How to choose a good book to read, a tip from Marshall McLuhan: turn to page 69, read it, and if it's good, you've got a winner. (via snarkmarket)
Update: A kottke.org reader writes, "It's known (although perhaps not well) that he often only read the left-hand pages of books. It's one way that someone could get through as much as he did and apparently he thought there was usually too much redundancy, anyway." (thx, steve)
A 2000 year-old Greek computer accurately tracked the motion of the sun, the irregular orbit of the moon, and predicted lunar eclipses. "Remarkably, scans showed the device uses a differential gear, which was previously believed to have been invented in the 16th century. The level of miniaturisation and complexity of its parts is comparable to that of 18th century clocks."
New invention watch: the wovel is a show shovel attached to a big wheel. It may make snow shoveling a lot easier, but it might also suffer from the Segway problem...i.e. you look like a big dork using it.
Dilbert creator Scott Adams wants Bill Gates for President, and I can't say I disagree. "For my president I want a mixture of Mother Teresa, Carl Sagan, Warren Buffet, and Darth Vader. Bill has all of their good stuff. His foundation will save more lives than Mother Teresa ever did. He's got the Carl Sagan intelligence and rational mind. He's a hugely successful businessman. And I have every reason to believe he can choke people just by concentrating in their general direction."
In an entry yesterday, I (knowingly) used the word nonplussed in a non-standard fashion. The Oxford American Dictionary on my computer tells me: "In standard use, nonplussed means 'surprised and confused'. In North American English, a new use has developed in recent years, meaning 'unperturbed' -- more or less the opposite of its traditional meaning. Although the use is common, it is not yet considered standard." I'm happy to help move the English language forward (backward?) in this manner. That and I wanted to see if the language pedants in the audience were paying attention...and they certainly were. ;) (thx, everyone who sent this in)
I learned something terrific yesterday: if you take a really cold but still liquid beer out of the freezer and open it, the beer will freeze within seconds. The freezing trick also works if instead of opening the beer, you give the unopened bottle a sharp rap. The reasons I've found online for why the trick works varies slightly for the two cases. According to Daryl Taylor's site for science teachers, opening the bottle changes the pressure in the bottle and thus lowers the temperature:
The sealed bottle's envoronment has a specific volume, pressure, and temperature. By changing one, you are necessarily affecting the others. The chilled liquid has a smaller temperature, esentially the same volume, thus a smaller smaler pressure. This is, of cousre, according to the basic gas-law, PVNERT. Better known as PV=nRT. Even though the internal pressure has decreased, it is still far greater than the pressure outside the container, namely one atmosphere. Upon opening, the pressure inside drastically plunges as it tries to equalize with the atmosphere. This rapid decrease in P corresponds to a rapid decrease in T, since the V is essentially the same. This rapid drop in temperature of a liquid that is NEAR freezing actually plunges the liquid into a frozen state.
Not sure I completely buy this...does the ideal gas law work for liquids? I can see that the small amount of gas in the neck of the bottle would decrease in pressure and thus decrease in temperature and that might be enough to spur the liquid into freezing. For a better answer for both cases, I consulted the internet's all-seeing oracle, Ask Metafilter. This comment gives a succinct answer:
The beer is below the freezing temperature, but there is not enough contamination for the ice to form. The bubbles of carbon dioxide released when the bottle is hit act as nuclei for ice crystal growth in the supercooled beer. Same thing happens in reverse when water is microwaved in a smooth container but won't boil until hit.
This more scientific discussion of unfreezable water provides more evidence of what may be going on: supercooling effects, the carbon dioxide in solution hindering freezing (osmotic depression of freezing point), and hydration factors. Anyway, wicked cool! Supercooled beer!
Update: If you require visual proof, check out these two videos of beer freezing after it's been opened. Here's a video with water...so fast! (via digg)
Buzzfeed: the new Digg? Note: I'm a Buzzfeed advisor.
Nice thread of people providing examples of gifts that aren't really gifts. "The ideal is one that does not insult upon opening, that, in fact, seems like a great gift until living with it for a couple months." Worst gift I've ever heard of anyone getting: a turtle as a housewarming gift. Who gives someone a turtle? Was the wine store closed?
I got the chance this past weekend to play the Wii at a friend's house for a few hours. Here are some rough initial thoughts:
0. It's fun. Really fun. Like "baby laughing hysterically for no reason other than he's a baby and he's alive" fun. I haven't enjoyed a gaming system this much since a certain plumber and his green-clad brother ba-da-bum-ba-da-bum-bummed their way into our hearts.
1. Not only do I want to play it again right now (so badly) despite having to stand up and move around and stuff, I want to play it again right now (so badly) because I want to stand up and move around and stuff. Reminds me of my 15yo self; all he wanted to do was play hours and hours of basketball in my driveway.
2. With the Wii Sports Pack, Nintendo has made it possible for those who are not physically gifted to nonetheless discover and explore their athletic gifts (like manual dexterity, quickness, timing, etc.). Even your gray-haired relatives can excel at bowling: "It was her 1st time ever playing video games and she has a high of 155 so far. Wii rocks!"
3. Possibly the best thing about the Wii is that you don't really need to be told how to use the controller. The boxing game has zero learning curve (just punch!).
4. Nintendo is betting the farm that just like megapixels don't matter as much nowadays when buying digital cameras as lens quality, camera features, etc., the number of polygons your console's processor spits out at what resolution matters less than how fun the games are. As someone who's nonplussed by fancy graphics in video games, I'll take that bet.
5. The menu interface is a little clunky. Did they not have time to get it right?
6. The day it's possible to buy NHL '94 through the Wii's Virtual Console, my life, such as it is, will be complete.
7. I'm curious how much fine control is possible with the Wiimote after a couple weeks of practice. With a conventional controller, very tiny adjustments are possible by pulsing or tapping the joypad or joystick...you can easily move Mario right to the edge of the staircase or subtly adjust your direction your kart is pointed on the track. But I found it difficult being that precise with the Wiimote while playing Super Monkey Ball.
Now all I need to do is get my own. :)
A Polish exchange student spent six months with a fundamentalist Christian family in the US and didn't have such a good time. "When I got out of the plane in Greensboro in the US state of North Carolina, I would never have expected my host family to welcome me at the airport, wielding a Bible, and saying, 'Child, our Lord sent you half-way around the world to bring you to us.' At that moment I just wanted to turn round and run back to the plane." (via clusterflock)
The Shapes Project by Allen McCollum. "I've designed a new system to produce unique two-dimensional 'shapes.' This system allows me to make enough unique shapes for every person on the planet to have one of their own. It also allows me to keep track of the shapes, so as to insure that no two will ever be alike." Part of McCollum's project is on display at the Friedrich Petzel Gallery in NYC. (thx, scott)
Ben Stein muses about taxes, but the Warren Buffett stuff at the beginning of the article is the most interesting bit. "In conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn't use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires."
