Entries for June 2009 (July 2009 »    August 2009 »    September 2009 »    Archives)

 

Feet up on cushionJUN 29

Things will be significantly slower than usual around here this week...I am on vacation. Aside from some sporadic updates, I'll see you next week.

New Yorker iPhone siteJUN 29

The New Yorker has an iPhone-specific site up. (thx, @level39)

Megachurches and corporations are alikeJUN 26

From Joseph Clarke in Triple Canopy, a comparison of the histories of the American megachurch and corporation.

Lakewood and America's twelve hundred other megachurches -- congregations that draw between two thousand and fifty thousand people per weekend -- are not simply vast machines for passive spectatorship. Sunday services are convergences of worshipers who spend their weeknights at prayer groups, Bible studies, ministries, and missionary training sessions. Successful megachurches are like well-run companies, with intricate corporate structures devised to keep each member personally engaged; their pastors are like chief executives, maximizing the productivity of laborers in the evangelism enterprise. Jumbotron notwithstanding, the architectural and organizational tropes of the megachurch are best compared to those of the modern white-collar workplace.

Netflix Prize won?JUN 26

It looks as though the Netflix Prize might have been won through a combined effort of the top two teams. (thx, bergmayer)

Update: All teams have 30 days to better the current high score before the winner is declared. But, someone has won the Prize. (thx, all)

When it's your kid, it's not babysittingJUN 26

New father Paul Drielsma thinks that the language around fatherhood needs to change.

Scour the parenting forums on the Internet and you'll find the common lament that "DH" (darling husband) expects a medal whenever he "babysits" junior for a few hours. I have little sympathy for DH in these cases, but maybe a step in the right direction would be to stop using language that suggests hired help -- to stop referring to DH's job in the same terms as somebody who could legitimately stick his hand out at the end of his shift and demand a tip. DH isn't babysitting, he's parenting, and just changing that one word changes, for me at least, all sorts of connotations.

Rendered fashionJUN 26

The clothes from Irina Shaposhnikova's Crystallographica show look as though they were created with 3-D rendering software but haven't quite finished rendering yet.

Irina Shaposhnikova

(via today and tomorrow)

The most remarkable airplane of the 20th centuryJUN 26

A short appreciation of the SR-71 Blackbird, an airplane that was literally faster than a speeding bullet.

"It wasn't like any other airplane," he told me. It was terrifying, exciting, intense and humbling every time you flew. Each mission was designed to fly at a certain speed; you always knew the airplane had more. It was like driving to work in a double-A fuel dragster."

The skin of the plane's fuselage was a whopping 85% titanium, which was purchased, during the Cold War, from the Soviet Union.

Update: See also SR-71 Groundspeed Check, Google Map of where all the Blackbirds are, and SR-71 Disintegrates Around Pilot During Flight Test:

Everything seemed to unfold in slow motion. I learned later the time from event onset to catastrophic departure from controlled flight was only 2-3 sec. Still trying to communicate with Jim, I blacked out, succumbing to extremely high g-forces. The SR-71 then literally disintegrated around us. From that point, I was just along for the ride.

(thx, doug, clay & tom)

Why are famous paintings worth more than famous houses?JUN 26

David Galbraith calculates that if buildings by famous architects were priced like paintings, a Le Corbusier building would be worth more than the entire US GDP.

The top floor of Corbusier's Villa Stein (one of perhaps the top 500 most important houses of the late 19th/early 20th centuries - i.e. a Van Gogh of houses) is for sale for the same price per sq.ft. (approx $1400) as buildings in the same area of suburban Paris, designed by nobody in particular. Meanwhile, Van Gogh's Portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for an inflation adjusted price of $136 million yet a poster of similar square footage and style costs around $10.

In terms of signaling, it's difficult to hang a house on one's parlor wall...buying a Corbusier means living in it wherever it happens to be located, at least part of the year.

Potter, Stars Trek and Wars, Matrix all the same movieJUN 26

You've likely seen this comparison of Harry Potter and the first Star Wars movie but that comparison has recently been expanded to include not only Potter and Star Wars but also The Matrix and Abrams' Star Trek.

Once upon a time, Luke | Kirk | Neo | Harry was living a miserable life. Feeling disconnected from his friends and family, he dreams about how his life could be different. One day, he is greeted by Obi Wan | Captain Pike | Trinity | Hagrid and told that his life is not what it seems, and that due to some circumstances surrounding his birth | birth | birth | infancy he was meant for something greater.

Update: The connecting theme is the monomyth. (via @adamlgerber)

Update: Or perhaps Potter is really Young Sherlock Holmes? (thx, stephen)

Great places to workJUN 26

CNNMoney tells us about seven great companies to work for. For instance, a Colorado brewing company gives their employees free beer and company ownership.

After one year of work, each employee receives an ownership stake in the company and a free custom bicycle. After five years every employee enjoys an all-expenses-paid trip to Belgium -- the country whose centuries-old beer tradition serves as a model for the Fort Collins, Colo., brewery. Oh yeah, and employees get two free six-packs of beer a week.

Ghostbusters IIIJUN 26

Over on BLDGBLOG, Geoff Manaugh shares his idea for a Ghostbusters III screenplay based on NYNEX, the telephone company that served New York and New England from 1984 through 1997.

Pay phones ring for no reason, and they don't stop. Dead relatives call their families in the middle of the night. People, horrifically, even call themselves-- but it's the person they used to be, phoning out of the blue, warning them about future misdirection.

Every once in a while, though, something genuinely bad happens: someone answers the phone... and they go a little crazy.

Thing is -- spoiler alert -- halfway through the film, the Ghostbusters realize that NYNEX isn't a phone system at all: it's the embedded nervous system of an angel -- a fallen angel -- and all those phone calls and dial-up modems in college dorm rooms and public pay phones are actually connected into the fiber-optic anatomy of a vast, ethereal organism that preceded the architectural build-up of Manhattan.

Manhattan came afterwards, that is: NYNEX was here first.

Michael Jackson dead at 50JUN 25

From the NY Times:

L.A. Times Reports Jackson Is Dead | 6:24 p.m. The newspaper cited "city and law enforcement sources." The networks and CNN are also broadcasting the news, citing the Times story.

The LA Times story is here but isn't loading right now. Twitter is melting down a little. RIP, King of Pop.

Update: The LA Times story is loading now. Here's what it says:

Pop star Michael Jackson was pronounced dead by doctors this afternoon after arriving at a hospital in a deep coma, city and law enforcement sources told The Times.

Update: My favorite Michael Jackson performance is from the MTV Awards in 1995.

It's not a groundbreaking performance or anything -- it's like a greatest hits package -- but I had it taped on VHS and watched it many many times, wondering how a person could move like that.

Logo nicknamesJUN 25

Deep in the conservative bowels of corporations and brand identity firms, they've got cute little nicknames for logos. The GE logo is The Meatball, the AT&T logo is The Death Star, and the Warner logo is Two and a Half Hot Dogs. (via quips)

Create Your Own Economy, onlineJUN 25

Tyler Cowen previews a portion of his upcoming book, Create Your Own Economy, for Fast Company.

More and more, "production" -- that word my fellow economists have worked over for generations -- has become interior to the human mind rather than set on a factory floor. A tweet may not look like much, but its value lies in the mental dimension. You use Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other Web services to construct a complex meld of stories, images, and feelings in your mind. No single bit seems weighty on its own, but the resulting blend is rich in joy, emotion, and suspense. This is a new form of drama, and it plays out inside us -- with technological assistance -- rather than on a public stage.

On political sex scandalsJUN 25

Sage advice from Alec Baldwin about the Mark Sanford affair: Don't Take the Bait.

Now is a wonderful opportunity to show the country what Democrats/liberals/progressives/unaligned learned from the Clinton era. Whatever personal problems that public officials deal with privately, leave them alone. This could happen to anyone, in any state, regardless of party. Why make the voters of South Carolina suffer while Sanford is skewered? If he wants to resign, so be it. If not, let him deal with it in private.

And Baldwin didn't say this but I will: lefty political sites like HuffPo and TPM have and are devoting a lot of time and attention to these Republican sex scandals. Hey, they're good for pageviews, right? That's part of the problem too. Aren't there more important political things going on in the world than this gossip?

Previously on LostJUN 25

A Bolivian TV station was duped into airing screencaps showing a plane crash from Lost thinking that it was the crash of Air France Flight 447 somehow photographed in widescreen from inside the plane.

In their rush to air exclusive photos of Flight 447's destruction, no one in this newsroom stopped to ask the logical questions, such as: 1) How did the camera survive? and 2) Why are the photos in wide-screen format?

The answers, of course, are: 1) Because the footage is from Lost. And, 2) because the footage is from Lost.

Visualizing Twitter litterJUN 25

I guess I should have included "if the link is posted to TechMeme" in the Twitter litter list.

Twitter Litter

A more readable list is here.

A different wavelengthJUN 25

From The Onion: 95 Percent Of Opinions Withheld On Visit To Family.

"There was a time when my sister would mention how much she wants an SUV, and I'd be unable to resist launching into a whole thing about how irresponsible and wasteful they are. But after receiving my thousandth blank, confused stare from everybody at the table, I realized it was futile," Wilmot said. "Now, I don't even flinch when my dad mentions he's reading 'this amazing book called The Celestine Prophecy.' That's how bad it is."

Language shapes thoughtJUN 24

Lera Boroditsky shares some recent studies which show that language shapes the way we think.

How does an artist decide whether death, say, or time should be painted as a man or a woman? It turns out that in 85 percent of such personifications, whether a male or female figure is chosen is predicted by the grammatical gender of the word in the artist's native language. So, for example, German painters are more likely to paint death as a man, whereas Russian painters are more likely to paint death as a woman.

One of my favorite examples of this is something that Meg told me about years ago. In English, you might say something like, "I lost the keys" whereas in Spanish you could use a reflexive verb and say something more like "the keys lost themselves". Her guess was that difference makes Spanish speakers somewhat less likely to take responsibility for their actions...e.g. I didn't knock that vase over, it knocked itself over. (thx, david)

Update: Boy, the old inbox is humming on this one. People, including several linguists wrote in objecting to two main points. First, some said that it is far from certain that the research shows that language shapes thought; a couple people even went so far as to say that what Boroditsky wrote was just plain wrong. So there's certainly some debate there.

The second batch of posts took issue with what my wife Meg said about Spanish speakers. Let me try to clarify and explain what she was getting at without sounding like I'm a racist who thinks the Spanish and Mexicans are irresponsible klutzes (which I don't, if it wasn't COMPLETELY FUCKING OBVIOUS from the subject and tone of everything else I've ever written on this site, but thanks for going there anyway). Instead of what I wrote above, let's try this instead:

In my wife's experience as a fluent speaker of Mexican Spanish and who lived in Mexico for a year, she observed that when people misplaced their keys (and this is just one of many possible examples), they are far more likely to say something like "the keys lost themselves" than "I lost the keys" whereas in American English, you would never say "the keys lost themselves". In fact, she says that this sort of formulation is one of the quick ways to tell who speaks Mexican Spanish as a native and who doesn't. A reader says this is called the accidental se (scroll to the bottom). So with Spanish, there's a sense that these inanimate objects have some say in their actions, that they are "alive" and the speaker is in fact the victim. Those michevious keys lost themselves and now I'm late for work, that crazy glass tipped itself over and now I need to clean it up, etc.

In English, you could certainly say "the keys are lost" when deflecting responsibility for their loss (something everyone does, regardless of race or culture or language) but that's clearly not the same as the keys losing themselves...that's the real difference. I'll let Boroditsky explain what effects this difference might have on how Spanish speakers think, if any, lest I get any more angry emails. (thx, everyone, esp. kyle)

Climatologist James Hansen: we're almost too late re: climate changeJUN 24

Climatologist James Hansen, who is the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the creator of one of the first climate models that predicted global warming, is convinced that the problem of climate change caused by humans is much more dire than is generally thought (subscribers only link; abstract).

