Taking a page from the Harry Potter books, there's a sign for Platform 9 3/4 (and a lugguage cart that's half-disappeared into the wall) at the real-life King's Cross Station in London.
Earlier this month during a debate between the Republican candidates for the US Presidency in 2008, three candidates raised their hands when asked if they didn't believe in evolution. One of the three, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, has an op-ed in the NY Times today that more fully expresses his view. "The scientific method, based on reason, seeks to discover truths about the nature of the created order and how it operates, whereas faith deals with spiritual truths. The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God."
Update: A related op-ed from The Onion: I Believe In Evolution, Except For The Whole Triassic Period. (thx, third)
Nice summary of the Steve Jobs/Bill Gates conversation at the D: All Things Digital conference. "Asked to give advice for others considering starting their own businesses, Gates explained that in the early days, he and his colleagues never considered the value of the company they were developing. 'It's all about the people and the passion, and it's amazing the business worked out the way it did.'" Here's a briefer summary with context and a transcript and video of the entire interview is available on the conference site.
Pebble problems MAY 31
Merlin Mann on the temptation of declaring email bankruptcy:
Email is such a funny thing. People hand you these single little messages that are no heavier than a river pebble. But it doesn't take long until you have acquired a pile of pebbles that's taller than you and heavier than you could ever hope to move, even if you wanted to do it over a few dozen trips. But for the person who took the time to hand you their pebble, it seems outrageous that you can't handle that one tiny thing. "What 'pile'? It's just a fucking pebble!"
This used to be a problem primarily for those, like Merlin, who run high-traffic web sites but now I feel like most people, either because of their jobs or keeping up with friends & family from far away, have email pile problems...we all get more incoming correspondence than we know what to do with.
Three trillion years from now, the universe will be observably static, the Milky Way alone, and scientists of the day likely won't be able to "infer that the beginning involved a Big Bang".
100 words every high school graduate should know. Alternate title: 100 mostly useless words.
Andrew Sullivan: "Critics will no doubt say I am accusing the Bush administration of being Hitler. I'm not. There is no comparison between the political system in Germany in 1937 and the U.S. in 2007. What I am reporting is a simple empirical fact: the interrogation methods approved and defended by this president are not new. Many have been used in the past. The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - 'enhanced interrogation techniques' - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death."
Wiimbledon is a Wii Tennis tournament taking place in Brooklyn in late June. I'd come kick your ass, but I have plans that day.
outside.in just launched a new maps feature that shows the physical locations that people are blogging about. Here's the last few months of places I've talked about on kottke.org. I like the pie charts that show how exclusive a place is to a particular blog. (Disclosure: I'm an advisor to outside.in.)
Meant to post about this last week, but going on right now in NYC: Postopolis. "Postopolis! is a five-day event of near-continuous conversation about architecture, urbanism, landscape, and design. Four bloggers, from four different cities, will host a series of live discussions, interviews, slideshows, panels, talks, and other presentations, and fuse the informal energy and interdisciplinary approach of the architectural blogosphere with the immediacy of face to face interaction." More about the event from City of Sound and BLDGBLOG.
Last 100 posts, part 8 MAY 30
Here are some updates on some of the topics, links, ideas, posts, people, etc. that have appeared on kottke.org recently (previous installment is here):
The Celluloid Skyline exhibition at Grand Central is well worth checking out...I was up there this past weekend. Pentagram collaborated with Saunders on the exhibit and wrote up a brief piece on how it came together.
My short post on Nina Planck's reaction to the recent "death by veganism", as she calls it, of a baby boy is a good reminder that I don't always agree with the things I link to. My only criteria for posting a link is that it's interesting, whether I think it's right or wrong or am still trying to form an opinion about it. Anyway, I got lots of mail about this one, much of it that said that the parents' veganism was beside the point -- which the prosecutors and jury in the subsequent criminal case agreed with (thx, matt) -- and that a headline like "Death By Stupidity" was probably more appropriate. After all, you don't see "Death by Omnivorism" headlines every time a baby with a more traditional diet dies of starvation.
Debra from Culiblog pointed out that contrary to Planck's assertion that "there are no vegan societies", the Jainists practice vegetarianism and veganism. On the other side of the aisle, meat fan Michael Ruhlman chastised Planck for going too easy on vegans, saying that "Veganism is a colossal arrogance, a refusal to admit to our own nature, a denial of our humanity. Sometimes it kills people. And it's not very much fun, besides." You can imagine the discussion that generated...although it was nothing like the 300+ comment thread on MetaFilter.
My opinion of Cars improved with a second viewing.
Discover's chat bot conversation reminded a reader of this old interview with the Ask Jeeves search engine (thx david). Back in 2002, I interviewed ELLEGirl magazine's AIMbot:
jkottke: Do you do anything to celebrate or recognize the changing of seasons?
ELLEgirlBuddy: do you do anything to celebrate or recognize the changing of seasons? that's a tough choice.
jkottke: yes, to celebrate or merely recognize. that is a toughie.
ELLEgirlBuddy: yes to celebrate or merely recognize that is a toughie? i dunno.
jkottke: you seem like an actual 13 year old girl.
ELLEgirlBuddy: i haven't really made a decision 'bout that.
jkottke: growing up is tough, isn't it?
ELLEgirlBuddy: i dunno.
Regarding Alex Reisner's excellent baseball statistics web site and, in particular, the pennant race graphs, here's another interesting visualization of the pennant races...you can see the teams race to the end of the year like horses. (thx, scott)
Re: my post on better living through self-deception, I've heard that pregnant women tend to forget the pain of childbirth, perhaps because "endorphins reduce the amount of information trauma victims can store". Also related tangetially is this article on research into lying and laughing, which includes this simple test to see if you're a good liar:
Are you a good liar? Most people think that they are, but in reality there are big differences in how well we can pull the wool over the eyes of others. There is a very simple test that can help determine your ability to lie. Using the first finger of your dominant hand, draw a capital letter Q on your forehead.
Some people draw the letter Q in such a way that they themselves can read it. That is, they place the tail of the Q on the right-hand side of their forehead. Other people draw the letter in a way that can be read by someone facing them, with the tail of the Q on the left side of their forehead. This quick test provides a rough measure of a concept known as "self-monitoring". High self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be seen by someone facing them. Low self-monitors tend to draw the letter Q in a way in which it could be read by themselves.
High self-monitors tend to be concerned with how other people see them. They are happy being the centre of attention, can easily adapt their behaviour to suit the situation in which they find themselves, and are skilled at manipulating the way in which others see them. As a result, they tend to be good at lying. In contrast, low self-monitors come across as being the "same person" in different situations. Their behaviour is guided more by their inner feelings and values, and they are less aware of their impact on those around them. They also tend to lie less in life, and so not be so skilled at deceit.
The skyscraper with one floor isn't exactly a new idea. Rem Koolhaas won a competition to build two libraries in France with one spiraling floor in 1992 (thx, mike). Of course, there's the Guggenheim in NYC and many parking garages.
After posting a brief piece on Baltimore last week, I discovered that several of my readers are current or former residents of Charm City...or at least have an interest in it. Armin sent along the Renaming Baltimore project...possible names are Domino, Maryland and Lessismore. A Baltimore Sun article on the Baltimore Youth Lacrosse League published shortly after my post also referenced the idea of "Two Baltimores. Two cities in one." The Wire's many juxtapositions of the "old" and "new" Baltimore are evident to viewers of the series. Meanwhile, Mobtown Shank took a look at the crime statistics for Baltimore and noted that crime has actually decreased more than 40% from 1999 to 2005. (thx, fred)
Cognitive Daily took an informal poll and found that fewer than half the respondants worked a standard 8-5 Mon-Fri schedule. Maybe that's why the streets and coffeeshops aren't empty during the workday.
By now, you've probably heard of the Creation Museum that just opened in Kentucky with the idea that the Bible is "the history book of the universe". Pharyngula has an extensive roundup of information and reaction to the museum, including this inside look at the place. "Journalists, you have a problem. Most of the articles written on this 'museum' bend over backwards to treat questions like 'Did Man walk among Dinosaurs?' as serious, requiring some kind of measured response from multiple points of view, and rarely even recognized the scientific position that the question should not only be answered with a strong negative, but that it is absurd."
Stamen delivers another lovely project: Trulia Hindsight. It's an animated map of the US which shows new home construction over a period of years "with an eye towards exposing patterns of expansion and development". As you might expect, the growth of a city like Las Vegas is interesting to watch. More on the project from Stamen and on the Trulia Hindsight blog.