Apparently, signing off your emails with "Best" is "something close to a brush-off". I sign most of my emails with "Best", especially when I don't know the person particularly well, and I definitely don't mean it as a brush-off. "Sincerely" is too formal, "Warmest regards" is a lie (you can't give absolutely everyone your warmest regards), and "xoxo"...I'm not a girl. So "Best" it is...don't take it the wrong way.
In this interview with .net magazine, Flickr founder Caterina Fake likens building an online community to throwing a party:
According to Caterina: "The most difficult part is not the technology but actually getting the people to behave well." When first starting the community the Flickr team were spending nearly 24 hours online greeting each individual user, introducing them to each other and cultivating the community. "After a certain point you can let go and the community will start to maintain itself, explains Caterina. "People will greet each other and introduce their own practices into the social software. It's always underestimated, but early on you need someone in there everyday who is kind of like the host of the party, who introduces everybody and takes their coat.
I recall those early days of Flickr...Stewart and Caterina were everywhere, commenting on everything. A core group of people followed their example and began to do the same, including Heather Champ, who now manages Flickr's community in an official capacity. Matt did a similar thing with MetaFilter too...he spent a lot of time interacting with people on there, taking their coats, and before long others were pitching in.
Two interviewers for The Onion AV Club talk about how they prepare for doing interviews. "First, I think about what I might ask subjects if I were at a party with them, just making conversation. Then I read as many interviews as I can find with the subject, so I can avoid asking questions that have been asked a thousand times, and steer around the pat answers."
In P.T. Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love, Adam Sandler's character takes advantage of a Healthy Choice promotion for frequent flier miles, buying 1000s of miles and lots of pudding for just a few dollars. This aspect of Sandler's character was based on a caper well-known within the frequent flier community when David Phillips purchased over 1.2 million frequent flyer miles for just under $2400, which has allowed him and his family to fly to over 20 countries for free.
Now the big thing is cheese. This weekend I was handed an opened wheel of processed cheeses by a friend. He said that his brother-in-law had caught wind of a frequent flyer promotion whereby you get 500 miles for each purchase of this cheese wheel and had purchased 75,000 miles for ~$300, which also means he's got more opened cheese wheels than he knows what to do with. The frequent flyer forums and blogs are already on the case. These forums are actually pretty fascinating...there's a lot of free/cheap travel to be had for those with a little time on their hands. This fellow claims to have taken advantage of airline pricing errors to fly 16 flights this year for a total cost of $77.57.
Kevin Smith's iTunes Celebrity Playlist got rejected by Apple because his comments were too long. "This is a great playlist. Too great, actually. We don't have the space for comments that run that long."
Long but great NPR interview with Ed Burns, writer and producer of The Wire. We just finished season 4 last night and it took the stuffing right out of me. I haven't been this depressed for months. (thx to the several people who recommended this)
David echoes my reaction to seeing a Zune in person for the first time this weekend: "I just saw a Zune, and guess what? Its a piece of shit." I usually give people a hard time for making snap judgments about technology that takes time to get to know (comments like "this interface sucks" after 20 seconds of use make my eyes go rolling), but the Zune...it's like the story of the Getty's Greek kouros that Gladwell tells in Blink: one look and you know it's wrong. Andre has been trying a Zune out for the last couple of weeks and doesn't mind it even though he's giving up on it.
The best and worst restaurant trends in NYC for 2006. Among the worst, Mexican: "Zero progress on one of the most misunderstood and untapped cuisines in NYC."
Although Nintendo finds itself in third place in the video game console wars behind Sony and Microsoft, the company is doing really well financially while Sony and MS are maybe breaking even with their efforts. "Nintendo knew that it could not compete with Microsoft and Sony in the quest to build the ultimate home-entertainment device. So it decided, with the Wii, to play a different game entirely."
Things have been a little slow on the site today because I broke one of my contact lenses this morning while putting them in. For most people, this isn't much of a problem, but a) I wear hard lenses, not disposables, so they are not easily replaced (2 days to a week to order more), b) the prescription on my backup glasses is at least 7 years old and the lenses are scratched all to hell anyway, and c) without contacts or glasses, I'm functionally blind, so unless I wanted to listen to podcasts all day (gah, could you imagine anything worse?), I took off as soon as I could for the optometrist.
So, my new contacts are on order, and until then I have a new pair of glasses to wear. The thing is, since I went alone and can't see a thing without corrective lenses, I had to choose new frames without really being able to see them properly. But I have two weeks to exchange them for other frames, so I wanted to ask your collective expert opinion...what do you think of my glasses?
Nintendo game developers Ken'ichiro Ashida and Shigeru Miyamoto talk about how the Wii was developed. "The consensus was that power isn't everything for a console. Too many powerful consoles can't coexist. It's like having only ferocious dinosaurs. They might fight and hasten their own extinction."
Players of the Nintendo Wii are getting more exercise than they bargained for; reports of "Wii elbow" abound. Making the supreme sacrifice, one gamer is "vowing nightly 'Wii workouts' to get in better shape". What a trooper!
I posted the answer to the rope burning logic problem from last week. Note: the answer does not involve time travel or impossible knots.
A copy of OJ Simpson's If I Did It sold for $8300 on eBay. The book was recalled and won't ever be available for sale.
Update: Looks like the sale didn't go through: "Both Seller and Myself Agreed NOT to COMPLETE Transaction....." (thx, susan)
The NY Times Book Review's 100 notable books of 2006. Making the list are several kottke.org notable books: The Ghost Map, The Omnivore's Dilemma, Consider the Lobster, and The Blind Side.
This is one of my favorite photos:
It was taken by Josef Koudelka in Prague in 1968, just before the Soviet Union invaded and put a stop to The Prague Spring. To demonstrate the emptiness of the streets at noon, Koudelka stuck his wristwatch into the scene before shooting it. A simple, brilliant gesture that adds not only a temporal dimension to the photo but also a sense of solitary humanity in contrast to the empty streets.
Last week, Abbas Raza of 3 Quarks Daily posed a list of logic problems to the site's readers. I'd seen some of these problems before and I didn't have the time to work through the unfamiliar ones, but my favorite was the very first question:
You are given two ropes and a lighter. This is the only equipment you can use. You are told that each of the two ropes has the following property: if you light one end of the rope, it will take exactly one hour to burn all the way to the other end. But it doesn't have to burn at a uniform rate. In other words, half the rope may burn in the first five minutes, and then the other half would take 55 minutes. The rate at which the two ropes burn is not necessarily the same, so the second rope will also take an hour to burn from one end to the other, but may do it at some varying rate, which is not necessarily the same as the one for the first rope. Now you are asked to measure a period of 45 minutes. How will you do it?
For those in the US, this is a little something to keep the conversation at the holiday dinner table interesting. I'll post the answer here this weekend...good luck.
Update: Alright, here's the answer. Light both ends of rope A and one end of rope B. After 30 minutes, rope A will be completely burned up and there will be 30 minutes of rope B left. Light the other end of rope B; it will burn up in 15 minutes. Total time elapsed since starting the ropes on fire: 45 minutes.
