself, including a barn and a Stonehenge-sized rock. More information available at Wally's site.
What's so special about the number 1729? (Turns out, quite a lot.)
The future of science: celebrity photography. While in Venice for the World Conference on the Future of Science, prominent philosopher Daniel Dennett squeezed off a shot of Paris Hilton arriving at the hotel for, one would assume, activities unrelated to the scientific proceedings.
Stephen Hawking is making an Imax 3D film about "cosmology and the meaning of existence". The film "will be like Groundhog Day meets Star Trek".
Tyler Cowen takes a closer look at the recent "600,000 deaths in Iraq" claim. "We all know that the political world judges Iraq by the absolute badness of what is going on (which means Bush critics find a higher number to fit their priors), but that is an incorrect standard. We should judge the marginal product of U.S. action, relative to what else could have happened. In that latter and more accurate notion of a cost-benefit test, U.S. actions probably appear worst when deaths are rising over time, and hitting very high levels in the future."
Bob Holmes imagines an earth without people in New Scientist. "All things considered, it will only take a few tens of thousands of years at most before almost every trace of our present dominance has vanished completely. Alien visitors coming to Earth 100,000 years hence will find no obvious signs that an advanced civilisation ever lived here."
Update: Derek Miller notes that even after human traces have vanished from earth, evidence of our civilization would remain on the moon and in space.
Photographer Francois Brunelle is looking for people and their doppelgangers to phoytograph for a project. Whaddya say, Sweeney? (via bb)
Because of his open source programming connection, Hans Reiser's arrest for his wife's murder was big news in that community. After his wife disappeared, Reiser bought 2 books on murder, including David Simon's Homicide. Simon is the creator of The Wire.
The story of Friendster's failure. By way of illustration, the people involved all blame each other for the debacle. I've gotta say, I loved watching Friendster fail...they were the poster child for stupid dot com companies during a time when that crap was all supposed to have been flushed down the toilet. "At MySpace, they rode the wave instead of fighting it [as Friendster did], and encouraged users to do pretty much as they pleased."
If God didn't want us to blog, he wouldn't have created Movable Type, am I right? "Let me emphasize that no one -- including adults -- should have a blog or personal website."
YouTube's popularity and recent sale to Google is hurting Universal Tube and Rollerform Equipment Corp's business; their web site, utube.com, is getting millions of hits from misdirected video viewers and the companies regular customers can't get in to purchase equipment.
15 ways to improve your newspaper business. "1. Go out in street, see news, write it up."
From the perspective of the outside observer, New York's Little Italy seems like little more than a chunk of Disney World plopped down in the midst of lower Manhattan. On the ground, the reality is not much better, particularly if you're out to find a good meal. Unlike neighboring Chinatown, Little Italy's food reputation is not the best. Since we started working in our new office in Chinatown, a number of forays have been made into Little Italy in order to procure take-out to bring back to the office, particularly pizza-by-the-slice. The results have been disappointing; several slices of blah pizza and a deep-fried risotto ball with prosciutto, mozzarella, and peas (sounds fantastic, right?) that was way not fantastic.
Is there anywhere in this whole small country we can get good Italian food to go or pizza-by-the-slice? As it is, Little Italy is reflecting poorly on the mother country and its excellent cuisine, and it would be nice, if possible, to salvage some of that reputation.
Grain elevator tour OCT 12
Pruned takes us on a short tour of grain elevators. Wonderful old industrial buildings...the small town I grew up in had a huge grain elevator rising from the center of town, like a skyscraper in a cornfield.
There has been a recent rash of technology and creative conferences whose speakers are mostly white males. The lack of diversity caused Jen Bekman to compile a list of women speakers for your conference. If you've got a technology or creative arts conference coming up and need some diversity in your speaking lineup, this is a good place to start.
Summary of a talk by Malcolm Gladwell on precociousness. "What a gifted child is, in many ways, is a gifted learner. And what a gifted adult is, is a gifted doer. And those are quite separate domains of achievement."
