Uncle Ben has been promoted to chairman of his rice company. "[The new ads are] asking us to make the leap from Uncle Ben being someone who looks like a butler to overnight being a chairman of the board." (via designobserver)
Photo of the contestants in the 1927 Atlantic City Pageant, the forerunner of the Miss America Pageant. (Larger photo here.) Compare with a photo of the contestants in the 2007 competition. What strikes me most about the 1927 photo is all the short hair.
Profile of British chef Gordon Ramsey during his effort to open a 4-star restaurant in NYC. Someone should tell this guy he's in the hospitality business, not an understudy for R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket.
Mere days after I'd kicked the habit, enabling kottke.org reader Jay sends word that the heroin-like DesktopTD has updated with new modes, new bad guys, and new weapons. It's Friday....get strung out on the new DesktopTD like it's your first time.
Very much on the travel to-do list: head to Japan to see the cherry blossoms.
A video of NYC graffiti artist Revs as he puts one of his sculptures up in the city. Rare footage indeed. "I'm into the individual spirit, anybody who does things in a solo way. Ted Kaczynski, Mother Theresa, Jesus Christ, dudes who were just out on a mission, solo." (thx, david)
A list of the earliest printed books in select languages. Movable metal type printing in Korea predates that of Gutenberg by a couple hundred years. See also the Wikipedia entry for movable type.
If you're running on a treadmill in Bismarck, North Dakota or Flagstaff Arizona or while orbiting the earth, are you really running the Boston Marathon?
Update: In an earlier iteration of this post, I incorrectly identified the woman in the photo as a Palestinian...she is a Jewish settler. (thx to everyone who wrote in)
Back when type was set with individual metal letters, those letters were called "sorts". Popular letters like a, e, t, i, etc. would occasionally run out and the printer would then be "out of sorts".
Don DeLillo's new novel, Falling Man, is about 9/11 and the title is a reference to the falling man photograph taken of a person falling from the WTC.
Best short description I've read of what net neutrality is, from Craig Newmark: "Let's say you call Joe's Pizza and the first thing you hear is a message saying you'll be connected in a minute or two, but if you want, you can be connected to Pizza Hut right away." (via bb)
The review of the Criterion DVD of Rushmore I posted yesterday mentioned a NY Times article written by Wes Anderson about him screening Rushmore for legendary film critic Pauline Kael. The original is behind the Times paywall, but a Clusterflock commenter posted a copy. After reading it, I don't get the hostility that other film critics directed at Anderson because of it.
There are some goldfish in Japan that live in a functioning deep fat fryer. The frying oil floats above the water where the fish live and as long as they don't try jumping out of their layer, they're fine. A nice side effect of this arrangement is that the fish keep the fryer clean, eating whatever food scraps fall from the fryer above. (via cyn-c)
Driving directions from New York City to Dublin, Ireland, courtesy of Google Maps. Step 23: "Swim across the Atlantic Ocean. 3462 mi." Not sure why you have to swim to France to get to Dublin, but ok. (thx, ayush)
An HR department looking for someone with internet experience dumped emails from candidates with Hotmail email addresses because "you can't pretend being an internet expert and use a Hotmail account at the same time". (via bb)
Thoughtful review of the Criterion version of Rushmore. "Anderson also serves as a convenient target for people who don't like people who like movies by Wes Anderson. [...] When you get past the extraneous bullshit surrounding Anderson's films, the crux of disagreements about him reminds me of disagreements over David Foster Wallace (or Dave Eggers, or Thomas Pynchon, or even Vladimir Nabokov). It comes down to this: Are Anderson's stylistic tricks and distracting plot elements smoke and mirrors, or do they bring something unique to the stories he's telling? In the case of Rushmore, I think the answer has to be the latter." I get the feeling you could learn a lot about film by reading Matthew's reviews of the Criterion Collection.
Artist Christian Marclay says that Apple contacted him about using his short film Telephones for their iPhone commercial. He refused and they went ahead and made the commercial using the same idea with different footage. Says Marclay, "the way they dealt with the whole thing is pretty sleazy". TouchExplode gets credit for spotting the reference. (via df)
LeBron James' new house: 35,440 sq ft, 2200 sq ft master suite (with 2-story walk-in closet), theater, casino, barber shop, bowling alley, and a limestone bust of LeBron wearing a headband.
Syllabus and notes from an ITP class called The Nature of Code, which focuses on "the programming strategies and techniques behind computer simulations of natural systems". Lots of good notes and Processing code examples.
pocket MAR 28
pocket was a broadcast mailing list for mobile phones. People signed up and then I sent them SMS messages on their phones periodically. As I recall it only lasted a few weeks before I shut it down; there just didn't seem to be anything interesting about broadcasting short messages to a group of friends and strangers.
Edible origami cranes made out of wonton wrappers and deep-fried. Includes how-to instructions.
Interview with Gretchen Ludwig about her dressing room photography. She started the project after she noticed her anti-advertising, anti-corporation self buying a lot of clothes from big corporations that advertise a lot. "The dressing room is not only a very private space, but it is also a space where consumers make most of their decisions. And it's also mostly void of extraneous marketing 'noise.' You don't have the trendy atmosphere, you don't have the pressure of others watching and judging you."
The mid-2000s may be seen in MAR 28
The mid-2000s may be seen in the future as not such a fantastic time for logo design. One further piece of evidence: the what-were-they-thinking? new design for the Dairy Queen logo. "[The] gold and blue curved swishes [signify] food and treats." Don't know about you, but that blue swish make me want to cram ice cream down my treat-hole!
A remote-controlled mechanism to launch tiny, liquid-filled darts into the bellies of horses was found buried under the starting gate of a Hong Kong race track. "It was a device worthy of Rube Goldberg, or perhaps Wile E. Coyote."
Incubus is a 1965 horror film that was filmed in Esperanto and starred William Shatner. What more could you want, really?
John McCain is using Mike Davidson's MySpace template (without attribution) and pulling some images directly from Davidson's server, which is a big no-no in webmaster land. So Davidson modified one of his images displaying on McCain's MySpace page to say that he'd reversed his position on gay marriage, especially "marriage between passionate females".
Interview with New Yorker music critic Alex Ross about, among other things, his upcoming book on 20th century music. "Why, when paintings of Picasso and Jackson Pollock go for a hundred million dollars or more on the art market and lines from T. S. Eliot are quoted on the yearbook pages of alienated teenagers across the land, is twentieth-century classical music still considered obscure and difficult? In fact, it's better known than most people realize. Post-1900 music is all over Hollywood soundtracks, modern jazz, alternative rock."
Joerg Colberg asked a bunch of photographers and photography bloggers: what makes a great photo? The answers, with examples, form a great informal discussion about art, photography, and curating. "It's hard for me to describe what makes a great photo mostly because it's hard to predict what you might like before you see it. I'm often surprised by things that I've never thought I would enjoy or seek out in the world."
Personalized spam MAR 27
Got a penny-stock spam this morning where most of the text designed to confuse spam filters was taken from kottke.org.
From: "Harriot Mckee" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: March 27, 2007 10:28:25 AM EDT
Subject: The outside of one particular prison is all glass like an Apple Store, the furniture is nicely designed, and the sports facilities are top-notch.
CWTD Receives "National Park Award"
China World Trade Corp.
CWTD a diverse company involved in world trade and business services has just been awarded the "Nation Park Award" for one of the parks it manages. CWTD is expected to issue a huge news release this week. We always see big returns when they do. Read up and get ready. Get on CWTD first thing Tuesday morning!
" (via that's how it happened) Looking for work?
Exburbians moved to the farthest reaches of suburbia for cheap real estate, willing to drive at least an hour each way to work.
Why, then, don't we pull for the Iraqi insurgents? "There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday.
Netflix has a "take as much as you want" vacation.
That suggests that the claim may be phony, he said.
Why can't we see ourselves in the faces of those kids firing RPGs at convoys of Halliburton trucks stealing Iraqi oil?
A French map shows that the Portuguese were the first.
All content by Jason Kottke (contact me) unless otherwise noted, with some restrictions on its use. Protect Your System From Online Intruders.
Sales of home coffee machines nearly . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area.
You could say it would be a lifetime's quest to reconcile this battling trinity into a seamless whole. (thx, jennifer)
Looking for work? Bob Saget was onto something.
I don't think it's any coincidence that one of the people responsible for Blogger is also responsible for Twitter.
jonreese(or how i learned to stop worrying and love the blog): Who Murdered 32 Iraqi Children?
Update: The Showtime site doesn't seem to be available to those outside of the US.
jonreese(or how i learned to stop worrying and love the blog): America is over.
An interview with Michael Pollan about The Omnivore's Dilemma.
Rare semi-identical twins born. "They are the result of two sperm cells fertilising a single egg, which then divided to form two embryos - and each sperm contributed genes to each child."