How would Shakespeare do in Hollywood today? He'd be raking in the dough on royalties, but because most of his stories were based on previous work, he might not have been able to write them in the first place without being sued for copyright infringement.
Historical rankings of US presidents. Honest Abe is number one with a...well, he's just #1. George W. Bush comes in at a respectable 22nd, just behind Bill Clinton. (via fakeisthenewreal)
The Google 15:
the fifteen pounds that new Google employees supposedly gain in their first year at Google from gorging on the omnipresent free food.
Some musings on the future of the newspaper in The Atlantic. "The barbarians, on the other hand, don't seem to care; they'd rather get the news they want, not the news the mandarins say is good for them."
Update: OJ Simpson's "If I Did It" book and TV show cancelled; Fox called it "an ill-considered project". Gosh, you think?
Physiologically, humans aren't meant to drive fast in cars because our flicker fusion frequency isn't high enough. Compared to birds (> 100 Hz versus 60 Hz for humans), at high speeds, everything kinda blurs together for us, leaving us ill-equipped to react quickly.
Tariffs on imported sugar and ethanol imposed by the US government keep our sugar expensive and is keeping the US from using more efficient methods of saving energy and, oh, by the way, helping the environment. This excerpt from the last two paragraphs of the piece is a succinct description of what's wrong with contemporary American politics:
Tariffs and quotas are extremely hard to get rid of, once established, because they create a vicious circle of back-scratching-government largesse means that sugar producers get wealthy, giving them lots of cash to toss at members of Congress, who then have an incentive to insure that the largesse continues to flow. More important, protectionist rules flourish because the benefits are concentrated among a small number of easy-to-identify winners, while the costs are spread out across the entire population. It may be annoying to pay a few more cents for sugar or ethanol, but most of us are unlikely to lobby Congress about it.
Maybe we should, though. Our current policy is absurd even by Washington standards: Congress is paying billions in subsidies to get us to use more ethanol, while keeping in place tariffs and quotas that guarantee that we'll use less. And while most of the time tariffs just mean higher prices and reduced competition, in the case of ethanol the negative effects are considerably greater, leaving us saddled with an inferior and less energy-efficient technology and as dependent as ever on oil-producing countries.
Maddening. Partisan politics is a not-very-elaborate smokescreen to distract us from this bullshit.
Of all the news over the past few days about the launches of Sony's PS3 and Nintendo's Wii, the most interesting has been the differing responses of the people waiting to purchase the different consoles. While the launch of the PS3 was marred by violence (people robbed of their PS3s in mall parking lots, crowds trampling people in a mad rush for games, police needing to quiet unruly crowds waiting to buy with pepper bullets, etc.), the launch of the Wii was peaceful, with no reports of violence that I can find. This comment on Digg is typical of the sentiment I've seen expressed online about the two groups of fans:
Try working at a Circuit City... went in for a 7am meeting and got badgered by the losers. I have to say the "wii-tards" were much more tame than the "ps three-tards."
There are several obvious reasons for the PS3 violence: the PS3 was possibly more anticipated, their initial supply was more limited than that of the Wii, and the machine is more expensive. But the difference in reaction also has something to do with the goals of each company in regard to their respective systems and the types of people each system tends to attract. Nintendo is focused on play and fun: the Wii is the fun system...about people of all ages enjoying the process of playing games. The PS3 is more about competition, who wins, who loses, and who frags the most enemies in the most spectacular fashion; cutthroat survival of the fittest. These are generalizations of course, but I find it interesting that the Nintendo gamers, who are attracted to play and fun, didn't cause as much trouble as the PS3 fans, who are more into competition.
Update: On the other hand, a report from last night in line at the Nintendo store in Manhattan:
After we had waited in line for almost two hours, Nintendo World closed the store early (at 5:30) and instead of making the announcement themselves, the Nintendo World employees sent Rockefeller Center security out to intimidate the crowd into dispersing. It was surreal - on what should have been Nintendo World's finest day, they were closing early and sending out fake police to scare away their customers.
Nintendo not managing their own store = stupid.
Why blogs suck. "i am afraid of the analagous phenonena happening: blog as signifier for experience, rather than experience itself."
Nintendo released the Wii at midnight today. Predictably, bloggers and media outlets are having a bit of fun with the gaming console's name. Here's a sampling of headlines from newspaper stories and blog posts with Wii wordplay:
Gone with the Wii
Gamers Wii bit excited
Are Wii Ready?
Playtesters say 'Wii' to console war question
Wii Won't Rock You
And away Wii go
Gamers Go Wii Wii Wii All the Way Home
The things Wii do for love
'Wii'kend So Far
No Wii for Mii... for now :(
Wii were successful (barely)
Wii Are The World: War Of The "Hard To Resist" Game Consoles
Wii Will, Wii Will Rock You.
Oh Wii Oh...
A Wii bit of gougery
Come On Over and Wii'll Play!
Wii-lcome to the Twilight Zone
Wii would like to play!
What Wii can do
Only a Wii Bit of Excitement
PS3 Fans: "Wii are a bunch of idiots"
Wii Wish You an Early Christmas (If You're Famous Enough)
Be Kind to the Wii Folk
Wii Love It! All about Nintendo's new gaming console
A Wii-bit too late
Are Wii ready?
Wii Want to Play
Wii for Yoo and Mee
To Wii or not to Wii, that is the question!
A Wii Bit More
Oh, the humani'wii'. (Apologies...I'm so'wii'. (No, 'wii'lly. (I can't stop, send help! Hurr'wii'!)))
For the next fours years, any film released by Weinstein Co. will only be available for rental at Blockbuster (and especially not Netflix). What a stupid deal. I wonder what the filmmakers think of this, which will effectively limit the reach of their films (despite the positive spin Blockbuster and the Weinsteins want to put on this).
M: Ack, what are you doing?
J: I'm putting you in a wrestling hold. It's called a full nelson, I believe.
M: Well, that's not nice. This is how you treat your wife? How about a hug instead?
J: No, no, I am being nice...it's a love nelson.
Despite the sentiment, the love nelson remains an illegal hold of endearment in our household.
Surprising factoid from an article on legalizing kidney sales: "America already lets people buy babies from surrogate mothers, and the risk of dying from renting out your womb is six times higher than from selling your kidney". (via mr)
Hypothesis: people live in cities so that they can have casual or anonymous sex. "[In the suburbs,] MapQuest is not immediately handy for good directions, there are two cars in play, at least one of the persons may be drunk, and there is a trust issue of being trapped in some weird suburban cul-de-sac, surrounded only by sleeping, catatonic soccer moms with no one to hear you scream for help."
Meg reports some sad news that I already suspected: Hellmann's Mayonnaise has changed its recipe. I'm a bit of a sandwich and mayonnaise fanatic, so when something started tasting a little off with the new jar, I figured something was up. Tastes like they added a little mustard to me.