Hansen has now concluded, partly on the basis of his latest modeling efforts and partly on the basis of observations made by other scientists, that the threat of global warming is far greater than even he had suspected. Carbon dioxide isn't just approaching dangerous levels; it is already there. Unless immediate action is taken-including the shutdown of all the world's coal plants within the next two decades-the planet will be committed to climate change on a scale society won't be able to cope with. "This particular problem has become an emergency," Hansen said.

Hansen is so adamant about this belief that he has begun participating in protests around the globe, an unusual level of activism for such a respected and high-ranking government official. The last sentence of the piece reads:

He said he was thinking of attending another demonstration soon, in West Virginia coal country.

Elizabeth Kolbert, the author of the piece above, reports that Hansen not only attended that demonstration but got arrested.

More on US healthcare costsJUN 24

I've got two follow-ups to share with you regarding Atul Gawande's New Yorker piece about healthcare costs in the US (kottke.org post). In the Wall Street Journal, Abraham Verghese argues that in order for a healthcare reform plan to be successful, it has to include cost cutting.

I recently came on a phrase in an article in the journal "Annals of Internal Medicine" about an axiom of medical economics: a dollar spent on medical care is a dollar of income for someone. I have been reciting this as a mantra ever since. It may be the single most important fact about health care in America that you or I need to know. It means that all of us -- doctors, hospitals, pharmacists, drug companies, nurses, home health agencies, and so many others -- are drinking at the same trough which happens to hold $2.1 trillion, or 16% of our GDP. Every group who feeds at this trough has its lobbyists and has made contributions to Congressional campaigns to try to keep their spot and their share of the grub. Why not? -- it's hog heaven. But reform cannot happen without cutting costs, without turning people away from the trough and having them eat less. If you do that, you have to be prepared for the buzz saw of protest that dissuaded Roosevelt, defeated Truman's plan and scuttled Hillary Clinton's proposal.

In Gawande's example, what Verghese is saying is that you can't just make McAllen's healthcare system adopt an El Paso type of system without a whole lot of pain.

Gawande addressed some of the criticisms of his article on the New Yorker site. One of the major criticisms was that McAllen's higher costs were associated with higher levels of poverty and unhealthiness:

As I noted in the piece, McAllen is indeed in the poorest county in the country, with a relatively unhealthy population and the problems of being a border city. They have a very low physician supply. The struggles the people and medical community face there are huge. But they are just as huge in El Paso -- its residents are barely less poor or unhealthy or under-supplied with physicians than McAllen, and certainly not enough so to account for the enormous cost differences. The population in McAllen also has more hospital beds than four out of five American cities.

Ten Best Picture nominees for OscarsJUN 24

Whoa, next year there will be ten nominated films up for the Best Picture Oscar instead of the customary five. I'd love to see a statistical analysis of how different the results are between long nominee lists and shorter subsets. (via crazymonk)

Update: It's not quite a statistical analysis, but a couple of folks have guessed at the impact. First, from Tyler Cowen:

With five entries there are usually only two or maybe three real contenders. Strategic voting is present but manageable. There can be split votes across a particular actor or genre. With ten entries it is much harder to tell which picture will win. Counterintuitively, it might be harder for "odd" pictures to be nominated because they might end up winning. Popular movies like The Dark Knight will win more often because it will be hard not to nominate them (it didn't even receive a nomination).

From Noel Murray at the AV Club:

With more Best Picture slots open, studios and indies alike could be pushing harder to get their movies seen. What does that mean to you, the home viewer? It might -- just might -- mean that some smaller movies get longer runs in the big city arthouses, and even end up finding their way into the hinterlands. Everyone knocks the taste of the Academy (and often with good reason), but it's not like everything that gets nominated is dowdy and self-serious and simplified. And it's certainly true that plenty of excellent movies contend for the honor of contending each season. More of those excellent-but-low-priority movies may put up more than just a token campaign, and as a result, the average movie fan may become more aware of them, and may even get to see them.

And then there's this little tidbit from the NY Times:

In all about 300 films were eligible for awards in 2008. Were that to hold going forward, roughly one of every 30 films would become a best-picture nominee.

BreathariansJUN 24

Last night I found out about the most amazing load of crap I have ever heard of: breatharianism, a extreme diet whose most dedicated followers claim to subsist on air only. There are a number of variations on this basic theme but perhaps the most colorful breatharian is Wily Brooks. From Wikipedia:

Wiley Brooks is a purported breatharian, and founder of the "Breatharian Institute of America". He was first introduced to the public in 1980, when he appeared on the TV show That's Incredible!. Wiley has stopped teaching in recent years, so he can "devote 100% of his time on solving the problem as to why he needed to eat some type of food to keep his physical body alive and allow his light body to manifest completely." Wiley Brooks believes that he has found "four major deterrents" which prevented him from living without food: "people pollution", "food pollution", "air pollution" and "electro pollution". In 1983 he was allegedly observed leaving a Santa Cruz 7-Eleven with a Slurpee, hot dog and Twinkies.

He told Colors magazine in 2003 that he periodically breaks his fasting with a cheeseburger and a cola, explaining that when he's surrounded by junk culture and junk food, consuming them adds balance. On his website, Brooks explains that his future followers must first prepare by combining the junk food diet with the meditative incantation of five magic "fifth-dimensional" words which appear on his website. In the "Question and Answer" section of his website, Brooks explains that the "Double Quarter-Pounder with Cheese" meal from McDonald's possesses a special "base frequency" and that he thus recommends it as occasional food for beginning breatharians. He then goes on to reveal that the secret of Diet Coke is "liquid light". Prospective disciples are asked after some time on this junk food/magic word preparation to revisit his website in order to test if they can feel the magic.

He further mentions that those interested can call him on his fifth-dimensional phone number in order to get the correct pronunciation of the five magic words. In case the line is busy, prospective recruits are asked to meditate on the five magic words for a few minutes, and then try calling again; he does not explain how anyone can meditate with words they cannot yet pronounce. Brooks's "institute", in the past, charged varying fees to prospective clients who wished to learn how to live without food, which ranged from US$15 million to $25 million. These charges have historically been presented as limited time offers exclusively for billionaires, New lower fees have been set to $10,000 with an initial deposit of $2,000.

He wants to consume only air but can't stop eating McDonald's hamburgers! Diet Coke is liquid light! My impulse is to say "you just can't make this stuff up, folks" but that's obviously not true. Kinda makes you want to start your own completely implausible religion, doesn't it? (thx, andy)

MTA selling subway station naming rightsJUN 24

The MTA is trying to sell the naming rights to the Atlantic Ave subway stop in Brooklyn to Barclays, a London bank. If approved, other rights may be sold as well. Yes, let's make the NYC subway even more confusing than it already is, although I'm sure the MTA will come up with some reason that cramming "Domino's® Breadbowl Pasta™ Station" onto a map makes more sense than "23rd Street".

On the other hand, a casual study of the NYC subway map reveals the following brand names already in use:

Rockefeller Center
Columbia University
JFK Airport
Museum of Natural History
Lincoln Center
Hunter College
Yankee Stadium
Aqueduct Racetrack
Times Square
Herald Square
NY Aquarium
World Trade Center
Brooklyn Museum
Mets

But, without exception, station names are derived from nearby landmarks: streets, airports, schools, stadiums, squares, parks, etc.

Twitter litterJUN 24

The problem with all of the "we're tracking the most popular links on Twitter" sites is that link sharing on Twitter depends on (in order of decreasing relevance):

1. the time it takes to read/view the link (shorter is way better)
2. if the subject of the link is Twitter or Facebook
3. the sense of outrage aroused in the reader (the more the better)
4. if the link was published by fucking Mashable
5. retweets by popular Twitter users who have many parrot followers (i.e. disciples)
6. how interesting the link is

So unless you're into brief but outrageous Twitter news from Mashable that you heard about from Robert Scoble -- and it is incredible the number of people who are -- these services just aren't that useful. (As this post itself meets several of the above criteria, feel free to retweet.)

Apparent Plagiarism in Chris Anderson's FreeJUN 23

Chris Anderson's new book, Free, will be out early next month (you can order it for $17.81 on Amazon). Over on the VQR blog, Waldo Jaquith discovered that several passages in the book were lifted directly from Wikipedia and other sources without attribution.

These instances were identified after a cursory investigation, after I checked by hand several dozen suspect passages in the whole of the 274-page book. This was not an exhaustive search, since I don't have access to an electronic version of the book. Most of the passages, but not all, come from Wikipedia.

In response to a query by Jaquith -- bloggers take note -- sent *before* the publication of the piece, Anderson took responsibility for the copied passages, saying that they were "notes" that were originally footnoted:

This all came about once we collapsed the notes into the copy. I had the original sources footnoted, but once we lost the footnotes at the 11th hour, I went through the document and redid all the attributions [...] Obviously in my rush at the end I missed a few of that last category, which is bad. As you'll note, these are mostly on the margins of the book's focus, mostly on historical asides, but that's no excuse. I should have had a better process to make sure the write-through covered all the text that we not directly sourced.

Anderson's publisher, Hyperion, considers his response to be satisfactory and will correct the errors in future editions.

Two takes on gun violence in the New YorkerJUN 23

A pair of related articles from the New Yorker last week. The first is a Talk of the Town piece on a water-pistol ambush game played by the students at a New York City private school.

Willis Cohen was finally killed through no fault of his own. He woke up one day and, as usual, hopped a neighbor's fence and exited through another house. He caught a livery cab on Amity Street and headed north to the Heights. He knew he was in trouble when his driver refused to raise the windows. A member of the Gaisford team shot him in the chest through the cab's passenger-side window as he pulled up to the school.

The second is a piece by John Seabrook is about David Kennedy and his approach to reducing gang-related murder through a combination of community support and "one strike and everyone's out" policy.

At the initial call-in, Victor Garcia was the first to speak. He told the young men that he loved them, that they had value to their community, and that he knew they were better than their violent actions implied. Afterward, Chief Steicher addressed them, thanking them for coming, and making it clear that "this is nothing personal." He then delivered the message: "We know who you are, we know who your friends are, and we know what you're doing. If your boys don't stop shooting people right now, we're coming after everyone in your group."

Without too much trouble, you could imagine either of these excerpts appearing in either article. A curious editorial decision to run them in the same issue.

The house that used to be thereJUN 23

From Marcus Buck, imprints of demolished houses left on other houses.

Ghost House

Photo is from Pruned. (via janelle)

Update: Medianeras, series of photos of "party walls" by José Antonio Millán. (via artifacting)

Stop masking passwordsJUN 23

Jakob Nielsen says: stop masking passwords in web input forms.

Usability suffers when users type in passwords and the only feedback they get is a row of bullets. Typically, masking passwords doesn't even increase security, but it does cost you business due to login failures.

Sing it, brother. It's even worse on the iPhone...even with the last letter thing that it gives you, I still mistype passwords all the time.

Ponyo trailerJUN 23

The trailer for Ponyo, the latest animated feature film from Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away, etc.). The film opened in Japan last year and made more than $150 million at the box office. The American version is dubbed and I don't know if a subtitled version will made it to theaters in the US or not. There was a theatrical release of a subtitled Mononoke but that was a long time ago.

First trailer for HBO's The PacificJUN 23

As a follow-up to the excellent Band of Brothers, HBO, Steven Speilberg, and Tom Hanks have teamed up to make The Pacific, a 10-part miniseries about the fighting in the Pacific during WWII from the perspective of a group of US Marines. The first trailer for the series has been released:

(via sarahnomics)

Update: So of course HBO made YouTube remove the video of the trailer. But they put up a smaller crappier version on their own site so it's all ok, right? (Why do media companies not like people spreading their advertising around? That's the fucking goal, yes?) Anyway, in the meantime I changed the link to the video above with a new one that hasn't been removed yet. And if that one gets removed, you can probably find the newest ones here. (thx, greg)

How to tie a tie, shine your shoes, etc.JUN 23

Garra has a fun and informative series of lifestyle how-to videos for men, including how to tie a tie (6 ways), perform a bit of table magic, wear a scarf, iron a shirt in 3 minutes, and shine a pair of shoes. See also how to bull your shoes and Bowmore's other videos. (thx, youngna)

The 50th LawJUN 23

The 50th Law

Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, which has been influential in both halls of business and hip-hop circles, has written a new book with rapper 50 Cent called The 50th Law. Greene was initially skeptical of 50 Cent as a co-author but was impressed by their initial meeting.

