Entries for April 2008 (May 2008 »    June 2008 »    July 2008 »    Archives)

 

Final Jeopardy blogAPR 30

The Final Jeopardy blog posts a video each day's Final Jeopardy question. (thx, daniel)

Fifty greatest TV shows of all timeAPR 30

There's much to argue with on this list of the 50 greatest TV shows of all time. Too many 1 or 2 season shows and recent shows. And Buffy at #2? Christ, whatever.

Masonic handbookAPR 30

Photos of a Masonic handbook from 1920 called King Solomon and His Followers -- A Valuable Aid to the Memory. The text is written in shorthand. (via clusterflock)

Saudi Arabian car madnessAPR 30

Video of four people in a car driving down a road in Saudi Arabia with three of them outside the car doing what looks like ice skating on the pavement. That is some weird shit. (via cyn-c)

Buzzfeed hiring developerAPR 30

BuzzFeed is looking to hire a Perl developer to join a small development team.

We are in need of a experienced software developer well versed in Perl and web based technologies. Looking for a motivated individual who has experience building scalable web application in Perl and MySQL, and has a familiarity with developing in Unix/Linux environments.

SandwichesAPR 30

Sometimes it seems as though the NY Times writes articles just for me: Seven New Sandwiches Try to Make it in New York.

One day last year at the Watchung Deli, at the request of a student from a nearby school, Ben Gualano piled mac-and-cheese onto a chicken cutlet sub with barbecue sauce and bacon, squeezed it shut somehow, and the Benny Mac was born... It's a full-body experience -- like a mud bath, but with extra ooze. One taster said afterward, "There was bacon in there?"

You may remember that I'm a sandwich fan. For dinner last night, I had a surprisingly good turkey sandwich of my own making (the little bit of onion and the pepper was the secret) and have made friends with a particularly good meatball hero and a banh mi near the office. My present sandwich life is entirely satisfying.

End of the blockbusterAPR 30

Here's the premise: taken together, this summer's movies are bad enough that it signals the end of the summer blockbuster. The evidence in two parts.

Update: Counterpoint. (thx, patricio)

Grand Theft Auto foodAPR 30

An attempt to find real-world analogs to the fictional NYC restaurants in Grand Theft Auto 4.

Blogger book battleAPR 29

Two new books by bloggers out today: Heather Armstrong's first book, a compilation called Things I Learned About My Dad, and Cory Doctorow's Little Brother, a book on "techno-geek rebellion" for teens. At the moment, Dooce is winning the battle at Amazon; Little Brother's sales rank is #501 while Things I Learned is a startling #38.

The under-construction facade of the new AppleAPR 29

The under-construction facade of the new Apple Store in Boston looks like Fenway Park's Green Monster. I bet they did this just to piss off Gruber.

Free Richard Dawkins! (That's free as inAPR 29

Free Richard Dawkins! (That's free as in lecture, not free as in spring from jail.) Each year in honor of Harvey David Preisler, a lecture is given and this year's will be delivered by Richard Dawkins on May 3 @ 9am at The New York Academy of Sciences.

The lecture is entitled "The Purpose of Purpose," and Professor Dawkins will make himself available for a question/answer period afterward. If you are in the New York City area (or can be on Saturday), I urge you to attend.

As noted the lecture is free; all you need to do is RSVP in the comments of this thread.

Update: The event filled up quickly...only the first 25 RSVPs will be able to attend.

James Frey's first interview since Oprah threwAPR 29

James Frey's first interview since Oprah threw a tantrum in front of him on her show in 2006. Frey famously wrote A Million Little Pieces as a memoir and then admitted that he'd made some of the story up after The Smoking Gun investigated.

Timelapse video of the cherry trees blossomingAPR 29

Timelapse video of the cherry trees blossoming at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden over a period of 9 days. If you haven't been over to the BBG yet this year, now would be a good time; most of their cherry trees are at "peak bloom" right now.

A graph that perfectly describes my profanity usage from yesterday.APR 29

A graph that perfectly describes my profanity usage from yesterday.

(Today is Ben Fry day on kottke.APR 29

(Today is Ben Fry day on kottke.org. Apparently.) All Streets is a map of the US with all 26 million roads displayed on it. The best part is that features like mountains and rivers emerge naturally from the road system.

No other features (such as outlines or geographic features) have been added to this image, however they emerge as roads avoid mountains, and sparse areas convey low population. The pace of progress is seen in the midwest where suburban areas are punctuated by square blocks of area that are still farm land.

Here are a few technical details of how the map was made.

A collection of photos taken from spaceAPR 29

A collection of photos taken from space of cities at night. Beautiful. (via ben fry)

Roger Ebert + blog = subscribed. (via house next door)APR 29

Roger Ebert + blog = subscribed. (via house next door)

Ben Fry has updated his salary vs.APR 29

Ben Fry has updated his salary vs. performance chart for the 2008 MLB season that compares team payrolls with winning percentage. The entire payroll of the Florida Marlins appears to be less than what Jason Giambi and A-Rod *each* made last year.

In the late '90s, pop-culture historianAPR 29

In the late '90s, pop-culture historian Bill Geerhart had a little too much time on his hands and a surfeit of stamps. So, for his own entertainment, the then-unemployed thirtysomething launched a letter-writing campaign to some of the most powerful and infamous figures in the country, posing as a curious 10-year-old named Billy.

He wrote to Charles Manson, Ted Kacynzski, and Dick Cheney, among others...and they wrote back. Richard Ramirez, aka the Night Stalker, wrote back on his own personalized letterhead. (thx, andrew)

You won't need to do that. SheAPR 29

You won't need to do that. She will be alive by then.

That's what the parents of a dead 11-year-old girl said when told the medical examiner was to do an autopsy on her. The girl died from untreated diabetes while her parents, convinced she was under "spiritual attack", prayed for her instead of taking her to the doctor. They face up to 25 years in prison and probably zero guilt because it was all God's plan.

The Wire, Simpsons styleAPR 29

A few drawings of characters from The Wire drawn in the style of The Simpsons. Here's a scene from season one; D'Angelo tries to teach chess to Wallace and Bodie:

Wire Simpsons

This might be my new favorite thing on the web. (thx, andy)

A short appreciation of the iconic CitroenAPR 28

A short appreciation of the iconic Citroen Deux Chevaux on the occasion of its 60th anniversary.

As a student and trainee journalist, I managed to drive my bright red one thousands of miles around the continent and once even to Morocco without a breakdown. The main drawback was sunburn from motoring with the cloth roof rolled back. There was so much wind you didn't feel the rays.

For her Mended Spiderweb project, Nina KatchadourianAPR 28

For her Mended Spiderweb project, Nina Katchadourian found spiderwebs in need of repair and fixed them with a needle and thread.

All of the patches were made by inserting segments one at a time directly into the web. Sometimes the thread was starched, which made it stiffer and easier to work with. The short threads were held in place by the stickiness of the spider web itself; longer threads were reinforced by dipping the tips into white glue. I fixed the holes in the web until it was fully repaired, or until it could no longer bear the weight of the thread.

The spiders didn't think much of her handiwork:

The morning after the first patch job, I discovered a pile of red threads lying on the ground below the web. At first I assumed the wind had blown them out; on closer inspection it became clear that the spider had repaired the web to perfect condition using its own methods, throwing the threads out in the process. My repairs were always rejected by the spider and discarded, usually during the course of the night, even in webs which looked abandoned.

(via 3qd)

Researchers Discover Massive Asshole in Blogosphere.APR 28

Researchers Discover Massive Asshole in Blogosphere.

At the Web 2.0 conference, Clay Shirky gaveAPR 28

At the Web 2.0 conference, Clay Shirky gave a talk called Gin, Television, and Social Surplus. In it, he argues that the "social surplus" soaked up in the latter half of the 20th century by television is now being put to better use on the internet.

For the first time, society forced onto an enormous number of its citizens the requirement to manage something they had never had to manage before--free time. And what did we do with that free time? Well, mostly we spent it watching TV. We did that for decades. We watched I Love Lucy. We watched Gilligan's Island. We watch Malcolm in the Middle. We watch Desperate Housewives. Desperate Housewives essentially functioned as a kind of cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.

But maybe it's possible that the internet is a slightly more sophisticated (or slightly more cognitive) cognitive heat sink?

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched intoAPR 28

The Hubble Space Telescope was launched into space 18 years ago and to celebrate, NASA has put up a photo gallery of merging galaxies, galaxies as in love with each other as NASA is with the Hubble. Aww.

Warning: this is probably the most depressingAPR 28

Warning: this is probably the most depressing thing you'll read all day (or even all week):

An Austrian engineer has confessed to fathering seven children by raping his own daughter and keeping them captive in the cellar, Austrian police said today.

Swedish scientists have found a correlation betweenAPR 28

Swedish scientists have found a correlation between people with high scores on intelligence tests and those with the ability to keep a regular rhythm.

rating: 4.0 stars

Standard Operating ProcedureAPR 28

To be honest, I was a little disappointed in Standard Operating Procedure...but the fault is my own, not the film's. My expectation was that the film would start with the photos of Abu Ghraib & misdeeds of the lower ranking soldiers and then move up the chain of command, both militarily and thematically speaking, to explore the issues of truth in photography and culpability. To Morris' credit, he didn't do that. It's too easy these days to attempt arguments about Iraq or the Bush Administration that connect too many dots with too little evidence...essentially propaganda that sings to the choir.

SOP has a surprisingly small depth of field; it's the story of those infamous photos, the people who took & appeared in them, and what they have to say about the photos & the actions they purport to show. And in that, the movie succeeds. Morris leaves plenty of negative space into which the audience can insert their own questions about what the photographs ultimately depict and who's responsible in the end.

Incidentally, Morris generated a bit of controversy recently when he admitted that he'd paid some of the interviewees in SOP. The criticism of this practice is that "the credibility of interviewees diminishes when money changes hands and that these people will provide the answers they think are desired rather than the truth". That is a concern but no more so than every other reason for being untruthful, including not telling the truth out of spite for lack of payment. People have so many better reasons to lie than money.

A short (too short, perhaps) interview withAPR 28

A short (too short, perhaps) interview with Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich of Radio Lab.

It got really weird when you said, "If I'm a Buick and I'm made of parts, am I alive?" And he said, "Well, some people would say a Buick is alive."

A recent RL show explored Laughter and included a segment on its contagiousness. I've been showing Ollie the video of himself laughing at card shuffling and he laughs along with his onscreen self. He found the laughing baby videos on YouTube funny as well.

The Coolidge Effect is a phenomenon wherebyAPR 28

The Coolidge Effect is a phenomenon whereby males exhibit high sexual performance given the introduction of new willing females.

It earned its name many years ago when President Coolidge and his wife were touring a farm. While the President was elsewhere, the farmer proudly showed Mrs. Coolidge a rooster that "could copulate with hens all day long, day after day." Mrs. Coolidge coyly suggested that the farmer tell that to Mr. Coolidge, which he did.

The President thought for a moment and then inquired, "With the same hen?"

"No, sir," replied the farmer.

"Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge," retorted the President.

Zing! (via defective yeti)

Tree People, a series of photos ofAPR 28

Tree People, a series of photos of the Korowai of Papua New Guinea.

A list of reasons why people writeAPR 28

A list of reasons why people write and explore history with examples of each.

14. The past is heritage: we study it to form or enforce national, ethnic, religious or personal identity, or to combat attempts to destroy heritage. Gertrude Himmelfarb, The De-Moralization of Society.

(via short shrift)

The One Day Poem Pavilion uses theAPR 25

The One Day Poem Pavilion uses the sun to display a poem one line at a time over the course of an entire day. (via stingy kids)

This season, baseball managers are being aAPR 25

This season, baseball managers are being a bit more experimental in how they construct their batting and pitching lineups. For instance, the Yankees, Giants, and Dodgers started relief pitchers in games that they suspected might be shortened by rain in order to save the scheduled starter for the next game. The Braves shifted their pitcher to the outfield for one at-bat then brought him back to the mound for the next one.

The article is also notable for this quote from an Angels spokesperson, who said that Angels star Vladimir Guerrero is "somebody who's not affected by things". !!

Gar, I missed another one of TobiasAPR 25

Gar, I missed another one of Tobias Frere-Jones' NYC Typographic Walking Tours but luckily Jason Santa Maria -- a fellow so nice they named him thrice -- has photos. Photos from his first tour here. (via airbag)

The 10 most appropriate weatherperson names...like RayAPR 25

The 10 most appropriate weatherperson names...like Ray Ban and Storm Field. When I was a kid watching the news out of Minneapolis, their morning weather guy's name was Sunny Haus. (Not his real name though...the station wouldn't let Steve Wolhenhaus go by his real name.)

Ten things I learned this week, 01APR 25

I'm debuting a new feature on kottke.org. On (some? most? all?) Fridays, I'll wrap up the week with a list of interesting facts I've found that don't really warrant their own posts for whatever reason. I hope you find it useful. Suggestions for next week's list are welcome via email.

Life expectancy for women in some parts of the US declined significantly from 1983 to 1999. [NY Times]

The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population but has almost a quarter of the world's prisoners. One out of every 100 American adults is presently incarcerated. [NY Times]

Nearly 1 million women in Iraq are widows or divorcees, or their husbands are missing. [Washington Post]

A quarter of all the petroleum ever consumed in the history of the world was consumed in the last 10 years. Humans collectively consume 6,000 gallons of fuel every second. [PBS]

About a third of all American high school students drop out. That's about one every 26 seconds. [NY Times]

China now has the world's largest population of internet users. [Reuters]

Humans may have almost gone extinct almost 70,000 years ago. The total population may have dipped to 2,000 individuals, possibly because of drought. [CNN]

Standard Operating Procedure is the first movie Errol Morris has shot with a Cinemascope aspect ratio of 2.35:1. [Errol Morris at the Apple Store]

Harrison Ford urged George Lucas to kill off Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back or Return of the Jedi because it would have made a better story. [Guardian]

Nearly 80 percent of roommates got so drunk last night. [The Onion]

How NYC has been depicted in videoAPR 25

How NYC has been depicted in video games through the years. (via waxy)

The 92nd St Y has put theAPR 25

The 92nd St Y has put the video of a talk called The Art of the Book up on their site. The talk was held in Dec 2006 and featured Milton Glaser, Chip Kidd, and Dave Eggers with Michael Bierut moderating. You may recall that Glaser got into a bit of hot water for some comments he made about the career paths of women in graphic design.