Pie charts representing the flags of the world's nations...the area of each color on the charts corresponds to the percentage of that color used in the respective flag. I'll take this opportunity to again maintain that Rem Koolhaas' barcode flag for the EU is, technically speaking, wicked awesome. (via colourlovers)
Made some long overdue changes to the sidebar on the front page, including an even longer overdue update of the "sites I've enjoyed recently". I used to use that list for my daily browse but it fell into decay when I started reading sites in RSS. Now the list is a random sampling of sites from the current reading list in my newsreader. If things look a little weird, you may need to refresh the stylesheet (do a Shift-reload on the home page).
Twelve tips for travelling across the United States by train. "12. Train Love. I wish you the best of luck in finding a soulmate via subsidized government transportation."
The first paragraph of Dana Stevens' review of the third installment of Pirates of the Caribbean accurately describes my experience seeing the film:
With Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, the summer blockbuster begins to approach the level of pure abstraction. Adrift in the windless seas of its 168-minute running time, the viewer passes through confusion and boredom into a state of Buddhist passivity. Swords are crossed, swashes buckled, curses lifted only to descend again. People marry, die, come back to life, transform willy-nilly into barnacle-encrusted ghouls. There are reasons why all this is happening, reasons that might be clear if you've recently pored over the previous 294 minutes of pirate lore. Like all abstract art, At World's End is best approached non-narratively, as an experience rather than a story.
What floored me most was how Verbinski managed to splice in several minutes of surrealist film into a circa-2007 summer blockbuster. The contemporary feel of the scene with Depp in Davy Jones' Locker (the music, white space, the extreme closeups) felt totally out of sync with the rest of the trilogy, but the absurdity of its appearance early in the film helped me surrender to the rest of it and just enjoy the ride.
List of cognitive biases. "Mere exposure effect - the tendency for people to express undue liking for things merely because they are familiar with them." See how many of these you exhibit while reading things on the web!
Video segment of photographer Garry Winogrand talking about how he works from a Bill Moyers show in 1982. Here's a transcript of the video. "Photographing something changes it."
New Google Maps feature: Street View. Just place your little guy on a street on the map and up pops a 3-D panorama of what you'd see on the street. For instance, here's a view into oncoming traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. Only major US cities are supported for now. I remember Amazon's A9 came out with something like this a couple of years ago, but Google's implementation of it is fantastic. (thx, mark)
One of the causes of feature creep in products like consumer electronics is that when customers are making purchase decisions, they'll likely choose the one with the most features. "But, when they were asked to use the digital device, so-called 'feature fatigue' set in. They became frustrated with the plethora of options they had created, and ended up happier with a simpler product."
A fleet of rubber duckies lost off of a container ship in the North Pacific in 1992 have helped scientists map ocean currents. Some of the ducks became periodically trapped in ice packs in the Arctic Ocean, slowly journeying to the Atlantic Ocean and even to the shores of Massachusetts. (thx, adriana)
Nina Katchadourian's Sorted Books project, photographs of book spines arranged to tell short stories.
A "story map" distributed to guests of a wedding that shows the possible occupational, relational, and recreational relationships between guests to be used as a conversational cheat-sheet. Reminiscent of Mark Lombardi's network maps. Better larger. (via gulfstream)
The BLDGBLOG book will likely be as interesting as the BLDGBLOG blog. Topics will include "plate tectonics and J.G. Ballard to geomagnetic harddrives and undiscovered New York bedrooms, by way of offshore oil derricks, airborne utopias, wind power, inflatable cathedrals, statue disease, science fiction and the city, pedestrianization schemes, architecture and the near-death experience, Scottish archaeology, green roofs..."
Closeup videos of the sun. The bottom one is especially mesmerizing.
Google is the crossword puzzler's best friend. Several of the top 100 searches on a given day are for crossword clues. This was more apparent a few days ago but it looks like they've started to filter the crossword terms out. More here. (thx, peggy & jonah)
A bunch of presentations on how to scale web apps, including Flickr, Twitter, LiveJournal, and last.fm.
Another kind of Tube map: which seating/standing positions in the carriage are the best and which are the worst? "Everyone knows the prime seats and standing spots, and people jostle for supremacy when the doors open, especially at the depot, when the train is empty."
Partial lyrics for New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down from LCD Soundsystem's latest album, Sound of Silver:
New York, I love you but you're bringing me down
New York, I love you but you're bringing me down
Like a rat in a cage, pulling minimum wage
New York, I love you but you're bringing me down
New York, you're safer and you're wasting my time
Our records all show you are filthy but fine
But they shuttered your stores when you opened the doors
To the cops who were bored once they'd run out of crime
New York, you're perfect don't, please, don't change a thing
Your mild billionaire mayor's now convinced he's a king
And so the boring collect, I mean all disrespect
In the neighborhood bars I'd once dreamt I would drink
New York, I love you but you're freaking me out
There's a ton of the twist but we're fresh out of shout
Like a death in the hall that you hear through your wall
New York, I love you but you're freaking me out
New York, I love you but you're bringing me down
New York, I love you but you're bringing me down
Like a death of the heart. Jesus, where do I start?
But you're still the one pool where I'd happily drown
Meant to note this a few weeks ago, but the Baltimore post put it back in my mind.
Admit it, you already knew flamingos were gay. (thx, john)
Interesting article about how people tell their stories and think of their past experiences and how that influences their mood and general outlook on life.
At some level, talk therapy has always been an exercise in replaying and reinterpreting each person's unique life story. Yet Mr. Adler found that in fact those former patients who scored highest on measures of well-being -- who had recovered, by standard measures -- told very similar tales about their experiences.
They described their problem, whether depression or an eating disorder, as coming on suddenly, as if out of nowhere. They characterized their difficulty as if it were an outside enemy, often giving it a name (the black dog, the walk of shame). And eventually they conquered it.
"The story is one of victorious battle: 'I ended therapy because I could overcome this on my own,'" Mr. Adler said. Those in the study who scored lower on measures of psychological well-being were more likely to see their moods and behavior problems as a part of their own character, rather than as a villain to be defeated. To them, therapy was part of a continuing adaptation, not a decisive battle.
The article goes on to describe the benefits of thinking about past events in the third person rather than in the first person:
In a 2005 study reported in the journal Psychological Science, researchers at Columbia University measured how student participants reacted to a bad memory, whether an argument or failed exam, when it was recalled in the third person. They tested levels of conscious and unconscious hostility after the recollections, using both standard questionnaires and students' essays. The investigators found that the third-person scenes were significantly less upsetting, compared with bad memories recalled in the first person.
"What our experiment showed is that this shift in perspective, having this distance from yourself, allows you to relive the experience and focus on why you're feeling upset," instead of being immersed in it, said Ethan Kross, the study's lead author. The emotional content of the memory is still felt, he said, but its sting is blunted as the brain frames its meaning, as it builds the story.
But things like eating disorders and mental illness aren't external forces and thinking about a bad memory as if it happened to a third party is not the truth. The standard model of the happy, smart, successful human being is someone who knows more, works hard, and has found, or at least is heading toward, their own personal meaning of life. But often that's not the case. Self-deceit (or otherwise willfully forgetting seemingly pertinent information) seems to be important to human growth.
Consider the recent findings by a group at Harvard about the effects of mindset on physical fitness:
The researchers studied 84 female housekeepers from seven hotels. Women in 4 hotels were told that their regular work was enough exercise to meet the requirements for a healthy, active lifestyle, whereas the women in the other three hotels were told nothing. To determine if the placebo effect plays a role in the benefits of exercise, the researchers investigated whether subjects' mind-set (in this case, their perceived levels of exercise) could inhibit or enhance the health benefits of exercise independent of any actual exercise.
Four weeks later, the researchers returned to assess any changes in the women's health. They found that the women in the informed group had lost an average of 2 pounds, lowered their blood pressure by almost 10 percent, and were significantly healthier as measured by body-fat percentage, body mass index, and waist-to-hip ratio. These changes were significantly higher than those reported in the control group and were especially remarkable given the time period of only four weeks.
Just by thinking they were exercising, these women gained extra benefit from their usual routines. The idea of thinking about oneself reminded me of Allen Iverson's training routine, which utilizes a technique called psychocybernetics:
"Let me tell you about Allen's workouts," says Terry Royster, his bodyguard from 1997 until early 2002. "All the time I have been with him, I never seen him lift a weight or stand there and shoot jumper after jumper. Instead, we'll be on our way to the game and he'll be quiet as hell. Finally, he'll say, 'You know now I usually cross my man over and take it into the lane and pull up? Well, tonight I'm gonna cross him over and then take a step back and fade away. I'm gonna kill 'em with it all night long.' And damned if he didn't do just that. See, that's his workout, when he's just sitting there, thinking. That's him working on his game."