Video of the Bugatti Veyron reaching its top speed of 253 mph. The Veyron is the world's fastest production car and is even faster than F1 and Indy cars. Looks like the driver had some sort of religious experience. (via clusterflock)
Restaurants are beginning to experiment with smaller portions on their menus, but since portion Supersizing has meant increased profits (and expanding American waistlines) for years, it's a risky play. "Larger portions are so profitable because food is relatively cheap. On average, food accounts for about a third of the total cost of running a restaurant; such things as labor, equipment, advertising, rent and electricity make up the rest. So while it may cost a restaurant a few pennies to offer 25 percent more French fries, it can raise its prices much more than a few cents. The result is that larger portions are a reliable way to bolster the average check at restaurants."
On the gentle art of selling yourself, confidence, and first impressions. "It is said that we are all three different people: the person we think we are (the one we have invented), the person other people think we are (the impression we make) and the person we think other people think we are (the one we fret about). You could say it would be a lifetime's quest to reconcile this battling trinity into a seamless whole."
Like most of the best Onion articles, this one hovers between absolute hilarity and extremely tasteless: Anna Nicole Smith Finally Reaches Target Weight. "Forensics reports reveal that Smith's miraculous weight loss began on Feb. 8, when she was discovered unconscious in her Hollywood, FL hotel room."
Researchers looking into the science of happiness have found evidence that through kindness, gratitude, and optimism exercises, a person can increase their happiness level, much like physical exercise can increase physical fitness.
In 1967, psychologist Stanley Milgram began a series of investigations about the small world phenomenon. Milgram and his collaborators had people attempt to get a letter to a final recipient by sending it to a friend who was, in turn, likely to be friends with the final recipent. Each person in the chain proceeded likewise until the letter was delivered to the final recipient. Milgram found that the separation between two randomly selected Americans in this way is about 6 "hops". His experiment recently got me thinking of a related question:
Pick a group of people who live in NYC whose members collectively know everyone else who lives in NYC. What's the smallest number of people you'd need for that group?
For the purposes of answering the question without resorting to loopholes, let's assume that brand new arrivals (in town less than 3 months) don't count and that "know" means that each person considers the other an acquaintance...that is, something more than just someone they recognize or see daily. Any guesses as to the smallest group size? Better yet, is there any research out there that specifically addresses this question? Or is it impossible...are there people living in the city (shut-ins, hermits) who don't know anyone else? I'll share my best guess in the comments.
Daniel Gilbert on the annoying new practice of advertising objects that cry wolf. "In an advertising campaign that began last week, Nissan left 20,000 sets of keys in bars, stadiums, concert halls and other public venues. Each key ring has a tag that says: 'If found, please do not return. My next generation Nissan Altima has Intelligent Key with push-button ignition, and I no longer need these.'" How long before these ads train us not to do anything nice for anyone for fear of being messaged at?
An anonymous author (they cannot legally reveal their identity) describes their National Security Letter gag order. Since the Patriot Act, the FBI has been sending out tens of thousands of these Letters, the recipients of which have no choice but to comply and keep absolutely quiet about it. "Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case -- including the mere fact that I received an NSL -- from my colleagues, my family and my friends."
After a couple of surprising losses in the Cricket World Cup, the coach of the perennially mighty Pakistani national team turned up dead. It's feared he was murdered.
Netflix has a "take as much as you want" vacation policy. "The worst thing is for a manager to come in and tell me: 'Let's give Susie a huge raise because she's always in the office.' What do I care? I want managers to come to me and say: 'Let's give a really big raise to Sally because she's getting a lot done' -- not because she's chained to her desk."
Not sure that there's a iron-clad source on this, but a new version of Katamari Damacy seems to be rolling towards the Wii. Katamari seems like one of those games that the Wii remote was made for.
The Schmidt Sting Pain Index is a measure of how painful insect stings are. The Pepsis wasp rates a 4.0 and the pain is described as "blinding, fierce, shockingly electric. A running hair drier has been dropped into your bubble bath (if you get stung by one you might as well lie down and scream)." (via that's how it happened)
A list of 16 things it takes most of us 50 years to learn. "There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is: age 11."
Update: There are several comments in the above thread that indicate that the chemical sprayed on McNuggets for freshness is not butane (lighter fluid). Also, the 56% corn figure counts meat from corn-fed chickens, for which corn is not a natural food. (thx, demetrice)
Get the weather report via Twitter for more than a dozen cities. Looks like it hasn't been working for the past few days though...maybe once they get their scaling and IM issues figured out.
If, like me, you don't have Showtime and therefore missed the first episode of This American Life last night, you can watch the entire episode on Showtime's site.
Update: TAL has a new web site as well.
Update: The Showtime site doesn't seem to be available to those outside of the US. (thx, jennifer)
Michael Pollan has some good advice for writing about nature and science. "So choose your first person deliberately. Too many newspaper first persons -- and a lot of magazine first persons too -- are written in the voice of the neutral feature-writer. They're the voice of the Journalist. That is the least interesting first person you have. Nobody cares about journalists. They're not normal people. So choose a first person that draws on a more normal side of your personality. And think about which one will help you tell the story. You'll see that in very subtle ways it will shape your point of view and your tone and unlock interesting things."
Scientists are worried that the floodgates being built to protect Venice from high tides will be insufficient if the sea level rises too much due to climate change. If sea level rises 4 meters, much of Venice and the surrounding area would be underwater. (See also: Belgium and The Netherlands.)
More men are taking their wives' last names in marriage and are getting more shit for it too. "Van Hallgren received a scathing note from a longtime listener with a subject line that read, 'Sam, turn in your man card.' The listener asked what 'sissy juice' the host was drinking."
A French map shows that the Portuguese were the first Europeans to discover Australia in the early 1520s, almost 250 years before Captain Cook claimed them for Britain. "'The Vallard cartographer has put these individual charts together like a jigsaw puzzle. Without clear compass markings its possible to join the southern chart in two different ways. My theory is it had been wrongly joined.' Using a computer Trickett rotated the southern part of the Vallard map 90 degrees to produce a map which accurately depicts Australia's east coast."
Pieces for the Left Hand MAR 22
The temptation these days for those of us with our heads buried online all day is to call any collection of short text pieces "blog-like". I'm going to stay on-message here and refer to J. Robert Lennon's Pieces for the Left Hand as being rather like a Diaryland diary written by someone who is particularly clever, smart, and funny. So maybe not so blog-like after all. (Burn!)
Anyway, Pieces is a collection of 100 or so 1-to-2 page stories, both fiction and non, about, well, nothing in particular, which is why I enjoyed them so much. Many of the stories are surreal, but not in the obvious David Lynch midgets-talking-backwards kind of way. They're more subtle, a small-town kind of surreality. And for me, the perfect thing to read on the train or plane, literary snacks to have with your pretzels.
Interesting article about the myth of American women opting out of the workforce to stay home to raise families. Most of the stories focus on white, married, upper-class women with high-earning husbands, maternity leaves are getting shorter, and bias and inflexibility in the workplace forces many women to "choose" to stay at home with the family. "The American idea of mothering is left over from the 1950s, that odd moment in history when America's unrivaled economic power enabled a single breadwinner to support an entire family. Fifty years later we still have the idea that a mother, and not a father, should be available to her child at every moment."
Thoughtful post on the extreme recency of recorded human history. We know very little about the people who lived before the invention of writing and collections of stories like the Bible, save for what we can glean from speechless skeletons, footprints, and other remains. "And look at how much is lost. Between the time of the couple fleeing across a field of volcanic ash and poor dead Lucy lies 400,000 years. If a Bible is a record of the struggle of a people for 2,000 years, we'd need 200 Bibles to tell us the tale of just this one obscure, remote branch of our lineage." (thx, alexander)
Profile of Edward Tufte. "Running his own enterprise, Tufte says, allows him to work 'elegantly, intensely, gracefully and incredibly efficiently.'"
An unusually informative top 10 list: the most magnificent trees in the world. The Quaking Aspen organism and the baobab trees are awesome.
An interview with Michael Pollan about The Omnivore's Dilemma. "Whereas every chef in the Bay Area is deeply involved in sourcing their food with great care, and they know all their farmers and they go to farms. You still have many chefs in New York whose focus is on technique, on what happens in the kitchen, not on the farm."
An Intelligent Designer designs a cow. "How about we give it three, no eleven, no four stomachs! Four stomachs! For the efficient eating, of the grass. I am truly inspired! Don't stop there. How's this? This animal should urinate milk. From its groin, no less."
Business innovation. "Southwest has been able to generate more profits over the last 30 years than all of its incumbent competitors combined." Other examples: Google, Vanguard, W.R. Hambrect.
Why is the burglary rate in Austria so high? Perhaps because of the great minimum security prisons. The outside of one particular prison is all glass like an Apple Store, the furniture is nicely designed, and the sports facilities are top-notch.