The Rotenberg Center is a school for special education students that is essentially a giant Skinner box. Students are hooked to electrical devices and shocked when they misbehave. At once fascinating and disturbing. (via mr)
Mostly positive review of the Sony Reader by David Pogue. That it's Windows-only is a real bummer for me and my go-go Macintosh lifestyle.
Update: Sorry, the "Windows-only" bit above is confusing. The software to load documents directly to the Reader is only available for Windows, but you can use any old OS you want to put documents on an SD card and then the card into the Reader. (thx, erik)
Jimmy Carter on the North Korean situation: "What must be avoided is to leave a beleaguered nuclear nation convinced that it is permanently excluded from the international community, its existence threatened, its people suffering horrible deprivation and its hard-liners in total control of military and political policy."
Futurama tidbit: "Groening's series Futurama is back, thanks to strong DVD sales. Four Futurama DVD movies are scheduled for release and they will be chopped into episodes for broadcast on Comedy Central in 2008."
Shopping in Chinatown at lunch: pork uterus for $2.99/lb.
Computing is killing cursive writing. My writing was always bad, but now that I write things maybe once every three months, it's like I don't even know what a pencil is...most monkeys print better than I can.
Youngna Park has a short wrap-up of going to see Annie Leibovitz speak about her new book, A Photographer's Life: 1990-2005. "And, so it goes, said Leibovitz, that some of us use words in order to take good pictures, and some of us take pictures, in order that we can be heard."
The Ghost Map OCT 11
The Ghost Map is a book about:
- a bacterium
- the human body
- a geographical map
- a man
- a working friendship
- a household
- a city government
- a neighborhood
- a waste management system1
- an epidemic
- a city
- human civilization
You hooked yet? Well, you should be. As the narrative unfolds around the 1854 London cholera epidemic, author Steven Johnson weaves all of these social, geographical, and biological structures/webs/networks into a scientific parable for the contemporary world. The book is at its best when it zooms among these different scales in a Powers of Ten-like fashion (something Johnson calls The Long Zoom), demonstrating the interplay between them: the way the geography of a neighborhood affected the spread of a virus, how ideas spreading within a social context are like an epidemic, or the comparison between the organism of the city and the geography of a bacterial colony within the human colon. None of this is surprising if you've read anything about emergence, complexity, or social scale invariance, but Johnson effectively demonstrates how tightly coupled the development of (as well as our understanding of) viral epidemics and large cities were across all of these scales.
The other main theme I saw in the book is how inherently messy science is. Unlike many biographies, The Ghost Map doesn't try to tie everything up into a nice little package to make a better story. The cholera epidemic and its resolution was sloppy; there was no aha! moment where everyone involved understood what was going on and knew what had to be done. But the scientific method applied by John Snow to the situation was solid and as more evidence became available over the years, his theory of and solution to cholera epidemics were revealed as actual fact. Johnson reminds us that that's how science works most of the time; science is a process, not a set of facts and theories. During the recent debate in the US over evolution and intelligent design, I felt a reluctance on the part of scientists to admit to this messiness because it would give an opening to their detractors: "haha, so you admit you don't know what's going on at all!" Which is unfortunate, because science is powerful in its nuance and rough edges (in some ways, science is what happens at the margins) in helping us understand ourselves and the world we live in.
Yossi Vardi shows that data transfer by snail is faster than broadband. "He showed a slide of a snail hitched to a tiny chariot with DVDs for wheels. If each disk contains 4.7 gigabytes of data, and if the snail (chasing a scrap of lettuce) travels at 0.000023 metres per second, the snail-system performance rate is over thirty-seven megabits per second. That blows ADSL out of the water."
