Considering they can't wield a knife or cleaver, dolphins make impressive butchers. Researchers in Australia recently observed a bottlenose performing a precise series of manoeuvres to kill, gut and bone a cuttlefish. The six-step procedure gets rid of the invertebrate's unappetising ink and hard-to-swallow cuttlebone.
The only interesting way to design a demo is to make it a story. You have a protagonist, and the protagonist has a problem, and they use the software, and they... almost solve the problem, but not quite, and then everybody is in suspense, while you tell them some boring stuff that doesn't fit anywhere else, but they're still listening raptly because they're waiting to hear the resolution to the suspenseful story, and then (ah!) you solve the protagonists last problem, and all is well. There is a reason people have been sitting around telling stories around campfires for the last million years or so: people like stories.
As with all advice, Spolsky's rules should be tuned to your purposes but the ideas are solid for anyone who talks to groups of people. (via stamen)
Most people in this world have no insurance and ignore building codes. They live in "informal architecture," i.e., slum structures. Barrios. Favelas. Squats. Overcrowded districts of this world that look like a post-Katrina situation all the time. When people are thrown out of their too-expensive, too-coded homes, this is where they will go. Unless they're American, in which case they'll live in their cars. But how can dispossessed Americans pay for their car insurance when they have no fixed address?
This year the challenge was of a different sort. The field was curiously thin. It wasn't that the talent wasn't on display. God knows, a number of the greats were lining up behind the camera this year. But the images weren't as instantly iconic or as viscerally gripping as they were in 2007, which might have left me a bit disappointed on one hand. Then again, it just made searching for my favorites all the more involved and interesting, and I'm happy to offer my findings to you in this space, even if it meant doubling up.
The better ethnic restaurants tend to have many of their kind in a given geographic area. Single restaurant representations of a cuisine tend to disappoint. Competition increases quality and lowers prices. The presence of many restaurants of a kind in an area creates a pool of educated consumers, trained workers and chefs, and ingredient supplies - all manifestations of increasing returns to scale.
Cowen also wants against ordering ingredients-intensive dishes because of inferior American ingredients.
Avoid dishes that are "ingredients-intensive." Raw ingredients in America - vegetables, butter, bread, meats, etc. - are below world standards. Even most underdeveloped countries have better raw ingredients than we do, at least if you have a U.S. income to spend there, and often even if one doesn't. Ordering the plain steak in Latin America may be a great idea, but it is usually a mistake in Northern Virginia. Opt for dishes with sauces and complex mixes of ingredients. Go for dishes that are "composition-intensive."
Pig-in-a-poke originated in the late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce, but apparently rats and cats were not. The con entails a sale of a (suckling) "pig" in a "poke" (bag). The bag ostensibly contains a live healthy little pig, but actually contains a cat (not particularly prized as a source of meat, and at any rate, quite unlikely to grow to be a large hog). If one buys a "pig in a poke" without looking in the bag (a colloquial expression in the English language, meaning "to be a sucker"), the person has bought something of less value than was assumed, and has learned firsthand the lesson caveat emptor.
A trick called the glim-dropper requires a one-eyed accomplice.
One grifter goes into a store and pretends he has lost his glass eye. Everyone looks around, but the eye cannot be found. He declares that he will pay a thousand-dollar reward for the return of his eye, leaving contact information. The next day, an accomplice enters the store and pretends to find the eye. The storekeeper (the intended griftee), thinking of the reward, offers to take it and return it to its owner. The finder insists he will return it himself, and demands the owner's address. Thinking he will lose all chance of the reward, the storekeeper offers a hundred dollars for the eye. The finder bargains him up to $250, and departs. The one-eyed man, of course, can not be found and does not return.
A con called The Ogged contains a very specific example of its use.
A new con trick born in the age of blogs. For this scam, the con artist creates a pseudonymous internet persona and befriends a group of people online who will become his marks. Then the scammer feigns some terrible disease, such as stomach cancer. Finally, the scammer subtly pushes the idea that his online "friends" could pitch in for something to make him feel better, such as a $700 gift certificate to the French Laundry. After the boon is received, the scam artist claims a miraculous recovery or doctor error. Finally, once the gift certificate has been cashed, the con artist claims that he must "go on hiatus" or even quit blogging altogether.
I can't find any evidence that the FL gift certificate incident ever happened or documentation of a trick called "The Ogged" anywhere aside from Wikipedia. Anyone? (via bb)
Lionel goes 5'8", 240, and he's got the same shirt and lei as the players, so he looks like a player, which is maybe why he's suddenly in the middle of every hug. And that's about when Chase Utley says to Jimmy Rollins: "Let's go celebrate!" And Lionel says exactly what you'd think he'd say, which is, "I'm with you guys!"
Peter Stuyvesant was the director-general of the New Netherlands colony from 1647 to 1664, when the Dutch lost it to the British and New Amsterdam became New York. When Stuyvesant arrived in New Amsterdam, he brought a pear tree with him and planted it on his farm, which encompassed much of what is now the East Village. After a trip to Amsterdam following the English takeover of the colony, Stuyvesant returned to his farm in New York, where he lived until his death in 1672.
In 1867, over 200 years after the tree was planted, the last known living link to the Dutch rule of Manhattan was felled by a vehicle collision. The NY Times ran a short piece about the death of the tree: Untimely End of the Stuyvesant Pear-Tree.
The well-known pear-tree planted by Gov. Stuyvesant, and which has stood for two centuries, came at last to a sudden demise during the latter part of last week. This old and famous tree stood on the corner of Thirteenth-street and Third-avenue, in a circular enclosure of iron railing, erected, we believe, by Mr. Wainwright, a descendant of the old Dutch Governor. It had its traditions, though it was less renowned than the famous Charter Oak of Connecticut, but like that old tree, it had been made the subject of many a sketch. Its decay was marked year by year in the declining average of its blossoms, but it was not considered beyond bearing before the occurrence of an accident which cleft the ancient trunk in twain. The destruction of this old landmark is stated to have resulted from a collision of vehicles, one of which was thrown against the tree with sufficient force to break it down. Laborers were engaged in removing the limbs and trunk yesterday, which were proclaimed obstructions to travel.
N.B. From what I can tell from my research, the plaque may be wrong about the date that the tree was planted. It states that Stuyvesant brought the tree back with him after the English took control of New Amsterdam in 1664 whereas most other sources on the matter indicate that Stuyvesant brought the tree with him when he came to assume control of the colony in 1647.
Newcomers suddenly realize either that the city is not working for them or that they are inexorably becoming part of it, or both. They find themselves walking and talking faster.
The subway begins to make sense. Patience is whittled away; sarcasm often ensues. New friends are made, routines established, and city life begins to feel like second nature. In other words, newcomers find themselves becoming New Yorkers.
The form, intended to make shopping easier, turned out to only help a small percentage of the customers who encountered it. (Even many of those customers weren't helped, since it took just as much effort to update any incorrect information, such as changed addresses or new credit cards.) Instead, the form just prevented sales -- a lot of sales.