Public and permanent MAR 21
One of my favorite business model suggestions for entrepreneurs is, find an old UNIX command that hasn't yet been implemented on the web, and fix that. talk and finger became ICQ, LISTSERV became Yahoo! Groups, ls became (the original) Yahoo!, find and grep became Google, rn became Bloglines, pine became Gmail, mount is becoming S3, and bash is becoming Yahoo! Pipes. I didn't get until tonight that Twitter is wall for the web. I love that.
A slightly related way of thinking about how to choose web projects is to take something that everyone does with their friends and make it public and permanent. (Permanent as in permalinked.) Examples:
- Blogger, 1999. Blog posts = public email messages. Instead of "Dear Bob, Check out this movie." it's "Dear People I May or May Not Know Who Are Interested in Film Noir, Check out this movie and if you like it, maybe we can be friends."
- Twitter, 2006. Twitter = public IM. I don't think it's any coincidence that one of the people responsible for Blogger is also responsible for Twitter.
- Flickr, 2004. Flickr = public photo sharing. Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake said in a recent interview: "When we started the company, there were dozens of other photosharing companies such as Shutterfly, but on those sites there was no such thing as a public photograph -- it didn't even exist as a concept -- so the idea of something 'public' changed the whole idea of Flickr."
- YouTube, 2005. YouTube = public home videos. Bob Saget was onto something.
Not that this approach leads naturally to success. Several companies are exploring music sharing (and musical opinion sharing), but no one's gotten it just right yet, due in no small measure to the rights issues around much recorded music.
The top 1000 books owned by libraries around the world. Surprisingly, no Stephen King book appears in the top 1000 but John Grisham appears 13 times. In an interesting use of del.icio.us, the entire list is tagged and categorized on the bookmarking site.
David Iglesias, one of the 8 federal prosecutors recently fired by the Bush administration, tells his story in the NY Times today. "The public has a right to believe that prosecution decisions are made on legal, not political, grounds."
Roommate Wanted: Share My West Village Pad. "Ideally, you do not have 'a lot' of friends (i.e., any). But if you do, they cannot visit the apartment at any time."
Fascinating clip from the This American Life TV show about some grade school kids who became obsessed with using fake video cameras. Animated by Chris Ware. The thing is though, I remember fights in grade school and even in the absence of fake video cameras, students didn't step in to stop fights. (thx, matt)
The Wisdom of Children, including A Conversation at the Grownup Table, as Imagined at the Kids' Table and How College Kids Imagine the United States Government. "FRIEND FROM WORK: I am the loudest! I am the loudest! MOM: I had a lot of wine, and now I'm crazy!"
Shorpy, the 100-year-old photoblog, is pulling photos from just after the turn of the century and posting them. This one's going right in the daily reads pile.
Do very large snowflakes exist? "Now, theorists, weather historians and field observers are concluding that most of the reports are true and that unusually large snowflakes two to six inches wide and perhaps wider fall regularly around the globe, surprisingly big and fluffy, if seldom witnessed or celebrated." During a snowstorm when I was in college, I saw puffy snowflake balls about 1-2 inches in diameter falling from the sky...it was the coolest thing.
Twitter MAR 20
As I mentioned the other day, I recently joined Twitter. I've been poking around its nooks and crannies ever since. Here are some observations, presented in Twitter-sized chunks:
Playing with Twitter reminds me of blogging circa 2000. Back then, all weblogs were personal in nature and most people used them to communicate with their friends and family. If I wanted to know what my friends were up to back then, I read their blogs. Now I follow Twitter (and Flickr and Vox).
The reaction to Twitter mirrors the initial reaction to weblogs...the same tired "this is going to ruin the web" and "who cares what you ate for dinner" arguments.
Also like blogs, everyone has their own unique definition of what Twitter is (stripped down blogs, public IM, Dodgeball++, etc.), and to some extent, everyone is correct. Maybe that's when you know how you've got a winner: when people use it like mad but can't fully explain the appeal of it to others. See also: weblogs, Flickr.
For people with little time, Twitter functions like an extremely stripped-down version of MySpace. Instead of customized pages, animated badges, custom music, top 8 friends, and all that crap, Twitter is just-the-facts-ma'am: where are my friends and what are they up to?
Twitter's like Flickr without the images.
When one thing (i.e. Twitter) is easier than something else (i.e. blogging) and offers almost the same benefits, people will use it.
Twitter brings back the "type words in one box and press submit" thing that made Blogger so popular back in the day. Compare with current blogging systems. To publish a post in MT, I've got to fiddle with 7-9 different text boxes and options. See immediately above.
Let's not forget Dodgeball here, which was used extensively at SXSW in 2006. (In other words, all the Twittering at SXSW 2007 was not unprecedented. Chill.) It's more focused on location and SMS though...by allowing updates in more ways and being more flexible about the type of message allowed, Twitter is attractive to a wider group of people.
If your friends are not on Twitter, I can't imagine it would be that interesting.
Twitterholic tracks the top 100 Twitter users in terms of followers. I know, let's not turn absolutely everything on the web into a popularity contest!! We already know Scoble is a big blowhard and has weak ties to lots of people...let's move on, shall we?
I wonder what the average number of followers per person is? The folks with 5 zillion followers get all the attention, but as with blogging, those posting updates for their 20 friends form the bulk of the activity.
I can see why Obvious dropped Odeo for Twitter. With podcasts, you've got all that data locked up in binary format (no easy cut-and-paste) and it takes you 20 listening minutes before you can react to it (by commenting, by linking, etc.). With blogs, the reaction time to a post is 1-2 minutes, with Flickr it's 5 seconds, and Twitter is 2-3 seconds. The barrier to entry for reacting to and remixing podcasts is just so much higher.
Twitter is the first thing on the web that I've been excited about in ages. Like years. The last thing was probably Flickr. (Talk about burying the lede.) It's just so damn simple but useful. Again, reminds me of weblogs in that way.
If you're on a Mac and using Twitter, download Twitterific, a little app that sits on your desktop and displays updates from your friends. My only complaint: it doesn't completely show updates, forcing you to the web to read the last 2-3 words of a longish message. Come on...it's only 140 characters, show them all!
Even more mesmerizing is Twittervision...a world tour of recent Twitter messages. Just sit back and watch the updates come in one at a time, displayed on a world map. (This is in beta and Twitter's having some downtime issues right now, so the data may be less than fresh when you go.)
Twitter seems to work equally well for busy people and not-busy people. It allows folks with little time to keep up with what their friends are up to without having to email and IM with them all day. Those with a lot of time on their hands can spend a lot of time finding new people to follow, having back-and-forths with friends all day, and updating their status 40 times a day. Too many web apps fail because they only appeal to those with abundant free time.
I'm fascinated to see where Obvious takes this app once they get their scaling issues under control.
The default display of recent messages plus your own messages is genius. Makes it feel more like a conversation. The "with friends" display is great too...perfect for discovering other people to follow.
"Friends" still isn't the right word.
The phrase "au contraire mon Frere-Jones" is just hanging out there, waiting for someone to use it.
Sizing up MAR 20
The Sartorialist recently went to a shop in Milan to get some new shirts. His salesperson didn't even need to take any measurements:
Once I decided on which shirts I was going to buy I started toward the dressing room to try the shirt on for the sleeve alteration - this is where he really got me.
He just looks at me and says "what are you doing?"
"I'm trying the shirt on so you can shorten the sleeves" I said.
"It's ok, I have it" he said.
"I'm really particular" I warned. To this point I had not said anything about my blog or anything about my background.
"I have it " he said with a with a slight arrogance that comes from years of experience.
"Well, understand I want the length to be right here" I said pointing to the base of my wrist.
"I have it" he repeated.
"Ok, but if it is wrong you won't have time to fix it before I leave Milan." I warned again.
"No problem" he assured me.
Of course he got it just right:
I went back to the store two days later and damn! if the sleeve length wasn't perfect!
I can't recall if I've written about this on kottke.org before, but I had a similar experience when I went to buy a suit for my wedding. Meg and I walked into the store, talked briefly with a salesperson, telling him what I was looking for (wedding suit, black or dark grey, simple). He said, "I've got the perfect suit for you." He turned on his heel and returned 5 minutes later with a simple black suit. I tried it on and it fit perfectly. The cut was just right for my body and the size was dead-on as well. Just to compare, I tried on 3-4 more suits -- all simple and black/dark grey -- and none of them were quite right, just like the man had said. I'd planned on looking at a few more places, but his expertise had convinced me that I'd found the right suit. It remains the only formal clothing I own that I feel completely comfortable in.
Update: The Sartorialist has more on the proper sleeve length. Most American men wear their sleeves too long.
Harry Potter movie franchise in potential jeopardy: Emma Watson reportedly refuses to play Hermione Granger for the final two films. Paging Emmy Rossum. (Emma, Emmy, Emma, Emmy, Emma, Emmy, Emma...)