He was in the midst of a power struggle with a rival rapper and he talked quite openly about the strategies he was employing, including mistakes he had made along the way. He analyzed his own actions with detachment, as if he were talking about another person. Over the last few years he had witnessed a lot of nasty maneuvering within the music business, and he seemed to want to discuss this with somebody from the outside. He was not interested in myths but reality. Contrary to his public persona, he had a Zen-like calmness that impressed me.

The main theme of the book is about fear and "the reverse power that you can obtain by overcoming [it]".

We found stories from his own life that would illustrate these ideas, many of them culled from his days as a hustler and even highlighting mistakes along the way that taught him valuable lessons. Later, from my own research, I would bring in examples from other historical figures who exemplified this trait. Many of them would be African Americans--Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Miles Davis, Malcolm X, Hurricane Carter, et al--whose fearless quality was forged by their harsh struggles against racism. Others would come from all periods and cultures--the Stoics, Joan of Arc, JFK, Leonardo da Vinci, Mao tse-tung, and so on.

The women of McSweeney'sJUN 22

Elissa Bassist, motivated by a Christopher Hitchens query about women being less funny than men, collects a whole bunch of writing by women from McSweeney's.

Audio of Weegee and Cartier-BressonJUN 22

Rare mp3s of Weegee and Henri Cartier-Bresson talking about photography.

Below you can hear Weegee talk about picture-making. It's interesting to hear his voice, which is one of those accents you don't hear so much in New York anymore: part Austro-Hungarian immigrant by way of the Lower East Side and part Elmer Fudd. Peter Sellers based his accent in Dr. Strangelove on Weegee's voice after Weegee visited Kubrick's set one day.

Yep, that's Strangelove, alright. (via conscientious)

Flip Flop Fly BallJUN 22

Flip Flop Fly Ball is a marriage of baseball fandom and an enthusiasm for infographics. While not strictly baseball, this comparison of the sizes and shapes of sports balls is a favorite.

Find My iPhone worksJUN 22

Shortly after activating the Find My iPhone feature on his iPhone, Kevin loses it and then uses the feature to successfully retrieve it.

Then an amazingly lucky thing happened. I refreshed the iPhone location and the circle moved, to the corner of the block, and shrunk in size to maybe 100 feet across. I waited a minute and refreshed again. The small circle had shifted southward down Washtenaw.

"THAT WAY!"

Us three skinny white guys walked at a rapid pace in the direction of the circle. We moved past the birthday party, curious if one of the participants might be culpable, but the circle again shifted farther south. I was ready to break for our car if the phone started moving away faster than we could catch it, but it hovered at the very end of the street, at the corner of Washtenaw and Milwaukee.

I wonder if Apple imagined this sort of amateur (and potentially dangerous) police work would happen when they implemented Find My iPhone.

The story that takes 1,000 years to readJUN 22

The recently published Infinity issue of Opium Magazine has a nine-word story printed on the cover that will take 1,000 years to read.

The cover is printed in a double layer of standard black ink, with an incrementally screened overlay masking the nine words. Exposed over time to ultraviolet light, the words will be appear at different rates, supposedly one per century.

But just as technology is increasing the speed of the media cycle, so too can it defeat the purpose of this experiment and allow us to read the story well before 1000 years. A UV source much stronger than the Sun should do the trick.

New Michael Moore movieJUN 22

I'm not sure there's any reason to watch the trailer for the as-yet-untitled Michael Moore documentary on the global economic meltdown; don't we pretty much know where he stands at this point?

Wall-E end creditsJUN 22

The Art of the Title Sequence takes a look at the excellent ending credits for Wall-E and interviews the gentlemen responsible.

Jim Capobianco's end credits to Andrew Stanton's "WALL-E" are essential; they are the actual ending of the film, a perfect and fantastically optimistic conclusion to a grand, if imperfect idea. Humanity's past and future evolution viewed through unspooling schools of art. Frame after frame sinks in as you smile self-consciously. It isn't supposed to be this good but there it is. This is art in its own right. Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman's song, "Down to Earth" indulges you with some incredibly thoughtful lyrics and, from the Stone Age to the Impressionists to the wonderful 8-bit pixel sprites, you are in the midst of something special.

(via quipsologies)

Scenes from the bailoutJUN 22

In her own words, the wife of a CEO whose bank accepted TARP funds describes her hard times.

As you can see, being a TARP wife means, in short, making decisions according to a complex algorithm: balancing the need to look like your world hasn't crumbled beneath you -- let's not alarm the investors! -- with the need to appear duly repentant for your subprime sins.

I realize that happiness is relative when dealing with money and social status, but it was difficult to keep that in mind while reading this. (Yes, this article is a couple months old. Do not read if you're allergic to information generated less than 30 seconds ago. Instead, you can check to see if the professor has given you another pellet yet.)

Infinite Summer is a goJUN 21

Infinite Summer kicks off today and while I'm not the world's foremost Wallace scholar, I was happy to provide a foreword to get it rolling.

So sure, it's a lengthy book that's heavy to carry and impossible to read in bed, but Christ, how many hours of American Idol have you sat through on your uncomfortable POS couch? The entire run of The West Wing was 111 hours and 56 minutes; ER was twice as long, and in the later seasons, twice as painful. I guarantee you that getting through Infinite Jest with a good understanding of what happened will take you a lot less time and energy than you expended getting your Mage to level 60 in World of Warcraft.

Hodgman and Obama nerd it upJUN 20

Video of John Hodgman's speech at the Radio & TV Correspondents' Dinner.

With Obama in attendance, Hodgman wonders if our Commander in Chief is indeed as nerdy as we've hoped.

Steve Jobs' liver transplantJUN 20

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple's Steve Jobs had a liver transplant operation done about two months ago. John Gruber has extensive coverage of Livergate; he thinks it was an Apple leak:

This must be a deliberate, timed leak from Apple. The timing is simply perfect from Apple's perspective -- midnight on the Friday of what appears to be the most successful new product launch in company history.

Whatever the case, get well soon, Steve.

Trailer for Cold SoulsJUN 19

Cold Souls = Being John Malkovich - John Malkovich + Paul Giamatti. Sort of.

Update: Perhaps this could be a sequel?

Radiolab on randomnessJUN 19

Newish episode of Radiolab about randomness: Stochasticity.

How big a role does randomness play in our lives? Do we live in a world of magic and meaning or ... is it all just chance and happenstance? To tackle this question, we look at the role chance and randomness play in sports, lottery tickets, and even the cells in our own body. Along the way, we talk to a woman suddenly consumed by a frenzied gambling addiction, two friends whose meeting seems purely providential, and some very noisy bacteria.

Creepy puppet childrenJUN 19

This might be the creepiest thing on the internet today: The Puppet Show, photos of real children modified to look like puppets.

Puppet Show

2012 trailerJUN 19

This movie just looks amazing. And horrible. A must-see trailer in HD if you like, as I do, watching the Earth being destroyed.

Update: And here's a totally sweet trailer for 2012: It's a Disaster. (thx, javier)

Can't get enough of Auto-Tune the NewsJUN 19

Is installment #5 the best Auto-Tune the News yet? Shawty!

Sonic black holeJUN 19

Scientists have created a sonic black hole using Bose-Einstein condensates near absolute zero.

Since atoms move between the [Bose-Einstein condensate] clouds faster than sound, any sound wave trying to escape will fall farther and farther behind, never able to escape the sonic event horizon. "It's like trying to swim slowly against a fast current," said Steinhauer. "The sound waves fall behind because the current is moving faster than the waves."

Bose for speakers, Bose-Einstein for anti-speakers. Now, if we could just position one of these holes near the Fox News anchor desk, we'd be all set.

Arrested Development DocumentaryJUN 19

Here's the trailer for the Arrested Development Documentary.

The overall goal of the documentary is to provide awareness and education of this brilliant, witty and original comedy.

Confessions of an innocent manJUN 19

Michael O'Hare shares his experience of being wrongly accused of being The Zodiac Killer by conspiracy theory nut Gareth Penn.

The surreal quality of Penn's dialogue with the facts is captured by the matter of the phone number. At one time in Cambridge I had a phone number with the last four digits 6266. From this Penn, using some sort of gematria, extracted enormous meaning. But what does a number assigned by the phone company say about the person it was given to? Many of the other details Penn has used to launch his voyages of conjecture are equally beyond my control, like my birthday and my mother's name. There was also some fuss made about the fact that I was on the freshman rifle team in college. (At least two of the Zodiac murders were committed with a handgun at point-blank range, so rifle marksmanship doesn't seem germane, but go figure.)

Big ideas: from silly to obviousJUN 18

From the tail end of an article on a global guest-worker program, a quote by economist Lant Pritchett on how people perceive game-changing ideas over time.

Pritchett says he has a model of how game-changing ideas are received over time, and it works something like this: "Crazy. Crazy. Crazy. Obvious."

And then the piece just leaves us hanging on that gem. It appears that Pritchett hasn't written too much about that particular notion, but I did find a slide in a presentation he did that puts it a slightly different way:

silly, controversial, progressive, then obvious

Sounds about right. (via sam arbesman)

Update: Several people sent in Mahatma Gandhi's related quote:

First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.

Update: The Gandhi quote is disputed. A similar quote appears in the transcript of a 1914 US trade union address:

And, my friends, in this story you have a history of this entire movement. First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you. And that, is what is going to happen to the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.

(thx, robin)

Topless waitressesJUN 18

Waiting Topless (NSFW) is a audio slideshow about a pair of waitresses who worked at the Grand View Topless Coffee Shop in the small town of Vassalboro, Maine.

"Yes, I am a topless waitress, but I'm just a regular normal person in society," Cunningham says. "I honestly don't think in this economy right that there is a job out there that would pay roughly the same."

The coffee shop recently burnt to the ground in a suspected arson.

Hey WSJ, where is Iran?JUN 18

The Wall Street Journal's Photo Journal blog, the launch of which was inspired by The Big Picture, has posted exactly *zero* photos of what's going on in Iran right now in their "Pictures of the Day" feature. That strikes me as odd. In contrast, The Big Picture has posted three big entries dedicated to the elections.

More on van Meegeran by Errol MorrisJUN 18

Errol Morris follows up on his recent series about Dutch forger Han van Meegeren by addressing some of the comments he received. Here's Morris on the interaction of historical research and modern content management techniques.

The first version of the Time article that I saw was the "electronic" version from the Web. It is particularly strange, if only because the text (from 1947) is surrounded by modern information, including contemporary advertisements for Liberty Mutual, teeth whitening preparations, wrinkle-cream, and most e-mailed articles. Emmy Göring and Henriette von Schirach complaints are directly adjacent to "Will Twitter Change the Way We Live."

I also enjoyed the discussion of "Hitler-soup" at the end.

Maglev toy trainJUN 18

This video of a toy maglev train is a great illustration of how the technology works.

Watch the whole thing...there's a nice bit at the end with tracks mounted vertically on buildings. (via cyn-c)

Popular Science published an article five years ago on the possibility of a trans-Atlantic maglev train that would travel in an airless underwater tunnel at 4,000 MPH and make the trip from New York to London in an hour.

A 4,000-mph magnetically levitated train could allow you to have lunch in Manhattan and still get to London in time for the theater, despite the 5-hour time difference. It's not impossible: Norway has studied neutrally buoyant tunnels (concluding that they're feasible, though expensive), and Shanghai is running maglev trains to its airport. But supersonic speeds require another critical step: eliminating the air -- and therefore air friction -- from the train's path. A vacuum would also save the tunnel from the destructive effects of a sonic boom, which, unchecked, could potentially rip the tunnel apart.

Statistical evidence of election fraud in Iran?JUN 18

I was kinda waiting for FiveThirtyEight to weigh in on this: using Benford's Law to check for fraud in the Iranian election results (here as well).