Mister Disc is a portable record player,APR 25

Mister Disc is a portable record player, like a Walkman or iPod for phonographs. There's only 12 easy steps to listening to your favorite LPs on the go.

Careful reading the instructions will assure you of many hours of enjoyment from your new Mister Disc.

Whoever greenlit this thing must have been high at the time. (via episode #59 of Starcade)

Starcade was an 80s TV game showAPR 25

Starcade was an 80s TV game show where contestants competed against each other on various arcade games like Joust, Burgertime, Dragon's Lair, and Mr. Do. I watched it whenever I could and now they've put 15 full episodes online for your viewing pleasure. I found this on the Secret Fun Blog, written by the Vice-President of the official Starcade Fan Club.

On a Spring morning Brad showed up to homeroom with the crazed look of inspiration on his face. He erupted into babble and I sensed that he'd been waiting many hours to unload his revelation upon me. It was something about Starcade, and a club, and titles and duties, and other foreign concepts. I patronizingly agreed to his wishes and I even signed something. It was a letter...

The Expedition One crew, consisting of oneAPR 25

The Expedition One crew, consisting of one American and two Russian astronauts, spent 136 days in space aboard the International Space Station. Their logs include a record of the movies they watched while on their mission.

6 Feb 2001: We ate some dinner and watched the last part of "City of Angels". Shep did his best to explain to Yuri and Sergei what the phrase "chick flick" means.

24 Feb 2001 We put some chow and the DVD player in the Soyuz and close the hatch about 0530. It takes 2 orbits to get the first set of hooks off and the docking tunnel pressure checked. We get the "Austin Powers" sequel in while all this is taking place. (Maybe a Soyuz first here).

Update: The Expedition One crew also documented their many computer problems.

Sergei notices that the Russian PCS laptop has locked up. He tries to reboot, but the Sun application software won't load. Lots of messages on the screen noting data errors. Sergei thinks that it may be the hard drive. He boots up windows to see if the windows partition runs OK--it does. So at least some of the hardware is functional.

Maybe they need Macs?

I've got Will Smith action hero fatigue,APR 24

I've got Will Smith action hero fatigue, but HOLY CRAP does Hancock look awesome. I am into apathetic superheroes. There's a second trailer available on YouTube...and its quality is surprisingly good. (You can tell I don't make it out to the movies a lot these days...the first trailer has been out since December.)

The slipperiness of truthAPR 24

Honestly I was getting a little burned out on Errol Morris. I've been reading his Times blog, reading and listening to interviews with him about Standard Operating Procedure, and went to see him at the Apple Store last night. (I was most intrigued by his observation that photographs both reveal and conceal at the same time.) But this (relatively) short interview with him on the AV Club site is worth reading and got me unburned out. One of the many choice quotes:

I wish they'd just get it over with and make [Iraq] the 51st state, because I think it's the perfect red state: religious fundamentalists, lots of weaponry. How could you go wrong? We're already spending a significant fraction of our gross national product on the infrastructure; such as it is, on Iraq. Make it the 51st state and get it over with.

The interviewer, Scott Tobias, makes an interesting observation toward the end.

It seems like there's been plenty of instances in which big guys [i.e. Bush, Cheney, etc.] could have and should have been held accountable. Yet it's not as if they've slipped a noose. It's as if they deny that there's even a noose to be slipped.

And Morris replies:

That's what's so bizarre. You know, there are smoking guns everywhere, and people are being constantly hit over the head with smoking guns, and people simply don't act on them.

For me, this is the central mystery of the Bush administration. There has been demonstrable legal wrongdoing on the part of this administration and through some magical process, they've charmed the country and managed to sidestep not only legal action (including impeachment) but even the threat of legal action and -- this is the best part -- get fucking reelected in the process. With Bush's disapproval rating at an all-time high (for any President since Gallup began polling), it's not like people aren't aware and the 2006 elections clearly show the country's disapproval with Bush et al. Maddening and fascinating at the same time.

Nice anecdote from a former line chefAPR 24

Nice anecdote from a former line chef at the French Laundry about Eric Ziebold, then the sous-chef there.

He was TFL's first ever sous chef and to this day I have never seen any one person work so many hours. (He, Thomas & Laura all put in 17-19 hour days, 7 days a week.) Everyone knows The French Laundry is an amazing restaurant, but few know why. It's easy to blame or praise one person, but the truth is that it takes a village.

Why is New York-style pizza so difficultAPR 24

Why is New York-style pizza so difficult to replicate in other areas of the world? Perhaps the answer lies with NYC's legendary tap water.

"Water," Batali says. "Water is huge. It's probably one of California's biggest problems with pizza." Water binds the dough's few ingredients. Nearly every chemical reaction that produces flavor occurs in water, says Chris Loss, a food scientist with the Culinary Institute of America. "So, naturally, the minerals and chemicals in it will affect every aspect of the way something tastes."

Update: That legendary tap water was supposedly responsible for NYC-style bagels as well until Finagle A Bagel founder Larry Smith drove some Boston tap water to NYC and compared bagels made with the water from the two cities.

"There was absolutely no difference between them," Smith reported. "What makes the difference is equipment, process and ingredients."

Well, ingredients except water. (thx, darrin)

Update: Jeffrey Steingarten, among others, believes that temperature is the key to great pizza and that coal is the key to great temperatures. (thx, hillel)

Update: I knew we'd eventually end up on Slice...the web's premiere pizza site hosts an account of Jeff Varasano's attempt to reverse engineer a NYC pizza, specifically from the 117th St. Patsy's. Among his findings:

There are a lot of variables for such a simple food. But these 3 FAR outweigh the others:

1. High Heat
2. Kneading Technique
3. The kind of yeast culture or "starter" used along with proper fermentation technique

All other factors pale in comparison to these 3. I know that people fuss over the brand of flour, the kind of sauce, etc. I discuss all of these things, but if you don't have the 3 fundamentals above handled, you will be limited.

(thx, ian)

After boxing podcasting soundly about the ears...APR 24

After boxing podcasting soundly about the ears...

The stylistic arena of text and images is so exponentially more vast, and so much easier to negotiate a rewarding path through, it's hard not to think of the [podcasting] format as broken, a dead end. Perhaps that's why many come and go so quickly.

...Dean Allen lists some of his favorite podcasts. Many of which I'd immediately subscribe to except that I don't exercise, drive, or cook. (I will also add that I am so happy to have Textism back in my life. It's the perfect up-yours to the Web 2.0 hype machinery/chicanery.)

VengeanceAPR 24

Jared Diamond wrote a fascinating article in last week's New Yorker about vengeance. On one of his trips to Papua New Guinea, he met a man named Daniel who had been responsible for "organizing the revenge" against the man who killed his paternal uncle Soll. (Incidentally, Soll's killer was also an uncle of Daniel's.)

Among Highland clans, each killing demands a revenge killing, so that a war goes on and on, unless political considerations cause it to be settled, or unless one clan is wiped out or flees. When I asked Daniel how the war that claimed his uncle's life began, he answered, "The original cause of the wars between the Handa and Ombal clans was a pig that ruined a garden." Surprisingly to outsiders, most Highland wars start ostensibly as a dispute over either pigs or women. Anthropologists debate whether the wars really arise from some deeper lying ultimate cause, such as land or population pressure, but the participants, when they are asked to name a cause, usually point to a woman or a pig.

The process of vengeance is very important to the people living in this region of New Guinea; people there speak openly of revenge killings as Americans might speak of friendships and family. Diamond argues that the New Guineans' everyday open embrace of such a strong emotion is not necessarily a bad thing and that modern society can circumvent people's need for vengeance, resulting in feelings of dissatisfaction that can create unbalanced emotional lives. At the end of WWII, Diamond's father-in-law had a chance to take his revenge on someone who had killed his mother, sister, and niece but was persuaded to turn the man over to the new Polish government for punishment. The man was never charged with the crime and Diamond's father-in-law was never the same.

One day, he took out a sheaf of photographs and showed [his daughter] Marie a picture of three shallow excavations in a forest: the photo that he had taken of the graves of his mother, sister, and niece. Then, for the first time, he told Marie the story of how he discovered what had happened to them, and of his release of their killer. Once, when he was about ninety years old, he recounted the story to Marie and me together. I recall his talking in an emotionally flat, distant, storytelling way, as if he no longer attached feelings to the story. In fact, his distanced manner must have been a tightly controlled act, a way of preserving his sanity while living with his memories.

A new version of Buzzfeed launched lateAPR 24

A new version of Buzzfeed launched late last night. It's not exactly a 2.0 release, but it's a major step toward that near-future event. Disclosure: I'm an advisor to Buzzfeed.

A suggestion from the inbox: watch theAPR 23

A suggestion from the inbox: watch the fascinatingly disturbing eagle vs. goats video with a soundtrack of Juan Diego Flórez's encore-inducing tenor solo. Two great links that taste great together. (thx, andrew & rueben)

Update: The mash-up is now on YouTube...no separate soundtrack needed. (thx, james)

If Smurfs are three apples tall, howAPR 23

If Smurfs are three apples tall, how do they fit into their mushroom houses?

The forum's members go on to speculate that the mushrooms were possibly enlarged by Papa Smurf's magic, or perhaps just regular tiny houses built by Handy Smurf and camoflauged as mushrooms to trick outsiders.

(via jakob)

BLDGBLOG has some photos of luxury hotelsAPR 23

BLDGBLOG has some photos of luxury hotels that were abandoned mid-building.

With images by Sabine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche of Haubitz+Zoche, the show looks at "the concrete skeletons of five-star hotel complexes" abandoned on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. They are resorts that never quite happened, then, with names like Sultan's Palace and the Magic Life Imperial. This makes them "monuments to failed investment."

A little something for my officemates: aAPR 23

A little something for my officemates: a guide to bakeries in Manhattan's Chinatown. We usually go to the Fay Da on Elizabeth, mostly for convenience.

Economist blogger Tyler Cowen lists his anti-AmericanAPR 23

Economist blogger Tyler Cowen lists his anti-American attitudes. Among them:

1. The number of Americans in prison remains an underreported scandal, as well as the conditions they face.

7. The American culture of individual freedom is closely linked to the prevalence of mental illness and gun-based violence in this country. We can't seem to get only the brighter side of non-conformity.

Beginning May 5, the original Iron Chef isAPR 23

Beginning May 5, the original Iron Chef is back on TV in the US. Set your DVRs for 11pm every weeknight on the Fine Living channel. (via eater)

Did you know that there was aAPR 23

Did you know that there was a ban on solo encores at the Metropolitan Opera? Not anymore. After Juan Diego Flórez busted out nine flawless high Cs in a tenor solo, the reaction from the audience compelled the singer into the first solo encore at the Met since 1994.

Peter Gelb, the Met's general manager, said on Tuesday that he had asked Mr. Flórez weeks ago whether he would be prepared to repeat the aria, if the audience demanded. Mr. Fl'orez had already done so at other houses, including the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, where last year he became the first to violate an encore ban since 1933.

Mr. Flórez agreed to Mr. Gelb's request, and the orchestra and chorus were warned. A system was established. Mr. Gelb kept an open line on the phone in his box to the stage manager. After the explosive reaction he gave the stage manager the go-ahead. The manager activated a podium light for the conductor, Marco Armiliato. Mr. Armiliato held out a questioning two fingers to Mr. Flórez. "He just smiled, and that means 'Yes,' " the conductor said.

Flórez nailed all nine Cs in the encore too. The mp3 of the performance is a thrilling listen.

A recent study of 740 first-time pregnant mothersAPR 23

A recent study of 740 first-time pregnant mothers in the UK shows that a mother's diet at conception can affect the gender of the baby.

The researchers found 56% of women with the highest energy intake around the time of conception had boys, compared to just 45% among women with the lowest energy intake. The average calorie intake for women who had sons was 2,413 a day, compared to 2,283 calories a day for women who had girls. Women who had sons were also more likely to have eaten a higher quantity and wider range of nutrients, including potassium, calcium and vitamins C, E and B12. They were also more likely to have eaten breakfast cereals.

The evolutionary guess is that when times are lean, a daughter will more consistently yield descendants than a son. (thx, meg)

Golden Eagles can be up to threeAPR 23

Golden Eagles can be up to three feet long with a wingspan of over 7 feet. Here's a video of a Golden Eagle hunting for food, a process that involves throwing live goats off of cliffs and then scavenging the carcass. If you're at all sensitive about seeing animals die, you really shouldn't watch this. For everyone else, the only way this could be more fascinating is if David Attenborough were narrating. (via waxy)

A list of data visualization blogs youAPR 22

A list of data visualization blogs you might not know about.

Time lapse of a gorgeous Chad PughAPR 22

Time lapse of a gorgeous Chad Pugh illustration from start to finish (in HD).

The video is a condensed time lapse of screenshots over a several month period. Total physical drawing time is close to 40 hours and I'd add an equal amount of time for concept time and readying the print. A screenshot was taken every 5 seconds, which actually results in a full 18 minute video.

This illustration inspired Vimeo's wonderful login screen. A limited-edition print of the finished illustration is available. (via jakob)

Pablo Ferro and Dr. StrangeloveAPR 22

Here's the trailer for Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.

It was done by a fellow named Pablo Ferro; it was his first movie trailer. Steven Heller writes:

After seeing Ferro's commercials, Kubrick hired him to direct the advertising trailers and teasers for Dr. Strangelove and convinced him to resettle in London (Kubrick's base of operations until he died there in March 1999). Ferro was inclined to be peripatetic anyway, and ever anxious to bypass already completed challenges he agreed to pull up stakes on the chance that he would get to direct a few British TV commercials, which he did. The black and white spot that Ferro designed for Dr. Strangelove employed his quick-cut technique -- using as many as 125 separate images in a minute -- to convey both the dark humor and the political immediacy of the film. At something akin to stroboscopic speed words and images flew across the screen to the accompaniment of loud sound effects and snippets of ironic dialog. At a time when the bomb loomed so large in the US public's fears (remember Barry Goldwater ran for President promising to nuke China), and the polarization of left and right -- east and west -- was at its zenith, Ferro's commercial was not only the boldest and most hypnotic graphic on TV, it was a sly subversive statement.