Update on The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson's new film starring Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman. Apparently this article confirms the rumors that Bill Murray is in the film. (via goldenfiddle)
Helvetica MAR 19
Perhaps the highest praise I can offer for Helvetica comes courtesy of Meg, who was snickering on the way into the theater about going to see a movie about a font and exited saying, "that was great, now I want to be a designer!" The rest of the audience, mostly designers and type folks, loved it as well. But for the non-design folks, what's compelling about the movie is getting a glimpse of how designers think and work; that it's not just about making things look pretty. The modern world is awash in signage and symbols and words and for a lot of them, especially the corporate messages, there's a reason why they look the way they do. The story of Helvetica offers a partial key to decoding these messages.
My post about eyetracking and men looking at crotches in photos got a bunch of attention on Digg, by far the most inbound links I've gotten from Digg for kottke.org post. Which kinda proves the point of the eyetracking post: that Digg's predominantly male audience was very interested in clicking on a story about how men are interested in looking at other men's crotches (and then commenting about how gay they aren't for doing so). It's perfect really.
The supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park is showing signs of increased activity. "Supervolcanoes can sleep for centuries or millennia before producing incredibly massive eruptions that can drop ash across an entire continent."
The nominees for the 2007 Beard Awards were announced this morning. I'm disappointed that Alinea and Grant Achatz aren't on the list more (Achatz got a lone nomination for best chef in the Great Lakes region) but am happy to see David Chang, Ssam, Thomas Keller, and Wylie Dufresne on the list.
Momofuku Ssam Bar MAR 19
Taking advantage of a burst steam pipe in our bedroom and the slushy weather, the wife and I finally ventured out to Momofuku Ssäm Bar. Due to the icy sidewalks, the place was less than jam-packed so we were seated immediately. From our seats at the bar, we could see David Chang slicing ham and utilizing the one-for-me-one-for-you plating technique. Hholy Ccrap, what a place!
I could go on and on about the food -- it's some of the best I've had in the city -- but equally impressive is how the place feels and how fun it is to eat there. The staff seems imported wholesale from one of Danny Meyer's restaurants...the service is friendly and enthusiastic and genuinely loves when when you're excited about the food. The music ranged from the Pixies to Metallica to Bob Dylan while we were there and was at just the right volume. The vibe is more relaxed than at the Noodle Bar...the food is less "street" and "on-the-run" so you feel less rushed in your meal. The beverages are a casual and interesting mix; we had a taste of a sparkling Shiraz from The Black Chook...fizzy like champagne and red like, well, red wine. In the opening paragraphs of his recent review of Ssäm Bar, Frank Bruni does a great job capturing what's so good about the place:
It has also put a greater premium on service, distinguished by attentive young waiters with more knowledge and palpable enthusiasm about the menu than many of their counterparts at more conventionally polished establishments.
And it has emerged as much, much more than the precocious fast-food restaurant it initially was. By bringing sophisticated, inventive cooking and a few high-end grace notes to a setting that discourages even the slightest sense of ceremony, Ssäm Bar answers the desires of a generation of savvy, adventurous diners with little appetite for starchy rituals and stratospheric prices.
They want great food, but they want it to feel more accessible, less effete. They'll gladly take some style along with it, but not if the tax is too punishing. And that's what they get at Ssäm Bar, sleek, softly lighted and decidedly unfussy. Most of its roughly 55 seats are at a gleaming dark wood counter that runs the length of the narrow room, though these seats afford more elbow room than exists at the much smaller Noodle Bar.
And ok, a word or two about the food. Is it even Asian? It's more like food that tastes fantastic and you can eat with chopsticks. I would describe it as truly international food, drawing upon many influences without being obvious about it. And who cares anyway...Chang could put Swedish food on the menu and make it work. I have no real evidence or experience to back this up, but the approach to food at Ssäm seems like a new one to me, a new type of cuisine, an approach that values the tastiness and the end result over regional influence and style1. We'll see how that prediction works out.
 Maybe I like this approach so much because it reminds me of the way in which I edit kottke.org. This isn't a tech site or a design site or a pop culture site or a news site...I'll put anything on kottke.org as long as it's interesting, topic be damned. ↩
Finally got around to checking out Twitter. Here's my page: http://twitter.com/jkottke. Drink the Kool-Aid, sign up, and follow me (did I mention "drink the Kool-Aid?). More to come soon.
Shoe-fitting fluoroscopes were used in the 30s, 40s, and 50s to x-ray customers' feet to make sure their potential new shoes were fitting correctly. The machines were eventually banned because of radiation concerns, but not before causing some injuries to their operators. "Many shoe salespersons put their hands into the x-ray beam to squeeze the shoe during the fitting. As a result, one saleswoman who had operated a shoe fitting fluoroscope 10 to 20 times each day over a ten year period developed dermatitis of the hands." (via that's how it happened)
The WTFCNN blog takes CNN to task for their increasingly non-news news headlines. I'd highlight quite a few more things...all the Britney and Anna Nicole headlines for a start.
Eater doesn't come right out and say it ("note new equipment..."), but I think that when the Shake Shack opens for business on Wednesday, they'll be distributing those light-up buzzer thingies that vibrate when your food is ready instead of having everyone mill around the window while employees yell things that sound like your name even though it's not.
Update: Confirmed...the ShackWand will be in full effect. (And psst, rumor has it the Shack opens today, not Wed...)
Final episode of The Show with Ze Frank. No, thank you, Ze....the pleasure was all ours.
Antarctic glaciers are losing ice, but not because of melting. "In Greenland we know there is melting associated with the ice loss, but in Antarctica we don't really know why it's happening."
A nice piece about the tools that astronauts use in space. "[The space station arm] can delicately move suited astronauts, plucking them up from the airlock and transferring them to designated work areas and back again, like a mother cat relocating kittens."
The must-read item of the weekend: how a bunch of guys got themselves and two full van-loads of materials into the Super Bowl and distributed lights to fans to spell out a special message seen during the halftime show. This is in the hall of fame of pranks for sure. "Super Bowl XLI was a Level One national security event, usually reserved for Presidential inaugurations. We had to get two full vanloads of materials through federal marshals, Homeland Security agents, police, police dogs, bomb squads, ATF personnel, robots, and a five-ton state-of-the-art X-ray crane. It took four months and a dozen people to pull off the prank that ended up fooling the world. This is the Super Stunt." (via waxy)
For the first time ever, a three-way tie occurred on Jeopardy. The leader going into Final Jeopardy bet to tie so that his competitors would take home big prize money instead of meager 2nd/3rd place winnings. I'm surprised there's not more collusion of this sort on the show...although I guess there would be some prisoner's dilemma issues. (thx, danny)
A minute-by-minute account of the West Village shooting on Wednesday night. "It was impossible to see it coming: the execution of the bartender in a pizzeria, apparently an act of revenge; the cold killings of two unarmed auxiliary police officers who trailed him, shot as they cowered at his feet while a videotape caught the horrors; the final shootout with police officers; and the gunman lying dead on Bleecker Street as wailing patrol cars swarmed in on a balmy night in Greenwich Village."
Here's the first full (and I believe, leaked) trailer for Ratatouille, Pixar's newest film. It's in English with Chinese subtitles.
Admin/massage note MAR 16
kottke.org might be a little slow today with (hopefully short) periods of downtime. I'm doing some long-overdue maintenance on the server to pave the way for a bit of future development. In Flickr parlance, kottke.org is having a massage.
Update: Alright, we had two little blips of downtime and now it looks like the site is back up and running like a finely tuned watch, a watch with a web server running on it.
Update: Took care of one last little glitch last night...should be alright now. You may need to clear your cache to make sure everything works smoothly.
Vogue is adding blogs to their site but editor Anna Wintour hates the word "blog" so much that she's got her staff working on alternate language. Wintour's a little late to the party...everyone I know has been hating that word since 1999. (via fashionologie)
Lots of discussion online about this Garrison Keillor piece in Salon where he seems to assert that gay parents shouldn't be flamboyant and immigrants, while siring lovely children, don't hold a candle to the white cowboys riding the plains. More than anything, this piece just confuses me...is he being truthful about his opinions or is he taking a less-than-successful swipe at himself and his outdated views? I can't really tell...more than anything, it seems poorly written.
Dale Dougherty: maybe we should get rid of the wasteful conference schwag bag that everyone ends up dumping in the garbage anyway. Amen, brother.
A look at the newly redesigned Time magazine, available at newsstands today. It's been noted elsewhere that it looks more like The Economist than it did and that the photo on the cover of Reagan crying is actually a photo illustration...the tear was added digitally.
Update: An interview with the guy who added the digital tear to Reagan. Did that Worth1000-grade Photoshopping really warrant an interview?
Using ground penetrating radar, NASA has discovered an ice deposit at Mars' south pole so large that if melted, it would cover the entire planet under 30 feet of water.
The verbing of English nouns continues unabated. A music producer being sentenced for attempted theft tells the court that he's got six children "on the way". The judge thinks he's marrying a women with 6 children but the producer replies, "no, I be concubining".