Benford's law is sometimes useful in these cases, because human beings intuitively tend to distribute the first digits about evenly when they're making up "random" strings of numbers, when in fact many real-world distributions will be skewed toward the smaller digits.

Both 538 pieces are skeptical that Benford's Law is applicable in this case. (thx, nick)

Update: Voting fraud expert Walter Mebane has produced a paper on the Iranian election that uses Benford's Law to check the results. He's updated the paper several times since it was first published and now writes that "the results give moderately strong support for a diagnosis that the 2009 election was affected by significant fraud". (thx,scott)

Update: Done just after the election, this analysis shows that the returns released by Iran's Interior Ministry during the course of the day of the election shows an unnaturally high steadiness of voting percentages. (thx, cliff)

Update: Regarding the previous link, Nate Silver doesn't think much of that analysis. (thx, cliff)

Politics of the Supreme CourtJUN 18

A very interesting infographic of the ideological history of the Supreme Court from 1937 to the present. The color coding on the map is weirdly inaccurate but you can still be general trends pretty well...like how many of the justices changed greatly during their terms. William O. Douglas became slightly more moderate mid-term and then got really liberal while Rehnquist went from very conservative to more moderate as his term went on, especially after he became Chief Justice.

OT: I knew there was a Burger on the bench but was unaware of Justice Frankfurter (1938-1961).

Update: Alex Lundry designed the visualization and got in touch to explain the color coding.

The colors are chosen based upon the Min, Max, and Median of the area we are comparing. So, in the first view, the "overall" view, the darkest Red is anchored to the maximum ideology number across all justices and all terms, the darkest Blue is anchored to the minimum score, and the purest white is anchored to the actual median number (The Location of the Median Justice is NOT necessarily the actual median, as it is calculated via a Bayesian statistical estimate).

The second "compare" option, "within each seat, row" calculates separate color anchors for each row.

Similarly, the third compare option, "within each year, column" calculates separate color anchors for each column.

The Location of Median Justice and Court Average are not included in these calculations and their color values are set to what they would be in the overall comparison.

Update: Burger, Frankfurter, Salmon. (via @kurtw)

Castro's son fooled into hot online romance with fictional womanJUN 18

A 46-year-old Miami man duped Fidel Castro's son Antonio into an online flirtation with "Claudia Valencia", a Colombian hottie in her 20s.

"Claudia" and Castro exchanged e-mails, Internet chats, and at one point even used streaming live Web video to communicate. During "Claudia" and Castro's Web romance, the dictator's son never shared details about his father, Fidel, or any Cuban intelligence secrets, but Dominguez said he was able to get glimpses of the life of luxuries and freedoms the Cuban leaders enjoy while the people of the island nation struggle.

(via @juliandibbell)

Folding experience into paper mapsJUN 18

Two recent projects that incorporate the experiences of map users into the subsequent versions of the maps:

1. For the Salone di Mobile event in Milan, The British Council commissioned a map of the event that would be augmented each day with information flowing in from Flickr, Twitter, blogs, and people's physical scribbles on the maps.

One thing that's very interesting to us that is using this rapidly-produced thing then becomes a 'social object': creating conversations, collecting scribbles, instigating adventures - which then get collected and redistributed.

More information about the project is available on The Incidental site.

2. Walking Maps, produced by Mike Migurski at Stamen, encourages people print out maps from OpenStreetMap, annotate them with missing information, and scan them back in.

In some places, participants are creating the first freely-available maps by GPS survey. In other places, such as the United States, basic roads exist, but lack local detail: locations of traffic signals, ATMs, caf'es, schools, parks, and shops. What such partially-mapped places need is not more GPS traces, but additional knowledge about what exists on and around the street. Walking Papers is made to help you easily create printed maps, mark them with things you know, and then share that knowledge with OpenStreetMap.

Personal responsibility in healthcare insuranceJUN 17

Taking a cue from auto insurance, Safeway has devised a healthcare insurance plan that emphasizes personal responsibility.

Safeway's plan capitalizes on two key insights gained in 2005. The first is that 70% of all health-care costs are the direct result of behavior. The second insight, which is well understood by the providers of health care, is that 74% of all costs are confined to four chronic conditions (cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity). Furthermore, 80% of cardiovascular disease and diabetes is preventable, 60% of cancers are preventable, and more than 90% of obesity is preventable.

The result is that Safeway's healthcare costs have held steady over the past four years while the costs at other American companies have increased almost 40%.

Nice infographicsJUN 17

Infographics News collects some lovely infographics from a new Portuguese newspaper called i.

The style of infographics follow the general design created by Javier Errea: no fireworks, modern, compact, with cromatic impact but smart. And the Innovation spirit: "newspapers must be daily magazines", as Juan Antonio Giner says.

(via max gadney)

Geeking OutJUN 17

Geeking Out sounds interesting, but I can't go. Perhaps you'd like to?

This month, we'll be discussing the interaction between science and religion with speakers including: astrophysicist and Is God a Mathematician? author Mario Livio; psychologist Paul Bloom, the author of Descartes' Baby; and The GOD Part of the Brain author Matthew Alper, one of the founders of the field of neurotheology. The work of local artists will be on display as well.

Geeking Out will be held Thursday, June 18th, at 7:30 pm (doors open at 7:00 pm) at the JLA Studios art gallery on 63 Pearl St in the DUMBO neighborhood of Brooklyn. Admission is FREE. Drinks will be available. Please spread the word and bring your friends.

SpintronicsJUN 17

Chips made from bismuth telluride could signal a new era in electronics.

Recently-predicted and much-sought, the material allows electrons on its surface to travel with no loss of energy at room temperatures and can be fabricated using existing semiconductor technologies. Such material could provide a leap in microchip speeds, and even become the bedrock of an entirely new kind of computing industry based on spintronics, the next evolution of electronics.

No loss of energy...it's like magic!

The architecture of Star WarsJUN 17

The Architects' Journal selected their top 10 structures from the Star Wars films.

Not quite a building, but the monumental quality of its form and its polygonal facades lend this Jawa Sandcrawler a building-like presence. These large treaded vehicles have inspired buildings from a Tunisian hotel to Rem Koolhaas' Casa de Musica in Porto.

(thx, janelle)

Apollo 11 mission on TwitterJUN 17

The scamps at Nature are updating the ApolloPlus40 Twitter account as the Apollo 11 mission happened 40 years ago. (thx, matt)

Beautiful wordsJUN 17

Are these the 100 most beautiful words in the English language?

Words from invented languagesJUN 17

Arika Okrent wrote a book on invented languages so University of Chicago Magazine asked her to share her ten favorite made-up words.

lxmsgevjltshevjlpshev: "179 degrees 59 minutes and 59 seconds of west longitude within one second of reaching 180 degrees west" Now that's a word!

50 Films You Can Wait to See After You're DeadJUN 16

Death to Smoochy
The Boondock Saints
The Karate Kid, Part III
Cool as Ice
Dice Rules
Basic Instinct 2
Gigli
SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2
From Justin to Kelly
The Hottie & the Nottie
Glitter
Car 54, Where Are You?
Son of the Mask
Leonard Part 6
Lady in the Water
Norbit
Swept Away
White Chicks
Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid
Spice World
Jaws 3-D
Bratz: The Movie
Troll 2
Howard the Duck
Battlefield Earth
The Postman
I Know Who Killed Me
Kazaam
Rambo III
Freddy Got Fingered
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
Striptease
Caddyshack II
The Adventures of Pluto Nash
Barb Wire
Ishtar
Bio-Dome
Jingle All the Way
Catwoman
Disaster Movie
Rocky V
BloodRayne
Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo
The Love Guru
Crossroads
Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2
The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas
It's Pat!
Batman & Robin
Speed 2: Cruise Control

Global Street FoodJUN 16

Global Street Food is an exhibition the various contraptions people use to make and sell food on the street.

Street Food Cart

"Global Street Food" is dedicated to the fascination with improvised kitchens in public places. Urban fast food stations navigating the contrast between pragmatic dilettantism and complexity in the smallest of spaces. Mike Meiré will be presenting several objects and street kitchens from different parts of the world in the Buckmneister Fuller Dome. An exhibition depicting the sculptural quality of authentic objects and their cultural identity

(via today and tomorrow)

Too complex to existJUN 16

In an analysis of the global financial system, Duncan Watts says that we should limit the complexity of these sorts of systems because "once everything is connected, problems can spread as easily as solutions".

Traditionally, banks and other financial institutions have succeeded by managing risk, not avoiding it. But as the world has become increasingly connected, their task has become exponentially more difficult. To see why, it's helpful to think about power grids again: engineers can reliably assess the risk that any single power line or generator will fail under some given set of conditions; but once a cascade starts, it's difficult to know what those conditions will be - because they can change suddenly and dramatically depending on what else happens in the system. Correspondingly, in financial systems, risk managers are able to assess their own institutions' exposure, but only on the assumption that the rest of the world obeys certain conditions. In a crisis it is precisely these conditions that change in unpredictable ways.

No one, for example, anticipated that an investment bank as old and prestigious as Lehman Brothers could collapse as suddenly as it did, so nobody had that contingency built into their risk models. And once it did fail, then just as the failure of a single power line increases the stress on other parts of the system, leading to further "knock on" failures, so too did Lehman's unlikely collapse render other previously unlikely failures suddenly much more likely.

This is essentially the same point that Nassim Taleb makes in The Black Swan re: Extremistan and Mediocristan.

Online financial data APIs and resourcesJUN 16

A couple of weeks ago on Twitter, I asked about freely available financial data.

Anyone know where to get stock data in a standard API format (XML, JSON, etc)? Just looking for hi/lo/close data, not real-time.

I may or may not get around to doing the project I wanted the data for, but in the meantime, here's a list of the suggested resources that people sent in:

- Google Finance API.

- Google Finance's CSV output (example)

- Google Finance API for gadgets.

- Yahoo Finance's CSV output (example)

- There's a stock quote example in this IBM article on using YQL, JSONP, and jQuery.

- The Stock Quote web service from WebserviceX.net.

- Data from Infochimps: AMEX, NASDAQ, NYSE.

- Xignite finance APIs.

Update: Getting stock information with YQL. (via @jonathantrevor)

The origins of lifeJUN 16

The NY Times on the progress being made in explaining how life arose on Earth.

With these four recent advances -- Dr. Szostak's protocells, self-replicating RNA, the natural synthesis of nucleotides, and an explanation for handedness -- those who study the origin of life have much to be pleased about, despite the distance yet to go. "At some point some of these threads will start joining together," Dr. Sutherland said. "I think all of us are far more optimistic now than we were five or 10 years ago."

Aronofsky and Portman in Black SwanJUN 16

When I first saw the headline, I thought "this is amazing...Darren Aronofsky's directing a movie based on the book by Nassim Taleb and Natalie Portman's gonna star in it!" The plot of the actual movie is only slightly less implausible:

"Swan" centers on a veteran ballerina (Portman) who finds herself locked in a competitive situation with a rival dancer, with the stakes and twists increasing as the dancers approach a big performance. But it's unclear whether the rival is a supernatural apparition or if the protagonist is simply having delusions.

Hey, they're making Blink and Moneyball into movies, why not The Black Swan?

Update: An additional important note about this film:

In this movie, Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis have sex. Yeah. You read that right. And not just nice sweet innocent sex either. We're talking ecstasy-induced hungry aggressive angry sex.

Fallen PrincessesJUN 16

The Fallen Princesses project imagines Disney characters if their stories didn't end happily ever after.

Snow White Mom

As a young girl, growing up abroad, I was not exposed to Fairy tales. These new discoveries lead to my fascination with the origins of Fairy tales. I explored the original brothers Grimm's stories and found that they have very dark and sometimes gruesome aspects, many of which were changed by Disney. I began to imagine Disney's perfect Princesses juxtaposed with real issues that were affecting women around me, such as illness, addiction and self-image issues.

Not so Charming. (via avenues)

More from Gawande on controlling healthcare costsJUN 15

On Friday, Atul Gawande gave the commencement address at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. The address touched on some of the same themes as his recent piece on the differing costs of healthcare across the US. He began with an anecdote about how observation of well-nourished children in poor Vietnamese villages led to village-wide improvments in curbing malnutrition.