Regarding the debate over copyrights and food, people in fashion are having the same discussion>. "In an industry where many designers come out with similar looks each season -- and where inspiration is said to be 'in the air' -- designers and the thriving knockoff industry are hotly debating the issue." (thx, richard)
Photos from a visit to Pixar. "Whenever they get an idea for a story and there is something that they aren't sure they know how to do yet, instead of putting 250+ people on a project and spend millions on something that they are unsure of, they will put 30 people on it and have them to create a short to see if it can be done."
Atul Gawande on the rise in Cesarean deliveries in the US, which soon may become safer than natural childbirth: "We are losing our connection to yet another natural process of life. And we are seeing the waning of the art of childbirth. The skill required to bring a child in trouble safely through a vaginal delivery, however unevenly distributed, has been nurtured over centuries. In the medical mainstream, it will soon be lost."
Changes in rules and enforcement for the upcoming NBA season: travelling will be called more, no more full-length leg tights, no extending your arms to gain an advantageous position in the lane before free-throws, and no more wearing rubber bands. It'll be interesting to see if the travelling calls stick...last year, I'd say an uncalled travelling violation occurred on at least 1 out of every 5 or 6 possessions. (via truehoop)
The population of earth fell into "ecological debt" with the planet yesterday. "The date symbolised the day of the year when people's demands exceeded the Earth's ability to supply resources and absorb the demands placed upon it." In 1987, ecological debt day fell on December 19.
Pete Wells writes in Food and Wine about recipes, copyrights, and patents. Meg picks up the thread and argues that copyrighting recipes would stifle innovation, not promote it, rewarding mostly the lawyers who insert themselves between our food and mouths. A commenter says, "By nature, food people are generous of spirit, and recognize that the great fun of food is in the sharing."
Portrait photographer Platon shares some remembrances of shooting famous people. "Bono told Platon that 'a friend' had made the rosary he wears. Which friend? Oh, the Pope, of course." Here's another interview with Platon. (via conscientious)
Not sure if this is the actual code or not, but the source code for MS-DOS 6.0 appears to be available on Google Code Search (by way of a search for "microsoft confidential"). More Google Code Search goodies here. (thx, aj)
Joel Johnson used to work for Gawker, recently quit, and started a smart blog about guy stuff called Dethroner. Matt Haughey noticed the quality and low level of desperation in the tone of the site (I find many of the blogs that are attempting to make money are clingy and nearly pathological in their need for attention) and interviewed Joel about the site. "So I'm just saying, I wish more people would just be happy making a modest living on the web, because I think that it's pretty neat that it can be done."
The Wordless Music Series is an attempt to bring together classical music and more contemporary music, the differences between which "are an artificial construction in need of dismantling". The next concert is on 11/15/2006 in NYC and tickets are priced for young concertgoers in mind.
The Blind Side OCT 10
In addition to the race and class aspect that interests me about the book, The Blind Side is, oh, by the way, also about the sport of football, specifically the left tackle position. In the 1980s, the quarterback became increasingly important in the offensive scheme and rushing linebackers, specifically Lawrence Taylor, became a bigger part of the defensive scheme. This created a problem for the offensive line: protect the valuable & fragile quarterback from the huge, fast likes of Lawrence Taylor, whose Joe Theismann-leg-snapping exploits you've seen replayed on a thousand SportsCenters. The solution to this problem was to hire giant-handed men the size of houses who move like ballerinas to protect the blind side of the quarterback. Thus has the left tackle position become the second-highest paid position in the league behind the quarterbacks themselves.
When I read Lewis' profile of Michael Oher in the New York Times, I had a crazy thought: why not cut to the chase and make the men fit to play the left tackle position into quarterbacks instead? Lewis covers this briefly near the end of the book in relating the story of Jonathan Ogden, left tackle for the Baltimore Ravens:
Now the highest paid player on the field, Ogden was doing his job so well and so effortlessly that he had time to wonder how hard it would be for him to do some of the other less highly paid jobs. At the end of that 2000 season, en route to their Super Bowl victory, the Ravens played in the AFC Championship game. Ogden watched the Ravens' tight end, Shannon Sharpe, catch a pass and run 96 yards for a touchdown. Ravens center Jeff Mitchell told The Sporting News that as Sharpe raced into the end zone, Ogden had turned to him and said, "I could have made that play. If they had thrown that ball to me, I would have done the same thing."