James Randi offered a $1 million prize to any psychic who could remotely determine the contents of a box in his office. Cryptographer Matt Blaze and Jutta Degener correctly identified the object from a string of numbers that Randi published to assure contestants that he wouldn't switch the object after a correct guess. The numbers referred to an entry in the 1995 edition of the Random House Webster's College Dictionary that described the object. (via wired)
New Scientist watches Sunshine, Danny Boyle's new movie about the death of the sun (which sounds fantastic given my love of global disaster movies), and evaluates it from a scientific perspective.
Ben Stein on "what's new and hot and exciting" in the world on money: "The most sought after jobs in the United States now are jobs in finance in which basically almost no money is raised for new steel mills or coal mines, but immense sums are raised to buy companies, recapitalize them -- which means pay the new owners immense special dividends and other payments for going to the trouble of taking over the company. This process results in fantastically well-paid investment bankers and private equity 'financial engineers' and has no measurably beneficial effect on the economy generally. It does facilitate the making of ever younger millionaires and an ever more leveraged American corporate structure."
Related to the men look at crotches post, here's an eyetracking study that compares how artists look at a photo with the rest of us. "Non-artists spent significantly more time looking at [human bodies and faces in the photos] than artists." (via snarkmarket)
17-year-old Mary Masterman built a spectrograph at home for $300, thousands of dollars less than they usually cost, earning her the top prize in the Intel Science Talent Search. Interestingly, 6 of the top 10 winners were women.
What are people smuggling into Germany? Twice as much cocaine as last year, stuffed lion cubs, and wine made from cobras.
Wii Sports high scores MAR 15
I don't spend enough time playing Wii Sports to claim mastery in any of the events. I'm hovering around 2000 in tennis, I've bowled a 248 (twice), shot an 8-under in 9 holes of golf, and got my only gold medal in "Hitting the Green" with a distance of 84 feet. The big question, particularly in the Wii Tennis clubhouse, is: how high can a person's score go in a particular sport? Anything over 2000 displays off the chart:
After poking around for a few minutes, I discovered the Wii High Scores pool on Flickr, in which were the 2310 in tennis above, several 300 games in bowling, an 8-under in golf, and 153.1 feet in "Hitting the Green". Wii boxers in this thread claim a top score of 3124, after which it seems nearly impossible to score even a single point. Here's a screenshot of a 3120-level boxer:
Does anyone have any Wii Sports high scores to share? Anyone over 2300 in tennis? Photo evidence is preferred.
Universe is another pretty but useless data visualization of the news. See also: just about every other data visualization of the news.
Invincible MAR 14
I just realized the guy's name was Vince. Invincible... Vince... Must have been a lot of LOLs in the conference room at Disney when they came up with that one.
Mathematician Terence Tao won both the Fields Medal and a MacArthur genius grant last year. To dumb it down for all you Fields Medal non-winners out there, that's like doing Miss America and Miss Universe at the same time.
What if that asteroid had missed and the dinosaurs hadn't gone extinct? For one thing, humans probably wouldn't be around.
And if that weren't enough excitement for one day, it's also Pi Day. (Whoa, the Pi Day web site uses Silkscreen!) I bet the Pi Dayers are really looking forward to 2015 when they can extend the fun to two additional decimal places.
Things Magazine reports on The Pentominium, a 1670-foot luxury residential building planned for construction in Dubai. "The building's concept (penthouse + condominium, you see) means that each apartment spans an entire floor, meaning that chance meetings with the other occupants, save in the blinding lobby areas, are out of the question."
Description of attending an amazing talk by Stephen Hawking. "In the beginning there's a long pause. Really long. The applause dies down and then... crickets. For thirty seconds... a minute... two minutes. Then suddenly, Hawking's synthesized voice: 'Can you hear me?' The climactic scenes of blockbuster movies are not as thrilling."
Todd Levin takes the whiz out of SXSW. "In addition to discussion panels, SXSW features an interesting mix of daily keynote speakers, including Sims and Spore game creator Will Wright; Phillip Torrone, the senior editor of Make magazine; and, of course, cyberpunk visionary Dan Rather. Who better to talk about emerging technology than the septuagenarian former broadcast news anchor who still refers to his (unused) computer as an 'electronic pickle barrel' and the internet as 'the World Wide Possum Stew?'"
Former bitter rivals in Northern Ireland, the Democratic Unionists and former IRA leaders, are set to form a government coalition to work together on increasing the region's economic growth. "After decades spent fighting each other to the death, these two movements will now share power, spending the next year or two arguing about school admissions and local water rates. Their long war is over." (thx, elaine)
Men look at crotches MAR 14
Among the many interesting things in Online Journalism Review's article about using eyetracking to increase the effectiveness of news article design is this odd result:
Although both men and women look at the image of George Brett when directed to find out information about his sport and position, men tend to focus on private anatomy as well as the face. For the women, the face is the only place they viewed. Coyne adds that this difference doesn't just occur with images of people. Men tend to fixate more on areas of private anatomy on animals as well, as evidenced when users were directed to browse the American Kennel Club site.
That is absolutely fascinating. I'd love to hear an evolutionary biologist's take on why that is.
I'm also heartened by the article's first featured finding: that tighter writing, more white space, and jettisoning unnecessary imagery helps readers read faster and retain more of what they've read.
Notes from Will Wright's keynote at SXSW 2007. "Movies have these wonderful things called actors, which are like emotional avatars, and you kinda feel what they're feeling, it's very effective. Films have a rich emotional palette because they have actors. Games often appeal to the reptilian brain - fear, action - but they have a different emotional palette. There are things you feel in games - like pride, accomplishment, guilt even! - that you'll never feel in a movie."
Crazy incredible shot by Roger Federer against Andy Roddick. He somehow gets to Roddick's overhead slam and slips it by him on the baseline.
New research on laughter is showing that "It's an instinctual survival tool for social animals, not an intellectual response to wit. Itss not about getting the joke. It's about getting along. It's a way to make friends and also make clear who belongs where in the status hierarchy."
In 1998, Barry Stiefel took off from work on Friday at 5pm and was back at his desk a little more than a week later on Monday at 8am, having visited every US state in the interim (48 by car, Hawaii and Alaska by air). I love the map...except for the jog to San Francisco, it looks pretty optimized.
Update: That Flickr user also has several other interesting sets of images to look at, including book covers, typography of The Electric Company, Soviet children's books, and Civil War posters.
Popular Science has a lengthy interview with Will Wright about Spore, which gets into a bit more detail about the game than I've seen elsewhere. See also: Will Wright's bibliography.
Profile of fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld, who admits he doesn't know "what 'normal' means".
Zodiac MAR 12
Meg woke up at 1:30am the night we saw Zodiac, unable to sleep because she couldn't get a stabbing from the movie out of her head. To get back to sleep, she convened an impromptu cutest baby animal tournament in her head. Kittens were cuter than puppies, baby pandas beat out kittens, and so on until she eventually was able to fall back to a stab-free sleep. Just putting that out there for whenever O'Reilly gets around to releasing their Sleep Hacks book.
How to think about the scale of human history: "Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., one the United States' great historians, is less than two lifetimes removed from a world where the United States did not exist. Through Mr. Schlesinger, you're no more than three away yourself. That's how short the history of our nation really is. Not impressed? It's only two more life spans to William Shakespeare. Two more beyond that, and the only Europeans to see America are those who sailed from Greenland. You're ten lifetimes from the occupation of Damietta during the fifth crusade. Twenty from the founding of Great Zimbabwe and the Visigoth sack of Rome. Make it forty, and Theseus, king of Athens, is held captive on Crete by King Minos, the Olmecs are building the first cities in Mexico, and the New Kingdom collapses in Egypt."
Trailer for Grindhouse, a film consisting of two separate movies, one by Robert Rodriguez and the other by Quentin Tarantino.
A suggested entry for New York City for Conservapedia, a Wikipedia without the liberal bias. "The city's population is often reported by the mainstream media to be as high as 8 million -- but a rigorous count of actual Americans, using the methods of Adjusted Freedom Demography pioneered by Smorgensen in the Patriot Census of 2005 (i.e., excluding immigrants, Jews, ivory-tower communists, and nonrepresentational artists, and counting only three-fifths of descendants of African slaves, as originally intended by the Framers), reveals that New York City's population of legitimate Americans is actually only 312."
A group of people who are interested in preserving video games as culturally and historically important artifacts has chosen their list of the top 10 most important video games of all time: Spacewar!, Star Raiders, Zork, Tetris, SimCity, Super Mario Bros. 3, Civilization I/II, Doom, Warcraft series and Sensible World of Soccer. Sensible World of Soccer?