The villagers discovered that there were well-nourished children among them, despite the poverty, and that those children's mothers were breaking with the locally accepted wisdom in all sorts of ways -- feeding their children even when they had diarrhea; giving them several small feedings each day rather than one or two big ones; adding sweet-potato greens to the children's rice despite its being considered a low-class food. The ideas spread and took hold. The program measured the results and posted them in the villages for all to see. In two years, malnutrition dropped sixty-five to eighty-five per cent in every village the Sternins had been to.

And I don't know why, but I've always thought of surgery as primarily a cerebral pursuit; a great surgeon is so because he's clever and smart. A short passage from Gawande's address reveals that perhaps that's not the case:

In surgery, for instance, I know that I have more I can learn in mastering the operations I do. So what does a surgeon like me do? We look to those who are unusually successful -- the positive deviants. We watch them operate and learn their tricks, the moves they make that we can take home.

So surgeons learn surgery in the same way that kids learn Kobe Bryant's post moves from SportsCenter highlights?

Paul Graham profileJUN 15

Inc. has a cover story on Paul Graham, whose essays you either love to hate or hate to love.

"Paul gives these kids money, but he also gives them a methodology and a value system," he says. "I don't mean this in a negative way, but Y Combinator is more like a cult than a venture capital fund. And Paul is the cult leader."

The overtime spike in NBA basketballJUN 15

The distribution of point differentials at the end of NBA basketball games shows that a tie is more than twice as likely as either team winning by one point. A possible simple explanation from the comments:

1. Teams down by 2 late are most likely to take a 2 point shot, while teams down by 3 will most often take a 3 point shot. The team's choices make ties a likely outcome.

2. A Tie is a stable equilibrium, while other scores aren't. If a team leads with the ball, they will be fouled, preventing the game from ending on that score. IF a team has the ball with a tie, they'll usually be allowed to wait and take the last shot, either winning the game or leaving it as a tie.

Update: This study about golf putting seems to have something in common with the overtime finding.

Even the world's best pros are so consumed with avoiding bogeys that they make putts for birdie discernibly less often than identical-length putts for par, according to a coming paper by two professors at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. After analyzing laser-precise data on more than 1.6 million Tour putts, they estimated that this preference for avoiding a negative (bogey) more than gaining an equal positive (birdie) -- known in economics as loss aversion -- costs the average pro about one stroke per 72-hole tournament, and the top 20 golfers about $1.2 million in prize money a year.

Immersion: Porn by Robbie CooperJUN 15

You may remember Robbie Cooper's projects Alter Ego (photos of gamers and their in-game avatars) and Immersion (kids filmed with an Interrotron while playing video games). Cooper's new project is like Immersion, except with people watching porn. The video stills can be found in the July issue of Wallpaper but an 18-minute video is available on their web site.

In a film of startling power and unsettling intimacy -- produced exclusively for wallpaper.com -- video artist and photographer Robbie Cooper shoots back at active porn aficionados lost in ecstatic release and hears how their passion developed. Be aware that this is not easy titillation and some of you may find the footage shocking. But the film does throw up any number of questions about voyeurism and exhibitionism and makes clear the incredible nakedness of the solo sex act.

NSFW because it turns out that watching people watching porn at the office is no easier to explain to your boss/co-workers than actually watching porn at the office.

Nine reasons why the High Line sucksJUN 15

Oobject interrupts the High Line hug fest with a list of nine reasons why the High Line sucks. He missed James Kunstler's assertion that the whole thing should have remained a railroad.

Nail housesJUN 15

Inspired by Carl Fredricksen's house in Up, which was holding up construction of a massive building complex, deputydog uncovers some more such houses, which are actually called nail houses.

Another nail house is actually a nail church. Citicorp Center was built without corner columns to accommodate St. Peter's Church, which occupied one corner of the block on which the skyscraper was built. The engineer who built Citicorp Center made a mistake related to the church's accommodation and famously corrected it after the building was built.

The President and the economyJUN 15

On the Freakonomics blog, Dmitri Leybman tells us about the three main ways that the President's political party can have an impact on the economy.

This tendency of Republican presidents to preside over growth that occurs so close to re-election has been cited by Bartels as the main reason why Republican presidents have been so successful in achieving two-term presidencies in the post-World War II era. Voters, Bartels believes, are economic myopists, paying attention only to the most recent economic outcomes and not the overall outcomes experienced under a president's rule.

19th century bike tricksJUN 15

In 1899, Thomas Edison filmed some very contemporary looking bike tricks.

This seemed fake when I first watched it but here it is at The Library of Congress.

Dream discoveriesJUN 12

Five discoveries made while dreaming. A Hindu goddess delivered formulas to mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan while Jack Nicklaus practiced some dreamful attraction.

Wednesday night I had a dream and it was about my golf swing. I was hitting them pretty good in the dream and all at once I realized I wasn't holding the club the way I've actually been holding it lately. [...] So when I came to the course yesterday morning I tried it the way I did in my dream and it worked. I shot a 68 yesterday and a 65 today.

Bill Simmons on, what else, basketballJUN 12

In an interview with the New Yorker about basketball and his new book, The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons offers up his take on how players skipping college impoverishes the NBA.

The lack of college experience also means that you probably have less of a chance to have a conversation with a Finals player about English lit or political science. For instance, if you're a reporter, maybe you don't ask for thoughts from modern players on the Gaza Strip or Abdul Nasser, or whether they read Chuck Pahlaniuk's new book. These guys lead sheltered lives that really aren't that interesting. Back in the seventies, you could go out to dinner with three of the Knicks -- let's say, Phil Jackson, Bill Bradley, and Walt Frazier -- and actually have a fascinating night. Which three guys would you pick on the Magic or Lakers? I guess Fisher would be interesting, and I always heard Odom was surprisingly thoughtful. I can't come up with a third. So I'd say that the effects are more in the "didn't really have any experiences outside being a basketball player" sense.

Absurd Time cover storiesJUN 12

Reason recalls the ten most ridiculous Time cover stories, including the infamous 1995 CYBERPORN story, which was the first time I remember the web collectively and vigorously fact-checking the ass of a mainstream media outlet.

The "principal researcher" for the study that inspired Time's cover was actually an undergraduate, and experts began picking the study apart the moment the issue hit newsstands. Three weeks after the wee, wide-eyed web surfer cover, Time backpedalled -- on page 57 -- explaining that real experts say "a more telling statistic is that pornographic files represent less than one-half of 1 percent of all messages posted on the Internet" and that, "it is impossible to count the number of times those files are downloaded; the network measures only how many people are presented with the opportunity to download, not how many actually do."

(via fimoculous)

50 ridiculous design rulesJUN 12

Never Use White Type on a Black Background.

Design has many rules that claim to be big truths and full of wisdom. Designers all go by rules that work for them. However, their rules may not work for someone else, or for a particular piece of design work. When a rule is forced upon you, it stops working and becomes a joke, like "Never use a PC," or "Leave it until the last minute," or the most famous of them all, "Less is more." The problem is that every rule related to, or governing, design is ultimately ridiculous. In this book we have collected the most talked-about rules and the viewpoints of designers and thought leaders who live by them or hate them.

(via swissmiss)

Gay Talese spends $2800 on shoesJUN 12

And he's got several pairs of them. In this video, the noted writer shows off his suits and talks about "dressing up for the story" as a young reporter.

Later today: Layer TennisJUN 12

This afternoon at 3pm ET, I will offering the commentary in a first round match of the 2009 Layer Tennis playoffs. The match features Aaron Draplin vs. Sam Potts and promises to be awesome. Come by and heckle. BTW, the morning match between Chris Glass and Greg Hubacek with commentary by Rosecrans Baldwin has already begun.

Replacing journalists with writersJUN 12

I really really love this: on Wednesday, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz sent its regular staff home and had some of Israel's notable poets and authors cover the news. From author Avri Herling, here is the most accurate financial report you're ever likely to read in the paper:

"Everything's okay. Everything's like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything's okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place... Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9% to a level of 1,860 points.... The guy from the shakshuka [an Israeli egg-and-tomato dish] shop raised his prices again...."

There's a real "emperor has no clothes" vibe to this. (via snarkmarket)

It took him a long time to find images he likedJUN 12

Here's a new wrinkle in the ongoing battle with people that inline other people's images: I stole your images, put them back or I will call a lawyer.

Images On Your Site

Why is business so hard? (thx, jillian)

Update: That image is from 2005...here's the rest of the story and a couple more images. (thx, andy)

Two thumbs up from EbertJUN 11

Roger Ebert shares a few of his "two thumbs up" reviews from the past few months. Among them are Up, Away We Go, The Hangover, and somewhat surprisingly, Knowing starring Nicholas Cage. Ebert was the only major critic that really liked the film.

A short word with Eliot SpitzerJUN 11

A short but revealing interview with Eliot Spitzer over a hot dog lunch in Central Park.

I asked him why so many politicians are caught in insane sex scandals. "What is it with you all?"

"I'm not going to make excuses," he replied evenly. "Let me ask you a question: Is there a difference between politicians and anybody else? Or is it that the lives of politicians are so very public?"

"There is a difference, Mr. Spitzer. You were elected to a position of public trust."

"That's right," he conceded. "It's why I resigned without delay. Some said I could try to ride it out. But I didn't see it that way. What I did was heinous and wrong."

(via the browser)

Hermes breeding its own crocodilesJUN 11

This report from Vogue has inspired a new tag: Not The Onion.

The recession seemed like a far-removed concept for Hermes this morning, as the luxury retailer announced it is breeding its own crocodiles to keep up with the demand for its iconic handbags.

(via @bldgblog)

Asian posesJUN 11

There are many different Asian pose cliches, including Nyan Nyan (aka the classic anime/manga cat girl pose), Pigtails, and, of course, the V Sign.

Asian Poses

Puffy Cheeks is an expression that you can use with many different poses.

More extrasolar planetary newsJUN 11

Oliver Morton fills us in on the current happenings in the search for planets outside of our solar system. A friend of his clued him in on a technique that could be used to not only discover planets but to determine if those planets show signs of supporting Earth-like life.

When they are passing in front of their stars, their atmospheres are backlit in a way that can make spectroscopic analysis of the different chemicals in their atmospheres comparatively easy: the wavelengths of light absorbed by the various chemicals will show up, in a tiny way, in the spectrum of the starlight. And this is what makes it possible to imagine looking at them for signs of life.

What scientists would look for are planets with unstable atmospheres, which James Lovelock said was an indication of life.

After the extragalactic planet post this morning, Sam Arbesman sent me a link to systemic, a blog dedicated to the search for extrasolar planets written by Greg Laughlin, one of the scientists involved in the effort. Here are two relevant posts. In Forward, Laughlin says we're very close to finding a nearby Earth-like planet:

Detailed Monte-Carlo simulations indicate that there's a 98% probability that TESS will locate a potentially habitable transiting terrestrial planet orbiting a red dwarf lying closer than 50 parsecs. When this planet is found, JWST (which will launch near the end of TESS's two year mission) can take its spectrum and obtain resolved measurements of molecular absorption in the atmosphere.

In Too cheap to meter, Laughlin presents a formula for the land value of such a discovery that depends on how far away the planet is, the age of the star it orbits, and the star's visual magnitude.

Applying the formula to an exact Earth-analog orbiting Alpha Cen B, the value is boosted to 6.4 billion dollars, which seems to be the right order of magnitude. And applying the formula to Earth (using the Sun's apparent visual magnitude) one arrives at a figure close to 5 quadrillion dollars, which is roughly the economic value of Earth (~100x the Earth's current yearly GDP)...

The Museum of Bad ArtJUN 11

The recent acquisitions should give you some idea of the curatorial vision of the Museum of Bad Art. (thx, joe)

The real-world architecture of the internet cloudJUN 11

The internet cloud is actually "giant buildings full of computers and diesel generators".