Having sized up the star receivers, Ogden looked around and noticed that the quarterbacks he was protecting were...rather ordinary. Here he was, leaving them all the time in the world to throw the ball, and they still weren't doing it very well. They kept getting fired! Even after they'd won the Super Bowl, the Ravens got rid of their quarterback, Trent Dilfer, and gone looking for a better one. What was wrong with these people? Ogden didn't go so far as to suggest that he should play quarterback, but he came as close as any lineman ever had to the heretical thought.
Many of the left tackles that Lewis talks about in the book can run faster than most quarterbacks, they can throw the ball just as far or farther (as a high school sophomore, Michael Oher could stand at the fifty-yard line and toss footballs through the goalposts), possess great athletic touch and finesse, have the intellect to run an offense, move better than most QBs, know the offense and defense as well as the QB, are taller than the average QB (and therefore has better field vision over the line), and presumably, at 320-360 pounds, are harder to tackle and intimidate than a normal QB. Sounds like a good idea to me.
Fuck, this pisses me off: the New Yorker is splitting up their longer pieces into multiple pages (for example: Ben McGrath's article on YouTube). I know, everyone else does it and it's some sort of "best practice" that we readers let them get away with so they can boost pageviews and advertising revenue at the expense of user experience, but The New Yorker was the last bastion of good behavior on this issue and I loved them for it. This is a perfect example of an architecture of control in design and uninnovation. I want the New Yorker's web site to get better, not worse. Blech and BOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
Update: The New Yorker seems to have reversed their opinion on the matter. Nice work.
Update: Nope, still busted. Crap.
Screw Chevy: "It's not OK to use images of Rosa Parks, MLK, the Vietnam War, the Katrina disaster, and 9/11 to sell pickup trucks."
Update: In a hamfisted tribute on the occasion of her death, Apple posted a Rosa Parks "Think Different" ad on their home page. (thx, mark)
During an interview in support of the premiere of Dr. Strangelove, an unheard interviewer expresses surprise at Peter Sellers' use of an American accent and asks him to use an English one. Here's a video of Sellers trying to find an accent to the interviewer's liking:
What is that, nine different completely plausible accents in 45 seconds? I love actors who can do accents well. Sellers is my favorite, but I also like Aussie Rachel Griffiths playing Californian Brenda in Six Feet Under and Brits Idris Elba & Dominic West (drug dealer Stringer Bell and officer Jimmy McNulty on The Wire). American actors often seem to have problems doing accents although Gwyneth Paltrow does a nice posh Londoner. We saw The Departed this weekend (really good, BTW), which takes place in Boston, always an accent minefield for actors. Locally grown Mark Wahlberg and Matt Damon acquitted themselves quite well. The rest? Not so much. DiCaprio was alright, but the rest of the cast was tuning in and out like an old AM radio.
Parts 3 and 4 of (the must-see) Eyes on the Prize are on tonight...here's a look at the difficulties the filmmakers went through to get the rights to all the material in the film cleared again. (thx, david)
More on Doug Block's new documentary film, 51 Birch Street. "'But it wasn't until later, when we were in the car, and I asked [my dad] "Do you miss Mom?" and he said no' that Doug Block knew he was onto a movie." Previous post.
Steven Johnson on The Long Zoom, "the satellites tracking in on license-plate numbers in the spy movies; the Google maps in which a few clicks take you from a view of an entire region to the roof of your house; the opening shot in 'Fight Club' that pulls out from Edward Norton's synapses all the way to his quivering face as he stares into the muzzle of a revolver; the fractal geometry of chaos theory in which each new scale reveals endless complexity." And that's just the introduction to an interview of Will Wright about his new Long Zoom game, Spore.