The notebooks function like a security blanket for me. I can't go into a meeting unless I have my current notebook in my hand, even if I never open it. Because I carry one everywhere, I tend to misplace them a lot. Losing one makes me frantic. Everyone who works with me gets used to me asking, "Have you seen my notebook anywhere?" which I assume gets irritating after a while: sorry. I've left them behind in clients' offices. On one occasion, I left one on the roof of a cab on the upper west side. I ended up walking ten blocks, retracing the taxi's route, until I found it on Broadway at 63rd Street, intact except for some tire marks.
I've tried using notebooks several times over the years, but the habit has never stuck.
Scientists are still trying to figure out what's causing CCD, or Colony Collapse Disorder, a plague that's killing off millions of bee across the United States. Among the possible culprits are a virus, increased vulnerability to disease due to breeding, overwork (hives of bees are trucked around the country for months to pollinate crops), increased exposure to all kinds of insecticides, and perhaps even all of the above.
As the swift expansion of feral honeybees across the Americas shows, they are not especially picky about their habitat; most anything outside of parking lot or vast monoculture will do. And for native bees, habitat could be restored to suit the needs of whichever species are exceptionally good pollinators of local crops. Bumblebees, for instance, are the best pollinators of Maine blueberries, whereas blue orchard bees work well for California almonds.
Hirsh's idea is reminiscent of Michael Pollan's proposals for decreasing the present monoculture in American agriculture outlined in his recent books.
As promised, the redesign of this site started last week is still in motion. I've just made a bunch of small tweaks that should make the site more readable for some readers.
- Fonts. In response to a number of font issues (many reports of Whitney acting up, the larger type looking like absolute crap on Windows), I've changed how the stylesheets work. Sadly, that means no more lovely Whitney. :( Mac users will see Myriad Pro Regular backed up by Helvetica and Arial while PC users will see Arial (at a different font-size). In each case, the type is slightly smaller than it was previously. I'm frustrated that these changes need to be made...the state of typography on the web is still horrible.
- Blue zoom border. Oh, it's staying, but it'll work a bit differently. The blue sides will still appear on the screen at all times but the top and bottom bars will scroll with the content. I liked the omnipresent border, but the new scheme will fix the problems with hidden anchor links and hidden in-page search results and allow for more of the screen to be used for reading/scanning. It breaks on short pages (see: the 404 page) and still doesn't work quite right on the iPhone, but those are problems for another day.
- Icons. Updated the favicon and the icon on the iPhone to match the new look/feel.
- Misc. Rounded off the corners on the red title box. Increased the space between the sidebar and the main content column.
Thanks to everyone who offered their suggestions and critiques of the new design, especially those who took the time to send in screenshots of the problems they were having. Feedback is always appreciated.
He said that public health measures like cleaning up contaminated water and food have saved the lives of countless children, but they "also eliminated exposure to many organisms that are probably good for us." "Children raised in an ultraclean environment," he added, "are not being exposed to organisms that help them develop appropriate immune regulatory circuits."
One of the decisions we made even before Ollie was born was that he was going to be a dirty kid. We wash our hands often with non-antibacterial soap and water, especially after being on the subway, but otherwise don't worry about it much. I can count on one hand how many times I've used the antibacterial hand sanitizer that seemingly comes bundled with toddlers these days.
As such, it is a metaphorical representation of the fundamental ideology of the United States; the past is no constraint on the future, and each individual should strive resolutely for personal advance despite whatever the past may hold. The child born in a log cabin may achieve the presidency, an immigrant boy who grows up in the slums of Brooklyn may become a real-estate magnate, an Ivy-educated scion of wealth may wind up on a bread line, and a double green will speed you to the fore. Though there are winners and losers, initial conditions are no determinant of outcome in the freedom of America.
Tom Armitage references both Johnson and Costikyan in his response, Taking Turns.
Candyland is a great first game; literally, the very first. It teaches turn-taking. It teaches the mores, the manners, the culture of playing boardgames. Later, when a child comes to a game where the rules are more complex, the turn process more intricate, the customs of gameplay are already learned; rather than focusing on learning the social interactions, they can focus on the complexity of the game itself.
During the first 30 seconds of an utterance, your light is green: your listener is probably paying attention. During the second 30 seconds, your light is yellow -- your listener may be starting to wish you'd finish. After the one-minute mark, your light is red: Yes, there are rare times you should "run a red light:" when your listener is obviously fully engaged in your missive. But usually, when an utterance exceeds one minute, with each passing second, you increase the risk of boring your listener and having them think of you as a chatterbox, windbag, or blowhard.
You're hopping mad about an auto industry bailout that cost a squirt of piss compared to a Wall Street heist of galactic dimensions, due to a housing crash you somehow have blamed on minorities. It took you six years to figure out what a tool Bush is, but you think Obama will make it all better. You deem it hunky dory that we conduct national policy debates via 8-second clips from "The View." You think God zapped humans into existence a few thousand years ago, although your appendix and wisdom teeth disagree. You like watching vicious assholes insult each other on TV. You support gun rights, because firing one gives you a chubby. You cuddle falsehoods and resent enlightenment. You think the fact that 43% of whites could stomach voting for an incredibly charismatic and eloquent light-skinned black guy who was raised by white people means racism is over. You think progressive taxation is socialism. 1 in 100 of you are in jail, and you think it should be more. You are shallow, inconsiderate, afraid, brand-conscious, sedentary, and totally self-obsessed. You are American
Exhibit A: You're more upset by Miley Cyrus's glamour shots than the fact that you are a grown adult who is upset about Miley Cyrus.
Telling the magazine that he was asked why he did not give "credit" to God, Attenborough added: "They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball. The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator."
The Places We Live features panoramic photos of slums, narrated by the people who live there (through translators). Really really engrossing. To access the stories in the restricting Flash interface, skip the intro, click on a city, and then on one of the households in the upper left corner. There's a book too. (via snarkmarket)
A related thing is that there was blind faith in the value of financial innovation. Wall Street dreamed up increasingly complicated things, and they were allowed to do it because it was always assumed that if the market wanted it then it made some positive contribution to society. It's now quite clear that some of these things they dreamed up were instruments of doom and should never have been allowed in the marketplace.
Street photographer Bill Cunningham didn't have a ticket to the Inauguration nor did he have an assignment from the NY Times to cover it; he just bought a train ticket, went down on his own, and brought back these photos. Be sure to listen to Cunningham's wonderful narration; he even gets choked up when describing the moment of Obama's swearing-in. I wish all journalism were this professionally personal (if that makes any sense). (via greg.org)
Fun little game from Ze Frank that I hadn't seen before: Every Second Counts. You're challenged to hold the mouse button down for 0.2 seconds, 0.4 seconds, then 0.6, 0.8, and so on. You need to be within 0.1 seconds of the target time to advance to the next time. Because the increments get increasingly smaller in comparison to the overall times, it quickly becomes difficult to gauge how long to hold the button, i.e. 0.4 is twice as long as 0.2 but 3.2 and 3.4 are almost indistinguishable. (It's also difficult because the button is kinda hinky.) I made it to 1.8 seconds...is it even possible to get to 4 or 5 seconds?