For the past five years, artist Jackie Sumell has been helping Herman Wallace, who has been in solitary confinement at the Louisiana State Penitentiary for the last 34 years, design his dream house, a house that will probably never be built. "Traces of a prison mindset crop up. When the placement of his computer meant his back would face the office door, Ms. Sumell said that he asked that a mirror be installed above, so he could see anyone entering the room. A sense of security is important to him, she explained. The master bedroom sits safely above the very center of the house. A wraparound porch adds a layer of perimeter, as does the surrounding garden. There is even a special door leading to an underground bunker, equipped with its own water supply." A book on the project is available for a $20 donation and this PDF gives a good overview of the project.
Quentin Tarantino talks about his success in the movie business. The bit about just doing something and not having to ask permission is great: "Here's the thing: they can write a mean letter, they can write a mean memo, but these guys don't have any real fight in them. If you're an artist, as opposed to a careerist, and your movie is more important to you than a career in this town, they can never beat you. You have a loaded gun, and you know you've got what it takes to put it in their faces and blow their heads off."
Daniel Coyle travels to Russia's top tennis player factory in search of how to grow a super-athlete. "Deliberate practice means working on technique, seeking constant critical feedback and focusing ruthlessly on improving weaknesses." The article starts off a bit slow but gets interesting a few paragraphs in.
Expectations of Adolescence is a series of photographs of two cousins as they grow up, seen periodically only at large family gatherings. "We see them as they grow up, become more and more themselves, chafing perhaps at the obligations implied by required attendance in surroundings of upper-crust comfort that remain unchanged and constant."
The world's biggest passenger ship is like a floating casino/hotel/mall...you thought Las Vegas was tacky. (Oh, and if Stormtroopers doing pelvic thrusts is your thing, don't miss the Geek Army logo at the top.)
Why do we feel suspense, surprise, or delight when watching a movie we've seen before? "But later you watch Notorious a second time. Strangely, you feel suspense, moment by moment, all over again. You know perfectly well how things will turn out, so how can there be uncertainty? How can you feel suspense on the second, or twenty-second viewing?"
The Face2Face Project takes similar photographs of Palestinians and Israelis and displays them together in pairs. "After a week [in Israel and Palestine], we had a conclusion with the same words: these people look the same; they speak almost the same language, like twin brothers raised in different families. It's obvious, but they don't see that. We must put them face to face. They will realize." (via 3qd)
The first rule of Global Warming Deniers Club is: don't talk about the polar bears losing their habitat.
Apple Store prototypes MAR 08
Not sure why I'm surprised, but when Apple came up with the idea for their Apple Stores, they appoached the design of the stores like they would any other product: they built a prototype first:
"One of the best pieces of advice Mickey ever gave us was to go rent a warehouse and build a prototype of a store, and not, you know, just design it, go build 20 of them, then discover it didn't work," says Jobs. In other words, design it as you would a product. Apple Store Version 0.0 took shape in a warehouse near the Apple campus. "Ron and I had a store all designed," says Jobs, when they were stopped by an insight: The computer was evolving from a simple productivity tool to a "hub" for video, photography, music, information, and so forth. The sale, then, was less about the machine than what you could do with it. But looking at their store, they winced. The hardware was laid out by product category - in other words, by how the company was organized internally, not by how a customer might actually want to buy things. "We were like, 'Oh, God, we're screwed!'" says Jobs.
But they weren't screwed; they were in a mockup. "So we redesigned it," he says. "And it cost us, I don't know, six, nine months. But it was the right decision by a million miles." When the first store finally opened, in Tysons Corner, Va., only a quarter of it was about product. The rest was arranged around interests: along the right wall, photos, videos, kids; on the left, problems. A third area - the Genius Bar in the back - was Johnson's brainstorm.
Lots of other great stuff in the article as well. Sounds like the Apple Store is an underrated piece of Apple technology.
New Yorker site redesigned MAR 08
The New Yorker redesign just went live. Not sure if I like it yet, but I don't not like it. Some quick notes after 15 minutes of kicking the tires, starting with the ugly and proceeding from there:
- Only some of the old article URLs seem to work, which majorly sucks. This one from 2002 doesn't work and neither does this one from late 2005. This David Sedaris piece from 9/2006 does. kottke.org has links to the New Yorker going back to mid-2001...I'd be more than happy to supply them so some proper rewrite rules can be constructed. I'd say that more than 70% of the 200+ links from kottke.org to the New Yorker site are dead...to say nothing of all the links in Google, Yahoo, and 5 million other blogs. Not good.
- The full text of at least one article (Stacy Schiff's article on Wikipedia) has been pulled from the site and has been replaced by an abstract of the article and the following notice:
The New Yorker's archives are not yet fully available online. The full text of all articles published before May, 2006, can be found in "The Complete New Yorker," which is available for purchase on DVD and hard drive.Not sure if this is the only case or if the all longer articles from before a certain date have been pulled offline. This also is not good.
- They still default to splitting up their article into multiple pages, but luckily you can hack the URL by appending "?currentPage=all" to get the whole article on one page, like so. Would be nice if that functionality was exposed.
- The first thing I looked for was the table of contents for the most recent issue because that's, by far, the page I most use on the site (it's the defacto "what's new" page). Took me about a minute to find the link...it's hidden in small text on the right-hand side of the site.
- There are several RSS options, but there's no RSS autodiscovery going on. That's an easy fix. The main feed validates but with a few warnings. The bigger problem is that the feed only shows the last 10 items, which isn't even enough to cover an entire new issue's worth of stories and online-only extras.
- A New Yorker timeline. Is this new?
- Listing of blogs by New Yorker contributors, including Gladwell, SFJ, and Alex Ross.
- Some odd spacing issues and other tiny bugs here and there. The default font size and line spacing make the articles a little hard to read...just a bit more line spacing would be great. And maybe default to the medium size font instead of the small. A little rough around the edges is all.
- The front page doesn't validate as XHTML 1.0 Transitional. But the errors are pretty minor...<br> instead of <br />, not using the proper entity for the ampersand, uppercase anchor tags and the like.
- All articles include the stardard suite of article tools: change the font size, print, email to a friend, and links to Digg, del.icio.us, & Reddit. Each article is also accompanied by a list of keywords which function more or less like tags.
- Overall, the look of the site is nice and clean with ample white space where you need it. The site seems well thought out, all in all. A definite improvement over the old site.
Thanks to Neil for the heads up on the new site.
Tom Hodgkinson has given up on email. "At the weekend I set up one of those auto-reply messages, informing my correspondents that I would no longer be checking my emails, and that instead they might like to call or write, as we used to in the olden days."
A man outfitted his family minivan with high-precision cesium clocks to demonstrate to his kids that they gained 22 nanoseconds of vacation time on their mountain camping trip than they would have at a lower altitude.
The must-see link for today is Social Explorer. Jump right to the maps section or to the New York City % White 1910-2000 and the the New York City % Black 1910-2000 slideshows. Running the shows forward, you can see blacks settling into Harlem, Brooklyn, and Queens and then spreading out from there. I wish it were slightly easier to make slideshows, but it's still really fun to play around with all the maps. (via vsl)
My friends Zach and Youngna are in the NY Times this morning in an article about how difficult it is for "senior beauty analysts" and "vice presidents for global marketing" to produce and market products to twentysomethings who wouldn't even trust a "senior beauty analyst" to watch their bag while they went for a pee. The Times also had to draw a distinction between Mr. Klein, Calvin and Mr. Klein, Zach: "no relation".
Idiocracy MAR 07
This is a movie that looks like a home run but ends up being a mishit single just over the shortstop into shallow left field. The concept is fantastic -- that of a future world populated by brand-driven idiots -- and the satire in that direction is solid, but the plot is weak and acts like an anchor on the rest of the movie. Not the great followup to Office Space that everyone was expecting for Mike Judge, but still worth a look for the concept and the graphic design.
BLDGBLOG is teaming up with Materials & Applications to curate an architectural film festival. "The obvious caveat is that your film has to be about architecture, landscape, and/or the built environment - or, at least, it has to involve architecture, landscape, and/or the built environment, and in a way that isn't just backdrop. Even more specifically, we'd love to show a whole bunch of architectural machinima, site animations, project fly-throughs, or other cinematic spaces." Entry deadline in April 6.
Close-up photography of bugs that have splattered on cars and windshields. Way less gross than you'd think.
Partial shot of a Waffle House grill cook's cheat sheet. The placement of various condiments on the plate denote what the cook should be making at any given time.
Innovation timeline 1900-2050, from corn flakes to something called quiet paint.
Remembering a physics conference that took place in NYC 20 years ago about high-temperature superconductors. One session, the "Woodstock of Physics", lasted until 3:15 in the morning; "it was like the Texas chili cook-off or the Iowa State Fair apple pie bake-off." The conference was such a big deal at the time that physicists with conference badges were immediately ushered into a nightclub in Chelsea for free by the bouncers.