Abridged version of Bob Woodward's State of Denial, which "details the infighting, disarray, and mistakes made by the Bush war council during the Iraq war".
Can't make it to PopTech this year? Good news: they're showing the whole thing live on the web for free.
List of great insults. It may be apocryphal, but I've always loved the exchange between Lady Astor and Winston Churchill: "Lady Astor: 'Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink.' Churchill: 'Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it.'" (via dooce)
Top 100 most popular classical music pieces, featuring stuff like Beethoven's 5th, Pomp and Circumstance, and Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.
Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter recently snapped a picture of the Opportunity rover perched on the rim of Victoria Crater. Opportunity drove more than 5 miles from its landing site to get there. High resolution photo here. Here's where Opportunity is located on Mars.
Holding hands is increasingly seen as a sign of commitment and intimacy, while more seemingly intimate acts like kissing and sex are more likely to occur earlier in a "relationship".
Trailer for Christopher Guest's new mockumentary film, For Your Consideration. Yes, Parker Posey is present and accounted for. (via wdik)
Update: The movie's MySpace page has a clip from the movie. (thx, sam)
Doug Block, who you may remember was the director of Home Page (a documentary about online life circa 1997, featured Justin Hall), has a new documentary coming out called 51 Birch Street. The film is an examination of Block's family begun after his mother died, his father quickly remarried, and Doug began to wonder how well he really knew them to begin with.
Instead of megapixels-worth of light sensors, a new experimental camera uses a series of mirrors to focus all the light on just one sensor. Somewhat related question that I've been wondering about for awhile: why do digital cameras need shutters? Why can't you just turn the sensors on and off electronically? Seems like you could then use many more arbitrary "shutter" speeds, like 5 seconds or 1/50000 of a second.
The soundtrack for Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette contains tracks by Aphex Twin, Siouxsie & The Banshees, Squarepusher, and The Strokes. Boy, people are either going to love or hate this movie.
Google code search OCT 05
Code search is a great resource for web developers and programmers, but like the making available of all previously unsearched bodies of information, it's given lots of flashlights to people interested in exploring dark corners. Here are some things that people have uncovered already:
- Key generation algorithm for WinZip (via airbag)
- Wordpress usernames and passwords. Looks like a lot of these are the result of people zipping/tarring up their Wordpress files and putting the zip/tar file in a publicly accessible directory. I imagine other such applications are just as susceptible to this issue. (via airbag)
- Like Movable Type. This only turns up one username/password, but it's for Gawker. Which in turn reveals this open directory with all sorts of code and u/p goodies...but they restricted access to it after being notified of the problem.
- Profanities. Try your own. (via andy baio)
- Possible buffer overflow points. (via live aus der marschrutka)
- Tons of nerd jokes like "here be dragons".
- Confidential code and code with restricted rights. (via digg)
- Coders complaining about stupid users. (thx, zacharie)
- All sorts of code that needs to be fixed. (thx, andy & david)
- Programmers who want to get a new job. (thx, brian) In the office just now, we were talking about turning Google Code Search into a job posting board by inserting "Like our code? Come work for us!" text ads in the comments of source code which is then distributed and crawled by Google.
- Kludge-y code. (thx, nick)
- You can also use it for vanity searches. A surprisingly small amount of code is returned on a search for Linus Torvalds. Jamie Zawinski. Alan Cox. There have to be more prolific programmers out there... (thx, justin)
- Programmers coding while drunk. Also: "I am drunk and coding like I am the greatest coder of all time." (thx, tom)
- Customer databases with names, addresses, zip codes, phone numbers, and weakly encrypted passwords. Ouch. (No link to this one because I don't really want to get anyone's data out there.) (thx, jon)
- Expression of which programming language sucks more. For instance, Python sucks. (thx, paolo)
- Code vulnerabilities: "this will crash". (thx, james)
- Listing of some backdoor passwords. (thx, james)
- Programming errors. (thx, charles)
On the heels of the possible proof of the Poincare conjecture, another of the $1 million Clay Institute Millennium Prize problems has possibly been proven: the Navier-Stokes equations. The paper is available here.