Update: Several readers made it to 4, 5, and even 8 seconds. Most were musicians who have strong sense of timing. I'm also reminded of a story about how Richard Feynman developed his sense of timing to the point where he could keep time in his head even while reading. (thx, everyone)
All humans are 99.9% genetically identical, so don't even think of ending any potential relationship begun here with 'I just don't think we have enough in common'. Science has long since proven that I am the man for you (41, likes to be referred to as 'Wing Commander' in the bedroom).
I'm not big into the "moral message" interpretation of pop culture, but plenty of critics of digital games are, so just for the record: what sort of message does Candy Land send to our kids? (And I'm not just talking about all the implicit advertisements for cane sugar products.) It says you are powerless, that your destiny is entirely determined by the luck of the draw, that the only chance you have of winning the game lies in following the rules, and accepting the cards as they come. Who wants to grow up in that kind of universe?
On the other hand, games of chance allow children of all ages and abilities to play the same games together and experience both winning and losing.
He popped out that door, and when the door opened and he came through it, the look on his face was like no look I'd ever seen on George Bush's face in my life. [...] And I said, "If he wasn't just back there behind that door crying, I don't know what that look on his face is." Because he just looks absolutely devastated as he comes through this door after essentially ending his eight year presidency. And it's just really striking. He just looks absolutely devastated.
The interview with the last photographer is the least interesting because he refuses to interpret any of the photographs but his set of photographs includes at least 3 photographs that I had never seen before and that weren't "published extensively in the United States".
Murray Siple's feature-length documentary follows a group of homeless men who have combined bottle picking with the extreme sport of racing shopping carts down the steep hills of North Vancouver. This subculture depicts street life as much more than the stereotypes portrayed in mainstream media. The film takes a deep look into the lives of the men who race carts, the adversity they face and the appeal of cart racing despite the risk.
BTW, this is but one film of hundreds of shorts, animated films, and documentaries that the NFB recently put online for viewing.
Every industrialized nation in the world except the United States has a national system that guarantees affordable health care for all its citizens. Nearly all have been popular and successful. But each has taken a drastically different form, and the reason has rarely been ideology. Rather, each country has built on its own history, however imperfect, unusual, and untidy.
As usual, Gawande makes a lot of sense. Whatever the solution, we should be doing all we can to avoid something like this from ever happening again:
"When I heard that I was losing my insurance, I was scared," Darling told the Times. Her husband had been laid off from his job, too. "I remember that the bill for my son's delivery in 2005 was about $9,000, and I knew I would never be able to pay that by myself." So she prevailed on her midwife to induce labor while she still had insurance coverage. During labor, Darling began bleeding profusely, and needed a Cesarean section. Mother and baby pulled through. But the insurer denied Darling's claim for coverage. The couple ended up owing more than seventeen thousand dollars.
The Printed Picture is an exhibition of physical specimens made using all the different ways that type and image can be printed on paper, metal, glass, etc, with a special emphasis on dozens of photography techniques, from albumen prints to dagguereotypes to color photography. On view at MoMA until June 1.
I know that Polaroid announced last year that they were ceasing production of their instant film and that people have begun to hoard film as it becomes more difficult to find. To NYC hoarders: there are 30-40 10-packs of Polaroid 600 film at the CVS on the corner of Nassau and Fulton. Didn't catch the price but they're at the photo processing counter past the registers. Or you could just wait it out.
The good news is that I don't have to know if there's a link. Wells had a great quote once where some critic asked him a similar question. He said, "I'm the bird, and you're the ornithologist." I don't really sit down and think on a macro level how or if these things are connected. They obviously are in the sense that I wanted to make them. And so there must be something in them that I'm drawn to.
Soderbergh also talks about following your interest when choosing projects and not worrying so much about the money.
Yeah. And I'm a big believer that if there's something you really want to do, don't walk away because of the deal. I see it happen a lot. I see people walk away from things because they didn't get the deal they wanted.
In The Method, Archimedes was working out a way to compute the areas and volumes of objects with curved surfaces, which was also one of the problems that motivated Newton and Leibniz. Ancient mathematicians had long struggled to "square the circle" by calculating its exact area. That problem turned out to be impossible using only a straightedge and compass, the only tools the ancient Greeks allowed themselves. Nevertheless, Archimedes worked out ways of computing the areas of many other curved regions.
Afterwards, we came to refer to certain types of accomplishments as "black triangles." These are important accomplishments that take a lot of effort to achieve, but upon completion you don't have much to show for it -- only that more work can now proceed. It takes someone who really knows the guts of what you are doing to appreciate a black triangle.
When working on complex projects, the black triangle moment is always the high point for me; it's when success occurs. Before you've got a framework built, there's significant doubt about how the project will turn out, if can even be done. After you get that first little result through the whole maze and it's clear how the whole thing will work, the rest becomes almost inevitable. (via migurski)
I remember one year my proudest moment was at an audition for a really slutty bar maid on a new TV show. It was written for a Pam Anderson type. I thought, "I can never pull this off. I just don't have the sex appeal. I feel stupid. No one is going to take me seriously." But, I committed to the role and gave the best audition I could. I didn't get the job. I didn't get a callback. But I conquered my rambling, fear-driven brain and went balls out on the audition anyway. That was a huge milestone for me -- but hard to explain at Christmas.
To test whether I was being paranoid, I ran a little experiment. On a sunny Saturday, I spotted a woman in Golden Gate Park taking a photo with a 3G iPhone. Because iPhones embed geodata into photos that users upload to Flickr or Picasa, iPhone shots can be automatically placed on a map. At home I searched the Flickr map, and score -- a shot from today. I clicked through to the user's photostream and determined it was the woman I had seen earlier. After adjusting the settings so that only her shots appeared on the map, I saw a cluster of images in one location. Clicking on them revealed photos of an apartment interior -- a bedroom, a kitchen, a filthy living room. Now I know where she lives.
It seems problematic to me that the entire official web presence of the Bush administration, as tainted and manipulative or enraging as you may think it is, just gets wiped clean from the web like that. People need to remember, reference, discuss, and link to that publicly owned, previously published information; it shouldn't be tossed to the curb like a dead plant or buried in the National Archive backup tape repository.
Perhaps there needs to be a simple directory structure put in place, something like:
The files for each President's site would live under the associated directory and would never need to be taken down to make room for new files. Of course, maintaining all that, and the different systems and platforms potentially used by each administration would be a total PITA.
Update: Here are the Clinton whitehouse.gov archive and the George W. Bush whitehouse.gov archive. Nice but they don't address the broken links issue and snapshots don't capture any dynamic functions (like search, for instance). Also, shouldn't every page on the site function like a wiki so you can go back and see the history at any time? Quite a few people suggested using subdomains (e.g. 43.whitehouse.gov) instead of directories to keep everything straight; I concur. (thx, arnold & kate)
Out of 26 nominated films, an incredible 23 films are already available in DVD quality on nomination day, ripped either from the screeners or the retail DVDs. This is the highest percentage since I started tracking.