Photographer Alec Soth has a response to the Richard Avedon essay regarding his portrait of Henry Kissinger. "While Avedon is correct that the subject is sometimes 'implicated in what's happening,' more often than not the photographer holds all of the cards." (thx, jen)
The friendly city MAR 06
This has had a profound effect on how we interact with people. We realize now that the cocoons of our cars kept us well insulated from the people around us. Our genuine interactions were with family and coworkers, the only people who saw us stripped of the metal that clothed and protected us. Our neighbors, we discovered, were virtually strangers. Now, we stand face-to-face with people in our building's elevators, at our corner hangouts, and on the sidewalks. We chitchat and pet our neighbors' dogs. We exchange 'good mornings' with the people we pass everyday on our way to work. We've developed friendships with several proprietors and servers at our favorite restaurants.
In 1940, an ultra orthodox Jewish group known as the Lubavitchers bought a building at 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn. The building became so well-known and revered within the community that other "770s" have been built around the world and subsequently captured by photographers Andrea Robbins and Max Becher. (via paks)
Dysgraphia is a condition that causes difficulty with the ability to write, independent of reading ability. I happened upon this word this morning in a forum about car racing. A guy posted an articulate answer to someone else's question except that many of the words were spelled phonetically and his signature said, basically, "don't give me any crap for my bad spelling, I'm dysgraphic".
Richard Avedon on photographing Henry Kissinger: "A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he's being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he's wearing or how he looks. He's implicated in what's happening, and he has a certain real power over the result." Here's the photo that Avedon is referring to. (via personism)
David Chang of Momofuku and Ssam tells us about the "money piece", the ticket in the kitchen of a restaurant that gets randomly upgraded to VIP (or soigné) treatment for the evening. Nice idea.
Some other Zapruder films include Nancy Reagan Fells a Deer and Ricky Zapruder's Birthday Party.
Mark Pilgrim's The Dogs of Flickr posters illustrate the problem of sourcing and giving credit in the remix age....the credits take up much more room than the work itself. Imagine if he had to get permission for all that and you've got some idea of how difficult it is to make documentary films these days. See also: the ending credits for The Return of the King (full story).
Hypermiling MAR 06
The most enjoyable and interesting thing I've read in a week has to be this article about Wayne Gerdes (via bb). Gerdes is a hypermiler -- a person who drives in an obsessive fashion in order to increase his vehicle's fuel efficiency -- and strikes me as someone that Errol Morris would be quite interested in doing a short documentary about. He's refined his driving technique over the years to wring 59 MPG out of a plain Honda Accord and clocked over 180 MPG with a hybrid Honda Insight. Here's a taste of how he drives:
"Buckle up tight, because this is the death turn," says Wayne. Death turn? We're moving at 50 mph. Wayne turns off the engine. He's bearing down on the exit, and as he turns the wheel sharply to the right, the tires squeal-which is what happens when you take a 25 mph turn going 50. Cathy, Terry's wife, who is sitting next to me in the backseat, grabs my leg. I grab the door handle. As we come out of the 270-degree turn, Cathy says, "I hope you have upholstery cleaner."
We glide for over a mile with the engine off, past a gas station, right at a green light, through another green light -- Wayne is always timing his speed to land green lights -- and around a mall, using momentum in a way that would have made Isaac Newton proud. "Are we going to attempt that at home?" Cathy asks Terry, a talkative man who has been stone silent since Wayne executed the death turn in his car. "Not in this lifetime," he shoots back.
At PopTech last year, Alex Steffen of WorldChanging told the crowd that cars with realtime mileage displays get better gas mileage. Turns out that's how Gerdes got really interested in hypermiling:
But it was driving his wife's Acura MDX that moved Wayne up to the next rung of hypermiler driving. That's because the SUV came with a fuel consumption display (FCD), which shows mpg in real time. As he drove, he began to see how little things -- slight movements of his foot, accelerations up hills, even a cold day -- influenced his fuel efficiency. He learned to wring as many as 638 miles from a single 19-gallon tank in the MDX; he rarely gets less than 30 mpg when he drives it. "Most people get 18 in them," he says. The FCD changed the driving game for Wayne. "It's a running joke," he says, "but instead of a fuel consumption display, a lot of us call them 'game gauges'" -- a reference to the running score posted on video games -- "because we're trying to beat our last score -- our miles per gallon."
If people could see how much fuel they guzzled while driving, Wayne believes they'd quickly learn to drive more efficiently. "If the EPA would mandate FCDs in every car, this country would save 20 percent on fuel overnight," he says. "They're not expensive for the manufacturers to put in -- 10 to 20 bucks -- and it would save more fuel than all the laws passed in the last 25 years. All from a simple display."
Competition, even with yourself, can be a powerful motivator. I'm not convinced, however, that FCDs would improve gas mileage across the board. There are other games you can play with the display -- the how-much-gas-can-I-waste game or the how-close-can-I-get-to-18-MPG game -- that don't have much to do with conserving fuel consumption. Still, next time I'm in a car with a mileage display, I'll be trying out some of Gerdes less intensive driving techniques, including the ones he shares on this Sierra Club podcast (Gerdes' interview is about 2/3 of the way through).
I could read interviews with David Remnick all day long. "In many ways, the magazine that we're publishing every week reflects what I want to read or what the people around me - this group of editors - find amusing or deep, or funny, or intelligent or whatever." (thx, emdashes)
Following up on an earlier post, MUJI's first proper store in the US and NYC will be located in the new NY Times building near Times Square. 5000 square feet, open in time for the holidays. (thx, cap'n)
Spending to save MAR 05
Advertising Age reports (via gulfstream) that despite having spent as much as a reported $100 million on advertising and promotion, the (RED) campaign has raised only $18 million to fight AIDS in Africa. (RED) CEO Bobby Shriver responds by saying that the amount will soon be $25 million, they're in it for the long haul, and that there are non-monetary benefits to all of the advertising -- "A phenomenal benefit is that Gap, Apple, Sprint and other sales people are meeting Americans and explaining that 5,500 Africans dying daily of AIDS is preventable".
The (RED) campaign strikes me as part of a larger trend in the US (and perhaps elsewhere too): the idea that if you, the consumer, spend normally (or even increase your spending), it is possible to break the law of conservation of energy and somehow save more money or lives. Other examples of the spend-to-save trend include the Discover Card Cashback Bonus program, the Bank of America Keep the Change program, and hundreds of retail promotions where, golly, if you spend another $20 on something you don't need, you get a free something that you really don't need.
It seems to me that if The Gap really cared about stopping HIV/AIDS in Africa, they would just donate the $7.8 million they spend on (RED) advertising to the Clinton Foundation. If Discover really cared about saving you money, they'd lower their APR to prime + 1.
I realize that the entire US economy is a house of cards kept standing by the escalation of spending and credit card debt by American consumers, but the sad fact is that to save money, you need to cut spending or increase income. And if you really want to help fight AIDS in Africa, instead of buying that (RED) Gap t-shirt for which Gap will donate 50% of its profit to The Global Fund, buy a cheaper one at American Apparel and send the $13 difference to the Global Fund yourself.
A dad sings NWA's Fuck The Police to his young son using some creative realtime censorship. "'Cause he'll tickle you 'til you're giggling." (via the grumpiest)
Free throws MAR 05
Free throw shooting is one of my favorite topics. It's the whole relaxed concentration aspect of it: can you focus enough so that the years of practice undertaken to train the unconscious self to shoot override the conscious self's desire to take control of the situation at hand? To me, this battle of the two minds within the individual is the essence of sport: you know how to make the shot, you know you can make the shot, but will you make the shot? Free throw shooting lays this battle bare for all to see. It's the same shot every single time (and the easiest way to score a point in sports), you don't have to be in top physical shape to shoot it, and yet a surprising amount of professional basketball players can't make more than every two out of three attempts.
So, as for Gene Weingarten's assertion (via truehoop) that if an average person took a year to practice, he could beat the best free throw shooter in the NBA, I say "hell yes". Maybe a retired podiatrist would be a worthy candidate: 71-year-old Tom Amberry shot 2,750 in a row in 1993. Amberry was a star college basketball player and was offered a contract with the Lakers after WWII, so maybe that's not fair...but just look at the guy.
Coming in July: Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design by Michael Bierut. Looks like some of those essays will be drawn from Design Observer.
Lovely designed condom applicator from South Africa...just put it on and pull the applicator away.
Why do we believe in God? MAR 05
The cover story in this week's NY Times Magazine is called Darwin's God and covers, from an evolutionary biology standpoint, why people believe in God. Most scientists studying the matter believe that humans have a built-in mechanism for religious belief. For instance, anthropologist Scott Atran sometimes conducts an intriguing experiment with his students:
His research interests include cognitive science and evolutionary biology, and sometimes he presents students with a wooden box that he pretends is an African relic. "If you have negative sentiments toward religion," he tells them, "the box will destroy whatever you put inside it." Many of his students say they doubt the existence of God, but in this demonstration they act as if they believe in something. Put your pencil into the magic box, he tells them, and the nonbelievers do so blithely. Put in your driver's license, he says, and most do, but only after significant hesitation. And when he tells them to put in their hands, few will. If they don't believe in God, what exactly are they afraid of?