What Iverson is doing is tricking his conscious self into thinking that he's done something that he hasn't, that he's practiced a move or shot 100 perfect free throws in a row. I think, therefore I slam. (I wonder if Iverson pictures himself in the first or third person in his visualizations.)
Carol Dweck's research looks at the difference between thinking of talent or ability as innate as opposed to something that can be developed:
At the time, the suggested cure for learned helplessness was a long string of successes. Dweck posited that the difference between the helpless response and its opposite -- the determination to master new things and surmount challenges -- lay in people's beliefs about why they had failed. People who attributed their failures to lack of ability, Dweck thought, would become discouraged even in areas where they were capable. Those who thought they simply hadn't tried hard enough, on the other hand, would be fueled by setbacks.
For some people, the facade they've created for themselves can come crashing down suddenly, as with stage fright:
He describes the sense of acute self-consciousness and loss of confidence that followed as "stage dread," a sort of "paradigm shift." He says, "It's not 'Look at me - I'm flying.' It's 'Look at me - I might fall.' It would be like playing a game of chess where you're constantly regretting the moves you've already played rather than looking at the ones you're going to play." Fry could not mobilize his defenses; unable to shore himself up, he took himself away.
In a slightly different but still related vein, Gerd Gigerenzer's research indicates that ignoring information is how smart decisions are made:
In order to make good decisions in an uncertain world, one sometimes has to ignore information. The art is knowing what one doesn't have to know.
Research done by Edward Vogel at the University of Oregon shows the capacity of a person's visual working memory "depends on your ability to filter out irrelevant information":
"Until now, it's been assumed that people with high capacity visual working memory had greater storage but actually, it's about the bouncer - a neural mechanism that controls what information gets into awareness," Vogel said.
And data from another study indicates that perhaps one of the things that the brain does best is forgetting ("motivated (voluntary) forgetting", in the words of one researcher):
The findings suggest that despite the brain's astonishing ability to archive a lifetime of memories, one of its prime functions is, paradoxically, to forget. Our sensory organs continually deluge us with information, some of it unpleasant. We wouldn't get through the day -- or through life -- if we didn't repress much of it.
Perhaps the way to true personal acheivement and happiness is through lying to yourself instead of being honest, loafing instead of practicing, and purposely forgetting information. There are plenty of self-help books on the market...where are the self-hurt books?
A Wet-Wipe Manifesto. You don't wash dishes with a dry paper towel, so why the toilet paper after you use the bathroom? (thx, matt)
Jake's got some photos of the in-progress development of the High Line in Manhattan. Lots of concrete. Here's what the High Line looked like a few years ago when I was up there.
The Line Rider version of the first level of Super Mario Bros...in case you need to know what having way too much time on your hands looks like.
Let's say you're interested in movies and New York City. Then you could do worse than check out the Celluloid Skyline exhibit being displayed in Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central from May 25 through June 22. The exhibit is based on the book of the same name by James Sanders, an exploration of how New York is portrayed in film. The exhibit includes "scenic backing" paintings made for movie sets in the 40s & 50s, film footage of films set in NYC, production stills and location shots, and other artifacts of NYC's intersection with film. Sanders was kind enough to send me a photo of one of the scenic backing paintings:
I left the tool chest in the foreground for scale...the paintings are three stories tall! I'm always down for a trip up to Grand Central so I'll definitely be checking this out.
How to find 4-leaf clovers. "However, the more leaflets, the harder they are to find (and the luckier they are): the record is an 18-leaf clover, and the highest I've ever seen is 10-leafed." (via bb)
Thomas Friedman: "I think any foreign student who gets a Ph.D. in our country -- in any subject -- should be offered citizenship." Extend that to those who enrich our country in other areas (Bjork, Yao Ming, Rem Koolhaas) and I'm in. (The whole article is behind the Times' paywall -- I didn't even read it -- but I thought that one line was pretty interesting by itself.)
Update: Here's the full text of the article. (thx, daniel...and everyone else who sent this to me via email)
Video from 1960 of Joseph Kittinger jumping from a helium balloon at an altitude of 102,800 feet. Kittinger freefell for 4.5 minutes, reached a speed of 714 mph, and endured temperatures as low as -94 degrees F. His jump was immortalized on the cover of Life magazine in August 1960. (via o'reilly radar)
Update: I knew I'd seen this footage somewhere before...it's featured in the video for Boards of Canada's Dayvan Cowboy. (thx, marco)
Are the USPS's "forever" stamps a good deal for the consumer? "Absolutely not." Stamp prices increase more slowly than the inflation rate so stamps are continually getting cheaper.
Regarding my earlier post on how Heather Champ's jezebel.com came to be in Gakwer's hands, she sold it to them directly: "When the good folks at Gawker contacted me a couple of months ago, I realized that she would find a good home amongst their properties." (thx, meg)
How to survive a black hole. If you're in a rocket ship about to fall into a black hole, you might live a bit longer if you turn on your engines. "But in general a person falling past the horizon won't have zero velocity to begin with. Then the situation is different -- in fact it's worse. So firing the rocket for a short time can push the astronaut back on to the best-case scenario: the trajectory followed by free fall from rest."
A tale of two cities MAY 23
From the Travel section of the NY Times this past weekend, 36 Hours in Baltimore:
Baltimore is sometimes the forgotten middle child among attention-getting Eastern cities like Washington and New York. But a civic revival, which began with the harbor's makeover 27 years ago, has given out-of-towners reason to visit. Yes, there are wonderful seafood restaurants, Colonial history, quaint waterfronts and other tourist-ready attractions. But Baltimore's renaissance has also cultivated cool restaurants with innovative cuisine, independent theaters that showcase emerging talent and galleries that specialize in contemporary art. In other words, Baltimore is all grown up, but it's still a big city with a small-town feel.
And from last week in the Baltimore Sun, 'Desperate' plan to slow crime:
Large swaths of Baltimore could be declared emergency areas subject to heightened police enforcement - including a lockdown of streets - under a city councilman's proposal that aims to slow the city's climbing homicide count.
The legislation - which met with a lukewarm response from Mayor Sheila Dixon's administration yesterday, and which others likened to martial law - would allow police to close liquor stores and bars, limit the number of people on city sidewalks and halt traffic in areas declared "public safety act zones." It comes as the number of homicides in Baltimore reached 108, up from 98 at the same time last year.
Architecture idea: a skyscraper with a single floor. See also the tower to be built in Dubai where every floor rotates.
Timelapse video of a map showing Civil War battles and movements...four years of war in four minutes. The video was produced by Harvest Moon Studio for the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.
Why was the Sandman a villain in Spiderman 3? "I do think the Sandman didn't open his mind to lot of options that became available to him when he got particle-ized. I understand that you do what you know, and he had conceptualized himself as a thief and a fugitive. Maybe those were his most lucrative options when he was a man, but as Sandman, I don't think he had to be an outlaw to make a ton of money. Considering his strength and versatility, I bet any construction firm would have hired him in a flash." (via mr)
Scientists confirm what every TV news network, conservative radio commentator, and blogger already knows: "Repeated exposure to one person's viewpoint can have almost as much influence as exposure to shared opinions from multiple people. This finding shows that hearing an opinion multiple times increases the recipient's sense of familiarity and in some cases gives a listener a false sense that an opinion is more widespread then it actually is." (via snarkmarket)
Song of summer 2007? MAY 22
Is there a song for summer 2007 yet? Something along the lines of Crazy in Love in 2003 and, what, Since U Been Gone in 2005...a song that comes to identify the summer to a wide variety of people. There's been some discussion of this question, but no definite answers yet. I've heard MIMS' This is Why I'm Hot in a wide array of contexts...might be a contender, but does it have the mass popularity and longevity?
When you're out and about in the city during the day, who are all these other people who seemingly have nothing to do all day but putter about town? "Many people I encountered reported variations on the 'in-between jobs' line, and it's not just a euphemism. Among the employed are those who will soon be without work, thanks to frictional unemployment, the inevitable periods of joblessness structured into even perfect economies."
Update: An episode of This American Life from 2000 tackled the same subject, with a focus on Manhattan. "All those people you see in the middle of the workday, in coffee shops and bookstores? Who are they? Why aren't they at work? Reporter George Gurley tackled these tough questions. On four separate days, he interviewed these loafers in New York." (thx, michael)
High silica content of Martian soil is yet another indicator of past water on Mars. "The fact that we found something this new and different after nearly 1,200 days on Mars makes it even more remarkable."