To novice Beatles fans, I warn you not to believe the hype about "Revolution 9." I've listened to it many times over the years, waiting for the light in my head to switch on so I could unlock its mysteries. All I've ever gotten out of it is the vague feeling that immediately after listening to it, something is going to rise out from under my bed and butcher me in my sleep.
Each choice is extensively annotated and defended; start here if you want to work your way through them all.
Let me point to the Adjacent Possible of the biosphere. Once there were lung fish, swim bladders were in the Adjacent Possible of the biosphere. Before there were multicelled organisms, the swim bladder was not in the Adjacent Possible of the biosphere. Something wonderful is happening right in front of us: When the swim bladder arose it was of selective advantage in its context. It changed what was Actual in the biosphere, which in turn created a new Adjacent Possible of the biosphere. The biosphere self consistently co-constructs itself into its every changing, unstatable Adjacent Possible.
If the becoming of the swim bladder is partially lawless, it certainly is not entailed by the fundamental laws of physics, so cannot be deduced from physics. Then its existence in the non-ergodic universe requires an explanation that cannot be had by that missing entailment. The universe is open.
Layer Tennis, the online Photoshop/Flash battle series, is gearing up for another season, starting on Feb 13th and running for twelve weeks. At the end of it all, there will be a single elimination championship tournament. Sign up for season tickets to keep informed and to be able to vote on the outcomes of matches.
When The Notorious B.I.G. was shot dead in Los Angeles, a composite sketch of the shooter done shortly after the killing depicts a clean-cut black man in a suit and bow tie. Was Biggie's killer the partial basis for Brother Mouzone, the bow-tied hitman from The Wire?
At least until I hear from Mr. Mouzone's lawyer, I say: case closed! (thx, alex)
After catching up with seasons 1-4 of the series over the past few months, this is the first episode of Lost that I will be seeing live. Exciting! To commemorate, I'll be liveblogging the first episode of season five, set to begin here in about 10 minutes. Don't worry, spoilers will be minimal. Check back frequently for updates.
As a general rule, meetings make individuals perform below their capacity and skill levels. This doesn't mean we should always avoid face-to-face meetings - but it is certain that every organization has too many meetings, and far too many poorly designed ones.
Reuters are understandably somewhat put out on their own and Young's behalf, but like it or not, Fairey's use of the picture are well within the parameters of "fair use". His transformative use of the image - both in flipping and re-orienting it, adding jacket and tie and the "O" Obama logo, and converting it to his block print style make it consistent with all legal precedents for use.
Pact will keep Weiner at the helm of "Mad Men" for the next two seasons. It also covers TV development and includes a component for Weiner to develop a feature project for Lionsgate. There's no specific idea on the table for the feature, but it won't be "Mad Men" on the bigscreen, Weiner and Lionsgate execs said.
The origin of methane could either be geologic where water reacts with hot rock and produces methane gas which escapes through pores in the planet's surface in a process called serpentinization. Or it could be evidence of biology under the surface, where the methane generated by microbes could accumulate and then escape through the rocks.
Over the last three months, Mr. Obama has quietly consulted Mr. McCain about many of the new administration's potential nominees to top national security jobs and about other issues -- in one case relaying back a contender's answers to questions Mr. McCain had suggested.
McCain, though it was his own fault (or that of his handlers), didn't represent himself well during the presidential campaign and it's nice to see that the very able Senator isn't being sidelined because of it. Also, it's quite savvy of Obama to seek out his support. He's essentially buying McCain stock at a low point and will presumably leverage that purchase when that stock inevitably rises.
After Franklin D. Roosevelt won the 1940 election, he invited his opponent, the Republican Wendell L. Willkie, to meet with him in the White House. "You know, he is a very good fellow," F.D.R. said afterward to his secretary of labor, Frances Perkins. "He has lots of talent. I want to use him somehow."
Several readers have noted that The White House Site has already been refreshed to the now-familiar Obama look-and-feel. It's even got a blog on the front page. Will there be a Twitter account? The Wikipedians have been busy too: Obama is listed as the current President on the President of the United States page.
Obama made a small error in the first part of his inaugural speech. He said:
Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath.
Because of Grover Cleveland's two non-consecutive terms, there have been 44 Presidents but only 43 people have held the office and taken the oath. I'm surprised his speechwriters didn't catch that little detail. Of course, I think of Al Gore as an ex-President so maybe that's where it came from.
The design of kottke.org has been mostly the same since 2000...a garish yellow/green bar across the top and small black text on a white background everywhere else. (See the progression of designs since 1998.) People absolutely hated that color when I first introduced it1, but it stuck around -- mostly out of laziness -- and that pukey yellow became the most visible brand element of the site.
Two days ago, I refreshed the design of the site and, as you may have noticed, no more yellow/green. The other big changes are: bigger text set in a new font, a blue "zoom" border around the page, and the addition of titles to the short posts.
(A brief nuts and bolts interlude... For most of you, the site will look like this. If you've got Myriad Pro on your machine -- it comes free with Acrobat Reader and Adobe CS -- it'll look like this...this is the "intended" look. And if you're a fancypants designer with Whitney installed, you'll get this rarified view, which I did mostly for me. On IE6, the site will be legible and usable but somewhat unstyled. If you're not seeing something that looks like one of the above screenshots -- if the text is in all caps, for instance -- please drop me a line with a link to a screenshot and your browser information. Thanks!)
The blue "zoom" border is the biggest visual change, and it's an homage to what is still my favorite kottke.org design, the yellow zoom from 1999. I like that kottke.org is one of the few weblogs out there that can reach back almost ten years for a past design element; the site has history. In a way, that border is saying "kottke.org has been around for ten years and it's gonna be around for twenty more". At least that's how I think about it.
I've already gotten lots of feedback from readers, mostly via Twitter and email. There were a few technical issues that I've hopefully ironed out -- e.g. it should work better on the iPhone now -- and a couple which might take a bit longer, like the border messing with the page-at-a-time scrolling method. Some people like the changes, but mostly people don't like the new design, really dislike the blue, and generally want the old site back. This is exactly the reaction I expected, and it's heartening to learn that the old design struck such a chord with people. All I'm asking is that you give it a little time.
My suspicion is that as you get used to it, the new text size won't seem so weird and that blue border will likely disappear into the background of your attention, just as that hideous yellow/green did. A month from now, your conscious mind won't even see the blue -- chalk it up to something akin to banner blindness...brand blindness maybe? -- but your subconscious will register it and you'll just know where you are, safe and sound right here at good ol' kottke.org. And if that doesn't work, we'll tweak and move some things around. Design is a process, not a result, and we'll get it to a good place eventually, even if it takes twenty years.