Finally! An answer to the question "if a thousand
monkeys robots type at a thousand typewriters for one thousand years, will they produce Shakespeare?" The answer is "police undies".
It's fun Fotoshop Friday! (Phun Photoshop Phriday?) Anyway, here's a bunch of pictures of celebrities Photoshopped to look like Star Wars characters. I'm surprised there weren't more celebrities frozen in carbonite. (via fandumb)
Jonah Peretti, late of Eyebeam and currently of Huffington Post, and his fine team have launched Buzzfeed. From the about page:
BuzzFeed distinguishes what is actually interesting from what is merely hyped. We only feature movies, music, fashion, ideas, technology, and culture that are on the rise and worth your time.
The content territory that Buzzfeed aims to fill is an interesting one. The site is not Digg with 125 new items to read on the front page every day. Neither is it an historical record of what people thought was interesting at a certain point in time. It's more like a water cooler conversation with velocity, a moving snapshot of what the media and blogosphere is talking about. As a result, the stuff you see on Buzzfeed is not the absolute newest, freshest thing...there's no truly breaking news on the site because to have buzz around something, people already need to be talking about it somewhere. But unless you're completely obsessive about keeping up with everything going on in all corners of the world, it's likely that Buzzfeed will show you something new and interesting every day, especially if it's in an area you don't normally pay attention to. That's the goal, anyway.
I think it's a great approach, an attempt to cut through a bit of the hype and look past the memes you might chuckle at and then completely forget about and instead, as the about page says, "aggregate authentic excitement that captures what real people are saying about the things they find most interesting". The Borat trend is an example of something that really works with this approach. Unlike most films released these days, there's a surprising number of different things around Borat to talk about. There's the movie itself. There's the surprise popularity of it. And the almost universal great reviews. Then came the lawsuits. Now there's a bit of a backlash. And there's the Snakes on a Plane angle...Borat is a movie that succeeded through viral marketing where SoaP largely failed. A bit of something for everyone there, even for the hardcare Borat fan.
Warning Disclosure: I am an advisor to Buzzfeed.
Why the functionality of MsgFiler isn't automatically built into Mail.app, I don't know, but I'm definitely coughing up the $8 on this because my life primarily consists of moving email from one folder to another. (via df)
Update: See also Mail Act-On. (thx, brandon)
Driving on the Interstate through the metropolitan tri-state area during a 1.5 hour downpour is like playing 700 continuous laps of Baby Park against 7 other players. I'm beat. (ps. It's a simile anyway.)
Geological features called chevrons could be evidence of violent comet/asteroid impacts as recently as 1000 years ago. The chevrons are formed by massive tsunamis; scientists believe one such tsunami occurred in the Indian Ocean 4,800 years ago and was 600 feet high. These impact-caused tsunamis may also be responsible for the various flood myths found in world religions. (thx, matt)
Little People is a series of photographs of tiny handpainted people depicted in different situations around London. Reminds me of the tiny people with food photos of Akiko Ida and Pierre Javelle. It would be neat to monkey with the depth of field in these photos so that somehow both the little people and the background were in focus, making it seem more like the people weren't little.
Are you ready? I said, ARE YOU READY? End-of-the-year list season has begun!! Woo! Let's get it started with Information Leafblower's list of the top 40 bands in America as chosen by a bunch of music bloggers. Lots of guitar music that the indie rock kids like so much.
Ben Saunders points up towards the two craziest people in the world, Francois Bon and Antoine Montant, and their speedflying videos, in which videos they half-ski half-parachute down a rocky mountain. "Undoubtedly the most hardcore thing I've seen for a long time."
I mentioned earlier the new paperback version of Infinite Jest; here's Dave Egger's introduction to the new edition. "[Wallace] was already known as a very smart and challenging and funny and preternaturally gifted writer when Infinite Jest was released in 1996, and thereafter his reputation included all the adjectives mentioned just now, and also this one: Holy shit." (thx, nick)
Photo of Beavis, a homeless man living in San Francisco, shooting up (perhaps NSFW). He was previously photographed in 1994 as a street kid in LA for Time magazine. "he picks his scabs to find a good spot; and tries a few locations before he gets a vein."
NFL TV distribution maps: where in the US certain football games are broadcast...a visual representation of why you'll almost never see a Vikings game in Maine. (via fakeisthenewreal)
I'm sure native Bostonians will find much to argue about in this list of Boston slang. (via cyn-c)
A special bachelorette party menu from a French restaurant. "Steak Frites with Bearnaise drizzle slowly administered tableside by young, handsome, patient male waiter."
Related to the rules for calling shotgun is the five-second rule, referring to the foods that fall on the ground or chair-claiming rules at parties and not the obsolete ice dancing rule or estimating the distance of a lightning strike. "The five second rule is sometimes called the three-second rule, seven-second rule, 10-second rule, or the 15-second rule, to some extent depending on locale, the quality of the food involved or the intoxication level of the individual quoting the rule." See also cooties: "Other than avoiding those with the fictional disease, there are a variety of ways to cure or prevent cooties. A 'cootie shot' can be administered in a variety of ways. The most common is to draw two circles and two dots with a finger on one's arm, while saying the rhyme 'Circle circle, dot dot, now you have a Cootie shot.'"
The Cupertino effect: a term for incorrect spellcheck suggestions that make it into finalized documents. The term comes from the appearance of the word "Cupertino" in several European Union documents in the place of "cooperation". "The fact that Secretary General Robertson is going to join this session this afternoon in the European Union headquarters gives you already an idea of how close and co-ordinated this Cupertino is and this action will be."
Interview with novelist James Ellroy. "I do not follow contemporary politics. I live in a vacuum. I don't read books. I don't read newspapers. I do not own a TV set or a cellphone or a computer. I spend my evenings alone, usually lying in the dark talking to women who aren't in the room with me." Ellroy also knows his place in the world: "I am a master of fiction. I am also the greatest crime writer who ever lived. I am to the crime novel in specific what Tolstoy is to the Russian novel and what Beethoven is to music."
A new paperback version of David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest is out. You get 1104 pages of Wallacian goodness for $10 (it's only $8 on Amazon) and I've heard it's physically a lot thinner than the previous paperback.
The Time-Gun Map of Edinburgh "was produced in 1861 to show the time taken for the sound of the one o'clock gun to travel from Edinburgh Castle to different parts of Edinburgh and Leith". (via moon river)
Philipp Lenssen recently asked some bloggers what their most popular post was:
I asked several bloggers about their most popular, or one of their most popular, blog posts -- the kind that made an impact on people, had skyrocketing traffic numbers, or triggered a meme or changes.
I was asked to answer the question, but didn't get my response in on time. Here's what I would have answered. In terms of pure traffic, it wasn't the biggest, but my 9/11 post and the resulting 2-3 weeks of posts subsequent to that probably had the biggest relative impact on the site. My traffic immediately doubled and didn't go back down after things settled down a little. You might say that those two weeks made kottke.org, just like they gave birth to the war/political blogs. That day opened a lot of bloggers' eyes to the cynical truth that the traditional news media already knew: other people's tragedy and pain sells.