Ferro worked with Kubrick on the iconic and fantastic main titles for the film as well.

Kubrick wanted to film it all using small airplane models (doubtless prefiguring his classic space ship ballet in 2001: A Space Odyssey). Ferro dissuaded him and located the official stock footage that they used instead. Ferro further conceived the idea to fill the entire screen with lettering (which incidentally had never been done before), requiring the setting of credits at different sizes and weights, which potentially ran counter to legal contractual obligations. But Kubrick supported it regardless. On the other hand, Ferro was prepared to have the titles refined by a lettering artist, but Kubrick correctly felt that the rough hewn quality of the hand-drawn comp was more effective. So he carefully lettered the entire thing himself with a thin pen. Yet only after the film was released did he notice that one word was misspelled: "base on" instead of "based on". Ooops!

If you want that hand-lettered look for yourself, Pablo Skinny is a font by Fargoboy that closely duplicates Ferro's handwriting.

Ferro went on to make several well-known movie title sequences, including those for Bullitt, the original The Thomas Crown Affair, and To Die For, but not Napoleon Dynamite. He collaborated with Kubrick once again on the trailer for A Clockwork Orange, another classic.

Update: According to this Wikipedia article, the work of Canadian avant-garde filmmaker Arthur Lipsett caught the eye of Stanley Kubrick after an Oscar nomination for his short film, Very Nice, Very Nice and, more importantly for our business here, that Kubrick directed the Strangelove trailer himself in Lipsett's style after Lipsett refused to work with Kubrick on it:

Stanley Kubrick was one of Lipsett's fans, and asked him to create a trailer for his upcoming movie Dr. Strangelove. Lipsett declined Kubrick's offer. Kubrick went on to direct the trailer himself; however, Lipsett's influence on Kubrick is clearly visible when watching the trailer.

The two are stylistically similar for sure, but Ferro is credited with having designed the main title sequence (according to the titles themselves). That passage doesn't appear to have been derived from any particular source, so I looked for something more definitive. From a 1986 article by Lois Siegel

After his Academy Award nomination, he received a letter from British filmmaker Stanley Kubrick. The typewritten letter said, "I'm interested in having a trailer done for Dr. Strangelove." Kubrick regarded Lipsett's work as a landmark in cinema -- a breakthrough. He was interested in involving Lipsett. This didn't happen, but the actual trailer did reflect Lipsett's style in Very Nice, Very Nice.

An endnote to a 2004 profile of Lipsett by Brett Kashmere describes what Kubrick wrote to Lipsett in the letter:

Kubrick described Very Nice, Very Nice (1961) as "one of the most imaginative and brilliant uses of the movie screen and soundtrack that I have ever seen." Kubrick was so enthused with the film he invited Lipsett to create a trailer for Dr. Strangelove (Stanley Kubrick, 1965) an offer Lipsett refused. Stanley Kubrick, letter to Arthur Lipsett, Arthur Lipsett Collection, Cinematheque québécoise Archives, Montreal, May 31, 1962.

It's not clear what the connection is between Lipsett's work and the trailer that Ferro ended up producing for Strangelove, but several sources (including Heller) say that Ferro developed his quick-cut style directing commercials in the 1950s, work that would predate that of Lipsett.

Lipsett more clearly influenced the work of another prominent filmmaker, George Lucas. Lucas found inspiration in Lipsett's 21-87 in making THX-1138 and borrowed the concept of "the Force" for the Star Wars movies. Lucas' films are littered with references to Lipsett's film; e.g. Princess Leia's cell in Star Wars was in cell #2187. (thx, gordon)

Humans can hold their breath longer than "APR 22

Humans can hold their breath longer than "theoretical predictions" but magician David Blaine will soon attempt to break the world record for pure-oxygen apnea.

In his current training, he said, he does exercises every morning in which he breathes for no more than 12 minutes over the course of an hour, and he sleeps in a hypoxic tent in his Manhattan apartment that simulates the thin air at 15,000 feet above sea level.

He has been concentrating on lowering his oxygen consumption by slowing his metabolism, partly through diet (he fasted for 18 hours before the breath-hold in the pool) and partly through relaxation. In a test by Dr. Potkin, Mr. Blaine on command quickly lowered his heart rate by 25 percent.

"David seems to have a phenomenal ability, like Buddhist monks, to control his body," Dr. Potkin said.

The author of the piece did some breath-holding training and was able to hold his breath for almost 4 minutes after about an hour of training.

And I didn't appreciate how much progress free divers and their coaches have made at pushing the limits of human endurance until Mr. Blaine put my time in perspective. "Houdini used to brag about going three and a half minutes underwater," Mr. Blaine said. "Look at how easily you beat Houdini."

(via frontal cortex)

The break on the knuckleballAPR 22

MLB tracks every pitch thrown in a game using a system called PITCHf/x. You may have seen this system in action during televised games; it's used to show the viewer where the pitch was located when it crossed the plate relative to the strike zone. On his baseball statistics blog, Josh Kalk takes these stats and lets you slice and dice them however you want.

One of the most interesting statistics measured is the break of a pitch...how much up-and-down and side-to-side motion a pitched ball goes through after leaving the pitcher's hand. The break demonstrates why the knuckleball is such a difficult pitch to hit, particularly when used in conjunction with other pitch types. Here's a graph showing the break on knuckleballer Tim Wakefield's pitches so far this season:

Break Wakefield

The ball is all over the place...the hitter doesn't know where it's going. Compare that to the break on the three different pitches thrown by fellow Red Sox player Daisuke Matsuzaka:

Break Matsuzaka

Now take a look at the graphs on the player cards for Wakefield and Matsuzaka. Wakefield's pitches also have a wider range of velocities...Matsuzaka's pitches range in speed from about 77 to 95 mph while Wakefield's pitches range from 65 to 95 mph. And the graphs don't even account for the multiple breaks that a knuckleball can make during a single pitch. The uncertainties of speed and break of a knuckleballer's pitches combine to create a lot of trouble for batters...they neither know where the ball's going nor when it's going to arrive. (thx, fred)

P.S. So why is Wakefield not as effective as many other major league pitchers (his career stats aren't that impressive), none of whom throw the knuckleball? One guess is that sometimes the knuckleball doesn't break and essentially becomes a 60-65 mph meatball right down the middle of the plate, a pitch any decent hitter can put anywhere he wants.

Update: I thought that Wakefield's upper velocity range was a little high. I'm getting a lot of feedback saying that Wakefield's fastball is in the low 80s, not the mid-90s. Looks like we've got some screwy data here.

Also, another reason why knuckleballers are of limited effectiveness: it's difficult to throw a strike on command, which can be a problem when you're behind in the count and you have to throw your 80 mph fastball for a strike. (thx, jonathan & steve)

Video of real-life Transformers costumes that actuallyAPR 22

Video of real-life Transformers costumes that actually work. The Optimus Prime even rolls! (thx, dianne (sorry dens, she beat you by 13 seconds))

Trailer for Glass, A Portrait of PhilipAPR 22

Trailer for Glass, A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts, a film about composer Philip Glass. The joke that Chuck Close tells at the end is from a page on Glass' own site. (via crazymonk)

Truckliness is next to Godliness.APR 22

Truckliness is next to Godliness.

Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, said he had a set [of Truck Nutz] on one of his vehicles, which he described as "all pimped out." They are no more than "an expression of truckliness," he said, although he'd acceded to his wife's request to take them off.

"I find it shocking we'd tell people with metallic testicles on their bumpers that this is a violation," said Sen. Steve Geller, D-Hallandale. "There's got to be better things for us to spend time debating."

(via clusterflock)

Beautiful contemporary covers for Dante's Divine Comedy.APR 21

Beautiful contemporary covers for Dante's Divine Comedy. The individual covers can be seen here: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso.

Tree photography by Stuart Franklin. There's moreAPR 21

Tree photography by Stuart Franklin. There's more photography by Franklin on his site and on Magnum's site. Franklin took the iconic photo of the man staring down the tanks in Tiananmen Square. (via snarkmarket)

"Innit" is a common contraction of "isn'tAPR 21

"Innit" is a common contraction of "isn't it" in British English that is increasingly being used as an all-purpose end-of-sentence rhetorical question. For example:

"We need to decide what to do about that now innit." (don't we?)

"Now I can start calling you that, INNIT!" (can't I?)

"I can see where my REAL friends are, elsewhere innit!!" (aren't they?)

"I'll show young Miss Hanna round to all the shops, innit." (won't I?)

"I heard he was good in TNA when he was there so he can still wrestle good innit?" (can't he?)

A photograph of the newest possible moon,APR 21

A photograph of the newest possible moon, one that's only about 15 hours old.

Finding the Moon when its slim crescent is still less than about 24 hours past the New Moon phase requires careful timing and planning, a challenging project even for experienced observers. In this sighting, only about 0.8 percent of the Moon's disk appears illuminated.

(via airbag)

Who knew Charlie Rose interviewing himself aboutAPR 21

Who knew Charlie Rose interviewing himself about technology could be so amusing? "Charlie Rose" by Samuel Beckett. Give it a bit to warm up. (via fimoculous)

Khoi Vinh, design director of NYTimes.comAPR 21

Khoi Vinh, design director of NYTimes.com and Subtraction, will be answering questions from readers all this week. Look for Khoi's initial responses later in the day and week.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica is opening up theirAPR 21

The Encyclopaedia Britannica is opening up their encyclopedia to "web publishers, including bloggers, webmasters, and anyone who writes for the Internet". Even better: when you link to something, your readers get that article for free as well. Here's the announcement.

Four chefs talk about how their kitchensAPR 21

Four chefs talk about how their kitchens are laid out in this month's Metropolis. Here's Dan Barber talking about his role at Blue Hill at Stone Barns:

At the same time, I don't think the cooks look at me as a real community member. I'm not that cozy paternal figure. I'm always doing different things, and it creates this atmosphere where the cooks are on the balls of their feet. They're thinking, Where's he going next, what's happening next? There's a little bit of confusion. I think that's good. It's hard to articulate, because you think of the kitchen as very organized; and, like I said, the more control you have, the better. But a little bit of chaos creates tension. And that creates energy and passion, and it tends to make you season something the right way or reach for something that would add this, that, or the other thing.

The other chefs are Alice Waters, Grant Achatz, and Wylie Dufresne. The one thing they all talked about is the importance of open sight lines, both between the dining room and kitchen and among the chefs in the kitchen.

CBS News report from 1975 detailing the lastAPR 21

CBS News report from 1975 detailing the last World Airways flight out of Da Nang near the end of the Vietnam War.

The flight was supposed be for stranded women and children but as soon as the plane landed in Da Nang, it was swamped by South Vietnamese soldiers attempting to flee the oncoming North Vietnamese forces.

There were 260 people aboard a plane which is designed to carry 105. The plane was overloaded by 20,000 pounds. The baggage compartments were loaded with people. Some of the problems during the flight included, the rear stairway remained partially extended for the entire flight, the main wheels would not retract, a hand grenade damage to one of the wings causing fuel loss, and the lower cargo doors were open. The plane had to fly at 10,000 feet because of lack of pressurization thus fuel consumption was three times greater than normal.

In the end, only 5 women and 2 or 3 children made it onboard. That's some powerful journalism. (thx, brandon)

The iPhone MegaAPR 21

EXCLUSIVE!! From a mole deep inside the company comes word and vision of a new iPhone from Apple, the iPhone Mega:

iPhone Mega

In a rare comment regarding a leaked product, Steve Jobs noted that "the easy portability of the iPhone was an issue for some people; we saw a market opportunity there".

Six Apart buys Apperceptive and announces anAPR 21

Six Apart buys Apperceptive and announces an advertising network for bloggers in order to diversify their offerings.

The idea for SA is to move beyond an increasingly commoditized blog publishing software business, and into adding advertising, design, implementation, development and site optimization services to bloggers and companies.

Update: Here's more from Six Apart on the changes.

Clusterflock's Deron Bauman did an interview withAPR 20

Clusterflock's Deron Bauman did an interview with me the other day over IM and posted an edited transcript. This seems to be the bit that everyone is pulling from the interview so I will as well:

Other times, it's not so fun running a visible site. Some people are determined to deliberately misunderstand much of what they encounter in life. Sometimes I have a hard time realizing that that's their problem, not mine.

An ode to the knuckleball, a trulyAPR 18

An ode to the knuckleball, a truly screwy pitch.

Few pitchers are able to throw the knuckler, giving those who can a cult-like status. It generally requires very large fingers. As Hall of Famer Willie Stargell explained it, "Throwing a knuckleball for a strike is like throwing a butterfly with hiccups across the street into your neighbor's mailbox".

Yankees third baseman Wade Boggs once used the knuckleball to retire the side in an inning during a rare appearance on the mound. When he's got his stuff working, I love watching knuckleballer Tim Wakefield pitch.

A photogenic drawing** that was assumed toAPR 18

A photogenic drawing** that was assumed to have been made in the late 1830s may have actually been created 40 years earlier, making it one of the oldest photographic prints in existence.

Like the lost plays of Aeschylus that were written about but did not survive themselves, no known examples of the work of Wedgwood and his circle have ever been found. But Dr. Schaaf, in looking deeper into the leaf image, realized that these legendary lost images had something else in common: their creators were all part of the close social circle of the family of Henry Bright.

"The reason that I got so excited about this was that it was the most solid, indicative collection I've seen," he said. "I'm fully prepared for 'The Leaf' to have been made by Henry Bright, or by his father, after the 1790s. But I've never seen a story that fits together so neatly."

** A photogenic drawing is a precursor to the photograph and is created by placing an object on a piece of photosensitive paper and exposing it to light.