 I wish I had access to my email from back then...everyone hated it and wanted the old design back. Before landing on the yellow/green color, I tried the golden yellow from the previous design, a blue very much like the blue in the current border, and then red. I think each color was live on the site for a few days and my intention was to just keep switching it around. But then I got bored and just left the yellow/green. Gold star to anyone who remembers that short phase of the site. ↩
Chances are that if you're not in Washington DC or staying home from work tomorrow, you're going to be at your desk or otherwise out and about for the inauguration of Barack Obama. Fear not, you'll have plenty of viewing options:
Or watch right here on kottke.org, courtesy of Hulu. Or not. The Hulu video is on autoplay, which is *really* annoying. Sorry about that. What the hell, Hulu?!
Per the schedule, the swearing-in ceremony will start at 11:30 am ET, which will include Obama's inaugural address. After the address, Obama "will escort outgoing President George W. Bush to a departure ceremony", which ceremony I hope involves a kick in the ass and a slamming door. Then there's a luncheon at the Capitol and a parade to the White House that traditionally starts around 2:30 pm.
The life raft attached to the plane was upside down in the river, just out of reach. Mr. Wentzell turned and found another passenger, Carl Bazarian, an investment banker from Florida who, at 62, was twice his age. Mr. Wentzell grabbed the wrist of Mr. Bazarian, who grabbed a third man who held onto the plane. Mr. Wentzell then leaned out to flip the raft. "Carl was Iron Man that day," Mr. Wentzell said. "We got the raft stabilized and we got on." A man went into the water, and the door salesman and the banker hauled him aboard. He curled in a fetal position, freezing.
The Times also comes through with the 3-D flight graphic I asked for the other day but they upped the ante with a seating chart of the plane where you can click on certain passengers' seats to read their thoughts. Mark Hood in seat 2A described the landing:
When we touched down, it was like a log ride at Six Flags. It was that smooth.
We determined that, generally speaking, the gravity in each Mario game, as game hardware has increased, is getting closer to the true value of gravity on earth of 9.8 m/s^2. However, gravity, even on the newest consoles, is still extreme.
In Super Mario 2, Mario experiences a g-force of 11 each time he falls from a ledge, a force that would cause mere humans to black out. In Madden 2006, the game's fastest cornerbacks can run the 40 in 2.6 seconds. (via waxy)
We're going to start by retiring the old name for good. When your name can also be used as a verb that means driving a hook through your head, it's time for a serious image makeover. And who could possibly want to put a hook through a sea kitten?
Come to think of it, it's amazing that nobody's made a major documentary about the advertising business before. Are some phenomena just so powerful and ubiquitous we stop thinking about them? Now acclaimed doc-maker Doug Pray goes inside the ever-revolutionary world of post-'60s advertising, profiling such legendary figures as [Dan] Wieden ("Just do it"), Hal Riney ("It's morning in America") and Cliff Freeman ("Where's the beef?") and inquiring where the boundaries lie between art, salesmanship and brainwashing.
Somewhat related to that is The September Issue, which follows the creation of Vogue magazine's September issue. You know, the one packed with hundreds of pages of advertising.
You-are-there documentarian R.J. Cutler ("The War Room," etc.) takes us inside the creation of Vogue's annual and enormous September issue, which possesses quasi-biblical status in the fashion world. Granted full access to editorial meetings, photo shoots and Fashion Week events by Vogue editor Anna Wintour, Cutler spent nine months at Vogue, documenting a monumental process that more closely resembles a political campaign or a sports team's season than the publication of a single magazine.
The wall units, which are suspended from steel tracks bolted into the ceiling, seem to float an inch above the reflective black granite floor. As they are shifted around, the apartment becomes all manner of spaces -- kitchen, library, laundry room, dressing room, a lounge with a hammock, an enclosed dining area and a wet bar.
The hate part first. TOFHWOTI is almost precisely the thing I've been wanting to do for years now...take the very best of the best links of the year and bundle them up into a printed artifact of some sort. So seeing it done first and so expertly was a bit of a punch in the nose. Of course, ideas are so cheap and plentiful these days that "I thought of it first" has no value without follow through, something that my schedule for the past few years hasn't allowed for. This year, *for sure*, dammit! (I'm also pissed that I didn't get around to ordering a copy for myself until this morning and found that they're all sold out! Gah! Like I said, no time.)
But damn, is that thing beautiful or what? You don't even need the physical artifact to see that much. The simple but playful design is just right. Getting it printed super-cheap on newsprint fits nicely with the concept and content. All the little details are accounted for; I wouldn't change a thing. More like this, please.
This pilot ran out of altitude and airspeed but not ideas. He did a great job of flying, and as a CAPTAIN, he has shown why he wears the four bars!!!
This is an example of quiet professionalism, training, skill, and bravery. Our craft usually goes unnoticed many times a day, but today, we saw our best work!!!
I remember once going to collect my dad after he'd landed his plane in a farmer's field in an emergency. Of course, it was a much smaller plane -- they're a lot easier to land without engines and glide well. That and he was accustomed to landing amongst the corn and hay...we had a grass strip cut out of the field behind our house that he used all the time.
The owner came out; he was a short but large man, balding, and he wore a rather soiled white apron. Teel asked him if he made a fish soup. The man paused, and then asked how long they could wait for it. Rick and Teel told him -- as long as it took, they were in no hurry. [...] The owner returned in about half an hour with a huge fish overlapping both sides of the basket, which also contained a mass of greens and several bags of clams and shrimp and other things.
A US Airways plane bound for Charlotte just crashed into the Hudson River after aborting its takeoff from LaGuardia Airport. It's still sitting in the river, slowly sinking with people standing on the wings being rescued by ferries. Photos on Flickr.
The plane approached the water at a gradual angle and made a big splash, according to a witness watching from an office building. "It wasn't going particularly fast. It was a slow contact with the water that it made," said the witness, Ben Vonklemperer. "It appeared not to have landing gear engaged. This was bigger than a puddle-jumper or sea plane. It was a silver aircraft and it basically just hit the water," Vonklemperer added.
Gothamist reports that the plane is being towed to Chelsea Piers.
Update: The NY Times has this helpful map:
Also, an office mate (from Buzzfeed) just got back from checking out the plane and he said by the time he got to the river, the plane had past Christopher St. and when he left, it was pretty close to Canal St. and "moving amazingly fast". (thx, scott)
In 1963, an Aeroflot Tupolev 124 ditched into the River Neva after running out of fuel. The aircraft floated and was towed to shore by a tugboat which it had nearly hit as it came down on the water. The tug rushed to the floating aircraft and pulled it with its passengers near to the shore where the passengers disembarked onto the tug; all 52 on board escaped without injuries. Survival rate was 100%
LittleSis (clever name!) bills itself as an "involuntary facebook of powerful Americans, collaboratively edited by people like you". It's intended to be a resource for anyone who wants to know more about politicians, CEOs, etc., especially:
...investigative journalists, social scientists, political opposition researchers, social justice activists, public interest attorneys, business intelligence types, [and] amateur dirt diggers at the fringes, posting their findings to blogs, message boards, email lists, zines, and elsewhere.