Or rather, why are they afraid? One possible reason is that humans are conditioned to be on the lookout for "agents" and we tend to find them even when they're not there:
So if there is motion just out of our line of sight, we presume it is caused by an agent, an animal or person with the ability to move independently. This usually operates in one direction only; lots of people mistake a rock for a bear, but almost no one mistakes a bear for a rock.
What does this mean for belief in the supernatural? It means our brains are primed for it, ready to presume the presence of agents even when such presence confounds logic. "The most central concepts in religions are related to agents," Justin Barrett, a psychologist, wrote in his 2004 summary of the byproduct theory, "Why Would Anyone Believe in God?" Religious agents are often supernatural, he wrote, "people with superpowers, statues that can answer requests or disembodied minds that can act on us and the world."
Another reason for the instinctive religious impulse may be that people are able to put themselves in other peoples' minds, to think about how another person might be feeling or thinking:
Folkpsychology, as Atran and his colleagues see it, is essential to getting along in the contemporary world, just as it has been since prehistoric times. It allows us to anticipate the actions of others and to lead others to believe what we want them to believe; it is at the heart of everything from marriage to office politics to poker. People without this trait, like those with severe autism, are impaired, unable to imagine themselves in other people's heads.
The process begins with positing the existence of minds, our own and others', that we cannot see or feel. This leaves us open, almost instinctively, to belief in the separation of the body (the visible) and the mind (the invisible). If you can posit minds in other people that you cannot verify empirically, suggests Paul Bloom, a psychologist and the author of "Descartes' Baby," published in 2004, it is a short step to positing minds that do not have to be anchored to a body. And from there, he said, it is another short step to positing an immaterial soul and a transcendent God.
There's lots more in the article...it's well worth a read.
Dan Hill, who coincidentally is the director of web and broadcast at the aforementioned Monocle, has a thoughtful post about Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, a documentary film that follows Zinedine Zidane through an entire soccer match.
Nice positive review of Monocle, a new monthly magazine that would "bond and glue all the people that roam the world". I finally got my hands on the first issue the other day and it is quite something. "Overall, Monocle comes across as fresh, original, careful not to be influenced in its editorial choices by the media system's herd logic (no stories on the 'hot topic of the moment', and zero -- zero! -- celebrities and people gossip)."
Best animated gif ever MAR 04
Nice composite photo of the lunar eclipse last night. We missed it because it was a bit cloudy and tall buildingy in NYC last night. (thx, ajit)
On tonight's to-do list: total lunar eclipse. Totality occurs at 5:44pm ET and will last about an hour. On the east coast of the US, the moon will already be eclipsed when it rises. Best bet for seeing it is Africa, Europe, and the Middle East (see map).
A 666 tribute to David Fincher featuring video of 6 of his commercials, 6 of his music videos, and 6 of his movies.
They're Made Out of Meat, a classic sci-fi short story by Terry Bisson. "Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!" (thx, aj)
Update: There's a Made of Meat short film as well. (thx, david, jack, and oscar)
For years, a myth has stated that the number of people currently living outnumber the number of people who have died. Not true says demographer Carl Haub: over 100 billion people have died on earth, compared to 6.5 billion current residents. (via 3qd)
I think it's perfectly OK for John McCain and Barack Obama to say that the US is wasting the lives of the American troops that have been killed in Iraq. In the ignoble pursuit of politics, people are penalized for telling the truth, or at least for telling their honest opinions. Words are twisted by the media and opponents to take on other meanings. In this case, we're supposed to be outraged for McCain and Obama suggesting that those who have chosen to serve in the armed forces are wasting their lives. Does anyone honestly believe that either of these two guys really meant to say that?
The Morning News announces the results of the Non-Expert's Contest for Total Idioms. The phrase "if a bird can't fly, it walks [is] used to suggest someone should stop making excuses why they can't do something".
[Zodiac is] believed to be the first full-length studio feature film shot and produced entirely as data from start to finish, with no physical media involved beyond backing up all raw imagery to 500 vaulted LTO data tapes during postproduction.
This sounds wrong to me, but I can't think of what movie might have been both filmed and cut digitally before this one. Do Pixar's animated features count? Surely there's no film involved there. Does Soderbergh shoot & edit his big studio stuff digitally? The Coens edited Intolerable Cruelty digitally with Final Cut Pro but shot it on film. Maybe some of the newer action films...Superman Returns, King Kong, Batman Begins? I know there are some obsessive film-savvy kottke.org readers out there, can you shed any light on this?
Update: According to this feature on Apple's web site, Kerry Conran shot and edited Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow digitally.
Via VSL comes word of a new MAR 02
Via VSL comes word of a new book that sounds interesting: The Enlightened Bracketologist: The Final Four of Everything. "In 101 of the pettiest cultural categories -- e.g., Bob Dylan cover songs, James Bond gadgets, bald guys -- the authors and their team of contributors have pitted the 32 top entries against each other, in elegant NCAA-style brackets (created by design legend Nigel Holmes), and conclusively determined a winner in each field." Here are some example brackets.
I haven't watched much professional-grade badminton so I don't know if this is normal, but this point lasts far longer than I would have expected.
How to build a really fantastic snow fort. "Your secret weapon would be a garden hose with a misting attachment at the end, so long as it provides an extremely gentle mist. Work from a distance, letting the water have some time to cool in the air before it hits the fort. And you'll want to work in layers, giving the ice time to build up."
A list of well-know logos & brands and their design histories.
Update: I took out the link because several people told me that the site I was linking to has a history of taking other's content and passing it off as their own.
Slang suggestion: "bang the bricks" as a euphemism for getting money from an ATM. "Everybody knows how Mario from the Super Mario Brothers is getting money: He bangs against a brick with his head."
Nice interview with Grant Achatz, owner and chef at Alinea, which many consider to be the best restaurant in America right now.
A tour of The Boring Store, the Chicago outpost of Dave Eggers' 826 non-profit writing/tutoring conglomerate and "Chicago's only undercover secret agent supply store". The store joins NYC's superhero supply store and San Francisco's pirate supply store.
Update: The Seattle chapter of 826 runs the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Store. (thx, brooks & paul)
Generation Kill is the newest project for HBO from David Simon and Ed Burns, creators of The Wire. It's a 7-hour miniseries based on Marines fighting in the Iraq war. "Gritty mini will look at the early movements of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion and depict the complex challenges faced by the U.S.-led mission even in the war's early stages." (via crazymonk)
The letters to the editor section of the New Yorker this week contains a correction to Stacy Schiff's piece in the magazine about Wikipedia from July 2006. The piece included an interview with Essjay who was described in the article as a tenured professor with a Ph.D. Turns out that Essjay wasn't exactly who he said he was:
At the time of publication, neither we nor Wikipedia knew Essjay's real name. Essjay's entire Wikipedia life was conducted with only a user name; anonymity is common for Wikipedia administrators and contributors, and he says that he feared personal retribution from those he had ruled against online. Essjay now says that his real name is Ryan Jordan, that he is twenty-four and holds no advanced degrees, and that he has never taught.
The full editor's note is appended to the original article.
The folks at Serious Eats are having some fun with National Pig Day, including posts and videos about pork, ham, bacon, and whatever else you can get off that wonderful, magical animal.
Muttnik MAR 01
Yesterday's I Did Not Know That Yesterday! tidbit concerned Sputnik 1, the Soviet satellite launched in 1957.
But what fate befell the iconic satellite? After 1,400 trips around the Earth, Sputnik burned up when it reentered the atmosphere in January of 1958 (just as it was supposed to).
The very next Sputnick launched contained the first terrestrial space traveller, Laika, a dog. Ok, wait. The first one burned up in earth's atmosphere after three months and the second one contained a dog...that's right, the Soviets killed that poor dog! When I heard the story of Laika as a kid, whoever I heard it from omitted that part. Although Laika didn't burn up in the atmosphere, she was also not euthanized after 10 days of flight as Soviet scientists had planned. A Sputnik scientist recently revealed that Laika died after only a few hours in orbit from stress and overheating.
Two other (unrelated) things I didn't know about Sputnik: that it was tiny (smaller than a basketball) and that Herb Caen coined the word "beatnik" based on Sputnik.
Video of a standup economist translating the 10 principles of economics into something a little funnier. Here's the guy's web site. (thx, barry)
Wired's cover feature for the March 2007 issue is Snack Culture. "Movies, TV, songs, games. Pop culture now comes packaged like cookies or chips, in bite-size bits for high-speed munching. It's instant entertainment - and boy, is it tasty." Even though kottke.org is a part of this culture, I still prefer a full meal.
Steven Johnson, new Apple rumors blogger, reads the tea leaves and surmises that Apple will soon release multitouch displays to go with Leopard and a new version of iLife.