I missed this earlier this week: physicistAPR 18

I missed this earlier this week: physicist John Wheeler has died at the age of 96. A snippet from the NY Times obituary:

At the same time, he returned to the questions that had animated Einstein and Bohr, about the nature of reality as revealed by the strange laws of quantum mechanics. The cornerstone of that revolution was the uncertainty principle, propounded by Werner Heisenberg in 1927, which seemed to put fundamental limits on what could be known about nature, declaring, for example, that it was impossible, even in theory, to know both the velocity and the position of a subatomic particle. Knowing one destroyed the ability to measure the other. As a result, until observed, subatomic particles and events existed in a sort of cloud of possibility that Dr. Wheeler sometimes referred to as "a smoky dragon."

This kind of thinking frustrated Einstein, who once asked Dr. Wheeler if the Moon was still there when nobody looked at it.

Wheeler recognized that physics is about ideas and the language used to express those ideas, not just mathematics and experimentation. He coined and popularized several phrases during his long career, including black hole, wormhole, and quantum foam.

The Droste effect is when a product'sAPR 18

The Droste effect is when a product's packaging features the packaging itself.

At my grocery store I could only find three examples: Land O'Lakes Butter, Morton Salt and Cracker Jacks. These packages each include a picture of the package itself and are often cited by writers discussing such pop-math-arcana as recursion, strange loops, self-similarity, and fractals. This particular phenomenon, known as the "Droste effect," is named after a 1904 package of Droste brand cocoa. The mathematical interest in these packaging illustrations is their implied infinity. If the resolution of the printing process -- (and the determination and eyesight of the illustrator) -- were not limiting factors, it would go on forever. A package with in a package within a package... Like Russian dolls.

(via andre)

An analysis of the Colbert Bump, theAPR 18

An analysis of the Colbert Bump, the jump in sales that follows an author's appearance on The Colbert Report. (via plasticbag)

Aerial photo of a lumberyard.APR 18

Aerial photo of a lumberyard.

After 10 years, kottke.org favorite New GreenAPR 18

After 10 years, kottke.org favorite New Green Bo (still the best soup dumplings in town, IMO) has changed its name to Nice Green Bo.

We're 10 years old, and we have so many nice customers, so we made it Nice Green Bo.

(via eater)

Update: My officemate Scott snapped a photo of the new signage during lunch.

A list of the top one articlesAPR 18

A list of the top one articles by Neal Pollack about how sportswriters should stop writing about the NBA MVP race and, oh yeah, lists of stuff are dumb:

1. This article right here.

Sportswriters and pundits, on the other hand, are treating the MVP race with the gravitas of a presidential election. That's because they make up the Electoral College. When they're debating who's going to win the award, they're not really talking about who they think the best player is; they're talking about whom they should pick as the best player. It's the ultimate circle-jerk of sports-guy self-regard.

Stephen Fry and The Machine That Made UsAPR 18

All six parts of a BBC documentary called The Machine That Made Us are on YouTube: part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six (60 minutes total). (BTW, if you're in the UK, you can watch it on the BBC's iPlayer.) The film stars Stephen Fry and tells the history of the Gutenberg Press.

Stephen's investigation combines historical detective work and a hands-on challenge. He travels to France and Germany on the trail of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press and early media entrepreneur. Along the way he discovers the lengths Gutenberg went to keep his project secret, explores the role of avaricious investors and unscrupulous competitors, and discovers why printing mattered so much in medieval Europe.

But to really understand the man and his machine, Stephen gets his hands dirty - assembling a team of craftsmen and helping them build a working replica of Gutenberg's original press. He learns how to make paper the 15th-century way and works as an apprentice in a metal foundry in preparation for the experiment to put the replica press through its paces. Can Stephen's modern-day team match the achievement of Gutenberg's medieval craftsmen?

Here's part one to get you started:

I haven't had a chance to watch it yet, but it's supposed to be really good. Oh, and if you're thinking "who does this Fry bloke think he is going on about technology like he knows something about it", you should check out his blog...he's a top-notch tech blogger. (thx, dean)

RealScoop's software analyzes statements made by publicAPR 17

RealScoop's software analyzes statements made by public figures in audio or video and plots the results on a scale of believability that runs from believable to highly questionable.

RealScoop uses advanced emotion-based voice analysis technology to rate the believability of people's statements.

For instance, here's Michael Vick apologizing for holding dog fights, Eliot Spitzer resigning the governorship of NY, and Bill Clinton's infamous "I did not have sexual relations with that woman" statement. The Clinton audio and associated metering is really pretty good...it spikes in all the right places. (thx, john)

The abandoned supply shacks of Antarctic explorersAPR 17

The abandoned supply shacks of Antarctic explorers Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton are still intact and have been preserved by the cold.

While the preservation of food in the freezing temperatures and dry climate has been noted, bacterial decay still occurs. Besides, the World Monuments Watch describes it as one of the hundred most endangered sites in the world, and New Zealand's Antarctic Heritage Trust (AHT) has been working in the last years to preserve it from corrosion.

These structures and the supplies contained within are almost 100 years old.

The story of a salvage team racingAPR 17

The story of a salvage team racing to save the Cougar Ace, a 55,000 ton cargo ship packed with Mazda cars valued at $103 million that nearly flipped when the ballast tanks on either side of the ship got out of balance. If the team succeeds, they get ~10% of the cargo's value and If not, they don't get paid...either way, someone might die.

Reed and Habib crawl along the tilted deck, periodically consulting a drawing of the ship's internal compartments. They rap their knuckles on a piece of steel - this is the top of the low-side ballast tank. Trepte pulls out a drill and bores down. Suddenly, water erupts. The tank is already full and pressurized - water must be flowing in through a broken vent on the underwater side of the ship. It sprays furiously. They have unwittingly caused the worst thing possible: The deepest cargo hold is flooding.

In an instant, Trepte covers the hole with the tip of a finger and presses hard. The sound of gushing water abruptly stops, and the shouts and curses of the moment before echo through the hold. Salt water drips off Mazdas, and the panic the men all felt transforms into a contagious laugh.

Trepte is keeping the ship afloat with one finger.

The story includes links to video and journal entries from the salvage team.

Update: According to the author of the piece, the story is being adapted into a movie by Dreamworks. If this involves Bruce Willis and an asteroid, count me in. (thx, garrison & christopher)

Princeton Architectural Press is offering a mostAPR 17

Princeton Architectural Press is offering a most unusual publication called Materials Monthly. Each month or so, a small box arrives on your doorstep containing not just a printed magazine about architecturally interesting materials but samples of the materials themselves, including fabric swatches, tiles, wallpaper, glass, and steel. Dan Hill recently received his issue and has a nice review and unboxing.

Benoit Mandelbrot and Paola Antonelli talk about,APR 17

Benoit Mandelbrot and Paola Antonelli talk about, among other things, fractals, self-similarity in architecture, algorithms that could specify the creation of entire cities, visual mathematics, and generalists.

This has been for me an extraordinary pleasure because it means a certain misuse of Euclid is dead. Now, of course, I think that Euclid is marvelous, he produced one of the masterpieces of the human mind. But it was not meant to be used as a textbook by millions of students century after century. It was meant for a very small community of mathematicians who were describing their works to one another. It's a very complicated, very interesting book which I admire greatly. But to force beginners into a mathematics in this particular style was a decision taken by teachers and forced upon society. I don't feel that Euclid is the way to start learning mathematics. Learning mathematics should begin by learning the geometry of mountains, of humans. In a certain sense, the geometry of...well, of Mother Nature, and also of buildings, of great architecture.

A list of the Bible's greatest massacres.APR 17

A list of the Bible's greatest massacres.

3. Elijah (and God) burned to death 102 religious leaders in a prayer contest. 2 Kings 1:10-12

(via cyn-c)

Photography of Star Wars characters in contemporaryAPR 17

Photography of Star Wars characters in contemporary urban settings. (Pardon the stupid Flash interface...click on "series" to see the photos.) (via vitamin briefcase)

The Cookie Monster engaging in some seriousAPR 17

The Cookie Monster engaging in some serious but healthy self reflection.

Me know. Me have problem. Me love cookies. Me tend to get out of control when me see cookies. Me know it not natural to react so strongly to cookies, but me have weakness. Me know me do wrong. Me know it isn't normal. Me see disapproving looks. Me see stares. Me hurt inside.

I'm really enjoying M83's new album,APR 16

I'm really enjoying M83's new album, Saturdays = Youth; it's somehow both 80s retro and not. The AV Club gave the album an A and Metacritic gives it a rating of 69.

Two unrelated things:

- amazon.com/mp3 is a quick way to get to the Amazon MP3 store.

- The vast majority of the recent album releases rated by Metacritic are in the "generally favorable reviews" category. A few are rated "universal acclaim" or "mixed or average reviews" and only one is "generally negative". Compare that to the ratings for recently released movies, which are much lower on average. Do people demand higher quality from their music than movies? Or is so much music produced (compared to movies) that the only albums worth compiling reviews for are the good ones?

The newest version of Google Earth includes 3APR 16

The newest version of Google Earth includes 3-D photorealistic buildings, sunlight (with shadows on those realistic 3-D buildings), and a Spiderman-esque swooping action. Here's a "photo" I snapped of downtown San Francisco.

Downtown San Francisco on Google Earth

You can just see the 3-D photorealistic Golden Gate Bridge peeking up in the background. See some more examples at Google's LatLong blog.

Spine tingling "The World is Just Awesome"APR 16

Spine tingling "The World is Just Awesome" advertisement for the Discovery Channel. (via avenues)

You've likely seen the famous photo ofAPR 16

You've likely seen the famous photo of Richard Nixon with Elvis Presley in the Oval Office. When Nixon Met Elvis is a site dedicated to that short meeting with materials from The National Archives, including the letter written on American Airlines stationery that Elvis personally delivered to a White House security guard, several more photos from the meeting, and the gift that Elvis brought for Nixon (a gun! to the White House!). It's a really kooky little story. (via hysterical paroxysm)

Recreations of childhood photos. This pair areAPR 16

Recreations of childhood photos. This pair are my favorites. (via waxy)

rating: 3.5 stars

Manufactured LandscapesAPR 16

Manufactured Landscapes opens with an eight-minute tracking shot of a gigantic factory in China, the camera moving past row after row of workers assembling widgets until you feel like the factory floor circumnavigates the globe. The point of the shot, as with Edward Burtynsky's photography, is to encourage the viewer to do some rudimentary mathematics about the scale of industry in the world:

eight minutes to move across one factory + look at all those employees + how many factories like this are there in China? = wow, that's a lot of widgets

While it's unfair to say that the movie goes downhill from there, the tracking shot packs such a punch that the rest of the film seemed lacking in comparison. It was the only shot in the film that really felt like the cinematic equivalent of Burtynsky's photography...a long photograph, if you will.

Jsh Alln explains why the perfect popAPR 16

Jsh Alln explains why the perfect pop song is two minutes and 42 seconds long.

Here's the problem: "More Than a Feeling" is four minutes and 47 fucking seconds long. I don't have time for that kind of nonsense. That's, like, one-seventh of my recreation right there.

Don't get me wrong, slugger. I love "More Than a Feeling." Those who don't are your basic a-holes. But it's like: We get it. The riff, the handclaps, the 10,000 multi-tracked guitars-nice. But then there's another verse and another chorus and infinity more solos and just a really ridiculous amount of balderdash.

If you've got the time, there's a related collection of 2:42 songs to listen to.

A somewhat uneven list of the bestAPR 16

A somewhat uneven list of the best films that never won a Best Picture Oscar. As the commenters point out, lots of good films (like Raging Bull & Dr. Strangelove) were missed. (via house next door)

Django-MMO is an open source clone ofAPR 16

Django-MMO is an open source clone of Game Neverending. It needs a new name. (via waxy)

Extensive series of photographs of a pigAPR 15

Extensive series of photographs of a pig being butchered.

The pig is Berkshire, from a small farm in upstate NY. It was slaughtered at a small family slaughterhouse nearby, on the Thursday before the class. So this pig had been dead for less than a week before being butchered.

If you want to know where your bacon or ham-related food comes from, here's your chance. (thx, derrick)

Hate couture.APR 15

Hate couture.

Coming from five generations of Ku Klux Klan members, 58-year-old "Ms. Ruth" sews hoods and robes for Klan members seven days a week, blessing each one when it's done. A red satin outfit for an Exalted Cyclops, the head of a local chapter, costs about $140. She uses the earnings to help care for her 40-year-old quadriplegic daughter, "Lilbit," who was injured in a car accident 10 years ago.

(via delicious ghost)

A short history of the ampersand.APR 15

A short history of the ampersand.

Ampersand usage varies from language to language. In English and French text, the ampersand may be substituted for the words and and et, and both versions may be used in the same text. The German rule is to use the ampersand within formal or corporate titles made up of two separate names; according to present German composition rules, the ampersand may not be used in running text. In any language, the ampersand's calligraphic qualities make it a compelling design element that can add visual appeal and personality to any page.

A mom let her 9-year-old son takeAPR 15

A mom let her 9-year-old son take the NYC subway and bus home from Sunday shopping.

For weeks my boy had been begging for me to please leave him somewhere, anywhere, and let him try to figure out how to get home on his own. So on that sunny Sunday I gave him a subway map, a MetroCard, a $20 bill, and several quarters, just in case he had to make a call.

No, I did not give him a cell phone. Didn't want to lose it. And no, I didn't trail him, like a mommy private eye. I trusted him to figure out that he should take the Lexington Avenue subway down, and the 34th Street crosstown bus home. If he couldn't do that, I trusted him to ask a stranger. And then I even trusted that stranger not to think, "Gee, I was about to catch my train home, but now I think I'll abduct this adorable child instead."

Upon telling the story to others, she encountered some resistance:

Half the people I've told this episode to now want to turn me in for child abuse. As if keeping kids under lock and key and helmet and cell phone and nanny and surveillance is the right way to rear kids. It's not. It's debilitating -- for us and for them.

This timelapse video of man trapped inAPR 15

This timelapse video of man trapped in an elevator for 41 hours is difficult to watch. The video accompanies an article in the New Yorker about elevators.