Dopplr is doing 2008 personal annual reports for all their users that shows "data, visualisations and factoids" about their 2008 travel. They've also done one for Barack Obama on his behalf that you can download for free. Obama took a whopping 234 trips in 2008 and traveled 92% of the distance to the moon!
This unamazing power lets you teleport up to one inch away. When done in rapid succession, it gives that old-timey stop action feel. It can also really push your "popping & locking" routine to the next level.
Every few weeks, I visit The Selby, an online collection of "photographs, paintings and videos by Todd Selby of interesting people in creative spaces", and spend way too much time clicking around, even on stuff that I've already seen. There are many magazines and sites -- Dwell, Domino, Apartment Therapy, etc. -- that run photographs of people and the spaces they live in, but those on The Selby feel more intimate and true to life; you get the feeling that Selby knows most of the people he features. Two of my favorite photos are Dustin Yellin and his huge printing machine:
The most successful companies treat success as a byproduct of achieving their real goal, which is always something bigger and more important than they are.
The best part about Tim's advice is that it works in boom times *and* in a recession. I have some notes jotted down for this whole post that I'm probably not going to write about how to take advantage of the recession -- yes, advantage...the gist: buy low! -- and one of the main points is: recessions are temporary so take the long view and keep trying to do what is most important to you, i.e. stuff that matters.
Photo Cliches is a blog dedicated to collecting, uh, cliched photos. Current categories include people groping statues, people pretending to have fake penises, and my personal favorite: people doing the thumbs-up Lynndie England pose. You may also be interested in the Charlie's Angels pose Flickr pool. (thx, phil)
Here are a pair of articles from 2002 on street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham, who currently plys his trade for the NY Times. (I love Cunningham's On the Street dispatches.) The first is Bill on Bill, where the photographer recalls how he got interested in fashion and photography.
As a kid, I photographed people at ski resorts -- you know, when you got on the snow train and went up to New Hampshire. And I did parties. I worked as a stock boy at Bonwit Teller in Boston, where my family lived, and there was a very interesting woman, an executive, at Bonwit's. She was sensitive and aware, and she said, "I see you outside at lunchtime watching people." And I said, "Oh, yeah, that's my hobby." She said, "If you think what they're wearing is wrong, why don't you redo them in your mind's eye." That was really the first professional direction I received.
He taught me how to tell a story with pictures and that it didn't always involve the best image. I'd say to him, "But isn't this a better photo?" And he'd say, "Yes, child, but this photo tells the story better." For him, it wasn't about the aesthetics of photography. It was about storytelling.
Both articles mention that Cunningham got his first street photography into the Times when he shot a photo of the famously reclusive Greta Garbo walking on Fifth Avenue. I couldn't find Cunningham's Garbo photo anywhere online so I tracked down the Times article and found only this poor scan:
I mean, not ALL television was bleak -- Mad Men ignored the industry-wide memo and gave us one of the best seasons of television ever, while Lost and Battlestar Galactica each hit new creative highs -- but the fact that The Wire and The Shield both wrapped up, with BSG and Lost soon to follow, made things SEEM that much bleaker.
I especially liked his definition of "socks folding TV":
A good socks-folding show is one that you can sort of pay attention to and enjoy. It's generally well-crafted, but not especially ambitious.
My all-time fave socks folding show is Star Trek: TNG. Even if you fold only when Troi is chattering away pointlessly, you can get a whole basket of clothes done before the second commercial.
Even in Manhattan, abandoned buildings can still be found. Jake Dobkin took some photos of an abandoned school in Harlem.
This building looked like it had been empty for twenty years. Trees were growing out of the floors and poking out of dozens of holes in the roof. All the windows were gone, and the floors that weren't covered with snow were thick with dust and the skeletons of dead pigeons. There wasn't any evidence of human habitation -- no footprints, homeless encampments, or graffiti.
He also found an abandoned ballroom, also in Harlem.
My inbox is divided about the valuation of Facebook calculated using Burger King Whopper Sacrifice promotion (unfriend 10 people to get a Whopper). The majority say that even if you prevented people from refriending those they unfriended for a Whopper, a value of 12 cents for each friend link is too high and that most links are worth much less than that. That is, Facebook is awash in junk friendships of little value.
A smaller contingent is arguing that Burger King would have to pay much more to break some friendships and that Facebook's valuation is therefore higher than the straight calculation indicates. For instance, getting Johnny Shoegazer to unfriend that girl he likes might take a considerable sum of money. I agree that Facebook is worth more than $1.8 billion in Whoppers but not because some individual links are more valuable than others...it's about groups and networks of links. You might be able to get someone to part with 10 "junk" friends for $2.40 but could you pay them $22 more to essentially shut down their Facebook account for good? I don't think so. It's going to cost much more than that...and for some intense users of the site, the "buyout" amount might be surprisingly high. (I'd probably accept $24 to close my Facebook account. But I pay nothing to use Twitter and ~$25 a year for Flickr and it might take several hundred or even thousands of dollars to entice me to permanently close either of those accounts...I get so much value from them.)
The reason for this seems like it might have something to do with Metcalfe's Law:
Metcalfe's law states that the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system (n^2). [...] Metcalfe's law characterizes many of the network effects of communication technologies and networks such as the Internet, social networking, and the World Wide Web. It is related to the fact that the number of unique connections in a network of a number of nodes (n) can be expressed mathematically as the triangular number n(n - 1)/2, which is proportional to n^2 asymptotically.
In economics and business, a network effect (also called network externality) is the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other users. The classic example is the telephone. The more people own telephones, the more valuable the telephone is to each owner. This creates a positive externality because a user may purchase their phone without intending to create value for other users, but does so in any case.
As Facebook accumulates users and friendship links, the service becomes more and more valuable for each user. In Whoppernomics terms, Facebook may well be worth the $15 billion that the Microsoft deal suggested, but there are obviously problems for Facebook in thinking about their value in this way. How do they extract that value from their users? Getting a user to accept a $500 buyout for their Facebook account is different than Facebook asking that user to pay $500 to keep using their account even though the monetary value of the account is the same in either case. What Facebook is betting on is that each user will put up with hundreds of dollars worth of distractions (in the form of advertising and promotions) from their primary goal on the site (i.e. connecting with friends). Also, as Friendster and MySpace and every other social networking site has learned, membership in these services is not exclusive and users may eventually find more value in some other network with (temporarily) less distraction.
Again, assuming that we're not taking this too seriously.
A collection of sixty female and male noses, arranged chronologically from people ages 16 - 90. The original pencil drawings (based on arrest photos) are faithfully reproduced on beautifully textured, 100% cotton Hahnemühle paper.
Feeney drew the noses while working as a forensic artist.
Porsche's move took three years of careful maneuvering. It was darkly brilliant, a wealth transfer ingeniously conceived like few we've ever seen. Betting the right way, Porsche roiled the financial markets and took the hedge funds for a fortune.
There is a strong possibility that Barack will pursue a political career, although it's unclear. There is a little tension with that. I'm very wary of politics. I think he's too much of a good guy for the kind of brutality, the skepticism.