I don't regret covering 9/11 the way that I did because it came from the heart and I got so much email from people, even weeks and months afterward, who genuinely appreciated my small contribution. But following 9/11, I've been increasingly wary of covering similar situations in the same way because, knowing that cynical truth, a part of me would be doing it for selfish reasons: writing for hits, attention, and glory. I posted a few things early on about the Indonesian tsunami and the London Tube bombings, and hardly anything about Katrina (I took a week off instead, writing about anything else during that time seemed trivial and ridiculous). In some ways, 9/11 was the defining editorial moment for kottke.org. After that experience, I took more care in why I was writing about certain topics and when the answer was "to get attention" or "because it's a hot issue" or "if I piss off [big blogger], he'll link back to me in rebuttal and boost traffic" or "if I kiss [big blogger's] ass, he'll link to me" or "I need to cover this issue for kottke.org to remain relevant in the global news conversat-blah-blah-blah", I usually take a pass. That editorial stance has probably cost kottke.org a lot of traffic over the years, but that's a trade-off I'm completely comfortable with.
Human beatbox Lasse Gjertsen has taken his skills to the next level. His new video, Amateur, is a clever bit of video sampling: Gjertsen builds an entire song out of tiny video soundbytes of him playing the drums and piano. It's hard to explain, just watch the damn thing. Cameron says the video "feels like what DJ Shadow would produce if he made videos".
Ironic Sans has an interview with one of NYC's quirkiest characters, Louis Klein, a man who has seen over 500 tapings of Saturday Night Live in person, including the very first show. "In the last 27 years I've missed 36 shows."
New version of MAME for OS X that works natively on the Intel machines. MAME is an arcade emulator that lets you play arcade games on your computer. (via df)
Google Earth recently added some maps from the David Rumsey Historical Map Collection to their software, so you can just click them on and off on the globe. Included are a US map from 1833, a 1680 map of Tokyo, Paris from 1716, and a world map from 1790. I spent some time exploring the map of New York from 1836. Here's a screenshot of the southern tip of Manhattan with the present-day buildings turned on:
A larger version is available on Flickr. Google Earth continues to be a fantastic software product. It's almost more of a game than an atlas or educational program...so much fun.
Related: I did a project using Google Earth called Manhattan Elsewhere and made a scrollable, zoomable version of Viele's Map of Manhattan.
Interesting speculation that the 2006 election was the last 20th-century election. "The era of baby-boomer politics -- with its culture wars, its racial subtext, its archaic divisions between hawks and doves and between big government and no government at all -- is coming to a merciful close. Our elections may become increasingly generational rather than ideological -- and not a moment too soon."
Before YouTube and Google Video came along, video on the web often suffered from taking too many cues from the production values of traditional media. Even in the early days of YouTube, a typical video made by someone for an audience was like a mini-movie: 15 seconds of titles, followed by 10 seconds of the actual content of the video, and then 10 seconds of closing credits. Eventually, many people came to realize that all that crap at the beginning and end was unecessary...it's OK not to have a 40 second video if you only have 10 seconds of something to say. Ze Frank took this notion to the extreme; he often launches right into something at the beginning, eschews transitions, and he just stops at the end. If an episode of The Show is 2 minutes long, it's because he has 2 minutes of something to say.
Podcasters have been slower to break out of the mold provided by talk radio. The playing of music before segments and as transitions between segments makes some sense on the radio, where it's used in some cases to fill airtime. But for podcasts, there's no need to fill airtime with anything but content. 30 seconds of music before the actual podcast begins is the audio equivalent of Flash splash pages on web sites. For instance, the Diggnation podcast has 10 seconds of ads and 30 seconds of theme music before the hosts start talking and even then it's more than a minute before there's any new information. It's important to set expectations and the mood (also know as branding), but it's possible to do that in a much more economical way -- something more akin to the Windows startup sound + "hi this is [name] from [name of show] and let's get started" -- or at other times during the podcast.
Interestingly, when I was looking around for examples of this wasted airtime, the folks making the most economical use of the listener's time in producing podcasts were from the mainstream media. That is, the people innovating on the form are not the same as those who are innovating on production. Perhaps in an attempt to seem more credible, native podcasters have embraced more traditional forms while those with experience producing audio content for other media are more free to tailor their content to the new medium.
Yet another tale of one of the mobile companies screwing their customers. This time it's Sprint: "After some wrangling, I am assured that the service will be terminated and no fee will be assessed. I even call back later that afternoon to make sure that I have understood the earlier call correctly and that I will not be charged.... I get the bill today, and guess what? A $380 early termination charge (two phones)."
Update: A somewhat happy ending: "After...three hours on the phone with Sprint today, the issue has finally been resolved."
A Florida voter sent in their absentee ballot with an extremely rare stamp, the 1918 Inverted Jenny. Two other stamps from the 30s and 40s were on the envelope as well. It looks like the stamps are sealed away with other voting ballots by law for 22 months.
Update: My skeptical friend David says this almost certainly has to be a hoax. "They used stamps.com or something to print these counterfeit images, knowing the votes would be locked up by law. What are even the mathematical chances that those three stamps are in the same place, and that the person who used them (all three) didn't know how valuable they were?" I am eagerly awaiting the follow-up to this in 22 months...I put an item in my calendar for September 5, 2008 reminding me to poke around for news at that time.
The NY Times asks a bunch of comedians: Which five comedies would you want to take with you if you were stranded alone on a desert island? My list: Dr. Strangelove, Zoolander, Office Space, Election, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
Trailer for The Simpsons Movie. At this point, is there any reason to believe that this is going to be any good? (via fimonculosusis (sp?))
Alright, anyone using the term Web 3.0 gets poked in the eye. Cripes.
Item of note included in the announcement of Luke Hayman's addition to the NYC Pentagram office: he and Paula Scher are completely redesigning Time magazine, due to launch in January 2007. Hayman was formerly design director at New York magazine.
Five great fight scenes from movies. I'm not a connoisseur of movie fight scenes, so I don't have much to add to this list, but I'm glad Jackie Chan made the cut.
Who loves you? I love you and JPG Magazine loves you. For a limited time, if you use the KOTTKED code, you get $5 off a year's subscription to JPG Magazine, "The Magazine of Brave New Photography".
Merlin Mann recently wrote two posts about managing your music library using iTunes Smart Playlists. His suggestions for making music-only playlists (for those that have a lot of podcasts & audiobooks in their libraries) and the "sure you really like that?" playlist are especially helpful. One of my recent favorite Smart Playlists is helpful for discovering good stuff that I haven't listened to in awhile:
The Last Skipped bit is in there because while listening to this playlist, I found myself skipping stuff I didn't want to hear and that rule gets it out there so that it doesn't come up again. An item on my Smart Playlist wishlist is the ability to measure popularity acceleration (basically, something like "gimme the most played over the last week"), but there's no way (that I can find) to ask iTunes how many times a song has been played in the last x days.