White has the security-camera videotape of his time in the McGraw-Hill elevator. He has watched it twice-it was recorded at forty times regular speed, which makes him look like a bug in a box. The most striking thing to him about the tape is that it includes split-screen footage from three other elevators, on which you can see men intermittently performing maintenance work. Apparently, they never wondered about the one he was in. (Eight McGraw-Hill security guards came and went while he was stranded there; nobody seems to have noticed him on the monitor.)

The end of White's story is heartbreaking. On the plus side, the article also discusses a favorite social phenomenon of mine, how strangers space themselves in elevators.

If you draw a tight oval around this figure, with a little bit of slack to account for body sway, clothing, and squeamishness, you get an area of 2.3 square feet, the body space that was used to determine the capacity of New York City subway cars and U.S. Army vehicles. Fruin defines an area of three square feet or less as the "touch zone"; seven square feet as the "no-touch zone"; and ten square feet as the "personal-comfort zone." Edward Hall, who pioneered the study of proxemics, called the smallest range -- less than eighteen inches between people -- "intimate distance," the point at which you can sense another person's odor and temperature. As Fruin wrote, "Involuntary confrontation and contact at this distance is psychologically disturbing for many persons."

(via waxy)

James Danziger on the photographs of theAPR 15

James Danziger on the photographs of the Florida teens accused of beating a classmate and filming it for YouTube.

The pictures of the accused are startling in the banality of the faces. (While the spelling of many of the names -- April, Britney, Brittini, Cara, Kayla, Mercades, Stephen, Zachary bring to mind a revived Mouseketeers.) A number of the girls look surprisingly similar, but minus the prison garb, they could just as easily be reacting to a berating for poor schoolwork. The boys, who were posted as lookouts while the girls carried out the beating, look a little more ready for jail.

The pictures are fascinating in the narrow range of emotion they convey, from self-pity to sullenness, but to my mind all stop before genuine contriteness. (I'm reading this in, of course, but I have a hunch I'm right.) Yet there's an all-American look to these kids that can only remind us how narrow the line is between good and evil.

The original photos are here.

Female leads are difficult to find in blockbuster movies.APR 15

Female leads are difficult to find in blockbuster movies.

Why Superman will always suck.APR 15

Why Superman will always suck.

Really, what lessons do the Superman comics teach? It says that mankind is full of dull, pointless weaklings and evildoers who can only be stopped by a white ubermensch from another planet, who didn't work a day in his life in order to achieve his powers. Yeah, you could say he's a symbol of "hope," but not hope in human nature - hope in an all-powerful alien who saves the world daily so you don't have to get off your butt and act like a moral person. What sort of message is that?

Short looping videosAPR 15

Matt Jones argues that short looping videos are the real long photographs.

A loop would be a captured action or situation rather than a narrative, where the duration of the loop is set but the loop goes on forever so you can study the layers, the detail, the figure and the ground in the same way you can a photo. A bottled system not a short story. Think about all the tiny clips you've played again and again on the internet just to see one aspect, one moment, act out -- a goal or a dramatic chipmunk. Not stories, but toy moments.

The 7th in a series of helpfulAPR 15

The 7th in a series of helpful posts for the time traveller**: here's how to invest your money wisely in 1998.

If you'd bought 3,298 shares of Apple stock in 1998, for $99,995, at $30.32 a share, it would now be worth $1,997,797. The stock has split twice, so you'd now have 13,192 shares at (as of last week) $151.44. Buy yourself an iPhone to celebrate!

** The first six posts will be published at some point in the future.

The last meal for the first classAPR 14

The last meal for the first class passengers on the Titanic. The meal comprised 10 courses in all, paired with wine and as many after-dinner cigars as you could smoke.

The iconic Birkin bag made by HermesAPR 14

The iconic Birkin bag made by Hermes is supposedly so difficult to find that there's a two-year waiting list. In his book, Bringing Home the Birkin, Michael Tonello says the list is just a marketing ploy and that he was able to buy Birkin bags whenever he wanted.

"I would go into a store with a list in my Hermes Ulysse notebook and pile up scarves, shawls, bracelets, worth about $2,000. This made me seem a regular Hermes client," Tonello told Reuters in a telephone interview. "Once I had that pile ready to buy at the last moment I'd ask for a Birkin and they would usually produce one of the back room. In 2005 I bought 130 Birkins in a three-month period -- and you tell me there is a waiting list?"

The Birkin retails for thousands (and sometimes tens of thousands) of dollars and can be see here in situ, on the arms of celebrity millionaires. Lindsey Lohan looks like she can just about fit into hers. (via clusterflock)

Even Erik Spiekermann agrees that Helvetica isAPR 14

Even Erik Spiekermann agrees that Helvetica is sometimes an appropriate choice.

20 respectable rock and rap acts that peaked with debut albums.APR 14

20 respectable rock and rap acts that peaked with debut albums.

The Art of the Title Sequence, aAPR 14

The Art of the Title Sequence, a blog highlighting good movie title sequences. (thx, ben)

Photo series of food that takes theAPR 14

Photo series of food that takes the shape of its container. The peas are my favorite.

Update: Irving Penn did a well-known series of frozen foods in the 1970s. One of the prints was recently sold for $85,000. (thx, rob)

Cutaway drawings of the interiors of variousAPR 14

Cutaway drawings of the interiors of various Star Trek starship bridges. (via ffffound)

Google Earth now displays location-specific news fromAPR 14

Google Earth now displays location-specific news from the NY Times.

I read a lot of news by surfing the Internet, as do many of my colleagues and friends, and I've always dreamed of a way to browse news based on geography. What's happening in Paris today? What are the top headlines in Japan?

A wonderful (and wonderfully long) post byAPR 14

A wonderful (and wonderfully long) post by Dan Hill on how he and his team thought about and executed the Monocle web site.

None of what follows is rocket science, and it's not the place to look for thoughts on 2.0/3.0, social software, or urban informatics. That would be in the accounts of different projects. But if you're interested in the honest craft of website work, almost deliberately old-fashioned 'classical' web design -- and how to ally this with innovation in magazine publishing -- the following should provide a decent account of several of the key decisions in this particular project.

Dan's thoughtful approach should be required reading for anyone building media web sites.

Interesting timelapse visualization of fatalities in IraqAPR 14

Interesting timelapse visualization of fatalities in Iraq since March 2003. Turn your sound on...after awhile, it starts to sound like machine gun fire. Note: fatalities are non-Iraqi only...it's likely the whole screen would be flashing if those were included. (thx, mark)

NY Times film critic A.O. ScottAPR 13

NY Times film critic A.O. Scott penned a short appreciation of fellow reviewer Roger Ebert for the Sunday Times, particularly his TV work.

His criticism shows a nearly unequaled grasp of film history and technique, and formidable intellectual range, but he rarely seems to be showing off. He's just trying to tell you what he thinks, and to provoke some thought on your part about how movies work and what they can do.

Six reasons why baseball is the bestAPR 11

Six reasons why baseball is the best of all games, from a 1961 conversation.

First: the rules of the game are in equilibrium: that is, from the start, the diamond was made just the right size, the pitcher's mound just the right distance from home plate, etc., and this makes possible the marvelous plays, such as the double play. The physical layout of the game is perfectly adjusted to the human skills it is meant to display and to call into graceful exercise. Whereas, basketball, e.g., is constantly (or was then) adjusting its rules to get them in balance.

Second: the game does not give unusual preference or advantage to special physical types, e.g., to tall men as in basketball. All sorts of abilities can find a place somewhere, the tall and the short etc. can enjoy the game together in different positions.

The comments are entertaining as well; the level of erudition is higher than most blog comment threads, but the insults and arguments are still there.

A visual look at the top 10 trendsAPR 11

A visual look at the top 10 trends in spring/summer 2008 fashion, including parachute silk, higher waistlines, and skinny belts.

In an effort to curtail healthcare spending,APR 11

In an effort to curtail healthcare spending, the Japanese government is requiring companies to cut the number of overweight workers (and their dependents!) by 25% as of 2015. Companies which fail to do so will have to pay into a fund for elderly care.

Reduced exercise, the adoption of western foods and an aging population have made Japanese men about 10 percent heavier than they were 30 years ago, ministry statistics show. Women are 6.4 percent fatter.

The ministry estimates that half of men over age 40 and 20 percent of women will be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. For men, a key yardstick is whether they have a waistline wider than 85 centimeters (33.5 inches). Body mass, cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and smoking will also be taken into account.

Most heard songsAPR 11

What's the play count on your most played song in your iTunes library? My top five are:

Emerge by Fischerspooner, 97 plays
Alpha Beta Gaga by Air, 76 plays
A Dream by Cut Copy, 68 plays
Take Me Out by Franz Ferdinand (Daft Punk mix), 68 plays
Around the World by Daft Punk, 66 plays

Sixteen songs in my library have been played 50 times or more. More than 70 songs have been played at least 35 times. I'm wondering where that lies on the scale of obsession...do I listen to my favorite songs more or less than normal? If you folks can be considered normal.... ;)

Slow motionAPR 11

Long rumination on the use of slo-mo in movies, particularly in Standard Operating Procedure. Being a slo-mo fan myself (especially when wielded by Wes Anderson or by NBC Sports during football games), I enjoyed this description of it:

Slo-mo can be a mesmerizing revelation of the grace inherent in the ordinary.

Slo-mo was invented and patented in 1904 by an Austrian priest-turned-physicist named August Musger. And who was working in the patent office in Austria in 1904?

My fantasy now is that Albert Einstein -- working in the Swiss patent office in Bern in 1904, when Musger patented slo-mo in (relatively) nearby Austria -- might have become aware of Musger's slow-motion patent (perhaps it even crossed his desk?) and that contemplation of slo-mo might have influenced Einstein's thinking about the nonabsoluteness, the relativity, of time.

Two other sort-of-related bits of Errol Morris news: 1) part 2 of his short series on re-enactments is now online, and 2) Morris will be talking about his new movie at the Apple Store in Soho on April 23 at 6:30pm. Prepare to wait in a long line. (thx, findemnflee)

Good advice about whining:APR 11

Good advice about whining:

Whining should be telling you something. Whining is the white smoke in your tailpipe that lets you know you're burning mental oil. It means you're unconsciously devoting cycles to something that you can't, won't, or shouldn't be spending time thinking about. Otherwise, why would it be bothering you, right? You'd be either extricated or done with it.

This jibes nicely with one of Stefan Sagmeister's Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far:

Complaining is silly. Either act or forget.

(via bbj)

Ernest Hemingway on how he approached symbolismAPR 11

Ernest Hemingway on how he approached symbolism in his stories:

"No good book has ever been written that has in it symbols arrived at beforehand and stuck in," says Hemingway. "That kind of symbol sticks out like raisins in raisin bread. Raisin bread is all right, but plain bread is better." He opens two bottles of beer and continues: "I tried to make a real old man, a real boy, a real sea and a real fish and real sharks. But if I made them good and true enough they would mean many things. The hardest thing is to make something really true and sometimes truer than true."

I like the raisin bread analogy. Just make the plain bread good instead of trying to jazz up subpar bread with raisins. Good advice for writing and cooking. (via rodcorp)

There Will Be Blood is out onAPR 11

There Will Be Blood is out on DVD already. And so are the other four Oscar nominees for best picture (well, ok, Juno is out early next week).

This page generates names by combining theAPR 11

This page generates names by combining the first and last names from the 1990 US Census, creating names that may or may not actually exist. If you're tired of perusing gravestones for the names of your next novel's characters, this looks like a good alternative.

An interview with Robin Wilson, the thoughtfulAPR 11

An interview with Robin Wilson, the thoughtful frontman of the Gin Blossoms.

It's very frustrating to me that most people don't know [that the Gin Blossoms are still together]. We're still very fortunate that we have a career and that we can make a good living playing our music. And we've got thirty-something-thousand MySpace friends, which is a great number. But, you know, I hang out with these young bands, like this group from Pittsburgh called Punchline-they're friends of mine-and they've got seventy-five thousand MySpace friends. What it works out to, basically, is however many MySpace friends you have: that's about how many records you can sell-at least...on your own.

And so, right now, with the way things are changing-record stores across the country are closing, CD sales are down, digital downloads are up. You don't necessarily need a record company to sell. We don't need a record company to sell our music to those thirty thousand people. We can do it directly. And thirty thousand people are more than enough to support our records and to keep our career going.

What the 44th president of the UnitedAPR 10

What the 44th president of the United States should do upon taking his/her oath of office:

President George W. Bush's successor should renounce his monarchy. It betters the instruction of King George III, which provoked the Declaration of Independence.

Among other things, the 44th president of the United States should do the following promptly upon taking office: Transfer the impending trials of six "high-value" al-Qaida detainees before Spanish Inquisition-like military commissions to civilian courts; repudiate President Bush's kidnappings, secret imprisonments, and maltreatments of suspected al-Qaida supporters abroad on his say-so alone-a page from Hobbes' state of nature; denounce signing statements that declare the president's intent to disregard provisions of bills he has signed into law because he disputes their constitutionality; and end the snobbish custom of former government Brahmins preening in their honorifics after leaving office. The Founding Fathers prohibited titles of nobility to encourage a nonhierarchical culture that honors equality before the law.

The economics of high-end prostitutes.APR 10

The economics of high-end prostitutes.

Unlike their low-end counterparts, high-end call girls are expected to supply some level of companionship, and often accompany clients to dinners or parties. Because a beautiful and intelligent woman inevitably has other job (and marriage) options, a very high wage is necessary to encourage them to forgo other opportunities, and risk arrest, disease and shame.

And escorts must spend a great deal maintaining their value without immediate compensation. Much time and money is spent on grooming: hair removal, expensive hair-cuts (one stylist I spoke to claims several of his clients are escorts, who spend at least $1,000 a month on extensions and colour) and regular exercise. Many women have had plastic surgery (particularly if they were once men) and maintain an expensive designer wardrobe. Frequent visits to the doctor are necessary to protect against sexually-transmitted diseases.

Awesome collection of folk graphics and photographyAPR 10

Awesome collection of folk graphics and photography protesting Flickr's decision to let members post short videos. But without the video, we'd miss out on stuff like this. (via waxy)

Dick Cheney's sunglassesAPR 10

Is the reflection in Dick Cheney's sunglasses a naked woman? The photo in question is from the official White House web site.