For whatever reason, Bono writing a series of op-ed columns for the NY Times seemed like a bad idea. But I really enjoyed reading his first effort about the new year and Frank Sinatra. The advice is probably a little trite but you can't say that Bono doesn't have a way with words...the piece is more poetry or lyric than prose.
I think about this now, in this new year. The Big Bang of pop music telling me it's all about the moment, a fresh canvas and never overworking the paint. I wonder what he would have thought of the time it's taken me and my bandmates to finish albums, he with his famous impatience for directors, producers -- anyone, really -- fussing about. I'm sure he's right. Fully inhabiting the moment during that tiny dot of time after you've pressed "record" is what makes it eternal. If, like Frank, you sing it like you'll never sing it again. If, like Frank, you sing it like you never have before.
Songsmith is a piece of software by Microsoft Research that automatically creates a musical accompaniment to a singer's voice. (The intro video is priceless.) A MetaFilter member took David Lee Roth's vocal track from Runnin' With The Devil and put it through Songsmith...the results are pretty great. (thx, shay)
I'd like to thank this week's kottke.org RSS sponsor, Stephen Voss. Voss is a freelance photographer based in Washington DC who has traveled around the world shooting for magazines, organizations, and -- if you read between the lines on his bio page -- for himself. He's shot Obama, the destroyed churches of New Orleans, the Fleet Foxes, Alan Greenspan, and in China. I could say more, but Voss' portfolio speaks for itself. If your company or organization has a project that would benefit from Voss' services, get in touch.
Perhaps most interestingly, although "Enfield" is not a real town, it seems to substitute for Chestnut Hill. We found a school at the top of one of the larger hills in Chestnut Hill, which we believe is the location for ETA.
Perhaps someday there will be IJ walking tours of Boston that same way there are Ulysses -based tours of Dublin or Sex and the City tours of NYC.
What BK has unwittingly done here is provide a way to determine the valuation of Facebook. Let's assume that the majority of Facebook's value comes from the connections between their users. From Facebook's statistics page, we learn that the site has 150 million users and the average user has 100 friends. Each friendship is requires the assent of both friends so really each user can, on average, only end half of their friendships. The price of a Whopper is approximately $2.40. That means that each user's friendships is worth around 5 Whoppers, or $12. Do the math and:
$12/user X 150M users = $1.8 billion valuation for Facebook
P.S. Other assumptions for the sake of argument: every user is eligible for the Whopper promotion (it's actually only valid in the US), you can sell all of your friends for multiple burgers (actually limit one per customer), and the "average user has 100 friends" means that Facebook users average 100 friends apiece (no idea what the reality is...if they're using the median instead of the mean then that number could be higher or lower). Oh, and it's also assumed that no one should take this too seriously.
Update: I'm getting some email saying that Facebook friendships require the assent of both parties. Is that the way it works for the BK thing? If I am friends with Mary and I unfriend her through the Whopper Sacrifice app, is she then unable to unfriend me to help get her burger? If so, then the $3.6 billion valuation drops to $1.8 billion because each unfriending event takes care of 2 friend connections, not just one. Anyone? Note: we are already taking this too seriously!
Update: Ok, it looks like unfriending on Facebook takes out two friendship connections, not just one. So that drops each user's share to $12 and the valuation to $1.8 billion. D. Final answer, Regis. (thx, everyone)
Oh yeah, of course. It ended around 2000. I had a lot of work in the '90s. And then for females especially, as you get older -- I'm 44 -- it's really difficult for a 44-year-old woman to get acting work. That's just the nature of the beast. And because it's an elective profession, it's hard to complain about it because nobody makes you do it. Also I did a lot of mediocre stuff towards the end of the '90s and then sort of the novelty wore off. And then I left acting to work at Air America for two-and-a-half years.
When I decided to go back into acting, it wasn't very easy. "I took two-and-a-half years off, but I'd like to work again. Please hire me." It sort of doesn't work like that. So I'm just sort of grateful anytime someone wants to hire me. And TV seems to be one of the only places where older women can seek employment. Unless you sort of get lucky. There's a saying: "you're always just one part away from being back at work in film" for women especially. So I'm just waiting for someone to give me the green light, "Oh, let's hire Janeane again!" I think I'm on the "has been" list until I'm not. It's like a game of Red Rover and somebody says "come over." Or you can create your own work, but I'm not really a screenwriter. I don't really feel like I have the story to tell. It would just be creating content for the sake of creating content.
An interviewer wouldn't dare ask that question of some other actors and if they did, may have received a defensive or angry answer. Garofalo answered it honestly, which is why we like her so much.
The role of the ratings agencies cannot be overlooked in creating this crisis. The Pulitzer, Booker and National Book Foundation committees continued to award top ratings to these novels, even as unread copies piled up all over America.
These unreadable novels are clogging up our literary system, and undermining the strength of our otherwise sound literary institutions. As a result, Americans' personal libraries are threatened, and the ability of readers to borrow, and of libraries to lend, has been disrupted.
The Wild Things novelization, Sendak says, was all Eggers's idea. A plan had always been in place to have some kind of book come out to "add to the noise of the movie," he says, but at first it wasn't clear what the book would actually be. Once tie-in talk began in earnest, Sendak, who had grown close to Eggers during work on the screenplay, began a campaign to have Eggers do it, and Eggers stepped up and agreed, broaching the idea of the novel.
I was re-reading Carl Sagan's novel Contact recently, essentially a series of arguments about SETI wrapped into a story, and he alludes to some sort of cosmic Grand Central Station. That, coupled with my longtime interest in transit maps, got me thinking about all of this.
Nobody knows how tall Burj Dubai is going to be when completed later this year, only that it will be the world's tallest building by a comfortable margin. Of the mystery height, the builder has only this to say:
If you put the Empire State Building on top of the Sears Tower then it's reasonable to say you'll be in the neighbourhood.
People Who Deserve It is a blog listing people who have earned a punch in the face, including Office Food Thief, Traveler With Giant Backpack On Subway, Loser Who Pisses on Toilet Seat, and Sexual Innuendo T-Shirt Guy. My NYC pedestrian-related submissions: Cab Driver Who Honks Excessively From Three Cars Back Just As the Light Turns Green and Bike Messenger with Whistle. (thx, casey)
Usually there will be a few contributions that are outliers in technical merit and scale. There is a temptation to reward these contributions by drawing specific attention to them while the project is running. This can sometimes have the effect of damping the project as a whole, since potential contributors will measure their work against an artificially high standard. Alternatively, only displaying the most recent contribution allows the tonality of the project to be at the whim of the last contributor.
Instead of only focusing on technical ability, draw attention to qualities that can be expressed by anyone: simplicity, individuality, and humanity. Allow there to be a feeling of "Hey, I could do that too".
Is everything connected with everything else? Not everyone thinks so. But that not everyone doesn't include Benjamin Cohen. In I Dream in Malcolm Gladwell, Cohen draws an unlikely parallel between marshmallow melting and the science of pediatric nutrition.