If you're waiting for people to stop assuming that sports fans are a bunch of beer-swilling chuckleheads, you'll need to wait a little longer. Of the first six paragraphs of a story about Minnesota Twins outfielder Torii Hunter's recent miscues by ESPN "senior writer" Jim Caple, here are three:
"See? This is where Bob makes his crucial mistake. When he orders the eighth beer. If he cuts himself off at seven, he probably doesn't even talk to that woman, let alone go home with her."
"Hank, if you had to do it all over again, would you still say those pants make your wife look fat?"
"That @#&ammp;% Johnson. I would have gotten that promotion if he hadn't accidentally sent those bachelor party photos on an officewide e-mail. What a moron."
Ah, the social tribulations of the red-blooded American male. He told his wife that her pants made her look fat even though she said it was ok to say so and he actually fell for it! OMG! I think read about that in a joke book in the 80s.
It's that time of year again in the Northern Hemisphere: the leaves are changing. Here's a map of the peak foliage times for the US. The Northeast had better get a cold snap soon or the leaves will be as lackluster as last year.
Historiography is the study of the practice of history. "When you study 'historiography' you do not study the events of the past directly, but the changing interpretations of those events in the works of individual historians."
Where do Craigslist's Missed Connections occur in NYC? Gawker has the breakdown by location and subway line.
Animated movies have an animal problem and aren't working as well as they used to at the box office. "There are all these people saying we are going to be the next Pixar. We say, 'Who is your John Lasseter?'" The box office performance of the Wallace and Gromit movie is unfortunate...I've caught it a couple of times on cable and it's really quite good.
Nikon recently sent a bunch of new D80s to some Flickr photographers and are now using some of the shots those photographers took in an ad campaign. "Nikon did what every major brand should be doing...it got out of its own way and let the real people that counted do the talking: their own consumers." PDF of the ad spread.
At the end of my Eyes on the Prize post from earlier this week, I asked people for their favorite books on the American civil rights movement. Here's what I got back:
- Lots of people recommended America in the King Years by Taylor Branch, a trilogy of books on Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement.
- The second most frequently recommended book was Common Ground by J.A. Lukas, a book about busing and segregation in Boston in the 70s.
- Walking With the Wind by John Lewis and Michael D'Orso.
- Carry Me Home by Diane McWhorter.
- Old news: Resurrection City by Jill Freedman.
- The Civil Rights Movement: A Photographic History, 1954-68 by Steven Kasher.
- Stride Toward Freedom and Why We Can't Wait by Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Eyes on the Prize by Juan Williams.
- Black Boy and Native Son by Richard Wright.
- Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice by Raymond Arsenault. (Eric Etheridge is photographing the Freedom Riders and pairing those photos with their Freedom Ride mugshots for a new book.)
- The Promised Land by Nick Lemann.
- You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train by Howard Zinn.
- We Are Not Afraid by Seth Cagin and Philip Dray.
- Notes of a Native Son, The Fire Next Time, and Nobody Knows My Name by James Baldwin.
- A Short History of Reconstruction by Eric Foner.
- The Struggle for Black Equality by Harvard Sitkoff.
- Angela Davis An Autobiography by Angela Davis.
- Death at an Early Age by Jonathan Kozol.
- The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. DuBois.
- Southern Horrors and Other Writings by Ida B. Wells Barnett.
- Civilities and Civil Rights by William Chafe.
- I've Got the Light of Freedom by Charles Payne.
- Local People by John Dittmer.
- Speak Now Against the Day by John Egerton.
- Manchild in the Promised Land by Claude Brown.
- Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
- Slave Narratives: a Folk History of Slavery in the United States From Interviews with Former Slaves.