Star Trek statistics: just how likely areAPR 10

Star Trek statistics: just how likely are you to die if you beam down to the planet's surface wearing a red shirt?

You don't know about the Red Shirt Phenomenon? Well, as any die-hard Trekkie knows, if you are wearing a red shirt and beam to the planet with Captain Kirk, you're gonna die. That's the common thinking, but I decided to put this to the test. After all, I hadn't seen any definitive proof; it's just what people said.

It will take you literally hours toAPR 10

It will take you literally hours to get through this list of the 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches of All Time (video often included). (thx, miguel)

A nice appreciation of Primer, one ofAPR 10

A nice appreciation of Primer, one of my favorite movies.

At bottom, Primer is a movie about morals and ethics, about how science is able to accomplish extraordinary things without regard to their consequences. On the breathless (and terrific) DVD commentary track, Carruth calls Abe and Aaron "kids in a clubhouse" and mocks their habit of strutting around in crisp dress shirts and ties. As the film progresses, the sheer enormity of their creation throws their very human flaws into sharp relief; they reveal themselves to be untrustworthy, greedy, and often narrowly self-serving and diabolical in how they use the machine.

As part of the the Takashi MurakamiAPR 10

As part of the the Takashi Murakami show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the artist is collaborating with Louis Vuitton to station street vendors -- who typically sell counterfeit merchandise -- outside the museum selling real LV bags designed by Murakami himself.

This video makes me irrationally happy...IAPR 09

This video makes me irrationally happy...I watched it four times in a row just now.

It was the freshest move I've ever seen, like he was floating on air.

And yeah, that's Kanye West's Vimeo account. His blog is entertaining as well; a recent favorite post is YOU CAN'T MAKE ME STOP POSTING YAGHTS!!!

Update: Vimeo erased the video because it was not original content so I pointed to one on YouTube. They also erased all but one video on Kanye's account...I guess they were all videos by other people.

A list of "evil" human experiments, includingAPR 09

A list of "evil" human experiments, including the Stanford prison experiment (one of the milder examples) and the Nazi experiments on concentration camp prisoners. Heed the warning at the top of the page...this was a difficult list to read.

Update: I had to remove the link because there was a bunch of crappy, virus stuff. If you're on a Mac, have popup blocking turned on, or have a strong constitution, you can click here to see the list.

The web site for Errol Morris' newAPR 09

The web site for Errol Morris' new movie, Standard Operating Procedure, is up. Looks like it supplements the movie with interviews, photos, etc.

For scientist Dr. Anne Adams (and composerAPR 09

For scientist Dr. Anne Adams (and composer Maurice Ravel), a rare disease called frontotemporal dementia caused a burst of creativity.

The disease apparently altered circuits in their brains, changing the connections between the front and back parts and resulting in a torrent of creativity. "We used to think dementias hit the brain diffusely," Dr. Miller said. "Nothing was anatomically specific. That is wrong. We now realize that when specific, dominant circuits are injured or disintegrate, they may release or disinhibit activity in other areas. In other words, if one part of the brain is compromised, another part can remodel and become stronger."

Some of Adams' work can be seen here...her portrait of pi contains a touch of synesthesia. (thx, cory)

Interview with young designer Nikolay Saveliev, whoAPR 09

Interview with young designer Nikolay Saveliev, who is responsible for this gorgeousness:

Pop Matters, Nikolay Saveliev

I like the idea of a consolidated aesthetic totality; what you make looks like what you listen to, sounds like what you wear, and speaks like what you believe in. In simpler terms, my girlfriend might look like she's in a band I'd listen to, my haircut looks like it belongs in the chair I'm sitting in, and the work I'm designing might be written about in a book that I would read. Even my cat has to figure in there somehow. It's a meticulous thing to maintain, but probably comes from the fact that I've discovered mostly everything through music, whether it's ideologies, writers, artists, designers, cultures, subcultures, or other music. So it's easy to tie things back into your work, as long as you keep your eyes and ears open, and maintain a healthy dose of critical thought.

"My haircut looks like it belongs in the chair I'm sitting in". Awesome. (via quips)

A list of quintessentially New York books.APR 09

A list of quintessentially New York books.

New York is a hypertextualized city. By 6 a.m., our commuters have smudged more words off their papers than most cities read all day. How to even begin identifying a canon? While reading, I plotted candidates along two mystical axes: one of all-around literary merit, and the other of "New Yorkitude" -- the degree to which a book allows itself to obsess over the city. Robert Caro's The Power Broker just about maxes out both axes; others perseverate so memorably on smaller aspects of city life that they had to be included.

The list includes Rem Koolhaas' Delirious New York, Don DeLillo's Great Jones Street, and Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities.

New Improv Everywhere mission: make a localAPR 09

New Improv Everywhere mission: make a local little league game feel like a major league game, complete with Jumbotron, play-by-play from NBC's Jim Gray, and the Goodyear blimp.

The parents will be talking about this for a long time... the kids even longer. My son was a pitcher on the Lugnuts. We had a long/tough season last year. Saturday made up for everything. I want to sincerely thank you for making Saturday so unbelievable. It was like a birthday, Christmas, and New Years Eve captured in a few amazing hours. Thanks a million for a once in a lifetime opportunity.

A previous mission attempted to do the same thing with a small band but backfired.

Reporter Jorge Just brings us the story of Improv Everywhere, a group of New York City pranksters who found an unknown band from Vermont called Ghosts of Pasha and decided to give them "The Best Gig Ever." They studied the band's music and then crowded the club, pretending to be hard core fans. They thought of it as a kind of gift. But for the band, it was kind of a nightmare.

Sounds like this one went off a bit better. (via waxy)

Andy redesigned waxy.org.APR 09

Andy redesigned waxy.org.

For the first time since I started blogging in 2002, I've redesigned Waxy.org. Over the last six years, I've grown pretty sick of the old design but never found the time to rework it. Mostly, the changes are cosmetic. Cleaner design, new logo, bigger type, headlines, better iPhone support, and more space devoted to Waxy Links.

Looks nice.

According to a poll of 109 historians, GeorgeAPR 08

According to a poll of 109 historians, George W. Bush is the Worst. President. Ever, hobnobbing with the likes of Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Franklin Pierce at the bottom of the barrel.

This marks a dramatic deterioration for Bush. Previously he wasn't viewed in the most positive terms, but there was a consensus that he wasn't the "worst of the worst" either. That was in the spring of 2004. In the meantime, Bush has established himself as the torture president, the basis for his invasion of Iraq has been exposed as a fraud, the Iraq War itself has gone disastrously, the nation's network of alliances has faded, and the economy has gone into a tailspin-not to mention the bungled handling of relief for victims of hurricane Katrina. In 2004, only 12 percent of historians were ready to place Bush dead last.

That's the most depressing paragraph I've read all day. And it doesn't even address the Patriot Act and all the other civil liberties restrictions enacted with 9/11 as the excuse.

Flickr users can now upload video toAPR 08

Flickr users can now upload video to their accounts. I uploaded a video during the beta test but since I'm not a pro user, I can't show it to anyone now that Flickr's gone public with the video uploading. :(

Update: Ok, Flickr Pro is back in effect. Still can't mark the video unprivate. Maybe the video stuff isn't truly live yet? (thx, heather & adam)

Update: Yep, the video stuff goes live "starting late Tuesday or early Wednesday".

Update: The video stuff looks like it's live now. Here's a video of Ollie crawling that we took a couple of months ago. Videos are limited to 90 seconds...they're calling them "long photos". Love that.

A short review of Momofuku KoAPR 08

I required redemption. When I arrived home two weeks ago after work, I was informed by my wife that I'd forgotten our anniversary. Eep. To partially make up for my cliched gaffe, I put my efforts towards getting a reservation at Momofuku Ko...the notoriously hard-to-get-into Momofuku Ko.1 We're big fans of the other two Momofukus, so I logged into their online reservation system and happened to get something for last Friday night.

But this isn't a story about their reservation system; too many of those have been written already. Bottom line: the food is wonderful and should be the focus of any Ko tale. Two dishes in particular were the equal of any I've had at other more expensive restaurants. The first was a pea soup with the most tender langoustine. The second dish, the superstar of the restaurant, was a coddled egg with caviar, onion soubise, and tiny potato chips (photo). Didn't want that one to end. And I didn't even mention the shaved foie gras (with Reisling built right in!) or the English muffins amuse or the nice wine pairings.

For the full food porn treatment, check out Kathryn's photoset, a review at Goodies First, Ed Levine's preview, Ruth Reichl's first look, and a review by The Wandering Eater.

[1] Two quick notes on the reservation process.

1. I spent all of five minutes on a Saturday morning making the reservation on the Ko web site. It can be done.

2. Chang and co. are serious about the web site being the only way to get into the restaurant. As we were leaving after our meal, a friend of Chang's and bona fide celebrity stopped in to say hi. After some chit chat, the fellow asked if he could get a reservation at Ko for the next evening. Chang laughed, apologized, and told him that he had to go through the web site. They're not kidding around, folks.

Graphical demonstration of the hand signals neededAPR 08

Graphical demonstration of the hand signals needed to buy and sell commodities on the floor of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Video of the top 50 soccer goals. AAPR 08

Video of the top 50 soccer goals. A dubbed-from-VCR YouTube video is probably not the best way to watch these, but that's the hand we've been dealt.

A beautiful baby portraitAPR 08

My wife is a bit of a statistics nut. A few years ago, she hooked herself up to a heart rate monitor during a playoff football game and graphed the results. Sometimes I think she does things just so she's got an excuse to open up Excel. So I wasn't really surprised when she showed me this graph yesterday afternoon:

Meg's weight chart

That's a record of Meg's weight from when she got pregnant with Ollie to the present, 80 weeks of data in all...40 weeks with Ollie on the inside and 40 on the outside.

Charles Joseph Minard may get all the accolades for his graphic of Napolean's march to Moscow, but for me, the above chart is the most beautiful ever created. When I look at it, I see Ollie. The graph is a portrait of him, as sure as this photo is. It's also a record of an intense time for our family. I'm reminded of Meg, happy and pregnant but also struggling with her changing body. Trips we took, doctor visits, the growing belly and anticipation, the birth itself, and then falling off the cliff into the giddy, difficult unknown of new parenthood. And then you can see Meg slowly but surely getting back into shape while being a full-time stay-at-home mom (and managing an architecture project to boot), and achieving her goal of getting back to her pre-baby fitness level in a scant 8 months. You can't really see it, but there's a happy father and proud husband in there somewhere as well.

That's a lot of emotional impact for a simple black and white line graph with few labels. Imagine if it were in color and isometric 3-D! ;)

Everything I Know About Hyman Victor isAPR 08

Everything I Know About Hyman Victor is one man's remembrance of his great grandfather through old photographs and documents.

I feel like I've posted this oneAPR 08

I feel like I've posted this one before but the Google says no so....LUNCH is a blog written by a couple of NYC architects who believe in the sanctity, sanity, and satiety of the lunch break.

We believe leaving the office everyday for lunch is an invaluable ritual. In a time and city where people are constantly rushing around, trying to accomplish three tasks at once, taking a moment to have a civilized meal becomes even more vital. Eating at your desk while reading emails, surfing the world wide web, snarfing down a bland turkey sandwich from the deli down the street is NOT lunch.

Each day they post photos of their lunches and afternoon snacks.

Ten ideas for making NYC streets aAPR 08

Ten ideas for making NYC streets a more friendly place for those not in automobiles, including the woonerf, bicycle boulevards, and the green grid.

A woonerf, which is surfaced with paving blocks to signal a pedestrian-priority zone, is, in effect, an outdoor living room, with furniture to encourage the social use of the street. Surprisingly, it results in drastically slower traffic, since the woonerf is a people-first zone and cars enter it more warily. "The idea is that people shall look each other in the eye and maneuver in respect of each other," Mr. Gehl said.

Pedestrian, cyclists, and motorists looking each other in the eye reminded me of a passage that Tyler Cowen pulled from Peter Moskos' Cop in the Hood:

Car patrol eliminated the neighborhood police officer. Police were pulled off neighborhood beats to fill cars. But motorized patrol -- the cornerstone of urban policing -- has no effect on crime rates, victimization, or public satisfaction. Lawrence Sherman was an early critic of telephone dispatch and motorized patrol, noted, "The rise of telephone dispatch transformed both the method and purpose of patrol. Instead of watching to prevent crime, motorized police patrol became a process of merely waiting to respond to crime."

Officers traveling in high speeds in cars apart from pedestrian and living areas makes it difficult for them to look potential criminals in the eye. (thx, meg)

Some great photos of Americans commuting byAPR 07

Some great photos of Americans commuting by Vincent Laforet using a tilt shift lens. (via dryden is home)

A chronological list of fears, from childhoodAPR 07

A chronological list of fears, from childhood through parenthood. (via lone gunman)

Last 100 posts, part 9APR 07

This is the ninth installment in an occasional series of updates to recent kottke.org posts. Previous installment is here, from almost a year ago. Eep.

Two still-active threads: will a helicopter on a treadmill take off? and my favorite kottke.org thread in recent memory, loads of people sharing words that they mispronounce on purpose.

Ben Saunders had to break off his attempt at a speed record to the North Pole after only eight days because of an equipment failure. The bolts on his skis snapped.

Those few hours in the tent were some of the lowest of my life; I thought of all the people that had gone so far out of their way to make this expedition happen, of the weeks of intense preparation, the months of training and the years of experience, testing and perfecting everything from my diet to the design of the sledge. This expedition was the physical embodiment of one of the biggest and most audacious dreams I've ever had, and the whole thing hung from a giant chain that involved countless people, places, promises and pieces of equipment. It turned out on Friday morning that the weakest link of that entire chain was a pair of screws, each with a head the size of my little finger tip, and each snapped clean in half.

Speaking of the cold north, I lamented the lack of charts in this post about the earlier onset of spring thaw in the northern hemisphere. Erin whipped one up for us.

Related to these architectural offices in an old auto body shop are the offices of a small London start-up operating out of a carriage from the London Tube.