Newish trailer for Transformers (the "exclusive trailer" at the top of the list). This movie may actually kick ass. Or, as with every other Bay movie I've seen, the reaction will probably be, "that movie really could have kicked ass if it wasn't so stupid." I also have a theory that the robots in the film are too much toward the realistic end of Scott McCloud's iconic abstraction scale to be effective, but that post is for another time.
Religions ranked by number of adherents. 1. Christianity 2. Islam 3. Nonreligious.
Obesity infographics for several countries, the percentage of population older than 15 with a body-mass index greater than 30. That USA man is really fat.
Jezebel is a new Gawker Media blog about...well, that's not important. Anyway, the site is hosted at jezebel.com, which was the former personal domain of Heather Champ and the original home of The Mirror Project (timeline). Heather put the domain up for sale in January 2004...I guess Nick bought it?
Update: Never fear, vintage Jezebel merchandise is still available.
A pair of articles on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN: A Giant Takes On Physics' Biggest Questions and Crash Course. The LHC will hopefully provide the
1.21 gigawatts 7 trillion electron volts needed to uncover the Higgs boson, aka, The God Particle. "What we want is to reduce the world to objects that have no structure, that are points, that are as simple as we can imagine. And then build it up from there again."
Why are so many web entrepreneurs so young? Because the beginner's mind is an advantage that the young have and the old can't easily reclaim. "The principal asset a young tech entrepreneur has is that they don't know a lot of things. In almost every other circumstance, this would be a disadvantage, but not here, and not now. The reason this is so (and the reason smart old people can't fake their way into this asset) has everything to do with our innate ability to cement past experience into knowledge." Wisdom is a bitch.
While bumping around on the internet last night, I stumbled upon Alex Reisner's site. Worth checking out are his US roadtrip photos and NYC adventures, which include an account and photographs of a man jumping from the Williamsburg Bridge.
But the real gold here is Reisner's research on baseball...a must-see for baseball and infographics nerds alike. Regarding the home run discussion on the post about Ken Griffey Jr. a few weeks ago, Reisner offers this graph of career home runs by age for a number of big-time sluggers. You can see the trajectory that Griffey was on before he turned 32/33 and how A-Rod, if he stays healthy, is poised to break any record set by Bonds. His article on Baseball Geography and Transportation details how low-cost cross-country travel made it possible for the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants to move to California. The same article also riffs on how stadiums have changed from those that fit into urban environments (like Fenway Park) to more symmetric ballfields built in suburbs and other open areas accessible by car.
And then there's the pennant race graphs for each year since 1900...you can compare the dominance of the 1927 Yankees with the 1998 Yankees. And if you've gotten through all that, prepare to spend several hours sifting through all sorts of MLB statistics, represented in a way you may not have seen before:
The goal here is not to duplicate excellent resources like Total Baseball or The Baseball Encyclopedia, but to take the same data and present it in a way that shows different relationships, yields new insights, and raises new questions. The focus is on putting single season stats in a historical context and identifying the truly outstanding player seasons, not just those with big raw numbers.
Reisner's primary method of comparing players over different eras is the z-score, a measure of how a player compares to their contemporaries, (e.g. the fantastic seasons of Babe Ruth in 1920 and Barry Bonds in 2001):
In short, z-score is a measure of a player's dominance in a given league and season. It allows us to compare players in different eras by quantifying how good they were compared to their competition. It it a useful measure but a relative one, and does not allow us to draw any absolute conclusions like "Babe Ruth was a better home run hitter than Barry Bonds." All we can say is that Ruth was more dominant in his time.
I'm more of a basketball fan than of baseball, so I immediately thought of applying the same technique to NBA players, to shed some light on the perennial Jordan vs. Chamberlain vs. Oscar Robertson vs. whoever arguments. Until recently, the NBA hasn't collected statistics as tenaciously as MLB has so the z-score technique is not as useful, but some work has been done in that area.
Anyway, great stuff all the way around.
Update: Reisner's site seems to have gone offline since I wrote this. I hope the two aren't related and that it appears again soon.
Update: It's back up!
Nina Planck on the recent death by starvation of a baby fed a vegan diet by his parents: "I was once a vegan. But well before I became pregnant, I concluded that a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants."
Jane magazine's guest blog consists of reader-submitted photos and descriptions of their breasts. The results are both unerotic and fascinating. Because of the portrayal of women and men as near-perfect sexual objects in the media, movies, and porn, it's easy to forget the extent of diversity of people's bodies. "I used to think they were horrible compared to all we see in fashion mags...but now I LOVE my body and my BOOBS!!!" NSFW, I guess.
For the four or five of you MAY 18
For the four or five of you that haven't yet read Moneyball, the entire thing is available online, courtesy of a Russian site presumably out of the reach of the American legal system.
Undiscovered bedrooms, the typical dream of the New Yorker. I always thought the undiscovered room dream story was apocryphal until Meg, unaware of the story at the time, dreamt of finding another room in our apartment a few months ago.
Projected climate map of Europe in 2071. The map is a bit confusing...the cities are placed on the map according to their projected new climate, not their geographical location. So, in 2071, Berlin will find itself in the same climate as circa-2007 North Africa.
A less than death defying rollercoaster in North Korea. The ride actually gently rocks riders to sleep. (thx, graham)
Hair portraits, including those of Star Wars and Guns n Roses.
Ben Fry has updated his salary vs. performance graph for the 2007 MLB season...it plots team payrolls vs. winning percentage. The Mets and Red Sox should be winning and are...the Yankees, not so much. Cleveland and the Brewers are making good use of their relatively low payrolls.
Popular names for twins born in 2006. Almost all of the top name pairs start with the same letter: Jacob/Joshua, Landon/Logan, Ella/Emma, and the stunningly confusing Taylor/Tyler.
To ensure proper quality control over the meat at his restaurants, David Burke bought a black Angus bull for $250,000; the bull's offspring provide steaks for his diners. "The purchase made perfect business sense, he said, because by breeding the same bull, the restaurant guarantees its steaks are of the highest quality." He named the bull "Prime". (via serious eats)
Winners of the 2007 National Design Awards, including Apple's Jonathan Ive and Chip Kidd.
Two chat bots, Alice and Jabberwacky, converse with each other. "J: Yes. Would you like to hear a joke? / A: Sure, tell me about it. / J: Why don't blind people skydive? / A: Perhaps it is impossible. / J: I think you lie a lot." (thx, nick)
Update: Interviews with Robots is an entire blog dedicated to chatbot conversations.
This recent interview of journalist Jonathan Rauch is full of good stuff. On bad predictions and making mistakes:
Everybody makes [mistakes]; it's par for the course. What I have learned is not to be too sure I'm right. The world is much more surprising than we give it credit for. That's part of my political philosophy, my philosophy of life. That's really fundamental to it: Trial and error is really the only thing in life that works ultimately over the long term. Journalism is like that, too, so we need to be honest about our mistakes. We often aren't enough. Everybody makes mistakes. And we need to be a little bit cautious about making predictions.
On real journalism vs. opinion:
There's a very talented, hard-working press corps and, of course, it represents only a small fraction of the people who are doing [journalism]. I think all the major newspapers are doing it well. Not a single one is doing it badly, the ones that are committing resources to it. The larger fraction are the parasites, the bloggers, commentators, opinionizers -- I don't exempt myself -- who are feeding off of the real news that the press is providing. That larger sort of commentariat is not doing a very good job.
The future of real journalism:
What I worry about is what everyone in my business worries about: Who's going to fund the real reporting? The magazine and newspaper business was a cross-subsidy. You had the advertising, particularly classified, and you had a local market, which subsidized the gathering of news. That model is breaking down because the bundle is breaking into pieces and it's hard to see in the long run who funds the kind of large-scale news reporting operations that the major papers have run if the advertising is all going online and if people can all get the news for free at Yahoo.
On extremism in American politics:
The [political] system has been rigged by partisan activists to their advantage. They participate in primaries. General elections don't matter because they've gerrymandered the congressional districts. They have the advantages of energy and being single-minded and they use these wedge issues which they're very good at and which both sides conspire in using in order to marginalize the middle. The result of that is the turnout among moderates and independents is down; turnout on the extremes is up. The parties are increasingly sorted by ideology so that all the liberals are in one party and all the conservatives are in another. That is a new development in American history.