Yet as data centers increasingly become the nerve centers of business and society -- even the storehouses of our fleeting cultural memory (that dancing cockatoo on YouTube!) -- the demand for bigger and better ones increases: there is a growing need to produce the most computing power per square foot at the lowest possible cost in energy and resources. All of which is bringing a new level of attention, and challenges, to a once rather hidden phenomenon. Call it the architecture of search: the tens of thousands of square feet of machinery, humming away 24/7, 365 days a year -- often built on, say, a former bean field -- that lie behind your Internet queries.

First extragalactic planet?JUN 11

Scientists may have found the first planet located in another galaxy. The evidence is a little sparse but the search technique they're using is solid.

The idea is to use gravitational microlensing, in which a distant source star is briefly magnified by the gravity of an object passing in front of it. This technique has already found several planets in our galaxy, out to distances of thousands of light years. Extending the method from thousands to millions of light years won't be easy, says Philippe Jetzer of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, but it should be possible.

Milk Thistle goes publicJUN 10

Milk Thistle Farm, which makes great organic milk that can be had at NYC greenmarkets or at Whole Foods, is asking small investors to finance their expansion.

While many organic dairy farmers who supply big producers have been suffering in the recession, Mr. Hesse says demand for their milk and cream has been growing and that they'd like to start selling in more markets. He's also thinking about producing yogurt and ice cream.

The minimum investment is $1000 and the notes offer 5-7% interest.

Build Your Own New YorkJUN 10

Build Your Own New York offers instructions and free models to help you build cardboard replicas of many of NYC's famous landmarks. See also Build Your Own Chicago. (via @zigged)

BridgeCraftJUN 10

Usually free Flash games take about 30-45 minutes to get through but BridgeCraft has a whopping 140 levels (70 each on easy and normal settings)! You could build actual bridges in the time it would take to finish this game.

The Geek AtlasJUN 10

The Geek Atlas is a travel guide for those interested in science, math, and technology.

The history of science is all around us, if you know where to look. With this unique traveler's guide, you'll learn about 128 destinations around the world where discoveries in science, mathematics, or technology occurred or is happening now. Travel to Munich to see the world's largest science museum, watch Foucault's pendulum swinging in Paris, ponder a descendant of Newton's apple tree at Trinity College, Cambridge, and more.

Sounds interesting. It's selling surprisingly well at Amazon right now.

The Uniform ProjectJUN 10

For The Uniform Project, Sheena Matheiken is wearing the same dress every day for an entire year. Each day, she "reinvents the dress with layers, accessories and all kinds of accouterments".

How do you design a dress that can be worn all year around? The mastermind behind the uniform dress is my friend and designer, Eliza Starbuck. We took inspiration from one of my staple dresses, improving upon the shape and fit to add on some seasonal versatility. The dress is designed so it can be worn both ways, front and back, and also as an open tunic. It's made from a durable, breathable cotton, good for New York summers and good for layering in cooler seasons. With deep hidden pockets to appease my deep aversion for carrying purses.

Looking through the photos so far, you can see how versatile the dress is and how clever Matheiken is in accessorizing it. (via ben fry)

Update: Alex Martin did a similar project back in 2005 called Brown Dress.

So, here's the deal -- I made this dress and I wore it every day for a year. I made one small, personal attempt to confront consumerism by refusing to change my dress for 365 days. In this performance, I challenged myself to reject the economic system that pushes over-consumption, and the bill of goods that has been sold, especially to women, about what makes a person good, attractive and interesting. Clothes are a big part of this image, and the expectation in time, effort, and financial investment is immense.

From 1991-2002 as part of her A-Z Uniforms project, Andrea Zittel made herself a new dress and wore it for six straight months.

Because I was tired of the tyranny of constant variety, I began a six-month uniform project. Starting in 1991 I would design and make one perfect dress for each season, and would then wear that dress every day for six months. Although utilitarian in principle, I often found that there was a strong element of fantasy or emotional need invested in each season's design. The experiment as a whole worked quite well, especially since dreaming up the next season's design helped relieve any monotony that might have occurred from wearing the same dress every day.

Some of Zittel's dresses are pictured here. Has The Onion done a piece about the guy in marketing's art piece where he wears brown khakis and a blue button-down shirt everyday for 20 years? (thx, jon & amanda)

Atul Gawande has Obama's attention on healthcareJUN 10

Obama read Atul Gawande's article about the differences in healthcare costs in different parts of the US and was so taken by it that he had a meeting about it with his aides and mentioned the piece in a meeting with a group of Democratic senators.

As part of the larger effort to overhaul health care, lawmakers are trying to address the problem that intrigues Mr. Obama so much -- the huge geographic variations in Medicare spending per beneficiary. Two decades of research suggests that the higher spending does not produce better results for patients but may be evidence of inefficiency.

Obama is indeed reading this guy's stuff. (thx, cliff)

Pixar's princessJUN 10

Two movies from now, after Toy Story 3 and Newt, Pixar is *finally* releasing a movie with a female main character. The only problem? She's a princess.

I have nothing against princesses. I have nothing against movies with princesses. But don't the Disney princesses pretty much have us covered? If we had to wait for your thirteenth movie for you to make one with a girl at the center, couldn't you have chosen something -- something -- for her to be that could compete with plucky robots and adventurous space toys?

Disney's princesses do have us covered.

The science of persuasionJUN 10

This list of 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive is pretty awesome. Two of my favorites:

2. Introduce herd effect in highly personalized form. The hotel sign in the bathroom informed the guests that many prior guests chose to be environmentally friendly by recycling their towels. However, when the message mentioned that majority of the guests who stayed in this specific room chose to be more environmentally conscious and reused their towels, towel recycling jumped 33%, even though the message was largely the same.

40. Incentive programs need a good start. A car-wash place gave one group of customers a free car wash after 8 washes, and everybody got their first stamp after their visit. Group B got a free car wash after 10 car washes, with 3 stamps on the card. Both groups needed to make 7 more trips to get a free wash. 19% of the Group A returned, while 34% of the Group B did.

These are all taken from a book of the same name. (via lone gunman)

30 Rock = The Muppet Show rebootedJUN 09

I've never seen 30 Rock (I KNOW, I KNOW) so I can't attest to the correctness of this, but supposedly the show is a rip-off of The Muppet Show.

EXHIBIT B: LIZ LEMON VS. KERMIT THE FROG
Both are the most normal characters on their respective shows. Both are unlucky at love. Both are neurotic worrywarts and type-a personalities who slow burn into a crazy breakdown once per episode. AND both have some kind of flirtation with the guest stars that ultimately goes nowhere. There is absolutely no difference between Liz Lemon and Kermit the Frog save for genitalia (Liz is a lady, Kermit has none).

Make up your mind, internet. Is Kermit Liz Lemon or Christian Bale?

Update: Sesame Street did a 30 Rock bit. Liz Lemon was played not by Kermit but by a lemon. (thx, elisabeth)

Pixar short: Partly CloudyJUN 09

Quick, before it gets taken down: Partly Cloudy, the Pixar short preceding Up is available on YouTube.

Music Catch 2JUN 09

Catch musical notes as they fly by to the rhythm of a classical soundtrack. I enjoyed this game way more than I thought I would...it's likely my love of games where you tidy up. (thx, dylan)

Ames' WindowJUN 09

This is one of the freakiest optical illusions I've ever seen.

(thx, veronica)

The seven types of book store patronJUN 09

Independents: They don't want help. They want a computer terminal they can use themselves. They want up-to-date inventory numbers aligned with an up-to-date store map, so they can go find the book themselves. If the book isn't in the store, they want up-to-date warehouse information, so they can order it themselves. In other words, they want a bookseller, but they don't want any of that messy human contact. And they want an online sales site, but they prefer to drive out to a retail location, as opposed to the convenience of using a website at home.

What's interesting about the list is that none of the types sound like the ideal book store customer.

Zeitoun, new book by Dave EggersJUN 09

Dave Eggers has a new book out soon called Zeitoun.

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a prosperous 47-year-old Syrian-American and father of four, chose to stay through the storm to protect his house and contracting business. In the days after the storm, he traveled the flooded streets in a secondhand canoe, passing on supplies and helping those he could. A week later, on September 6, 2005, Zeitoun abruptly disappeared. Eggers's riveting nonfiction book, three years in the making, explores Zeitoun's roots in Syria, his marriage to Kathy -- an American who converted to Islam -- and their children, and the surreal atmosphere (in New Orleans and the United States generally) in which what happened to Abdulrahman Zeitoun was possible. Like What Is the What, Zeitoun was written in close collaboration with its subjects and involved vast research -- in this case, in the United States, Spain, and Syria.

The Rumpus has a long interview with Eggers about the book.

The book took about three years, and the Zeitouns were deeply involved in every step of the process. So we spent a lot of time together in New Orleans, and over the phone, and via email. And I was able to go to Syria and meet Abdulrahman's family there, and spent some time with his brother Ahmad, a ship captain in Spain. Ahmad was a wealth of information and is a meticulous record-keeper. I had to get to know the whole extended family, because Abdulrahman's life before New Orleans figures into the story, too. I had to go to Syria and see where he grew up, and visit the ancestral home of the family, on this island off the coast, Arwad Island.

Eggers also talks a little bit about the newspaper prototype that McSweeney's is doing this fall.

High Line openJUN 09

Oh yeah the new High Line is open.

Really big particlesJUN 09

As the universe expanded, neutrinos formed in the Big Bang may have been stretched to billions of light years across.

On owning GMJUN 08

What I Learned Today crunches the numbers on GM and the results are not pretty.

So $83,000,000,000 is what New GM would have to be worth in order for us to break even on our investment. But $56,000,000,000 is what GM was worth at its all time peak in 2000.

Live from WWDCJUN 08

Apple's WWDC shindig is going on in SF right now...they're announcing new goodies in the keynote. Follow along here and here.

Maps of tunnel networksJUN 08

Oobject collects some maps of the world's most fascinating tunnel networks.

High stakes repoJUN 08

Nick Popovich, "the Ernest Hemingway of super repo men", has a rule about firearms when doing repossessions:

The man who tells you he's going to shoot you will not shoot you.

If there isn't already, there will likely be a movie based on Popovich's exploits released someday.

Who Can Name the Bigger Number?JUN 08

Regarding the game of Who Can Name the Bigger Number?, Scott Aaronson shows that while 9^9^9^9 might cut the mustard in the first couple of rounds, the numbers and the notation used to express them get much more complicated.

Exponentials are familiar, relevant, intimately connected to the physical world and to human hopes and fears. Using the notational systems I'll discuss next, we can concisely name numbers that make exponentials picayune by comparison, that subjectively speaking exceed 9^9^9^9 as much as the latter exceeds 9.

See also the Wikipedia entry for large numbers.

Teach your kids to argueJUN 08

Teaching your kids how to argue doesn't make them quarrelous; it makes them consider other points of view, particularly those held by others.

Let's face it: Our culture has lost the ability to usefully disagree. Most Americans seem to avoid argument. But this has produced passive aggression and groupthink in the office, red and blue states, and families unable to discuss things as simple as what to watch on television. Rhetoric doesn't turn kids into back-sassers; it makes them think about other points of view.

I had long equated arguing with fighting, but in rhetoric they are very different things. An argument is good; a fight is not. Whereas the goal of a fight is to dominate your opponent, in an argument you succeed when you bring your audience over to your side. A dispute over territory in the backseat of a car qualifies as an argument, for example, in the unlikely event that one child attempts to persuade his audience rather than slug it.

(via siege)

The Moon in HDJUN 05

HD video of the Moon from 13 miles above the surface taken by Japan's KAGUYA probe. The probe's orbit has been decaying since it began circling the Moon and will crash on the surface at 18:30 GMT on June 10.

Tom SwiftiesJUN 05

Schott's Vocab is holding a Tom Swifty competition this weekend.

"Who discovered radium?" asked Marie curiously.
"Just parsley, sage and rosemary," said Tom timelessly.
"Show no mercy killing the vampire," said Tom painstakingly.
"It keeps my hair in place," said Alice with abandon.

There are already over 1000 comments.