Several more Smart Playlist suggestions are available at smartplaylists.com and Andy Budd.
Slashdot recently crossed 16,777,216 (that's 2^24) comments, after which no more could be added because of a database misconfiguration. (via waxy)
Play Commander Keen online. Keen was the first game that id Software made (before Doom made them a household name among gamers).
A list of faux pas from different cultures around the world. "In German business dealings, scooting your chair closer to the host is considered an insult."
$2 bills are growing in popularity in the US...$1 bills just don't cut it for bartender's tips and lapdance gratuities anymore. Peter Morici, professor of business at some long-named school, says that the $1 coin is taking off as well, but when my wife tried to pay at a store using one of them the other day, the cashier looked at her like she was trying to use Monopoly money.
From a blog critical of typographic faux pas comes this handy rhyme for remembering the difference between apostrophes/quotation marks and foot/inch marks: "Straight up and down you're in foot mark town! / A contraction you say? Use apostrophes every day! / You want to say 'Hi!' to a chum or a neighbour? / Use inch marks and everyone will think you're an idiot!" Guilty as charged.
From Strange Maps, a great new blog I stumbled across the other day, comes a map originally done by the Boston Globe of the 10 regions of American politics.
How the fizzle did I miss this? Mountain Man Dance Moves is a compilation of some of the best McSweeney's Lists.
The entry for calling shotgun on Wikipedia. There are almost 60 special amendments to the "official" rules, including "Amendment IX: Australian Shotgun. Originally from Australia, if two people tie for shotgun, then the first person to put their thumb on their head is awarded shotgun. If they both do this at the same time, then an immediate pissbolt (race) to the car is required." (via zach, who says "best Wikipedia entry ever?")
James Gleick on how the Oxford English Dictionary staff is dealing with the proliferation of words on the internet. "New words weren't proliferating at quite the rate they have done in the last 10 years. Not just the Internet, but text messaging and so on has created lots and lots of new vocabulary."
Greg Allen gives us the scoop on how big art auctions work. "People come to me and want to bid with a signal that they don't want anyone else to see. He may hold his pencil in his mouth, or say, 'I'm bidding as long as I have my legs crossed.' And I've got their number, and they never show a paddle. That's the way it's done."
How to be interesting. "The way to be interesting is to be interested" and "interesting people are good at sharing". (via spurgeonblog)
I've got mixed feelings about NYC's bikers. On the one hand, I wish there were bike lanes and secure, affordable bike garages everywhere in the city. On the other hand, bikers (especially the hard core ones) can be the biggest assholes on the streets, as much of a problem to pedestrians as cars are to them.
It's like happy happy joy joy day in liberal land today....first the election stuff and now Rumsfeld is "resigning".
Update: The entry for schadenfreude in the Flicktionary.
There's evidence that the dot com bubble wasn't all that bad. A study found that "the attrition rate for dot-com companies was roughly 20% a year, which is no different from what occurred during many other industries, such as automobiles, during their early boom periods" and that the market could have supported more smaller niche companies during that time. Also of note: the Business Plan Archive "collects and preserves business plans and related planning documents from the Birth of the Dot Com Era so that future generations will be able to learn from this remarkable episode in the history of technology and entrepreneurship".
A couple of days ago, I pointed to a patent filed by the Flickr folks for the concept of interestingness. I should have poked around a bit more because there's a related patent filed by the Flickr and Josh Schachter of del.icio.us concerning "media object metadata association and ranking". I'm not a big fan of software patents, but even so, I can't see the new, useful, nonobvious invention here. I also find it odd that these patents reference exactly zero prior inventions on which they are based...compare with Larry Page's patent for PageRank.
Profile of economist Kevin Murphy, who none other than Steven Levitt calls "the smartest guy in the field".
The USS Intrepid stubbornly remains in its Manhattan berth at Pier 86, stuck in the mud, four tugboats unable to pull it free. "The hulking Intrepid, which survived five kamikaze attacks in World War II, looked like a mule resisting the force of several farmhands."
Frito-Lay Angrily Introduces Line Of Healthy Snacks. "Weren't Sun Chips healthy enough for you, you goddamn hippie bastards?"
"It is with mounting nausea that we watch poets race to cast their liberal votes for candidates more conservative than the Republicans they found beyond revulsion twenty years ago -- and indeed not just to feed at this trough but serve the slop."
Genealogy of Influence: "a graph of biographical entries at Wikipedia with connections denoting creative influence between philosophers, social scientists, writers, artists, scientists, mathematicians". Reminds me peripherally of Simon Patterson's The Great Bear (a print of which is hanging behind me right now).
At PopTech a few weeks ago, Lester Brown, who has been a leading advocate of environmentally sustainable development for almost 30 years, spoke about the impact of the increasing production of ethanol. As more corn gets used for making automotive fuel, that reduces the amount of grain available for food production. As demand rises, so will the price...no matter what people are using the corn for, be it fuel or food. The countries that will really suffer in this scenario are those that import lots of grain for food.
When Brown said this, I immediately thought of Mexico. When you consider the food culture of Mexico, one of the first things to mind is corn. Corn (maize) was likely first domesticated in Mexico and remains the cornerstone of Mexican cuisine; in short, corn is far more Mexican than apple pie is American. In 1491, his excellent book on the pre-Columbian Americas, Charles Mann tells us that despite corn's high status, Mexico is increasingly importing corn from the United States because it's cheaper than local corn:
Modern hybrids are so productive that despite the distances involved US corporations can sell maize for less in Oaxaca than can [local farmer] Diaz Castellano. Landrace maize, he said, tastes better, but it is hard to find a way to make the quality pay off.
Those great tortillas you had at some local place while on vacation in Mexico? There's an increasing chance they're made from US corn. Mmm, globalizious! Of course, Mexican farmers are getting out of the farming business because they can't compete with the heavily subsidized US corn and Mexico is losing control over one of their strongest cultural customs. Now that ethanol is changing the rules, there's a bidding war brewing between Americans who want to fill their gas tanks and Mexicans who want to feed their children. Odds are the tanks stay fuller than the stomachs.
For reference, here's what increasing ethanol production has done to the price of corn over the past three months:
And that's despite a fantastic US corn harvest. The graph is from this article in the WSJ, which contains a quick overview of the effects that the growing ethanol industry might have.
Watch democracy in action: the "ivoted" tag on Flickr.
The New Yorker has a piece this week on Nicholas Stern's 700-page report on global warming for the British government. Stern says, "Our emissions affect the lives of others. When people do not pay for the consequences of their actions, we have market failure. This is the greatest market failure the world has seen." The BBC has a nice series on it as well (look for related links in the sidebar). If you want to hear it straight from the horse's mouth, the entire report (and related documents) is available courtesy of the British government.
Grist Magazine: How to talk to a climate skeptic. Looks pretty comprehensive.