You want strange restaurant names? I give you, The Butt and Oyster. (thx, nick)

The lost Prada sunglasses have not been found by their owner.

More abandoned amusement park photos: Maryland's Enchanted Forest and Seoul's Dreamland. (thx, guy & ross)

The business of parenting was a popular post...maybe I should turn kottke.org into a dad blog? Well, until that happens, here's a couple of related items that people sent in. First up is an NPR story on teaching kids how to play. Part of the solution discussed in the story? Deliberate practice. It's all connected, isn't it? And here's an earlier related story. (thx, michael & matt)

Here's a tangential connection: reading magazines within a Google Maps interface is related to telling stories using maps. And of course, there's Microsoft's Seadragon technology, demoed briefly at the start of this TED presentation. (thx, barrett)

Back in January, I linked to an interview of a hedge fund manager at n+1. They've posted a second interview with the same manager and he discusses, among other things, what happened with that whole Bearn Sterns run-outta-money government bailout thing.

More on the periodic table. Periodically is an album put together by DBLF Studios featuring 119 songs, one for each element. Peep the lyrics; here's a bit of the lithium tune:

I'm unbelievable for non-linear optics
high performance jet helicpotics
I have numerous commercial applications
am no longer integral for atomic weapons
unfortunately meth-amphetamines I do catalyze
I absorb carbon dioxide when I hydroxize
nuclear fusion totally relies on me
I allow the criminally insane to go running free

There is also Tom Lehrer's The Elements, a recitation of the elements of the periodic table, sung to the tune of Gilbert and Sullivan's Major-General's Song. Of course you can hear it on YouTube. (thx, george & philip)

A pair of responses to Rent Vs. Buy Myths That Ruined the Housing Market: Myths, Media, Motives: A Cautionary Tale and The Nonsense of "Rent Vs. Buy Myths That Ruined the Housing Market".

MovieStamer has filled out a bit more.

Some popular tags from the last three weeks: standardoperatingprocedure, movies, photography, lists, design, books, abughraib, video, food, science, errolmorris, interviews, war, bestof, nyc, videogames, games, typography, www, tv, art, sports, sex, architecture, and religion.

Photographer Eric Etheridge alerted me to aAPR 07

Photographer Eric Etheridge alerted me to a new series he recently started on his WordBlog called Photography: The Missing Criticism, "which aims to bring great writing on photography back into print". The series currently consists of a 1981 essay by Tod Papageorge on Walker Evans and Robert Frank and a 2002 essay by Papageorge on Robert Adams.

Crayon Physics is PC-only so I can'tAPR 07

Crayon Physics is PC-only so I can't play it, but Magic Pen will do in a pinch. Don't start playing unless you've got a few hours to spare. (via waxy)

Some poop in a cave in OregonAPR 07

Some poop in a cave in Oregon has been dated to more than 14,000 years ago and identified as human, adding to other evidence that humans inhabited the Americas before the well-known Clovis people.

Other archaeologists agreed that the findings established more firmly than before the presence of people on the continent at least 1,000 years before the well-known Clovis people, previously thought to be the first Americans. Recent research at sites in Florida and Wisconsin also appears to support the earlier arrivals, and a campsite in Chile indicates migration deep into South America by 14,600 years ago.

Helicopter on a turntableAPR 07

The airplane on a conveyor belt question was just recently settled and we're confronted with a related question: will a helicopter on a turntable take off? The image is short on details and likely a joke, but let's assume that the turntable will match the speed of the helicopter's rotor (and further that the rotor's speed is measured relative to the helicopter and the turntable's speed is relative to the ground, otherwise it doesn't make much sense). Will the helicopter take off? Does it matter which way the turntable is spinning relative to the rotor? (thx, daniel)

Gorgeous maps and infographics by Stefanie PosavecAPR 07

Gorgeous maps and infographics by Stefanie Posavec that map the literary geography of Jack Kerouac's On the Road.

The maps visually represent the rhythm and structure of Kerouac's literary space, creating works that are not only gorgeous from the point of view of graphic design, but also exhibit scientific rigor and precision in their formulation: meticulous scouring the surface of the text, highlighting and noting sentence length, prosody and themes, Posavec's approach to the text is not unlike that of a surveyor. And similarly, the act is near reverential in its approach and the results are stunning graphical displays of the nature of the subject. The literary organism, rhythm textures and sentence drawings are truly gorgeous pieces.

The sentence drawings are really worth checking out.

Update: Posavec's analysis of Walter Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction is available for sale at 20x200. Apropos!

Great set of photographs showing how theAPR 05

Great set of photographs showing how the Space Shuttle gets ready for takeoff, from the Vehicle Assembly Building all the way to the launch pad.

How to catch a thief...of NetflixAPR 04

How to catch a thief...of Netflix DVDs:

After having to file multiple Netflix movies as "lost in the mail" I began to get suspicious that there was more than just a careless mailman at fault. So what better to do than point a video camera at the mailbox and try to catch a Netflix thief.

...of cars:

An internet posse of Canadian gearheads used an online forum, Facebook and Google Maps to take down what might be the world's dumbest car thief -- and posted video of the arrest on YouTube.

...of saddles:

A week after dozens of people ransacked an Oregon home in response to a Craigslist ad offering its contents for free, police have arrested a couple for orchestrating the online hoax as part of a bid to cover up an earlier burglary at the property. Brandon and Amber Herbert were nabbed last night for allegedly posting the March 22 Craigslist ad, which claimed that the Jacksonville ranch's owner had to leave town so suddenly that his belongings -- which included a horse -- were available for the taking.

The new Coen Brothers film sounds interesting:APR 04

The new Coen Brothers film sounds interesting:

Burn After Reading is an upcoming comedy film, set for a September 12, 2008 release, starring John Malkovich, George Clooney, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt, and made by Joel and Ethan Coen. According to the Coens the plot will focus on the world of the CIA, physical fitness in Washington, D.C., and internet dating. The film is the follow up to the Academy Award winning No Country For Old Men and has been described by Tilda Swinton as "...a kind of monster caper movie. All of us are monsters -- like, true monsters. It's ridiculous. It's much lighter than 'No Country for Old Men.'"

Steve Zissou and friends, done with Legos.APR 04

Steve Zissou and friends, done with Legos.

A list of 63 must-have grunge fonts. BackAPR 04

A list of 63 must-have grunge fonts. Back in 1996, this would have been my thing. Is grunge type coming back?

Preliminary results from a small Swedish studyAPR 04

Preliminary results from a small Swedish study suggest that effects of steroid use stay with you even after stopping.

Rather than returning to their original proportions, the muscles of the steroid users who'd stopped taking the drug looked remarkably similar to those of the subjects who were still using. They also had larger muscle fibers and more growth-inducing "myonuclei" in their muscle cells than the nonsteroid users.

Business guru Lenny DykstraAPR 04

Just got around to reading Ben McGrath's New Yorker profile of Lenny Dykstra, the former baseball All-Star who has, somewhat improbably, become rich post-baseball as a business owner and day trader.

Dykstra last played in the majors in 1996, at age thirty-three. Improbably, he has since become a successful day trader, and he let me know that he owns both a Maybach ("the best car") and a Gulfstream ("the best jet").

But maybe not so improbably...Dykstra has a canny sense for business:

Dykstra chose car washes, he says, because of the automobile-centric culture in California, and because "it was a business that couldn't be replaced by a computer chip." He brought his own frustrated consumer experiences to bear in creating the business model, and eliminated many of the usual array of motor-oil choices-startup, high-mileage, various blends-from his inventory. "You get the shit out of the ground," he said, referring to standard Castrol GTX, "or the shit made in the laboratory that's the perfect lubricant" (Syntec). "Meaning, it's either A or B. It's not about the oil. It's about the people. They got confused." He stocked the places with baseball memorabilia and flat-screen TVs, and served free coffee ("the good kind"), so that customers would associate the experience with luxury rather than with cumbersome chores.

One of the characteristics of Dykstra the businessman is his constant use of baseball metaphors and comparisons. Here's a listing from the article:

The Players Club, in contrast to the television installation, would be "major league," he explained, and to that end he was assembling an editorial staff of ".300 hitters," and lining up sponsors to match.

Dykstra's business card gives an address for the "headquarters" of The Players Club, at 245 Park Avenue, which he describes as "big league-like, top five addresses in the world."

Next, he took a call from a designer he wanted to hire for the magazine. "You worked for Esquire and In Style," he said, delivering a pep talk. "That's called the big leagues. It's like in baseball. You can't go above the major leagues. There's not another league. We're teeing it up high, dude."

He quoted from Confucius, Dickens, and Billy Joel, and balanced straight stock picks ("Intel is the N.Y. Yankees of the chipmakers") with musings about fatherhood and current events, like the war in Iraq, seldom passing up the opportunity to draw extended sports analogies.

"My approach in investing is much the same as my approach to hitting," he wrote. "I would rather take a walk or single and reach first than shoot for a home run and strike out swinging."

Dykstra hopes the magazine will help players recognize the importance of marriage and family. He drew three stick figures and named them Tom, Dick, and Harry. Above Tom, he drew a man and a woman-two parents. Dick got a father but no mother, and Harry the reverse. "Do you know the studies and what they've proven?" he asked. "You should look that up, dude. Like, bad things. It's like the one-one count." The one-one count is another of Dykstra's baseball metaphors for life, meant to illustrate that some moments, and the choices they bring, are more fateful than others (i.e., the next pitch makes all the difference), or, in this case, that circumstances set in motion during the early stages of development are difficult to overcome later on. If a batter falls behind, one ball and two strikes, he's in a hole from which, the statistics augur, he will not recover, even if he is Barry Bonds; and if he gets ahead, to two balls and one strike, he wrests control from the pitcher and takes charge of his own destiny. Having two parents puts you in control of life's count, and enables you to become a .300 hitter.

Here's an archive of Dykstra's articles on trading for The Street.

Update: Not so fast, Nails. Seems as though Mr. Dykstra's business sense was not that good; he recently filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The 46-year-old has no more than $50,000 of assets and between $10 million and $50 million of liabilities, according to a petition filed Tuesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Central District of California.

Dykstra's filing comes in the wake of more than 20 lawsuits he faces tied to his activities as a financial entrepreneur, including The Players Club, a glossy magazine for athletes he had helped launch in 2008.

Sounds like he was a little over-leveraged. (thx, todd)

Errol Morris returns to his Times blogAPR 04

Errol Morris returns to his Times blog for the first time since his examination of the Roger Fenton photographs and covers re-enactments in documentary films, a technique he pioneered in the excellent The Thin Blue Line, and how it applies to truth in photography.

Critics argue that the use of re-enactments suggest a callous disregard on the part of a filmmaker for what is true. I don't agree. Some re-enactments serve the truth, others subvert it. There is no mode of expression, no technique of production that will instantly produce truth or falsehood. There is no veritas lens -- no lens that provides a "truthful" picture of events. There is cinema verite and kino pravda but no cinematic truth.

And then:

Is the problem that we have an unfettered capacity for credulity, for false belief, and hence, we feel the need to protect ourselves from ourselves? If seeing is believing, then we better be damn careful about what we show people, including ourselves -- because, regardless of what it is -- we are likely to uncritically believe it.

Based on a paper about "copy-move forgery",APR 04

Based on a paper about "copy-move forgery", a couple of programmers have come up with a program that algorithmically detects whether a photograph has been photoshopped using the cloning technique. It works very well on Adnan Hajj's doctored Reuters photo of an attack on Beirut.

See also: how to detect photo forgeries.

Review of Clerks, 14 years after it wasAPR 04

Review of Clerks, 14 years after it was released. Verdict: it doesn't hold up that well.

I don't think I laughed more than a couple of times. And for the past 14 years, all I could remember about the film was the pick-up hockey game on the roof and the big punchline about Dante's ex-girlfriend's encounter in the bathroom. In the years that have followed, the cult of Kevin Smith has waxed and waned but mostly endured, spinning off into comic books, diaries, and concert appearances, several well-trafficked websites (and many other fan sites), and other assorted merchandise and pop-cultural flotsam.

I've never understood why Clerks was so well-regarded. Actually, now that I think about it, despite an affection for Mallrats shared by almost no one with any sense, I don't like any of Smith's movies but I do like Smith and the way that he goes about making his films...if that makes any sense at all. (Ok, Chasing Amy was alright and Jersey Girl was underrated.)

Getting into Momofuku KoAPR 04

Frank Bruni, the food critic for the NY Times, wrote yesterday about the difficulty of getting a reservation at David Chang's new Momofuku Ko restaurant. Ko's online reservation system is the *only* way of procuring a seat at the tiny Manhattan restaurant...no walk-ins, no friends of the chef or celebs getting preferential treatment. It works more or less like Ticketmaster's online ticketing: you select the number of guests, it shows you the available reservation times (if any), you click on a time, and if that time is still available when you click it, only then does the system hold your choice while you fill in some information.

It's a simple system; seats for dinner are released on the site a week in advance at 10am each day and the people that click on their preferred times first get the reservations. Ko takes only 32 reservations each night and the restaurant is one of the hottest in town, which means that all the reservations are gone each day in seconds...sometimes in 2 or 3 seconds. Just like Radiohead tickets on Ticketmaster.

Except that diners are not used to this sort of thing. One of Bruni's readers got irritated that he got through to the pick-a-time screen but then when he clicked on his preferred time was told that the reservation was already gone. Someone had beaten him to the punch. So he emailed the restaurant for an explanation. The exchange between the restaurant and the snubbed patron should be familiar with anyone who has done web development for clients or any kind of tech support.

In a nutshell, the would-be patron said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "your system is unfair and broken," and the folks at Ko replied, "sorry, that's how the internet works". The comments on the post are both fascinating and disappointing, with many people attempting to debunk Ko's seemingly lame excuse of, well, that's how the internet works. Except that's pretty much the right answer...although it's clearer to say that that's how a web server communicates with a web browser (and even that is a bit imprecise). When the pick-a-time page is downloaded by a particular browser, it's based on the information the web server had when it sent the page out. The page sits unchanged on your computer -- it doesn't know anything about how many reservations the web server has left to dole out -- until the person clicks on a time. An anonymous commenter in Bruni's thread nails the choice that a web developer has to face in this instance:

This is a multi-user concurrency problem that all sites with limited inventory and a high demand (users all clicking the button all at the same time) have to deal with. It's not an easy problem to solve.