In an age when children are born nearly every day in America, and most of them to parents who have had intercourse sometime during the year prior, physicians have become troubled that once the children are born, they seem to lack the ability to feed themselves. The two researchers have been working for years on a study that may provide insight to the problem. Infants, their studies are showing, aren't very smart. Like melting marshmallows, it appears that breastfeeding is an unusual process difficult to understand. In this case, W- and S- believe, that process may involve both breasts and milk.
It all sounds so obvious when he puts it that way.
TinEye is an image search engine. You give it an image and it'll find it on the web for you. If it works -- I didn't get to try it too much because it was down -- this is great for chasing down attribution and finding other pix by the same photographer and such. (via master kalina)
This was the beauty of Bobby Fischer's mind, even then. The boy made very clean, simple lines out of very complex problems, and when the trap was sprung, his style of chess became so transparent you could instantly recognize its brilliance: efficient, organic, wildly responsive and creative.
With his higher-end grands -- which the Fandrichs named "HGS" for "Holy Grail Scale" -- they start with pianos built in China. He and his workers gut the piano, replacing the hammers, felt and bass strings with German and American parts. They reinforce the underbelly of the piano by installing short ribs -- spruce beams between the existing main ribs.
Using a computer program designed in-house, the keys are reweighted across the board to eliminate friction and even out the response. The reweighting gives the Fandrich pianos their signature touch, one that some players have described as buttery, effortless.
In automotive terms, the Fandrichs are "trying to upgrade a Hyundai to run like a Bentley, for the price of a Honda". (via girlhacker)
I will make Benoit lie and manipulate and chase sex every hour of every day, until he can't feel anything anymore, until everything good and decent about him is removed. He needs me. His life is boring when I'm not in charge. I control him. I keep him numb so he can function. I make him feel good, and I make him feel worthless. The minute he steps out of this stupid rehab, I'll start whispering in his ear. That's all it takes -- whispers. I win. I ALWAYS win.
A Canadian pig farmer came up with an interesting solution for herding pigs. Instead of using heavy wooden "chase boards" to guide the pigs, she used a length of fabric of the same color, allowing a single person to do a job once done by many.
In a surprisingly under-reported story from 2007, Mark Holley, a professor of underwater archaeology at Northwestern Michigan University College, discovered a series of stones - some of them arranged in a circle and one of which seemed to show carvings of a mastodon -- 40-feet beneath the surface waters of Lake Michigan. If verified, the carvings could be as much as 10,000 years old -- coincident with the post-Ice Age presence of both humans and mastodons in the upper midwest.
An effect extraordinarily limited in what can usefully be done with it, it has nonetheless been flogged to death in the 10 years since The Matrix.
The Burly Brawl from the second Matrix movie thankfully didn't make the list either, likely because the whole thing looks like a cartoonish video game (and not in a good way). The only quibble I can think of: maybe Titanic should have been on there somewhere? (via fimoculous)
So I found out yesterday that the soundstage for "The Wire" still existed. I wasted no time in visiting it and was there almost less than 24 hours. It's one of my favorite TV shows ever and I had to see this before everyone ruined it. The building is also scheduled for demolition and they are going to build a super market on it.
This is the fifth annual selection of my favorite things I've linked to on kottke.org. This year's list includes games, photography, top-notch journalism, time-related material, architecture, design, and even politics, about 100 links in all. The format of the list is a bit different this year. Sprinkled amongst the usual high quality links are collections of links which fit into accidental categories that sprang up while going over the material, including my picks for the sites/blogs of the year. Enjoy.
Passage is a game that takes 5-minutes to play which possesses a poignancy that you wouldn't expect from such a simple game.
Sites/blogs of the year: The growing cache of vintage photos from museums and other public institutions on The Commons project on Flickr barely edges out excellently edited superb photography of The Big Picture for the site of the year.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: Backed by two huge and clueless media conglomerates, Hulu was never supposed to succeed but NBC and Fox managed to create a simple and compelling site for watching TV and movies online.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.: It technically launched in 2007, but this was the year that many people realized that Amazon's MP3 store finally made it easier and more convenient to search for and buy DRM-free music than getting it for free and illegally elsewhere (Bittorrent, etc.). And I haven't bought a single mp3 on iTunes since Amazon's MP3 store opened.
Sports: Three 2008 sports happenings stick out for me. 1. The epic Federer/Nadal final at Wimbledon. It was almost 5 hours long (not including the rain delay) and I was on the edge of my seat the whole time. 2. Usain Bolt winning both the 100m and 200m in world record time at the Beijing Olympics. Bolt celebrating so early before crossing the finish in the 100m was impressive but the margin of victory in the 200m was an astounding athletic feat. 3. The Michael Phelps / Milorad Cavic photo finish in the men's 100m butterfly final provoked much discussion and some of the only excitement on the way to Phelps winning a record eight golds at the Beijing games.
Things which aren't so much links as products:The Apple keyboard is the best keyboard ever made. RjDj is an iPhone app that samples sounds from your immediate environment and plays them back to you with music.
Fantastic Contraption, an incredibly addictive Flash game where you build machines out of seemingly simple parts to solve increasingly difficult puzzles.
Switched at Birth tells the tale of two girls who were swapped for one another at the hospital and didn't find out more than 40 years later even though one of the mothers knew the whole time. See also The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar.
Sites/blogs of the year, cont.:Roger Ebert's blog demonstrates that he might be a better cultural commentator than film critic. Either way, he's never been better.
Improv Everywhere used a Jumbotron, dozens of crazy fans, color programs, mascots, NBC sportscaster Jim Gray, and the Goodyear blimp to make a typical Little League game between the Lugnuts and Mudcats into The Best Game Ever.
In an Op-Ed piece for the NY Times called The End of the Financial World as We Know It, Michael Lewis and David Einhorn explore what checks and balances should have been in place to prevent the US financial markets from running themselves into the ground in search of perpetual short-term gain.
Our financial catastrophe, like Bernard Madoff's pyramid scheme, required all sorts of important, plugged-in people to sacrifice our collective long-term interests for short-term gain. The pressure to do this in today's financial markets is immense. Obviously the greater the market pressure to excel in the short term, the greater the need for pressure from outside the market to consider the longer term. But that's the problem: there is no longer any serious pressure from outside the market. The tyranny of the short term has extended itself with frightening ease into the entities that were meant to, one way or another, discipline Wall Street, and force it to consider its enlightened self-interest.
Here's part 2, in which Lewis and Einhorn propose some possible remedies.
Each worm/worm gear pair reduces the speed of the motor by 1/50th. Since there are 12 pairs of gears, the final speed reduction is calculated by (1/50)12. The implications are quite large. With the motor turning around 200 revolutions per minute, it will take well over two trillion years before the final gear makes but one turn.
As an appetizer before my annual best links of the year post (coming Monday, I hope), I put together a list of kottke.org posts from 2008 that I liked the most and that may be worth a look if you missed them the first time around.