- I've Got the Light of Freedom by Charles Payne
- Local People by John Dittmer
- Speak Now Against the Day by John Egerton
Thanks to everyone for the recommendations; these all sound great.
R.W. Apple, longtime and beloved political and food writer for the NY Times, died early this morning aged 71. "In the interests of efficiency, The New York Times recently equipped its main office with...a 185-pound, water-cooled, self-propelled, semi-automatic machine called R. W. Apple Jr." Here's Apple's last piece for the Times, on the cuisine of Singapore.
Update: The NY Times put up a piece that Apple filed right before he entered the hosptial that they were going to run later in the fall: The Global Gourmand.
Passing the Gladwell Point: what's wrong with Malcolm Gladwell? "At times, lately, Mr. Gladwell sounds like someone trying to tell other people about something he read once in a Malcolm Gladwell piece, after a few rounds of drinks." (thx, choire)
LifePixel will modify your digital camera (Nikons or Canons, mostly) to shoot in infrared. "Camera manufacturers stop infrared light from contaminating the images by placing a hot mirror filter in front of the sensor which effectively blocks the infrared part of the spectrum while still allowing the visible light to pass. We remove this hot mirror filter and replace it with a custom manufactured infrared filter."
The Blind Side: The Movie OCT 03
After interest from multiple buyers, which included New Line and Mandalay, the "Blind Side" deal closed for $200,000 against $1.5 million and also includes $250,000 in deferred compensation. Gil Netter will produce for Fox, which did not confirm the value of the deal.
Norton released the book yesterday, but Hollywood interest was sparked when the New York Times Magazine ran an excerpt in its Sept. 24 issue.
Story, which was titled "The Ballad of Big Mike," centered on Michael Oher, a poor, undereducated 344-pound African-American teenager in Memphis, whose father was murdered and whose mother was a crack addict. Oher had been shuffled through the public school system, despite his 0.6 grade point average and missing weeks of classes each year. But his tremendous size and quickness attracted the interest of a wealthy white couple who took him in and groomed him both athletically and academically to become one of the top high school football prospects in the country.
I'm hoping against hope that if the movie ever gets made, the interesting class and racial issues the book raises aren't completely steamrollered out of the story in favor of pure uplifting entertainment. (thx, jen)
Bill Buford tells the story of Food Network, a channel that Julia Child could never hope to appear on today.
Update: Accidental Hedonist on Food Network: "The network was no longer about making good food and understanding it, it became about using food to impress other people. Whether it was getting a meal out in 30 minutes, or making the perfect thanksgiving feast, the shows seemed to sell the idea of 'having' food knowledge, without actually having any."
Video of a man putting on 155 tshirts over a four-hour period; at the end, the conglomerate top weights 100 pounds. (via josh)
Interesting story from Steven Levitt: stuck in a Vegas poker tournament with a $3000 first prize but needing to go to the airport to catch the last flight of the night, he starts playing very aggressively in order to win big or lose everything so that he can leave. (via gulfstream)
Jim Holt reports on a pair of books that argue that string theory is hurting theoretical physics. The article contains a good overview of the history and current status of the theory. For those looking to discover which book is better, Holt recommends Smolin's The Trouble with Physics.
Eyes on the Prize OCT 03
I posted a link to this earlier, but after watching the first two hours earlier this evening, I must strongly caution against missing Eyes on the Prize on PBS this month. Using nothing more than archival film footage, on-camera interviews, period music, and a narrator's voiceover, the stories of Emmitt Till, the Montgomery bus boycott, and the desegregation of southern schools riveted me to the couch like few viewing experiences have. As compelling as the history of the civil rights movement in America is, the production of the film deserves some of the credit for its power. To hear the stories of these momentous events told by the participants themselves, without embellishment, is quite extraordinary. From a media perspective, watching Eyes on the Prize gives me hope that we can survive the era of the crescendoing musical scores and 20-cuts-per-minute editing and still tell powerful, engaging stories without worrying about window dressing. I won't soon forget the calm determination in the look and voice of Moses Wright or Mississippi governor Ross Barnett thundering away about segregation.