The easier method (which the Ko site has chosen) is to not "lock" a reservation slot until the very end. You submit your party size and the system looks for available slots that it knows about. It shows you the calendar page, with the available slots it knows about (if any). This doesn't update in real time because they haven't implemented it to know about the current state of inventory. This can be done, but it's more complicated.

The more complicated method is to lock a reservation slot upon beginning of the checkout process, with a time out occurring if the user takes too long to finish, or some other error occurs (in other systems this can be a blacklisted credit card number). If this happens, the system throws the reservation slot back into the pool. However, you need to give people a mechanism to keep trying for ones that get thrown back into the pool (like a "Try Again" button).

Building something like this not impossible (see Ticketmaster) but requires a much more real-time system that is aware of who has what, and what stage of the checkout process they're in - in addition to total available inventory. Building a robust system like this is not cheap.

Even then, you might get shut out. You submit your party size, everything is already gone, and you never get to the calendar page. It just moves up the "sold out" disappointment to earlier in the process.

A subsequent commenter suggests using "Web 2.0" technologies (I think he's talking specifically about Ajax) but as Anonymous suggests, that would increase the complexity of the system on the server side (unnecessarily in my mind) while moving up the "'sold out' disappointment to earlier in the process". Plus, that sort of system could put you "on hold" for several minutes while the reservations are taken by the folks in front of you until you're told, "too bad, all gone". I'm not sure that's preferable to being told sooner and may result in much more irritation on the part of potential diners.

In my opinion (as a web developer and as someone who has used Ko's reservation system from start to finish), Ko's system does it right. You're locked into a reservation by the system only when you've chosen exactly what you want. It favors the web user who's prepared & lucky and is simple for Ko to implement and maintain. That the logic used to produce this simple system takes three paragraphs to explain to an end user is irrelevent. After all, a restaurant dinner is easy to eat but explaining how it came to be that way fills entire books.

This might seem too inside baseball for most readers -- the number of people interested in new NYC restaurants *and* web development is likely quite small, even among kottke.org's readership -- but there's an interesting conflict going on here between technology and customer service. What kind of a problem is this...technological or social? Bruni's correspondent blamed the technology and much of the focus of the discussion has been on the process of procuring a reservation. But the main limiting factor is the enormous demand for seats; tens of thousands of people a week vying for a few hundred seats per week. The technology is largely irrelevent; whatever Ko does, however well the reservation system works or doesn't work, nearly all of the people interacting with the restaurant are going to be disappointed that they didn't get in.

Recent research suggests that:APR 03

Recent research suggests that:

There is no clear evidence of benefit from drinking increased amounts of water.

In particular, scientists found no evidence that the common recommendation of eight 8-oz glasses of water per day has any benefit. NPR busts some additional water myths.

The bracket for Market Madness (aka theAPR 03

The bracket for Market Madness (aka the Fed 2008 Final Four Rate Cuts) pairs the biggest banks in the world against each other. Who'll be bailed out next? See also: Bracket Madness.

Short interview with bassist Colin Greenwood aboutAPR 03

Short interview with bassist Colin Greenwood about the State of Radiohead, among other things.

Pitchfork: The Pitchfork review of Hail to the Thief put forth the idea that "anything Radiohead does from here on out will sound like Radiohead"...

CG: That's like a late-night stoner comment. At about three in the morning -- after you've put on Captain Beefheart and you put the red scarf over the light bulb -- it makes a lot of sense. But the next morning you're like, "I don't know, maybe the world is fucked and we didn't solve it." So I don't know about that.

Sounds like he's got Pitchfork figured out. And as your musical sommelier, I'd recommend the 2007 In Rainbows with this interview.

Kevin Kelly says that people whose fieldsAPR 03

Kevin Kelly says that people whose fields have been Turing'd -- outsourced in some way to computers -- are in general more receptive to then adopting other potentially disruptive technologies.

We have this long list of tasks and occupations that we humans believe only humans can do. Used to be things like using tools, language, painting, playing chess. Now, one by one they get Turing'd. A computer beats them. Does it better.

So far we've can check off arithmetic, spelling, flying planes, playing chess, wiring chips, scheduling tasks, welding, etc. All have been Turing'd.

Computer scientists are great to work with, because in general they are completely fearless. They were Turing'd long ago. They grok that many of the tasks they used to do can be done much better by computers. On the other hand, doctors as a rule are loathed to accept new technology because what they do is hard to delegate to computers. Ditto for a lot of biologists.

People have a limited supply of willpower.APR 03

People have a limited supply of willpower.

The brain has a limited capacity for self-regulation, so exerting willpower in one area often leads to backsliding in others. The good news, however, is that practice increases willpower capacity, so that in the long run, buying less now may improve our ability to achieve future goals -- like losing those 10 pounds we gained when we weren't out shopping.

This explains *so much*.

Saying words wrong on purposeAPR 03

Fun little article by Grant Barrett about people saying words wrong on purpose.

I sometimes say "muscles" so that the 'c' has a 'k' sound (the same way the cartoon character Popeye says it), computor instead of "computer" (after Ned Beatty's exaggerated pronunciation of "Mr Luthor" in the Superman movies), and I occasionally say benimber instead of "remember" because it was something my cousin Paul said more than 20 years ago.

I use several of these mispronunciations regularly, which drives Meg nuts. Nucular, saxamaphone, muscles with Popeye's hard c, computor, robit for robot, etc. Those of you who speak other languages...is this a common behavior outside of English?

Update: Language Log found a 1932 article about Intentional Mispronunciations. From a summary of the article:

Her categories include everything from adding or subtracting syllables and restressing (antique as "an-tee-cue", "champeen", "the-'ater"), tensing lax vowels ("genu-wine"), borrowing of "vulgar" pronunciations ("agin", "extry", "who'd-a thunk it", "varmint")...

Bruce Bukiet is back with his annualAPR 03

Bruce Bukiet is back with his annual mathematically modeled prediction of how the upcoming baseball season is going to play out. His results should be taken with a grain of salt; last year he picked the Yankees to win 110 games (they only won 94).

Speaking of the Yankees, Derek Jeter always seems to get a lot of credit for those four World Series victories in five years but a quick look at the OBP stats for those years shows that Bernie Williams was the engine driving that offense. Jeter's a little overrated maybe?

Jonathan Hoefler on how a joke versionAPR 02

Jonathan Hoefler on how a joke version of OCR-A with swashes came about...and then ended up in an issue of Rolling Stone.

I tacked this specimen of Estupido Espezial!!! to my wall, where it immediately became a litmus test for visitors. Most people would say nothing, but woe be unto anyone who admired the thing in earnest: "hey, cool font!" would immediately land any visitor on the Suspicious Persons list. The best were those who would stare for a moment with bafflement before bursting out laughing, a few of whom became good friends, good clients, or both.

Robots need type too.

A large list of interesting print catalogsAPR 02

A large list of interesting print catalogs for niche industries and hobbies.

Cabela's. 1400 pages of hunting, fishing & outdoor gear. Comes with foldout index tabs and if you spend appalling amounts there (like my SO), they send you a hardbound version.

(via mathowie)

I did embarrassingly bad on this ElementsAPR 02

I did embarrassingly bad on this Elements of the Periodic Table quiz. I blanked after naming 17 elements in 2 minutes. Oh, and xylophone is not an element! My physics degree should be retroactively unawarded. (via mouser)

Slowing down the playback of a 1999 AppleAPR 02

Slowing down the playback of a 1999 Apple commercial = drunk Jeff Goldblum. "Internet? I'd say Internet." Great stuff, indeed. (via cynical-c)

Roger Ebert announces his return to hisAPR 02

Roger Ebert announces his return to his Sun-Times reviewing gig...but not his TV show because he's currently unable to speak.

Are you as bored with my health as I am? I underwent a third surgery in January, this one in Houston, and once again there were complications. I am sorry to say that my ability to speak was not restored. That would require another surgery. But I still have all my other abilities, including the love of viewing movies and writing about them.

Good luck, Roger!

The new design for UK coinage isAPR 02

The new design for UK coinage is fantastic.

As you can see in the image to the right, the Shield of the Royal Arms has been given a contemporary treatment and its whole has been cleverly split among all six denominations from the 1p to the 50p, with the £1 coin displaying the heraldic element in its entirety. This is the first time that a single design has been used across a range of United Kingdom coins.

This is my favorite bit of design so far this year. (via we made this)

Update: Jonathan Hoefler compares the new UK coins, designed by a first-time currency designer, to the new US five dollar bill.

Below, the new five dollar bill, introduced last month by the United States Department of the Treasury. The new design, which features a big purple Helvetica five, is the work of a 147-year-old government agency called the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing. It employs 2,500 people, and has an annual budget of $525,000,000.

It looks like Purple Modernistan is invading the US from the southeast.

A golden oldie from Matt Jones in 2001:APR 02

A golden oldie from Matt Jones in 2001: WebDogme.

Two Danish filmmakers, Lars von Trier and Thomas Vinterberg in 1995 responded to what they saw as the increasing inhumanity and formulaic commerciality of effects-heavy, franchise-friendly feature films. They created a vow of chastity that placed the stylistic presentation and formal tricks of film subservient to the narrative and characterisation.

WebDogme is an attempt to outline a similar approach for the web. kottke.org is doing pretty well on the rules...I've unwittingly followed 5 or 6 of them at least. I'd link to the original Dogme 95 manifesto, but the official web site does not adhere to WebDogme rule #3 ("The browser must not be violated"); the manifesto is hidden within a frame. (via preoccupations)

Ooh, there's going to be a Dr.APR 02

Ooh, there's going to be a Dr. Mario game available for the Wii at some point, playable over the network. It's already downloadable via WiiWare in Japan...which should not be confused with the Virtual Console downloadable games even though the difference is really confusing.

Visual conversation layersAPR 02

From Joerg's Colberg's search for the most wanted photo on the web, perhaps the most heavily annotated photo on Flickr:

Most Annotations

A review of Outside (i.e. theAPR 01

A review of Outside (i.e. the outside world) as if it were a video game.

In terms of the social environment, almost anything goes. Outside has a vast network of guilds, many of its players are active participants in designing the game's social environment, and almost any player will be able to find company to undertake their desired group quests. On the other hand, gold-buying is rife, the outskirts of virtually every city zone in the game are completely overrun by farmers, and the developers have so far proven themselves reluctant to answer petitions, intervene in inter-player disputes, or nerf broken skills and abilities. Indeed this reviewer will go so far as to say that the developers are absent from the game entirely, and have left it to its own devices. Fortunately, server uptime has been 100% from day 1, despite there being only one server for literally billions of players.

The reviewer gives it a 7/10.

Clayton James Cubitt's photographs of a manufacturedAPR 01

Clayton James Cubitt's photographs of a manufactured vagina.

Male to female transsexual. This is a manufactured vagina. A Neovagina.

This is genital origami, the cock cut open, carved and folded, crafted by techniques with names like Penile Inversion, the Suporn Technique, and the Wilson Method. The head of the cock morphs into the neoclit. In some methods the scrotal skin becomes the neovaginal canal.

I don't know which methods were used in the creation of this particular neovagina, but surely this is art of the highest caliber. Sculpture in flesh tissue and nerve bundles.

Amazing and NSFW.

A profile of elaborate huckster Pat Robertson.APR 01

A profile of elaborate huckster Pat Robertson. Here's the introduction to the article from the VQR blog:

Sizemore looks at Roberton's weight-loss diet shakes, his Liberian diamond-mining operation, African gold-mining operation, his Cayman Island for-profit corporation, and his role in the US attorney appointments scandal. In short, Sizemore doesn't find much to like about the man.

And here's a fun little snippet about how they were planning for the broadcast of the second coming of Jesus:

We even discussed how Jesus' radiance might be too bright for the cameras and how we would have to make adjustments for that problem. Can you imagine telling Jesus, 'Hey, Lord, please tone down your luminosity; we're having a problem with contrast. You're causing the picture to flare.'

If only toning down the luminosity of Jesus were that simple.

A collection of pairs of photos, oneAPR 01

A collection of pairs of photos, one taken just before a person's death and one after. I wish they displayed the pairs side-by-side.

A short list of What Every AmericanAPR 01

A short list of What Every American Should Know About the Middle East.

Arabs are part of an ethnic group, not a religion. Arabs were around long before Islam, and there have been (and still are) Arab Christians and Arab Jews. In general, you're an Arab if you 1) are of Arab descent (blood), or 2) speak the main Arab language (Arabic).

A companion list of what every resident of the Middle East should know about the US might also be helpful. (via chris glass)

Clothing libraries loan clothes out for free (APR 01

Clothing libraries loan clothes out for free (or a small fee) to unemployed people for job interviews or to expecting mothers so they don't have to buy a whole bunch of maternity clothes. Great idea. (via magnetbox)

According to a simple statistical analysis usingAPR 01

According to a simple statistical analysis using computer simulations, a hitting streak as long as Joe DiMaggio's 1941 56-game streak is not the freakish occurrence that most people think it is.

More than half the time, or in 5,295 baseball universes, the record for the longest hitting streak exceeded 53 games. Two-thirds of the time, the best streak was between 50 and 64 games.

In other words, streaks of 56 games or longer are not at all an unusual occurrence. Forty-two percent of the simulated baseball histories have a streak of DiMaggio's length or longer. You shouldn't be too surprised that someone, at some time in the history of the game, accomplished what DiMaggio did.

I think there are probably some cumulative effects that are being ignored here though, like increasing media pressure/distraction, opponents trying particularly hard for an out as the streak continues, pitchers more likely to pitch around them, or even the streaking player getting super-confident. The first game in a streak and the 50th game in a streak are, as they say, completely different ball games.

RegalAPR 01

Leslie Hall by Noah Kalina

The Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I

Top: Leslie Hall by Noah Kalina.

Bottom: The Rainbow Portrait of Queen Elizabeth I by Isaac Oliver. (thx, adriana)

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