More biking = safer bikingJUN 05

The "safety in numbers" effect is proving true in NYC: the number of bicycles on the streets has more than doubled since 2001 while casualties have fallen. The increased prevalence of bike lanes in the city has to be helping too. (thx, david)

Designing for the deceasedJUN 05

Marie Mundaca designed three of David Foster Wallace's books (the insides, not the covers). The second one was challenging but rewarding.

Wallace's idea was to have leaders and labels, like a diagram. He wanted something that looked like hypertext rollovers that were immediate and at hand. I thought this whole thing might be a bit much for me to design. It seemed like it might be a full-time job. I sent it off to one of my favorite designers, who shot me an email back saying something along the lines of "There is not enough money in the world to make me do this."

The third was just plain tough.

What was the most important year ever?JUN 05

Long-time readers know that I love "best _____ of all-time" lists and questions. Arriving at a precise answer for a question like "What's the best movie ever?" is an impossible task but it's lots of fun to argue about it. Over at the Economist's Intelligent Life Magazine, they've taken up the most preposterous (by which I mean awesome) "best of" question I've ever heard: What was the most important year ever?

But alongside 1776, we must include 1945. The atomic bombs alone changed the world's sense of itself, never mind the final defeat of Nazi Germany, whose attempted genocide of the Jewish people remains the single most important moral fact of modern times, the one that has done most to change the way we think. It was the year when American hegemony in the West was established and when the long Stalinist bondage of eastern Europe began, and when India took decisive steps towards independence.

Update: Several more Economist writers have weighed in. Their choices: 5 BC (birth of Jesus), 1204 (Christianity divided by Crusades), 1439 (Gutenberg's press), 1791 (invention of telegraph), and 1944 (beginning of worldwide ideological war). Don't like those choices? Vote for your own.

How to be happy in businessJUN 05

Bud Caddell summarizes how to be happy with your work in the form of a Venn diagram consisting of three main overlapping areas: What We Do Well, What We Want to Do, and What We Can Be Paid to Do. (via today and tomorrow)

Errol Morris series finished upJUN 05

Over on his NY Times blog, Errol Morris finishes up his excellent seven-part series on Vermeer forger Han van Meegeren. Here are the links to all seven parts: one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven.

Micro OlympicsJUN 05

Aaaaaaand if you liked Hedgehog Launch and Learn to Fly, you'll also probably enjoy Micro Olympics and Micro Olympics on Mars.

Chris Burden's Big WheelJUN 05

In a piece from 1979 called Big Wheel, artist Chris Burden took a massive 19th century iron flywheel and set it spinning with the rear wheel of a small motorcycle. The flywheel spins for *three hours* on a single charge.

A description of the work from the NY Times:

Several of his larger works present a characteristic blend of purity, violence and monumentality now aimed at demonstrating simple principles of motion or mass in breathtakingly sculptural ways. In "The Big Wheel," Burden uses a motorcycle's rear wheel to set a three-ton iron flywheel, the survivor of a 19th-century factory, into a fast and furious spin that lasts about three hours. The contrast is wonderful: this old, simple Goliath of a wheel, man's first "machine," powered by a modern David -- small, complex and delicate.

Best TV of the decadeJUN 04

Variety polled members of the Television Critics Association for their picks for the best TV of the past decade. Here are their choices for drama series and comedy series:

Drama: Friday Night Lights, Lost, Mad Men, The Sopranos, The West Wing, The Wire.

Comedy: 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Daily Show, Everybody Loves Raymond, The Office.

Eight questions for Jonathan RauchJUN 04

A wide-ranging interview with the always interesting Jonathan Rauch. Topics include blogging, introversion, politics, and gay marriage.

America is divided on the meaning of marriage and is understandably cautious about tampering with an age-old, embattled institution. On the other hand, Americans are increasingly sympathetic to gay couples who are pledged to care for each other (and their children) but who are legal strangers to one another, a situation which just makes no sense.

On gay marriage, activists on both ends of the spectrum conspired against radical incrementalism. One side tried to ban gay marriage forever on every inch of American soil; the other side dreamed of mandating it nationally by court order. To its great credit, the country refused to be hustled. Instead it is taking the truly conservative approach, which is to try gay marriage in some places, without betting the whole country.

Almost freezing to deathJUN 04

What does it feel like to almost freeze to death? Probably something like this.

At 85 degrees, those freezing to death, in a strange, anguished paroxysm, often rip off their clothes. This phenomenon, known as paradoxical undressing, is common enough that urban hypothermia victims are sometimes initially diagnosed as victims of sexual assault. Though researchers are uncertain of the cause, the most logical explanation is that shortly before loss of consciousness, the constricted blood vessels near the body's surface suddenly dilate and produce a sensation of extreme heat against the skin.

But even if you are caught out in the cold long enough to paradoxically undress, not all hope is lost.

The lowest recorded core temperature in a surviving adult is 60.8 degrees. For a child it's lower: In 1994, a two-year-old girl in Saskatchewan wandered out of her house into a minus-40 night. She was found near her doorstep the next morning, limbs frozen solid, her core temperature 57 degrees. She lived.

Update: The frozen two-year-old was Karlee Kosolofski. In 2001, after the article above was written, a one-year-old clad only in a diaper was found frozen in a backyard.

She was clinically dead, and her heart stopped beating for about two hours. But doctors slowly warmed her body and started her heart again. The girl, nicknamed Miracle, made a complete recovery.

(thx, jason)

The Worst magazineJUN 04

The first issue of The Worst magazine rounds up the worst toys, the worst celebrities, and the worst art.

The Worst Magazine

(via design observer)

Learn to FlyJUN 04

If small addictive Flash games were advertised through Hollywoodesque trailers: if you loved Hedgehog Launch, you'll go penguins for Learn to Fly.

Optical illusion shoesJUN 04

It took me at least 30 seconds of looking at these shoes to realize that the woman wasn't floating two inches off the ground and what I thought were shadows are actually heels. Even knowing the secret, the effect switches for me like a Necker cube or the spinning dancer.

A New Deal for typographyJUN 04

From Neville Brody and Jeff Knowles:

Throughout the nation men and women, forgotten in the typographical philosophy of the Foundries, look to us here for guidance and for more equitable opportunity to share in the distribution of typefaces... I pledge myself to a New Deal for the American people. This is more than a font. It is a call to arms.

(via my design observer comrades)

This image is messing with my brainJUN 04

Tim Walker for Hermes

Tim Walker for Hermes. (via andrea inspired)

Update: Walker likely took his inspiration from Philippe Ramette.

GoodmintonJUN 03

Goodminton "is badminton where the object is to keep the birdie in play as long as possible".

SeedbombJUN 03

A project from Jin-wook Hwang:

Seedbomb is a non-military bomb that protects earth from worsening desertification and lessens sandstorms. [...] When a Seedbomb is released from an airplane, Seedbomb is disassembled in the air and seed capsules inside of the bomb spread out widely and fall on the ground.

As individual seeds grow into plants, the case surrounding each seed breaks down due to the moisture generated by the plant through transpiration.

The demise of "form follows function"JUN 03

Regarding the design of digital products, form doesn't follow function anymore.

Thanks to digital technology, designers can squeeze so many functions into such tiny containers that there is more computing power in a basic cellphone (not a fancy model, like a BlackBerry or iPhone, just a cheap one) than at NASA's headquarters when it began in 1958. That is why the appearance of most digital products bears no relation to what they do.

I've heard this idea expressed before, specifically about the iPhone, but I can't remember where. Maybe it was Rawsthorn herself in Objectified?

Distinctive watersJUN 03

In the future, there will be sommeliers for everything from toothpaste to flip-flops. Today's example: water.

Take Mahalo Deep Sea Water, at £20 for 71cl, which comes from "a freshwater iceberg that melted thousands of years ago and, being of different temperature and salinity to the sea water around it, sank to become a lake at the bottom of the ocean floor. The water has been collected through a 3000ft pipeline off the shores of Hawaii." According to the Daily Mail, Mahalo has a "very rounded quality on the palate" and it "would be good with shellfish."

There's even a book on this "up-and-coming trend": Fine Waters: A Connoisseur's Guide to the World's Most Distinctive Bottled Waters.

Update: The Grand Hyatt Sao Paulo has a cheese sommelier, a specially water menu, and "an extensive soap menu".

The Graveyard of the AtlanticJUN 03

This large map of Sable Island shows its many shipwrecks.

Only sealers, shipwrecked sailors and salvagers made their homes on Sable Island, impermanent ones at best. The salvagers must have had some pretty good times -- over the last few centuries, more than 350 vessels were shipwrecked on what became known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic". Located in shallow, often stormy and foggy waters, the elongated Sable Island (44 km long but never more than 2 km wide) might have been predestined as a catchment area for ships treading these Atlantic latitudes -- a self-fulfilling curse for captains igorant or oblivious of this huge, constantly shifting sandbar.

Update: Dueling Graveyards of the Atlantic.

The waters off North Carolina's Outer Banks entomb thousands of vessels and countless mariners who lost a desperate struggle against the forces of war, piracy and nature. The Graveyard of the Atlantic, with one of the highest densities of shipwrecks in the world, holds some of America's most important maritime history.

(thx, dan)

The tank man of TiananmenJUN 03

The NY Times Lens blog, which has been really good right from the start, has a great story today about the photographers who took the pictures of the man in the white shirt staring down the tanks in Tiananmen twenty years ago.

As the tanks neared the Beijing Hotel, the lone young man walked toward the middle of the avenue waving his jacket and shopping bag to stop the tanks. I kept shooting in anticipation of what I felt was his certain doom. But to my amazement, the lead tank stopped, then tried to move around him. But the young man cut it off again. Finally, the PSB (Public Security Bureau) grabbed him and ran away with him. Stuart and I looked at each other somewhat in disbelief at what we had just seen and photographed.

I think his action captured peoples' hearts everywhere, and when the moment came, his character defined the moment, rather than the moment defining him. He made the image. I was just one of the photographers. And I felt honored to be there.

Update: The Lens story prompted photographer Terril Jones to share a previously unpublished photo he'd taken of the tank man from a unique angle.

Update: From Lawyers, Guns, and Money:

The thing is, Tank Commander is far more dangerous than Tank Man. Tank Man can simply be shot; most seem to believe that Tank Man was later executed, far out of sight of the international media. The regime survives if Tank Man dies, even if the death of Tank Man isn't the optimal outcome. The regime dies, however, if Tank Commander refuses to run over Tank Man. Eisenstein used the Odessa Steps to demonstrate the corruption of the Czarist regime, but the regime didn't die until the soldiers refused to shoot the demonstrators. The successor regime didn't die until Boris Yeltsin climbed on a tank in August 1991. While there's some mystery as to the fate of Tank Man, I don't doubt that the CCP found Tank Commander and put a bullet in the back of his head at the first opportunity.

Emergency cuff linksJUN 03

If you have two pair of small binder clips:

Binder Clips

then you also have a pair of emergency cuff links.

Following shotsJUN 03

From Matt Zoller Seitz, Following: a collection of movie clips where the camera follows a character through their environment.

See also Seitz's The Substance of Style series on Wes Anderson's influences.

Update: See also The Explanation by Seitz, Cool Guys Don't Look at Explosions, and Jad Abumrad's selection of movie clips with great music. And a shot that should have been included in Following: the lovely opening to Birth. (thx, dan & matt)

China's success at erasing historyJUN 02

James Fallows reports that China has been very successful in erasing the Tiananmen Square protests from the official record.

I have spent a lot of time over the past three years with Chinese university students. They know a lot about the world, and about American history, and about certain periods in their own country's past. Virtually everyone can recite chapter and verse of the Japanese cruelties in China from the 1930s onward, or the 100 Years of Humiliation, or the long background of Chinese engagement with Tibet. Through their own family's experiences, many have heard of the trauma of the Cultural Revolution years and the starvation and hardship of the Great Leap Forward. But you can't assume they will ever have heard of what happened in Tiananmen Square twenty years ago. For a minority of people in China, the upcoming date of June 4 has tremendous significance. For most young people, it's just another day.