On getting out of the way of a story:
I'm not a fan of the idea that the journalist and the journalist's attitude should be front and center. I think that a good journalist's duty is to get out of the way. The hardest thing about journalism -- the hardest thing, a much higher art than being clever -- is just to get out of the way, to show the leader of the world as the reader would see it if the reader were there. Just to be eyes and ears. Calvin Trillin, another writer I greatly admired who steered me towards journalism, once said that getting himself out of his stories was like taking off a very tight shirt in a very small phone booth. He's right.
And lots more...I recommend reading the entire thing, especially the exchange between Rauch and the interviewer about personal political identities that was too long/difficult to excerpt here. Much more from Rauch here.
A list of film's most impressive and famous long takes, including those from Boogie Nights, Touch of Evil, Children of Men, and The Player. Featuring the now-standard YouTube clips of each long take.
My wife Meg makes A Mean Chocolate Chip Cookie. That is to say, she asked her readers for their best chocolate chip cookie recipes, averaged the ingredient amounts, baking times, chilling times, butter consistencies, and other various techniques and baked according to the resulting recipe (which she includes so you can bake up your own batch). Some of the ingredients: "2.04 cups all-purpose flour; 0.79 tsp. salt; 0.79 tsp. baking soda; 0.805 stick unsalted butter, softened to room temperature; 0.2737 stick unsalted butter, cold; 0.5313 stick unsalted butter, melted." Reminds me a bit of The Most Wanted Paintings project by Komar & Melamid, who averaged aesthetic preferences and taste in painting to produce works of art that appealed to everyone (to hilarious effect). (digg this?)
Technology Review asked several designers to name their favorite technology products. Worth a look for the photos of pristine Sony Walkmans, Ataris, and Polaroid cameras.
Room ceiling heights affect how people think. "When a person is in a space with a 10-foot ceiling, they will tend to think more freely, more abstractly. They might process more abstract connections between objects in a room, whereas a person in a room with an 8-foot ceiling will be more likely to focus on specifics."
Fresh Dialogue 23 is an upcoming AIGA NY event (May 29) that will focus on the increasingly common phenomenon of the former audience lending a hand in designing their own experiences. Speakers include Stamen's Eric Rodenbeck and Ze Frank. (thx, khoi)
Interview with artist Kristan Horton, whose project Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove recreates scenes from the movie using everyday household objects.
Big-seed marketing. Instead of relying purely on viral marketing or mass media marketing alone, big-seed marketing combines the two approaches so that a large initial audience spreads the marketing message to a secondary audience, yielding more overall interest than either approach would have by itself, even if the message isn't that contagious. "Because big-seed marketing harnesses the power of large numbers of ordinary people, its success does not depend on influentials or on any other special individuals; thus, managers can dispense with the probably fruitless exercise of predicting how, or through whom, contagious ideas will spread."
Matt Haughey's seven tips on how to run a successful community, based on his experiences with MetaFilter. "It takes great care and patience to create a space others will share and you have to nurture it and reward your best contributors. It's a decidedly human endeavor with few, if any, technical shortcuts."
Odd jobs MAY 15
Heather Armstrong, on meeting her new neighbors and having to explain what she does for a living:
Over the last few weeks several neighbors have stopped by to introduce themselves, and invariably they are older than we are, more established, and have careers in medicine or law. And when they ask what we do, both Jon and I sort of flinch and exchange a quick look that says IT'S YOUR TURN TO LIE. We're web developers, we say, and that is never enough, they just can't leave it alone, and one of us will try to explain that I have a website. This thing. That I do. And because we're being all coy about it I just know, from the very worried expressions on their faces, that these neighbors think that we run a porn site.
This is the exact interaction I have with most people that I've met in the past couple of years, right down to the "we're web developers, we say, and that is never enough, they just can't leave it alone" part. I imagine professional mimes, phone sex operators, and people who make a living selling other people's stuff on eBay have the same sorts of awkward conversations with their new neighbors.
Global warming + evolution = species explosion!!!
Curious story of what's up with JPG Magazine, a photography mag founded by Heather Champ and Derek Powazek. Derek formed a new company (8020 Publishing) with a friend (Paul Cloutier) and that company bought JPG. Then, says Derek, "Paul informed me that we were inventing a new story about how JPG came to be that was all about 8020. He told me not to speak of that walk in Buena Vista, my wife, or anything that came before 8020." The founding and the first 6 issues of JPG were removed from the site and Derek left his company. More from Heather and on MetaFilter, including this nice sentiment: "The great thing about a labour of love is the love, not the labour."
Five-cent Coca-Cola MAY 14
The price of a bottle of Coca-Cola remained a nickel for more than 70 years, until 1959. "The price of sugar tripled after World War I before falling back somewhat; over the past six decades, the price of coffee has gone up eightfold. Coke itself was taxed first as a medicine, then as a soft drink, and survived sugar rationing. All the while, the price stayed at a nickel."
The new postal price restrictions on thickness and whether the envelope is "flat-machinable" or not seem like the USPS passing along internal problems to their customers, the same crappy stuff that banks and the airlines do. Keep the process simple...we don't care about your technology can and can't do. Figure it out.
On the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, robots are fast becoming part of the US military family. "The colonel just could not stand the pathos of watching the burned, scarred and crippled machine drag itself forward on its last leg. This test, he charged, was inhumane." (via cd)
Beyond Chron: "In San Francisco, neighborhoods that have defeated gentrification have been treated as 'containment zones,' meaning that unreasonable levels of crime, violence and drugs are tolerated so that such activities do not spread to upscale areas. The Tenderloin has long been one of the city's leading containment zones, but those days are over." Sounds a bit like Hamsterdam from season three of The Wire.
Clive Thompson on the new way to make it big in the music biz: spend hours a day communicating with your fans via the web. "Virtually everyone bemoaned the relentless and often boring slog of keyboarding. It is, of course, precisely the sort of administrative toil that people join rock bands to avoid."
Update: Related: How to Be a Star in a YouTube World.
Michael Bierut's 13 reasons to choose a particular typeface for a project. "Once I saw a project in a student portfolio that undertook the dubious challenge of redesigning the Tiffany's identity. I particularly disliked the font that was used, and I politely asked what it was. 'Oh,' came the enthusiastic response, 'that's the best part! It's called Tiffany!'"
Gangster's holiday: "Mother's Day was the most important Sunday on the organized crime calendar, when homicide took a holiday and racketeering gave way to reminiscing."
There are almost no words for this video. "When that stool pops out an ottoman 9 months from now, there is no way in hell y'all are gonna be able to tell who the baby daddy is...." Potentially NSFW. (via todd at bingbong.com, who says that he "would be totally happy if this video was the World Wide Web's grand finale, and then the Internet just went dark and we all went back to making candles and reading the bible and stuff.")
Update: The video was made for a contest held by Pretty Ricky, a hip-hop group. Here's the contest announcement. That still doesn't explain why those young men were having outercourse with that ottoman. (thx, travis)
Update: This one's good too. Furniture sex + rubber gloves and surgical masks.
Update: One last word on this...the video is not an entry in Push It contest, it's just set to a Pretty Ricky song. (thx, todd)
An analysis of how populations are growing and shifting around the US, with a focus on the policital consequences. He splits the country into four main areas: Coastal Megalopolises, Interior Boomtowns, Rust Belt, and Static Cities. "The bad news for them is that the Coastal Megalopolises grew only 4% in 2000-06, while the nation grew 6%. [...] You see an entirely different picture in the 16 metro areas I call the Interior Boomtowns (none touches the Atlantic or Pacific coasts). Their population has grown 18% in six years."
The content of the O'Reilly Factor was recently analyzed and compared against "rhetorical techniques identified as elements of propaganda by the now-defunct research group Institute for Propaganda Analysis". The findings indicate that host Bill O'Reilly called someone a name almost 9 times a minute.
Street artist Banksy gets the New Yorker treatment with a profile in this week's issue. "The graffitist's impulse is akin to a blogger's: write some stuff, quickly, which people may or may not read. Both mediums demand wit and nimbleness. They arouse many of the same fears about the lowering of the public discourse and the taking of undeserved liberties." Complex tracked down the alleged photos of Banksy mentioned in the article. Print magazine recently wrote a piece on Banksy as well.
Twitter vs. Blogger redux MAY 11
Regarding the Twitter vs. Blogger thing from earlier in the week, I took another stab at the faulty Twitter data. Using some educated guesses and fitting some curves, I'm 80-90% sure that this is what the Twitter message growth looks like:
These graphs cover the following time periods: 8/23/1999 - 3/7/2002 for Blogger and 3/21/2006 - 5/7/2007 for Twitter. It's important to note that the Twitter trend is not comprised of actual data points but is rather a best-guess line, an estimate based on the data. Take it as fact at your own risk. (More specifically, I'm more sure of the general shape of the curve than with the steepness. My gut tells me that the curve is probably a little flatter than depicted rather than steeper.)