(For me, Eyes is also a nice companion piece to my twin obsessions of late, The Wire and The Blind Side, both of which deal with contemporary race relations in their own way. The PBS web site for the film lists dozens of resources for further exploration of the topic...does anyone have any specific recommendations for books about the civil rights movement? Lemme know.)
Update: Thanks for the recommendations, everyone...I posted a listing of them here.
Chad and Dave over at ScienceBlogs concocted an experiment to compare the SAT results of high school students with those of bloggers. The result? Short answer: the bloggers lost. More results here.
If you've ever used any of the various menu sites out there, you may have noticed that the menus are occasionally not as up-to-date or complete as they could be. A typical response in the blogosphere to a situation like this is to fire off a snarky missive about how menu sites suck, wish harm on the site's owners and their children, and why don't they just die already, those sucking bastards, and basically overreact in such a way as to make the writer feel temporarily better and all but ensures that nothing constructive comes of it.
Since its launch last year, I've admired the tone of Eater, a site about New York city food and dining. The site strikes the right balance between criticism, enthusiasm, insider knowledge, and detatched reportage while covering a topic where too much of any one of these is deadly for the reader. Last week, Eater took note of the menu site situation, but instead of just complaining, they went looking for some evidence and reported the results:
Last week, Eater began an exhaustive investigative series called MenuGate. For those who think we'd forgotten about it, ten-hut. Tomorrow morning, we'll be conducting a SPOT INSPECTION of the major menu site players, then scoring them on how accurate (or inaccurate) their menus are. The benchmark will be the menu that's freely available, at this very moment, on the restaurant's official website.
In canning the snark, offering fair criticism, and letting the results speak for themselves, Eater made it possible for the menu sites to respond in a congenial fashion:
We saw you chose 11 Madison Park this morning to do a menu comparison and our menu was out of date. To be fair, we waited to let you investigate the differences before we updated the menu, even though we noticed the menu had changed. In any event, now that you've written your piece, we have updated the menu as we do for restaurants everyday. We have a team specifically assigned to update menus and we receive user submissions as well to let us know about restaurant changes.
The end result? The situation improved for everyone. A small improvement perhaps, but MenuGate is an ongoing Eater feature so we can expect future improvements. And perhaps when the menu sites get tired of taking their lumps each time around, MenuGate may lead them to think of better ways to keep their menus up-to-date and useful. Anil Dash wrote a post two years ago about how bloggers could take positive action against "Stuff That Sucks":
I'm proud of what [bloggers have] done in creating so many different weblog communities, and I don't want our legacy to be one of having the positives overshadowed by our frequent, though understandable, tendency to be unkind or uncivil to those we're communicating with.
The way Eater has approached the menu sites issue is certainly a good example of what Anil was talking about. Good show.
Danny Meyer on the difference between service and hospitality: "Service is delivering on your promise. Hospitality is making people feel good while you're delivering on that promise." Meyer has a new book, Setting the Table, out tomorrow. (via eater)
Sounds like a tactic out of The Wire: instead of mass arrests, law enforcement officials in a North Carolina city have been using pressure from families and the threat of arrest to drive drug dealers out of business. (thx, micah)
Unusual job opportunity of the day: Chief Librarian of the Detainee Library at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Perhaps the person who gets the job can add the text of the detainee treatment bill to the stacks. (thx, stefan)
A pair of economists looked at the number of parking tickets accrued by diplomats at the UN (tickets for which they are not charged) to determine each country's corruption level. "Since, as their study reports, there is 'essentially zero legal enforcement of diplomatic parking violations,' the authors hypothesized that any cross-national variation in parking-violation rates should flow from culture alone." The worst offenders were the Kuwaitis, followed by Egypt. Diplomats from Canada, Israel, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark had 0 parking tickets. Here's the whole paper. (thx, susan)