If you're registered, get out and vote today. Have questions about voting? Are you registered to vote? Try the Smart Voter site (FAQs).
Grand Theft Mario = Super Mario Bros + Grand Theft Auto.
Quote of the day, from a friend who ran the marathon: "I feel like I'm rolling a katamari of happiness and can no longer distinguish its parts."
Cockney rhyming slang meets celebrity namedropping. "I left my Clare Rayners down the Fatboy Slim so I was late for the Basil Fawlty. The Andy McNab cost me an Ayrton Senna but it didn't stop me getting the Britney Spears in. Next thing you know it turned into a Gary Player and I was off my Chevy Chase."
Hong Kong architect Gary Chang travels so often that he's become an expert hotel enthusiast. I spoke with Gary at Ars Electronica this year; he showed me some of his drawings and photos (he extensively documents his hotel stays in the form of photos and hand-drawn floor plans)...really cool. Chang's Suitcase House is also worth a look.
Commerical for a game called Gears of War featuring a cover of Tears for Fears' Mad World by Gary Jules (which you might remember from Donnie Darko). The ultraviolence and poignance is an interesting juxtaposition.
Update: Greg Allen uncovers the original music video for the aforementioned Mad World cover, directed by Michel Gondry.
Update: So, the long GoW video posted above was created by a fan using the original version (also at YouTube) directed by Joseph Kosinski (David Fincher consulted on it as well, I guess). (thx, chris)
An oldie but a goodie: Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth. "Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant."
Update: Also old but good: Dean Allen's Annotated Manifesto for Growth. (thx, oscar)
As many of you don't know, I've been working less-than-diligently1 on a project with the eventual goal of adding tags to kottke.org. I posted some early results back in August of 2005. The other day, I started thinking about how tags could help people get a sense of what's been talked about recently on the site, like Flickr's listing of hot tags. I started by compiling a list of tags from the last 200 entries and ordering them by how many times they were used over that period. Here is the top 20 (with # of instances in parentheses)
photography (33), books (26), art (26), science (22), tv (21), movies (21), lists (20), video (17), nyc (16), weblogs (15), design (14), interviews (13), bestof (13), business (12), thewire (12), food (11), sports (11), games (10), language (10), music (9)
The items in bold also appear in the top 50 of the all-time popular tags, so obviously this list isn't telling us anything new about what's going on around here. To weed those always-popular tags from the list, I compared the recent frequency of each tag with its all-time frequency and came up with a list of tags that are freakishly popular right now compared to how popular they usually are. Call this list a measure of the popularity acceleration of each tag. The top 20:
blindside (3), pablopicasso (3), ghostmap (3), davidsimon (5), poptech2006 (4), thewire (12), andywarhol (3), michaellewis (4), education (4), youtube (4), richarddawkins (5), realestate (3), crime (8), working (8), school (3), dvd (4), georgewbush (4), stevenjohnson (5), writing (4), photoshop (3)
(Note: I also removed tags with less than three instances from this list and the ones below.) Now we're getting somewhere. None of these appear in the top 50 all-time list. But it's still not that accurate a list of what's been going on here recently. I've posted 3 times about Photoshop, but you can't discount entirely the 33 posts about photography. What's needed is a mix of the two lists: generally popular tags that are also popular right now (first list) + generally unpopular tags that are popular right now (second list). So I blended the two lists together in different proportions:
75% recent / 25% all-time:
davidsimon (5), poptech2006 (4), ghostmap (3), pablopicasso (3), blindside (3), thewire (12), andywarhol (3), michaellewis (4), education (4), photography (33), art (26), youtube (4), tv (21), richarddawkins (5), books (26), crime (8), video (17), working (8), realestate (3), science (22)
67% recent / 33% all-time:
davidsimon (5), poptech2006 (4), pablopicasso (3), ghostmap (3), blindside (3), thewire (12), andywarhol (3), photography (33), art (26), michaellewis (4), education (4), tv (21), books (26), youtube (4), video (17), science (22), richarddawkins (5), crime (8), movies (21), lists (20)
50% recent / 50% all-time:
thewire (12), davidsimon (5), photography (33), poptech2006 (4), blindside (3), ghostmap (3), pablopicasso (3), art (26), books (26), tv (21), science (22), movies (21), lists (20), andywarhol (3), video (17), michaellewis (4), education (4), nyc (16), weblogs (15), crime (8)
25% recent / 75% all-time:
photography (33), art (26), books (26), tv (21), science (22), movies (21), lists (20), thewire (12), video (17), nyc (16), weblogs (15), davidsimon (5), poptech2006 (4), design (14), interviews (13), bestof (13), blindside (3), ghostmap (3), pablopicasso (3), business (12)
The 75%-66% recent lists look like a nice mix of the newly & perenially popular and a fairly accurate representation of the last 3 weeks of posts on kottke.org.
Digression for programmers and math enthusiastists only: I'm curious to know how others would have handled this issue. I approached the problem in the most straighforward manner I could think of (using simple algebra) and the results are pretty good, but it seems like an approach that makes use an equation that approximates the distribution of the popularity of the tags (which roughly follows a power law curve) would work better. Here's what I did for each tag (using the nyc tag as an example):
# of recent entries: 300
# of total entries: 3399
# of recent instances of the nyc tag: 16
# of total instances of the nyc tag: 247
# of instances of the most frequent recent tag: 33
# of instances of the most frequent tag, all-time: 272
Calculate the recent and all-time frequencies of the nyc tag:
16/300 = 0.0533
247/3399 = 0.0726
Then divide the recent frequency by the all-time frequency to get the popularity acceleration:
0.0533/0.0726 = 0.7342
That's how much more popular the nyc tag is now than it has been all-time. In other words, the nyc tag is 0.7342 times as popular over the last 300 entries as it has been overall...~1/4 less popular than it usually is. To get the third list with the 75% emphasis on population acceleration and 25% on all-time popularity, I stated by normalizing the popularity acceleration and all-time frequency by dividing the nyc tag values by the top value of the group in each case (11.33 is the popularity acceleration of the blindside tag and 0.11 is the recent frequency of the photography tag (33/300)):
0.7342/11.33 = 0.0647
0.0533/0.11 = 0.4845
So, the nyc tag has a popularity acceleration of 0.0647 times that of the blindside tag and has a recent frequency that is 0.4845 times that of the most popular recent tag. Then:
0.0647*0.75 + 0.4845*0.25 = 0.1696
Calculate this number for each recent tag, rank them from highest to lowest, and you get the third list above. Now, it seems to me that I may have fudged something in the last two steps, but I'm not exactly sure. And if I did, I don't know what got fudged. Any help or insight would be appreciated.
 Great artists ship. Mediocre artists ship slowly. ↩
Benjamin Franklin's Advice to a Young Man on the Choice of a Mistress, in which he lists the many reasons that old women are much preferable to have affairs with than younger women.