As the June 4 anniversary of the crackdown approaches, the Great Firewall of China has been strengthened by adding Twitter, Flickr, Hotmail, and Bing to the list of sites that are unavailable by China's internet users. (via snarkmarket)

Surprise wedding reception by Improv EverywhereJUN 02

Improv Everywhere's newest prank is their best yet: they threw a wedding reception for a random couple getting married at City Hall.

The reception was an incredibly fun time. We had planned to stage the mission for more than one couple, but Frank and Raff were just too perfect. They stayed for over an hour and completely yes-anded everything we threw at them. There were moments where it felt like we actually did all know each other and you sort of forgot you were "acting."

Why GM failedJUN 02

GM declared bankruptcy yesterday and the rush is on to explain what went wrong. Here are a few explanations I found, along with some possible solutions.

After 101 years, why GM failed, Peter Cohan, DailyFinance:

4. Failure to innovate. Since GM was focused on profiting from finance, it did not really care that much about building better vehicles. GM's management failed to adapt GM to changes in customer needs, upstart competitors, and new technologies.

Seven reasons GM is headed to bankruptcy, Sharon Silke Carty, USA Today:

When GM realized how fast 1990s buyers were switching to trucks as personal transportation, it overreacted, pouring time and money into SUVs and pickups at the expense of car development. The result: As long ago as 2000, Wall Street was warning that GM could be overcommitted to trucks and wind up out of phase if the pendulum of buyer preference swung back to cars. Once consumer tastes began changing, the market was awash in new truck models, and profits were sapped by discounts needed to keep sales boiling.

Goodbye, GM, Michael Moore:

The products built in the factories of GM, Ford and Chrysler are some of the greatest weapons of mass destruction responsible for global warming and the melting of our polar icecaps. The things we call "cars" may have been fun to drive, but they are like a million daggers into the heart of Mother Nature. To continue to build them would only lead to the ruin of our species and much of the planet.

G.M.'s Road From Prosperity to Crisis, NY Times:

The company reached a deal with Saab to expand its European presence. Having an extensive brand lineup had been a primary strategy at G.M. since its creation in 1908. But this tactic eventually became costly, as brands overlapped and competed for business and money.

GM Reinvention, GM. Twitter, Flickr, Facebook, it's all there. Oy.

Ten Vehicles That Bankrupted GM, Matt Hardigree, Jalopnik:

The Pontiac Aztec was one of the first major crossover vehicles brought to market in the U.S. [It was] combination of car-like handling and fuel economy with SUV-like space and aggressive appearance. The concept was a hit and now most automakers are shifting towards crossover. The Aztec was a massive failure. It was an attractive idea in an amazingly unattractive shell. It failed almost entirely based upon its appearance.

Who's to Blame for GM's Bankruptcy?, William J. Holstein, BusinessWeek:

GM simply was not ready to respond to Toyota Motor and other Japanese manufacturers when they began to gain serious ground in the early 1980s. Toyota, in particular, had developed a lean manufacturing system that was completely different from the mass-assembly-line techniques GM was still using, many decades after Henry Ford perfected them. GM's fractured structure meant that each division had its own manufacturing processes, its own parts, its own engineering, and its own stamping plants.

How GM Lost Its Way, Paul Ingrassia, WSJ:

The picture of a heedless union and a feckless management says a lot about what went wrong at GM. There were many more mistakes, of course -- look-alike cars, lapses in quality, misguided acquisitions, and betting on big SUVs just before gas prices soared. They were all born of a uniquely insular corporate culture.

The Quagmire Ahead, David Brooks, NY Times:

Over the last five decades, this company has progressively lost touch with car buyers, especially the educated car buyers who flock to European and Japanese brands. Over five decades, this company has tolerated labor practices that seem insane to outsiders. Over these decades, it has tolerated bureaucratic structures that repel top talent. It has evaded the relentless quality focus that has helped companies like Toyota prosper.

The End of the Affair, P.J. O'Rourke, WSJ:

We became sick and tired of our cars and even angry at them. Pointy-headed busybodies of the environmentalist, new urbanist, utopian communitarian ilk blamed the victim. They claimed the car had forced us to live in widely scattered settlements in the great wasteland of big-box stores and the Olive Garden. If we would all just get on our Schwinns or hop a trolley, they said, America could become an archipelago of cozy gulags on the Portland, Ore., model with everyone nestled together in the most sustainably carbon-neutral, diverse and ecologically unimpactful way.

Why GM failed, Jack Lessenberry, Detroit Metro Times:

What's wrong, in a nutshell, is that it is a narrow, insular culture. Those who make it to the top of the heap, like Rick Wagoner, tend to be white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males who have worked at the same company their entire career, and have come up with the same set of buddies. Sort of like the Delta Tau Delta fraternity Wagoner joined when he was in business school.

Update: The WSJ's Photo Journal blog has photos and brief stories of a number of people affected by GM's bankruptcy. Gary Thomas, a mechanic from Kingston, TN, put about $800,000 in GM bonds.

"I thought I was doing the right thing. I wasn't investing in stocks. GM was a solid company. ... The bonds were my entire nest egg. I'm not a whiner and I don't want special treatment. What really ticks me off is that it seems like we are getting less than everyone else and we deserve to be treated equally. I'm just trying to figure out a way to make it to 65 so I can start drawing my social security."

Update: After Many Stumbles, the Fall of a Giant, Micheline Maynard, NY Times:

The company did have vast numbers of loyal buyers, but G.M. lost them through a series of strategic and cultural missteps starting in the 1960s. It bungled efforts in the 1980s to cut costs by sharing the underpinnings of its cars across different brands, blurring their distinctiveness. G.M. gave in to union demands in 1990 and created a program that paid workers even when plants were not running, forcing it to build cars and trucks it could not sell without big incentives.

Update: Salutary lessons from the downfall of a carmaker, John Kay, Financial Times:

The factors that had once been the company's strengths were now weaknesses. Mass production and piece-rate incentives created a workforce with little pride in the quality of the product. The cadre of professional managers became a complacent, inward-looking bureaucracy. The diversified corporation became a collection of competing baronies.

From a couple of years ago, The Risk Pool, Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker:

Surely, if you are losing money on every car you sell, as G.M. is, cutting car prices still further in order to boost sales doesn't make any sense. It's like the old Borsht-belt joke about the haberdasher who lost money on every hat he made but figured he'd make up the difference on volume. The economically rational thing for G.M. to do would be to restructure, and sell fewer cars at a higher profit margin -- and that's what G.M. tried to do this summer, announcing plans to shutter plants and buy out the contracts of thirty-five thousand workers. But buyouts, which turn active workers into pensioners, only worsen the company's dependency ratio. Last year, G.M. covered the costs of its four hundred and fifty-three thousand retirees and their dependents with the revenue from 4.5 million cars and trucks. How is G.M. better off covering the costs of four hundred and eighty-eighty thousand dependents with the revenue from, say, 4.2 million cars and trucks?

NASCAR helped GM down its path of self-destruction, Viv Bernstein, True/Slant:

How ironic, given NASCAR's role in helping the auto industry race down its path of self-destruction. Major auto companies used NASCAR for years to push cars and trucks with poor fuel economy numbers. The sport, in some ways, came to symbolize America's embrace of consumption. Consider that NASCAR didn't even switch to unleaded gasoline until 2007. And even today, the racecars and trucks that auto companies are marketing through NASCAR are among the least fuel efficient, from the Dodge Charger to the Chevrolet Silverado.

(thx, fargo & coates)

Live Donkey Kong record attemptJUN 02

Steve Weibe is trying to break Billy Mitchell's Donkey Kong record live. As in right now! The pair's exploits were chronicled in the documentary King of Kong. (via waxy)

Update: The score to beat is 1,050,200 points. (Oops, Wiebe just died as I was typing this. He's got two guys left.) Wiebe owns the second highest score with 1,049,100 points.

Update: He just died again. He's at ~370,000 with one guy left. Not looking good.

Update: Last guy. 457,000. Not looking good.

Update: He finally got it going but ended up short of the record with 923,400. Word is he's got two more chances to break it today.

Update: No dice...didn't break the score with any of his games.

Khaaan! Agaiiin!JUN 02

While discussing this morning's post about Khaaan! at the breakfast table with us, Ollie showed his growing dramatic range as an actor by reenacting the scene.

It's no chicken dance, but it's not bad.

100 movie lines in 200 secondsJUN 02

Video of 100 of the best movie lines in 200 seconds...or what it would look like if SportsCenter put together a highlights package for popular movies.

Khaaan!JUN 02

Artist Daniel Martinico took William Shatner's finest moment as an actor and stretched it out into a 15-minute video.

You'll notice the crowd gets quiet after the first few seconds. It draws you in, forces you to pay attention, even if it's just staring at the back and forth eye tics on Shatner's face for a minute at a time. "In that moment everyone responds to it," Martinico says. There's laughing at first, but then people get into the rhythm of it and study the various little muscles as they pull and twitch on Kirk's face. "It's a phenomenal range in just a few seconds."

Here's the first two minutes of the video.

It's pretty mesmerizing, even small and at poor quality. (via greg)

Crush the CastleJUN 01

A pox on thee and thine house, Andy Baio, for introducing me to Crush the Castle, which prevented me from crushing on some PHP I should have been doing tonight. BTW, if you get stuck on the last few levels, check out this video. Not that I did for the last level. Not at all. Nope. (via waxy)

Social exerciseJUN 01

Dennis Crowley has some nice ideas for what to do with a GPS- and internet-enabled device with running software on it (e.g. Nike+ on an iPhone).

#3. Ghost racers. Think: Super Mario Kart time-trials, except you're running against a ghost version of your best time on the map. I know the Garmin already does this, but make it social... show me the best times of my friends or other local users.

GOOD infographicsJUN 01

GOOD Magazine has created an archive of their excellent infographics on Flickr. Lots of inspiration here. (via design observer)

Porn or not?JUN 01

Q: Copy from the NY Times about a logo or a description of some kind of weird Star Trek-themed pornography?

Bouncy new blue "ee" twins seem to laugh under a colorful spray.

A: Surprisingly, the Times (slide #4).

Growing into womanhoodJUN 01

For his The Girl Studies project, Charlie White paired photographs of two groups of people becoming women in very different ways: teen girls and adult male-to-female transsexuals.

Charlie White

In the images in White's series, both figures are blossoming into womanhood, though each along a different path. As observers, however, we have been taught to view the subjects in much the same way: with sheer terror.

These are fascinating. (via bygone bureau)

Finding the present in the pastJUN 01

From part three of Errol Morris' investigation into Dutch forger Han Van Meegeren, here's art historian Jonathan Lopez:

Forgery is about the way the present looks at the past. The best forgeries may imitate the style of a long dead artist, but to appeal to people at the moment that they're being tricked, forgeries must also incorporate some of the aesthetic prejudices of the moment. When fakes work well, they give us a vision of the past that seems hauntingly up to date. And that's one of the things that makes forgery so seductive.

The Falkirk WheelJUN 01

When the connection between two Scottish canals was disconnected, a clever solution to reconnect them was employed. Instead of linking them by a series of locks, a giant rotating wheel was constructed to lift and lower the boats the 79 feet from one canal to the other.

Falkirk Wheel

These caissons always weigh the same whether or not they are carrying their combined capacity of 600 tonnes (590 LT; 660 ST) of floating canal barges as, according to Archimedes' principle, floating objects displace their own weight in water, so when the boat enters, the amount of water leaving the caisson weighs exactly the same as the boat. This keeps the wheel balanced and so, despite its enormous mass, it rotates through 180° in five and a half minutes while using very little power. It takes just 22.5 kilowatts (30.2 hp) to power the electric motors, which consume just 1.5 kilowatt-hours (5.4 MJ) of energy in four minutes, roughly the same as boiling eight kettles of water.

Here's a time lapse of the wheel at work.

Toy Story 3 teaser trailerJUN 01

Opens June 2010.

AntilibrariesJUN 01

From the introduction of part one of The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with "Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?" and the others -- a very small minority -- who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

Presumably Eco's two groups of visitors -- the librarians and antilibrarians -- annihilate each other when in close proximity.

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