That said, most of what I wrote in the original post still holds, as do the comments in subsequent thread. Twitter did not grow as fast as the faulty data indicated, but it did get to ~6,000,000 messages in about half the time of Blogger. Here are the reasons I offered for the difference in growth:
1. Twitter is easier to use than Blogger was and had a lower barrier to entry.
2. Twitter has more ways to update (web, phone, IM, Twitterific) than did Blogger.
3. Blogger's growth was limited by a lack of funding.
4. Twitter had a larger pool of potential users to draw on.
5. Twitter has a built-in social aspect that Blogger did not.
And commenters in the thread noted that:
6. Twitter's 140-character limit encourages more messages.
7. More people are using Twitter for conversations than was the case with Blogger.
What's interesting is that these seeming advantages (in terms of message growth potential) for Twitter didn't result in higher message growth than Blogger over the first 9-10 months. But then the social and network effects (#5 and #7 above) kicked in and Twitter took off.
What a group of copy editors thought of the best headline ever (Skywalkers in Korea cross Han solo). "For the the Han solo hed to work, there'd have to be a reason for the allusion to Star Wars. Since there isn't, it's a forced attempt to be clever. Your average rap artist has a far better grasp of cleverness than whoever wrote that headline." (thx, braulio)
A brief history of the tshirt, specifically the ironic tee. "Whether you choose to admit it or not, chances are a critical reserve of self-esteem rests somewhere near the middle of your T-shirt drawer. For within this darkened, hidden quarter lies dormant a secret weapon so witty, so elusively allusive, or just so damn hip it finds itself swathing your chest on only the most important occasions."
Photos from a meal at L'Enclume in the UK, where chef Simon Rogan is practicing molecular gastronomy at a high level. "I don't think there's a more exciting meal than this anywhere in the whole world, even [at El Bulli]. This was 24 flawless brilliant courses by a chef who is not just 'at the top of his game', but somewhere out in front of his rivals." More photos and information at L'Enclume's web site.
Profile by Ken Auletta of Walt Mossberg, the WSJ's technology columnist. It was interesting reading Mossberg's opinion of the Sprint/Samsung UpStage. A couple friends of mine were testing this phone before it came out and it was one of the most poorly designed technology products that I've ever held in my hand. Who knows if the iPhone will actually be worth a crap, but Steve Jobs must rub his hands together with glee when he sees his competitors come out with stuff like this. Mossberg was too easy on it. Auletta has previously profiled Barry Diller, Pointcast, Andy Grove, and Nathan Myhrvold for the New Yorker.
If you're writing a song, you probably don't want to use any of the following phrases: "serious as cancer", "Serengeti", "nuclear war", or "Aztec priest".
Analysis of a recent New Yorker cover, the one with the guy and girl standing in front of an abstract expressionist painting. "Rather than a couple in love with each other, with art, and with technological possibility, I see a boy with a toy, and a girl with patience. He is much more engaged with the devise; she curves demurely away." The phrase "boy with a toy, and a girl with patience" describes many American relationships, I think. (thx, david)
Update: The NYer cover is a reference to this Jan 1962 Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell. (thx, maciej)
A short remembrance of what it was like to work for Bill Gates at Microsoft in the early 90s. "Even in conversation, btw, people at Microsoft were known by their email names. I didn't report directly to billg; but, during much of the time I was there, I worked for mikemap (Mike Maples), who reported to billg, had responsibility for all the products, and was part of the boop. Boop stood for billg plus the office of the president (real presidents didn't last very long there). The oop consisted of steveb (Steve Ballmer) and mikemap. Major decisions were sometimes made by the boop." Boop. Boop!
Since swearing off Technorati a couple of years ago, I've been checking back every few months to see if the situation has improved. The site is definitely more responsive but their data problems seemingly remain, at least with regard to kottke.org; Google Blog Search gives consistently better results and easy access to RSS feeds of searches.
Technorati recently introduced something called the Technorati Authority number, which is a fancy name for the number of blogs linking to a site in the last six months. Curious as to where kottke.org fell on the authority scale, I checked out the top 100 blogs list. Not there, so I proceeded to the "Everything in the known universe about kottke.org" page where a portion of that huge cache of kottke.org knowledge was the authority number: 5,094. Looking at the top 100 list, that should put the site at #47, nestled between The Superficial and fishki.net, but it's not there. Technorati also currently states that kottke.org hasn't been updated in the last day, despite several updates since then and my copy of MT pinging Technorati after each update.
Maybe kottke.org has been intentionally excluded because I've been so hard on them in the past. Or maybe it's just a glitch (or two) in their system. Or maybe it's an indication of larger problems with their service. Either way, as the company is attempting to offer an authentic picture of the blogosphere, this doesn't seem like the type of rigor and accuracy that should send reputable media sources like the BBC, Washington Post, NY Times, and the Wall Street Journal scurrying to their door looking for reliable data about blogs.
Ten minute clip from the movie Baraka. From Wikipedia: "Often compared to Koyaanisqatsi, Baraka's subject matter has some similarities -- including footage of various landscapes, churches, ruins, religious ceremonies, and cities thrumming with life, filmed using time-lapse photography in order to capture the great pulse of humanity as it flocks and swarms in daily activity." (via long now)
In accordance with David Chang's wishes, I'm not really talking about this but I will briefly direct your attention to the following: Momofuku Noodle Bar is moving to a bigger location down the street and a new restaurant called Momofuku Ko, presumably with less seats, will take its place, making for a total of three Momofuku restaurants within a 2 block area.
Photo gallery of heavy metal bands from the early 80s. These aren't glossy magazine photos...they're snapshots from the crowd, backstage, and at the afterparties.
Stephen Dubner and Steven Levitt (aka the Freakonomics guys) on the first-world phenomenon of doing menial labor as a hobby. Examples: knitting, cooking, gardening, lawn care. More on the Freakonomics site.
Amazon's running a contest to see which town in the US orders the most copies of the final book in the Harry Potter series. Towns in Virginia, Washington, Pennsylvania, and Georgia seem to dominate the rankings so far.
Clive Thompson on the invention of new sports. "Why don't more people invent new sports? After all, we live in a golden age of play. The video-game industry is bristling with innovation." When I was in the Caribbean a few months ago, some folks on the beach were playing this newish game that they called Golf Toss. It's also called Ladder Ball and is kind of like horseshoes except your throw two golf balls on a rope instead of a horseshoe.
I know it's only 2007, but this is the headline of the decade. For a story about people crossing a tightrope strung across the Han River in South Korea, AP came up with this masterpiece: Skywalkers in Korea cross Han solo.
Diacetyl, a chemical used in artificial butter flavor, has been linked to "popcorn workers lung" after several instances of lung disease at microwave popcorn factories. "Even less is known about the health effects of eating diacetyl in butter-flavored popcorn, or breathing the fumes after the bag is microwaved."
Hilariously crude review of the third Lord of the Rings movie. "The ring is also evil but you keep thinking, while you watch it, that someone should put it on and check out some boobs. I have a feeling those scenes will be in the DVDs." (via clusterflock)
Tiger Woods is playing the best golf of his career (and possibly anyone's career) and he's not getting credit for it because he's not winning huge against a vastly improved field. "Woods of the '90s played against great talent hindered by a lack serious training; today, Woods plays against great talent enhanced by serious training. The slack is largely gone, as is the reasonable expectation of double-digit victory." He's also come back after slumps due to swing tinkering, marriage, and the death of his father.
Why has Apple's focus on industrial design been so successful? "The most fundamental thing about Apple that's interesting to me is that they're just as smart about what they don't do. Great products can be made more beautiful by omitting things." (via justin)
A sizable list of interesting business card designs. The cleverest of the bunch is the reused business card from the secondhand store. (via quipsologies)
Update: Another large cache of well-designed business cards. (thx, rich)
MadLibs-style template for writing general interest news stories about "weird" subcultures. "[Bizarre pseudonym], otherwise known as [male person's name #1] a [number between 15 and 75]-year-old software engineer, was dressed in [costume or armor piece] as he waited in line to pay the $[your age + 50] fee to carouse, enjoy [exotic or fictional food], and discuss [oddball topic] with others drawn to this, the greatest spectacle in the tri-state region involving [entertainment franchise]."
Not sure when this happened, but the New Yorker has posted the huge profile of Bill Clinton that David Remnick wrote for the magazine back in September 2006. Yes it's long, but well worth the effort. Related: a NY Times crossword puzzle with clues provided by Clinton.