The recent New Yorker piece on Will Wright is a thorough profile of the game designer, but also functions as a bibliography of sorts for the games he's created over the past 20 years. Bibliographies are something normally reserved for books, but Wright draws much of the inspiration for his games from articles, books, papers, and other games that a list of further reading/playing in the instruction booklet for SimCity wouldn't feel out of place. Because I like utilizing bibliographies -- they allow you to get into the head of an author and see how they sampled & remixed the original ideas to create something new -- I've created one for Will Wright. Sources are grouped by game; general influences are listed seperately.
The Game of Life, John Conway.
Montessori school. "It's all about learning on your terms, rather than a teacher explaining stuff to you. SimCity comes right out of Montessori -- if you give people this model for building cities, they will abstract from it principles of urban design."
Urban Dynamics - Jay Wright Forrester. "This study of urban dynamics was undertaken principally because of discoveries made in modeling the growth process of corporations. It has become clear that complex systems are counterintuitive. That is, they give indications that suggest corrective action which will often be ineffective or even adverse in its results. Very often one finds that the policies that have been adopted for correcting a difficulty are actually intensifying it rather than producing a solution."
World Dynamics - Jay Wright Forrester.
A Pattern Language - Christopher Alexander. "By understanding recurrent design problems in our environment, readers can identify extant patterns in their own design projects and use these patterns to create a language of their own. Extraordinarily thorough, coherent, and accessible, this book has become a bible for homebuilders, contractors, and developers who care about creating healthy, high-level design."
A Theory of Human Motivation - Abraham Maslow. Paper on human behavior and motivation.
Maps of the Mind - Charles Hampden-Turner.
Other Sim Games
Gaia hypothesis - James Lovelock. "The Gaia hypothesis is an ecological theory that proposes that the living matter of planet Earth functions like a single organism."
The Ants - E.O. Wilson. "This is the definitive scientific study of one of the most diverse animal groups on earth; pretty well everything that is known about ants is in this massive work."
Powers of Ten - Charles and Ray Eames. "The film starts on a picnic blanket in Chicago and zooms out 10x every 10 seconds until the entire universe (more or less) is visible. And then they zoom all the way back down into the nucleus of an atom. A timeless classic."
Drake Equation - Frank Drake. "Dr. Frank Drake conceived a means to mathematically estimate the number of worlds that might harbor beings with technology sufficient to communicate across the vast gulfs of interstellar space."
SETI. "The mission of the SETI Institute is to explore, understand and explain the origin, nature and prevalence of life in the universe."
2001: A Space Odyssey - Stanley Kubrick.
Panspermia - Freeman Dyson. "This approach was directly inspired by Freeman Dyson's notion of Panspermia - the idea that life on earth may have been seeded via meteors carrying microscopic "spores" of life from other planets. (Dyson's concept is also the origin of the game's title.)"
The Life of the Cosmos - Lee Smolin. "[Smolin's] theory of cosmic evolution by the natural selection of black-hole universes makes what we can experience into an infinitesimal, yet crucial, part of an ever-larger whole."
The Anthropic Cosmological Principle - John Barrow, Frank Tipler, and John Wheeler. "Is there any connection between the vastness of the universes of stars and galaxies and the existence of life on a small planet out in the suburbs of the Milky Way?"
The demoscene. "The demoscene was originally limited by the hardware and storage capabilities of their target machines (16/32 bit micros such as the Atari and the Amiga ran on floppy disks), they developed intricate algorithms to produce large amounts of content from very little initial data."
PanzerBlitz - Avalon Hill. "PanzerBlitz is a tactical-scale board wargame of tank, artillery, and infantry combat set in the Eastern Front of the Second World War."
Super Mario Bros. - Shigeru Miyamoto. "[SMB] encouraged exploration for its own sake; in this regard, it was less like a competitive game than a 'software toy' -- a concept that influenced Will Wright's notion of possibility space. 'The breadth and the scope of the game really blew me away,' Wright told me. 'It was made out of these simple elements, and it worked according to simple rules, but it added up to this very complex design."
Go. "[Go] is a strategic, zero-sum, deterministic board game of perfect information."
Sources: Game Master, The Long Zoom, Master of the Universe, Interview: Suzuki and Wright, Spore entry at Wikipedia, Will Wright entry at SporeWiki, Will Wright Interview.
Update: This interview with Wright at Game Studies contains a list of references from the conversation, many of which have influenced Wright's body of work. (thx, phil)
"Wans sup pawn at I'm their worth reel ladle pegs hole eft tome deuce seethe a whirled." Listen to the audio file and it'll all make sense. (thx, azrael)
Update: See also Ladle Rat Rotten Hut. (thx, carol)
The Malthusian trap is "a return to subsistence-level conditions as a result of agricultural production being eventually outstripped by growth in population".
Man tries to jump the mile-wide St. Lawrence River in a rocket-powered Lincoln Continental. I don't want to spoil the result for you, but the concepts of gravity, force, and aerodynamics are fairly well established and understood, so why did anyone involved ever think that this jump was even close to possible?
Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century is out today. "[The book] is a groundbreaking compendium of the most innovative solutions, ideas and inventions emerging today for building a sustainable, livable, prosperous future." The authors came up with a clever stunt to promote the book: have everyone buy the book on Amazon today at 11:11am PT to drive up the sales rank and let the "rich get richer" effect take over from there. The book is currently at #13.
At one of the few chain restaurants in Chinatown today, I witnessed a Spanish-speaking cashier taking an order from a Cantonese-speaking customer off of an English-only menu. It took awhile, but the woman seemed satisfied as she left with her food.
The problem with the axiom "live each day as if it was your last": "it can't possibly be healthy for my body or mind to spend each day sobbing uncontrollably and trying to eat as many Carl's Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburgers as I can before nightfall."
"The Polling Place Photo Project is a nationwide experiment in citizen journalism that seeks to empower citizens to capture, post and share photographs of democracy in action. By documenting their local voting experience on November 7, voters can contribute to an archive of photographs that captures the richness and complexity of voting in America."
A comparison: London's Tate Modern versus the MoMA. The MoMA is a stuffy, inaccesible place, while the "Tate Modern is an enormously user-friendly place, physically comfortable and hospitable, with inexpensive places to eat and frequent opportunities to sit."
Opening tonight at Jen Bekman's gallery: James Deavin's Photographs from the New World, a selection of photos he took in the online game, Second Life.
Wired profile of Darren Aronofsky and his new film, The Fountain, which will finally be coming out on November 22. The special effects in the film are non-CGI: "No matter how good CGI looks at first, it dates quickly. But 2001 really holds up. So I set the ridiculous goal of making a film that would reinvent space without using CGI." Trailer is here.
Cameron tells us about the peak-end rule, whereby you remember an experience by the high (or low) point and the ending. "Having recently been on a vacation, it strikes me that this heuristic is of utmost importance in planning long events." The p-e rule is probably also something to keep in mind for event/conference organizers...end on a high note. Oh, and some restaurants do this really well: they send you home with a delicious something to enjoy the next day, extending the experience and ending on a high note with a yummy breakfast.
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