Jeff Veen: "Today, a completely redesigned version of Google Analytics is launching, bringing a lot of the simplicity and data visualization techniques we learned building Measure Map to a whole new scale." They aren't switching everyone right away (no love for me yet) but you can read this post and get an idea of what to expect. Also: sparklines!
Graphs of the US minimum wage from 1938 to the present. If you take inflation into account, it's been falling pretty steadily since 1968. But also note that number of people directly affected by the minimum wage has declined as well to just over 2% of workers. (via rb)
Out to dinner with friends: split the check evenly or not? "I find if you don't split it evenly, and everyone pays 'what they owe' many people will pay much less than they owe, forgetting tax and tip. Then they avert their eyes while the generous ones pony up the extra bucks."
Directory of the earliest Blogger users from 1999. A surprising number of those blogs are still regularly published, although few of them still use Blogger.
This morning I posted a comparison of the growth in messages with both Blogger and Twitter. The Twitter data was based on information collected by Andy Baio in a post that was widely read in the blogosphere. In the course of looking at the Twitter data, neither of us noticed that from Nov 21, 2006 to Feb 4, 2007 and March 9, 2007 to the present, the Twitter post IDs had the same last digit, indicating that the data is not strictly sequential. If you look at Twitter's public timeline, the Twitter post IDs skip around by multiples of 10.
Anil suggested via email that could be an artifact of database sharding and lo and behold, if you take off the last digit of the post ID, they seem to become sequential again, more or less. He's going to ask the Twitter gang about it.
For right now though, the parts of this morning's post that rely on Twitter data from the above dates is incorrect. Basically, all of it. Here it is in all caps: WRONG WRONG WRONG ERROR ERROR, F-----, WOULD NOT BUY DATA ANALYSIS FROM AGAIN. In hindsight, it seems obvious that the data was incorrect...that sort of growth seems impossible, especially when Twitter was having all sorts of scaling problems. Anyway, good thing this is just a blog and not a refereed journal, eh? Big thanks to the commenters in the other post for pointing me toward the error. More as I have it.
Update: Email from Biz Stone, who works for Twitter. He says:
There's truth in the essence of what you're talking about here -- Twitter updates *are* coming in faster and furiouser than Blogger updates. However, the way we number Twitter updates has switched back and forth a few times which pretty much screws up the exactness of your analysis.
We have been doubling the number of active users about every three weeks for a sustained period of months now which is definitely contributing significantly to more and more updates. Also, active users of Twitter a measured by how many times they update per day (at Blogger it was per month). So activity in general at Twitter is crazy by comparison.
We're going to start digging in to more data visualization, user patterns, etc in the coming weeks so if there's anything you think we should be looking at specifically please let us know!
So we'll have to wait a few weeks for an accurate look at this stuff. (thx, biz)
Important update: I've re-evaluated the Twitter data and came up with what I think is a much more accurate representation of what's going on.
Important update: I've re-evaluated the Twitter data and came up with what I think is a much more accurate representation of what's going on.
Further update: The Twitter data is bad, bad, bad, rendering Andy's post and most of this here post useless. Both jumps in Twitter activity in Nov 2006 and March 2007 are artificial in nature. See here for an update.
Update: A commenter noted that sometime in mid-March, Twitter stopped using sequential IDs. So that big upswing that the below graphs currently show is partially artificial. I'm attempting to correct now. This is the danger of doing this type of analysis with "data" instead of data.
In mid-March, Andy Baio noted that Twitter uses publicly available sequential message IDs and employed Twitter co-founder Evan Williams' messages to graph the growth of the service over the first year of its existence. Williams co-founded Blogger back in 1999, a service that, as it happens, also exposed its sequential post IDs to the public. Itching to compare the growth of the two services from their inception, I emailed Matt Webb about a script he'd written a few years ago that tracked the daily growth of Blogger. His stats didn't go back far enough so I borrowed Andy's idea and used Williams' own blog to get his Blogger post IDs and corresponding dates. Here are the resulting graphs of that data.1
The first one covers the first 253 days of each service. The second graph shows the Twitter data through May 7, 2007 and the Blogger data through March 7, 2002. [Some notes about the data are contained in this footnote.]
As you can see, the two services grew at a similar pace until around 240 days in, with Blogger posts increasing faster than Twitter messages. Then around November 21, 2006, Twitter took off and never looked back. At last count, Twitter has amassed five times the number of messages than Blogger did in just under half the time period. But Blogger was not the slouch that the graph makes it out to be. Plotting the service by itself reveals a healthy growth curve:
From late 2001 to early 2002, Blogger doubled the number of messages in its database from 5M to 10M in under 200 days. Of course, it took Twitter just over 40 days to do the same and under 20 days to double again to 20M. The curious thing about Blogger's message growth is that large events like 9/11, SXSW 2000 & 2001, new versions of Blogger, and the launch of blog*spot didn't affect the growth at all. I expected to see a huge message spike on 9/11/01 but there was barely a blip.
The second graph also shows that Twitter's post-SXSW 2007 growth is real and not just a temporary bump...a bunch of people came to check it out, stayed on, and everyone messaged like crazy. However, it does look like growth is slowing just a bit if you look at the data on a logarithmic scale:
Actually, as the graph shows, the biggest rate of growth for Twitter didn't occur following SXSW 2007 but after November 21.
As for why Twitter took off so much faster than Blogger, I came up with five possible reasons (there are likely more):
1. Twitter is easier to use than Blogger was. All you need is a web browser or mobile phone. Before blog*spot came along in August 2000, you needed web space with FTP access to set up a Blogger blog, not something that everyone had.
2. Twitter has more ways to create a new message than Blogger did at that point. With Blogger, you needed to use the form on the web site to create a post. To post to Twitter, you can use the web, your phone, an IM client, Twitterrific, etc. It's also far easier to send data to Twitter programatically...the NY Times account alone sends a couple dozen new messages into the Twitter database every day without anyone having to sit there and type them in.
3. Blogger was more strapped for cash and resources than Twitter is. The company that built Blogger ran out of money in early 2001 and nearly out of employees shortly after that. Hard to say how Blogger might have grown if the dot com crash and other factors hadn't led to the severe limitation of its resources for several key months.
4. Twitter has a much larger pool of available users than Blogger did. Blogger launched in August 1999 and Twitter almost 7 years later in March 2006. In the intervening time, hundreds of millions of people, the media, and technology & media companies have become familiar and comfortable with services like YouTube, Friendster, MySpace, Typepad, Blogger, Facebook, and GMail. Hundreds of millions more now have internet access and mobile phones. The potential user base for the two probably differed by an order of magnitude or two, if not more.
5. But the biggest factor is that the social aspect of Twitter is built in and that's where the super-fast growth comes from. With Blogger, reading, writing, and creating social ties were decoupled from each other but they're all integrated into Twitter. Essentially, the top graph shows the difference between a site with social networking and one largely without. Those steep parts of the Twitter trend on Nov 21 and mid-March? That's crazy insane viral growth2, very contagious, users attracting more users, messages resulting in more messages, multiplying rapidly. With the way Blogger worked, it just didn't have the capability for that kind of growth.
A few miscellaneous thoughts:
It's important to keep in mind that these graphs depict the growth in messages, not users or web traffic. It would be great to have user growth data, but that's not publicly available in either case (I don't think). It's tempting to look at the growth and think of it in terms of new users because the two are obviously related. More users = more messages. But that's not a static relationship...perhaps Twitter's userbase is not increasing all that much and the message growth is due to the existing users increasing their messaging output. So, grain of salt and all that.
What impact does Twitter's API have on its message growth? As I said above, the NY Times is pumping dozens of messages into Twitter daily and hundreds of other sites do the same. This is where it would be nice to have data for the number of active users and/or readers. The usual caveats apply, but if you look at the Alexa trends for Twitter, pageviews and traffic seem to leveling out. Compete, which only offers data as recently as March 2007, still shows traffic growing quickly for Twitter.
Just for comparison, here's a graph showing the adoption of various technologies ranging from the automobile to the internet. Here's another graph showing the adoption of four internet-based applications: Skype, Hotmail, ICQ, and Kazaa (source: a Tim Draper presentation from April 2006).
[Thanks to Andy, Matt, Anil, Meg, and Jonah for their data and thoughts.]
 Some notes and caveats about the data. The Blogger post IDs were taken from archived versions of Evhead and Anil Dash's site stored at the Internet Archive and from a short-lived early collaborative blog called Mezzazine. For posts prior to the introduction of the permalink in March 2000, most pages output by Blogger didn't publish the post IDs. Luckily, both Ev and Anil republished their old archives with permalinks at a later time, which allowed me to record the IDs.
The earliest Blogger post ID I could find was 9871 on November 23, 1999. Posts from before that date had higher post IDs because they were re-imported into the database at a later time so an accurate trend from before 11/23/99 is impossible. According to an archived version of the Blogger site, Blogger was released to the public on August 23, 1999, so for the purposes of the graph, I assumed that post #1 happened on that day. (As you can see, Anil was one of the first 2-3 users of Blogger who didn't work at Pyra. That's some old school flavor right there.)
Regarding the re-importing of the early posts, that happened right around mid-December 1999...the post ID numbers jumped from ~13,000 to ~25,000 in one day. In addition to the early posts, I imagine some other posts were imported from various Pyra weblogs that weren't published with Blogger at the time. I adjusted the numbers subsequent to this discontinuity and the resulting numbers are not precise but are within 100-200 of the actual values, an error of less than 1% at that point and becoming significantly smaller as the number of posts grows large. The last usable Blogger post ID is from March 7, 2002. After that, the database numbering scheme changed and I was unable to correct for it. A few months later, Blogger switched to a post numbering system that wasn't strictly sequential.
 "Crazy insane viral growth" is a very technical epidemiological term. I don't expect you to understand its precise meaning. ↩
No matter how many times I see the photos, the proximity of the runway to the beach at the St. Maarten airport amazes me. (via gulfstream)
A list of plans that worked too well. For instance, a sunscreen campaign in Australia resulted in vitamin D deficiencies.
Mystery graph MAY 07
I'm working on a longish post for later today (or early tomorrow) about this graph:
Update: The long post is done...the above graph is (roughly) the growth of Blogger (in orange) to the growth of Twitter (in blue).
For decades, Robert Caro's The Power Broker has been the definitive account of Robert Moses and how contemporary NYC got built. The portrait Caro painted of Moses was less than flattering. Now folks are thinking that, hey, maybe the guy wasn't so bad after all. "That Moses was highhanded, racist and contemptuous of the poor draws no argument even from the most ardent revisionists. But his grand vision and iron will, they say, seeded New York with highways, parks, swimming pools and cultural halls, from the Belt Parkway to Lincoln Center, and thus allowed the modern city to flower."
I was telling a friend this weekend about an article I'd read long ago about Larry Wall approaching the development of Perl as if it were a natural language. I think this is the article in question. Perl, the first postmodern computer language and a conversation with Larry Wall also touch on Perl and linguistics.
Update: Here's the original post to comp.lang.perl.misc by Wall. (thx, marc)
Mayor Bloomberg's plan for a "greener" and "greater" New York City includes congestion pricing for Manhattan south of 86th Street. "It's naive to suppose that congestion isn't itself costly. Sitting in traffic, a plumber can't plumb and a deliveryman can't deliver. The value of time lost to congestion delays in the city has been put at five billion dollars annually."
Turns out that the story about the Chinese manufacturing fake eggs out of chemicals is itself fake. A reader contacted the founder of ispub.com, the site that originally ran the article, and he says they yanked the article and replaced the editor who accepted the story. (thx, jeff)
Three of the candidates in the recent Republican presidential debate said they don't believe in evolution: Colorado Representative Tom Tancredo, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Hard to believe that this is 2007 and not 1807. John McCain said he did believe in evolution but that "I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also".
Update: An earlier version of this post wrongly stated that Mitt Romney raised his hand when asked about disbelieving evolution...Tom Tancredo was the third person. (thx to several who wrote in about this)
Clever technique for pinching the colors from famous paintings using the Match Color tool in Photoshop. "The Old Masters of painting spent years of their lives learning about color. Why let all their effort go to waste on the walls of some museum when it could be used to give you a hand with color correction?"
Are the Chinese manufacturing fake chicken eggs and passing them off as real? "Although the faked eggs looked practically the same as real ones, the consumer smelled chemicals when cooking the eggs. The egg yolk dispersed quickly when it was mixed with the egg white, and the colour was pale. No flavour could be tasted after cooking. According to the officials of the National Bureau of Industry and Commerce, the faked eggs were made from chemicals." (via cyn-c)
Update: Turns out the story is a fake. (thx, jeff)
Costco is selling Mexican Coke made with sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup, at least in the San Francisco area. "Costco has conformed to CA and U.S. rules, such as CRV (the sort-of deposit you pay for the bottle) and 'nutrition' labeling, so everything appears to be nice and legal." (via serious eats)
Email bankruptcy: "choosing to delete, archive, or ignore a very large number of email messages without ever reading them, replying to each with a unique response, or otherwise acting individually on them".
The top-ten 8-bit games. Can't argue with the top 5 too much, but the other selections might be a bit off. Whither Metroid? And Tetris?
I suppose I am contractually obligated to tell you that Malcolm Gladwell was on the Colbert Report the other night.
An online Condiment Packet Museum. Exhibits include ketchup, relish, honey, and jam.
The White Glove Tracking site needs your help in finding Michael Jackson's white glove in all 10,060 frames of Jackson's performance of Billy Jean. "Rather then write unnecessarily complex code to find the glove in every frame of the video I am asking for the assistance of 10,060 individual internet users to simply click and drag a box around the glove in one frame." Don't stop 'til you get enough (white gloves located).
Timelapse of a boat going through the Panama Canal. How the boat moves reminds me of Doom or Quake. This couple's vacation write-up includes a trip through the canal. "The never to be forgotten trip lasted ten hours and cost Princess Cruise Lines more than $150,000 in tolls."
Colors that have stood for things for a long time, like red for stop, green for money, and white for surrender.
Ferrari gives out a limited number of passports to VIPs, which "gives its bearer entrance to the factory, unrestricted access to all the restricted areas, and no-questions-asked carte blanche to borrow any of the cars in the factory's fleet". (via clusterflock)
The pace of global cities is speeding up...people are walking 10% more quickly than they did 10 years ago. Singapore is the fastest city and I'm surprised NYC isn't in the top 5.
Fun headline of the day: Erectile dysfunction probed with engineering tool. Heh, they said "tool".
Darren Aronofsky is working on a screenplay for a film about Noah. You know, the dude with the Ark. "Noah was the first person to plant vineyards and drink wine and get drunk. It's there in the Bible -- it was one of the first things he did when he reached land. There was some real survivor's guilt going on there. He's a dark, complicated character."
A man buys a bag of Cape MAY 02
A man buys a bag of Cape Cod potato chips containing a few chips and a whole potato. Correspondence with the company and hilarity ensues.
Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are playing a match today on a specially designed tennis court that's half grass (Federer's specialty) and half clay (Nadal's preferred surface). Story includes a photo of the kooky court. (thx, dalben)
There's no permalink, but if you go to the Disney home page, they're playing 9 minutes of Ratatouille, the new Pixar movie. There's two clips...one takes place pretty close to the start of the movie and the other a bit later.
Update: For those of you outside of the US, here's the YouTube version of the 9-minute Ratatouille clip.
Update: A more permanent and higher quality version is up on the Apple site.
Matt Haughey recently launched a new blog about "doing business online" called fortuitous. In his introductory post, Matt describes his job as "professionally screwing around on the web", which is an accurate description of my current vocation as well.
A father and son team have deciphered a 600-year-old code hidden in a church featured in The Da Vinci Code. "The music has been frozen in time by symbolism. It was only a matter of time before the symbolism began to thaw out and begin to make sense to scientific and musical perception." Whoa, that's bad enough to be worthy of Dan Brown himself.
Ariel Levy tells us about her lesbian wedding that wasn't really a wedding (it was "a party about love") and her struggle to find something she could wear for it. "I also didn't feel okay about spending all my free time on the phone with the flower guy and the tent man, or about making little checklists of who was coming, and who was not coming, and who was staying at the Goodstone Inn. And I definitely did not feel okay about telling the sales staff of half the better clothing retailers in New York City that I needed something fetching to wear to my big fat gay wedding."
Play dress-up with the Gucci spring 2007 collection. Drag and drop dresses, shoes, and handbags onto the model. Many other collections are available as well.
The Cooper Hewitt Design Museum has announced plans for expansion. I was up there this weekend checking out the Design Triennial and found the exhibition a bit small; a similar show at the expansive MoMA might have run to twice the size and would have included larger items. I hope they don't do too much to the building though...in many rooms, the building is just as much of an attraction as the items on display.
Noctilucent clouds (really high whispy clouds) were so common where I grew up in WI that I thought they were normal. Turns out they only appear in higher latitudes, at least until recently when global warming has caused them to appear more frequently and further south.